A bicycle race to the moon, invisible -- and blind -- assassins, a sojourn in heaven, worldwide mass hallucinations at the end of the world, and an homage to Jonathan Swift are all included in University of London professor Adam Roberts's collection of short stories. The title story, "Swiftly," and "Eleanor" are both set in a 19th-century England inhabited by diminutive Lilliputians and giant Brobdingnagians from Jonathan Swift's classic Gulliver's Travels. In "Swiftly," sympathizer Abraham Bates is desperately trying to free thousands of Lilliputians and Brobdingnagians from slavery in English factories and farms. After a war begins with France over the rights of the minuscule and super-sized Pacificans, Bates is approached with a quick way to end the potentially long and bloody war -- but it means he will be a traitor to his country. "Eleanor" focuses on the unhappy wife of an English factory owner. Dissatisfied with her marriage, Eleanor visits her husband late at night at his factory only to find him drunk and passed out at his desk. When she sets free his minions of enslaved Lilliputians, they take care of her marital problem once and for all.
In "Dantesque," Avis spends millennia climbing from the crowded depths of Hell into the serene realm of Heaven only to find it almost empty. Is Paradise too boring for humanity's twisted souls? Fans of Roberts's novels (Salt, On, Stone, et al.) will thoroughly enjoy this collection of short fiction, which is as diverse as it is cerebral. Paul Goat Allen