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This book is isnt a novel; its a collection of short stories with a common setting and overlapping sets of characters. This kind of thing isnt done that much anymore (unless by Alexander McCall Smith) but was not so terribly unusual in the SF genre back when magazines were still at least on equal terms with paperback books. In this case the common setting is Cinnabar, the City at the Centre of Time, which is not a Utopia, but stands alongside some other Cities of the fantastical literary genres as a place that many real people would like to go to, at least for a visit. (Moorcocks Tanelorn and M. John Harrisons Viriconium are two such kindred Urbs.) Indeed in one story, an adolescent male is forcibly, though accidentally, dragged from the 1960s to Cinnabar, which may be the only human community left in its time. This simple device allows Bryant to contrast the culture he was writing in with the culture he was writing about very effectively. What is Cinnabar like, then?When I first read the book I was a teen (like the visitor to Cinnabar) and I was greatly impressed by the book. Twenty or so years later I remembered liking it greatly for its atmosphere and for one story in particular...Sharking Down. I didnt remember much detail about the city, just an over-all notion of other-worldly, dream-like strangeness. Re-reading it I find that this is because the place is not described in great detail and it is placed between the sea and the desert, between two empty worlds. Ones imagination is allowed to work on it as new locales and oddities and strange characters are introduced, never filling the place, indeed leaving it still largely empty and unexplored. There is so much room for more stories that seem never to have appeared. I forgot just how much sex there is in Cinnabar - seems like they hardly have time for anything else! Sometimes its a distraction but over-all it is a big aspect of what Bryant was writing about - 30 or so years after its publication we arent really much closer to the exceedingly permissive attitudes he gives his characters and it seems to me that one reason amongst many is that the problem of disease has got worse rather than better.One thing I did not forget is Sharking Down. Because I love it. It is the penultimate story of the collection and spends much of its time on matters extraneous to the central plot, setting things up for the final story - Id forgotten all that - but Id remembered accurately the main thrust and plot of the story, which is about sharks. Not just any old sharks, either, but two Carcharodon Megalodon - apparently the largest sharks to have swum the oceans of Earth, 20m long as full grown adults. One of these has been ressurected through genetic means, the other is a synthetic reconstruction - and the latter was specifically built to fight the former. What happens I shall not say and why it happens - well, see if you can figure it out from the cryptic clues given in the earlier part of the story.Ive told people the story of Sharking Down repeatedly, cutting it to its bare essentials, so that it has taken on a sort of oral tradition in my mind and in some ways that version is better than Bryants - but only outside the context of the book. Within it, Bryant rules. Why do I love this essentially simple story? Because it is about sharks, and I love sharks, as did Bryant. And if youre going to have a fantastical story about sharks, why bother with Great Whites or Tigers? Why not go for the Ultimate Shark, instead? Hence Megalodon. Its a great story - but perhaps if you dont admire a-moral predators as much as I do you wont think so.Over all this re-reading of Cinnabar was enjoyable but many of the SF ideas presented which seemed radical to me twenty years ago are rather old hat now - the book survives mainly on its atmosphere, characters and pair of really big fish...****************************************************************************************************On reading for a third time, I notice that the two stand-out stories are those I give some details of above: the one where Cinnabar receives a visitor from 1963 and Sharking Down. There are many subtleties in the latter that I am not sure I had noticed previously. For instance, the name of the genetically resurrected shark has been carefully chosen by the author to have multiple symbolic meanings in relation to the rest of the story and the title also has multiple interpretations.I should try to dig up more by Bryant; there is another short story collection, at least.

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