A review by Susan
It's been a long time since I've listened to short stories, but
evidently Allan Kaster knew just what I'd like to hear. This collection
includes nine selections originally published between 1991 and 2007, offering
a variety of topics ranging from an aging superhero grandmother ("Grandma," by
Carol Emshwiller) to how a mother and daughter cope with the end of the world
("Last Contact," by Stephen Baxter).
Narrators Tom Dheere and Vanessa Hart give fine performances. They
handle the reading in a clear, approachable style without being overly
dramatic. Both have voices that are easy on the ears. Dheere’s performance of
"Kin" by Bruce McAllister, is stunning.
In this story, a young boy named Kim lives in an over-populated
future Earth. He solicits the services of an alien to assassinate the
government official who has decreed that Kim's mother must abort her unborn
daughter. Dheere uses pacing and tone to create a memorable alien that is both
menacing and sympathetic at the same time. His narration makes the story come
alive as the alien and the boy develop a bond between cultures and
Not to be outdone, Hart uses her vocal skills to evoke a sense of
melancholy and quiet wonder that is perfect for the story, "Lambing Season,"
by Molly Gloss. When a sheep herder discovers an alien ship and its pilot in
the desolate landscape preferred by her woolly charges, she allows the
newcomer the privacy and respect deserved by an interstellar traveler.
Another story skillfully handled by Dheere is "None So Blind," by
Joe Haldeman. When an over-achiever teenager falls in love with a
super-intelligent school mate who happens to be blind, he eventually develops
a way to turn her "weakness" into a strength of world-shattering proportions.
This story presents some intriguing ideas and narrator Dheere amazes by easily
phrasing such texts as, "Where Cletus divided his time between the musky
charms of his beloved and the sterile cubicles of Institute Marcey, learning
how squids learn things, which was by serotonin pushing adeylate cyclase to
catalyze the synthesis of cylic adenosine monophosphate in just the right
place." Wonder how many times he had to record that sentence to get it exactly
Short story collections almost always contain surprises and that's
one of the joys of listening to them. Elizabeth Bear offers a unique twist on
contact with aliens in "The Something-Dreaming Game" where a doomed alien can
communication with a young girl only when she is rendered unconscious through
auto-asphyxiation. Additional stories in the collection include, "As Far As
You Can Go," by Greg van Eekhout, "Gene Wars," by Paul J. McAuley and "Bright
Red Star," by Bud Sparhawk.
One of the joys of listening to short stories, as opposed to
reading them, is that when you can't "see" that you're in the last paragraph,
it's not as easy to know when a story is about to end. That situation can
often make the endings more of a surprise and I found that to be true in a
number of stories gathered here. For some reason, it seems to make hearing
these stories more enjoyable. Each CD has the stories on that particular CD
clearly marked, along with the track numbers associated with each tale.
Infinivox has put together a well-produced audio collection that's both a
pleasure to hear and to ponder.
Copyright © 2008 Susan Dunman