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Doctor Helios by Lewis Shiner

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“Doctor Helios” is a 2013 speculative fiction novella by Lewis Shiner. It is about an American spy who travels to Egypt for a secret mission in the 1960s.

Isn’t Subterranean Press a magazine for science fiction stories? I thought it was. Maybe it is for “speculative fiction” stories instead – which can include SciFi, but also includes fantasy and alternate history as well. Anyway, this story really isn’t a science fiction story per se, but I guess it would qualify as alternate history. Regardless, I am including it here because it was a cool story, and very well written – so I hope you get some enjoyment out of it!

Non-Spoiler Summary

Laborers working at the Aswan High Dam construction site. April 1960 by  Zeinab Mohamed, CC 2.0 license

Mr. York (not his real name, by the way) travels to Cairo in 1963 for a special mission. It is during this time, you see, that Egypt is building the Aswan high dam on the Nile river – and his mission has to do with that. Along the way he meets several people, and is paranoid enough to vet every one of them through his local agency in Cairo. A beautiful stewardess, his teenage driver, the mysterious translator, the giant Dr. Helios and a conflicted Asian security man all interact with our protagonist. As his travels take him deeper into Egypt he gets caught up in a web of lies, deception, Communism and the will of his employers. A lot of things happen, and eventually he starts to question his life, his motives and even the task he is trying to accomplish. The question is: once he makes up his mind and decides what to do will he have enough time and will power to accomplish that? Let’s hope so – because the fortunes of millions of people are riding on his actions!

My Two Cents

  • Story: 4 stars – I like spy stories, and I like Egyptian history too – so that means I liked this story quite a bit! Your mileage may vary.
  • Writing: 5 stars – Excellent! The tone, the style, the words used, the extreme attention to details – all these combine for one very well written story! Bravo!
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars – If you like this genre of story, then you’ll probably love this one. I found it to be quite a bit of fun to read, especially since the writing was so darn good!

Where To Find Doctor Helios

  • This story was first published in the Fall 2013 edition of Subterranean Press Magazine.
  • You can read “Doctor Helios” for free online at the Subterranean Press web site.

Craving More SF Stories Like This One?

If you enjoyed “Doctor Helios” then you might also like “The Bohemian Astrobleme” by Kage Baker – about some members of a secret English group who are searching for the source of a powerful red gem.