Often the published short story will read like a between-books workout for writers intent on maintaining a style, or as means of urging creative juices to again flow. Usually the flimsiness is hidden beneath a polished formula, which lulls the reader into reluctant appreciation. During its 10-plus years of publication, the speculative fiction of anthology Albedo One has at times prompted just such appreciation in me. However, this most recent square-bound issue with full-colour cover is a particularly sound addition to its award-winning back-catalogue.

Seven short stories feature. There's Sara Berniker's elusively allegorical A Boy Needs A Dog and DJ Cockburn's erotically charged Summer Holidays - both well crafted tales which share umbilical-tied boy protagonists who idealise absent fathers and are desperate for a semblance of control in their oppressed lives. In the comical Classroom Dynamics by D. Harlan Wilson, Professor Beebody is not a big fan of killing his students (even those with 'mongoloid intellects'), but with Dean Dinglewigger favouring a minor killing spree over the Robin Williams approach to teaching, Beebody has little option but to up his murder rate. If Battle Royale-like fantasy-for-teachers is not your thing, there's metaphysics in the cosmic surrealism of Russell Miles' clever Red-shift Days; there's dense, wordy, flourish-fluent prose in the impressively realised Code 46-like future of Martin Taulbut's Hide And Seek With Angels; and there's spicy adventure conjured in Dev Agarwal's evocative City Of Palaces as an Englishman on-the-run from the Thugee Cult must depart a Calcutta desperate to throw-off the shackles of British colonialism. Splendidly wrapping things up is Davin Ireland's Dirt, a Tales Of The Unexpected told with disarming verve, which echoes the Fortean-inspired opening to PT Anderson's Magnolia and mixes suspense and humour to thoroughly entertaining, gleefully evil effect.

Also on offer is sublime cover art by Matthew Hansel, a world affairs talk with Alan Dean Foster, a brief brush with history via Norman Spinrad, a letters column, reviews and amusing, philosophical comment in the form of the Severian sermon. A money-off coupon for kitchen sinks may well feature next issue, but meanwhile, if you're flatulently full with the fluffer shorts of pedestrian writers going through the motions, a dose of Albedo One #29 is the perfect antidote.
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