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The Unforbidden Playground, Postscripts # 9 Reviews

Daniel Ausema - Sunday, 18 February 2007
Tangent Online

“The End of the World Show” by David Barnett
“King of the Mountain” by Jack Dann
“The Unforbidden Playground” by John Grant
“The Interpretation of Dreams” by Tim Lees
“Kins” by Mary SanGiovanni
“Cobalt Blue” by Darren Speegle
“The Peace Criminal” by Vaughan Stranger
“High Noon in Clown Town” by Lavie Tidhar
“A Paean to Stranded Sailors and Ships Becalmed at Sea” by Mikal Trimm

The winter, 2006 issue of Postscripts offers a good collection of stories, primarily set in roughly contemporary times or the distant future.

…The other long story in this issue, “The Unforbidden Playground” by John Grant, is more successful. It is a time travel story, and the central conceit is that what you do in the past is irrelevant—you could, as one character explains, go back in time ten seconds and kill your earlier self, but it wouldn’t affect you. This discovery has led the theocratic empire of Fortusa, which controls the technology, to make the past into a playground of gladiatorial events that kill off historical figures (and anyone the government considers deviant) for fun. The narrator reports on these circuses of the past for the entertainment section of a Home Time newspaper, until he is kidnapped by what seem to be activists in a contemporary (for us) setting.

Much of the story centers on the gradual enlightenment of the narrator as his captors reveal to him the ways he’d been brainwashed to accept what their God-Chosen leader and his government told them. There are layers to this that bring it back to our own time, and whether the critique of Fortusa’s cult is applicable to all religion or simply to certain narrow approaches toward religion is left up to the reader. My only complaint is that the love story between the narrator and one of his captors wasn’t quite believable—not that the narrator would find himself falling in love with the captor, but that the captor would return those feelings, especially as more is revealed about the man’s origins. Otherwise an excellent, thought-provoking story.