Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

tedchiang    Stories to make you think…..   *****

After viewing the film, Arrival, I wanted to read the short story on which it was based. This led me to discover Ted Chiang. This collection of short stories is well written, thought provoking, and in true sci-fi fashion, deals with today’s social issues in a futuristic setting.

Story of Your Life was the catalyst for the film, and as I expected, gave me a better understanding of the message buried in the movie under the “added” Hollywood touches.

Two of the short stories deal with religion. Tower of Babylon is an interesting and unique view of what it might have been like to build the tower of Babel. Hell Is the Absence of God is a theological diatribe on what it may mean to be separated from God, and as such seemed out of place in this fiction collection.

I found the most interesting story to be Liking What You See: A Documentary. The story deals with beauty and how it affects our thinking and actions. Set in a future where it is possible to turn off the ability to distinguish beauty, Chiang imagines how that would make life different.

These stories are not only entertaining but as I mentioned, are thought provoking.

This one gets five stars.

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The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

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The cover says it all……  *****

 

The master storyteller does not disappoint in this collection of short stories.  The picture on the cover, showing inside a man’s head, is probably what you would see if you could open Stephen King’s head. King does not make excuses for what he writes nor does he question where he gets his ideas, so you either like him or you don’t. I do.

The stories in this collection range from weird, chilling, and politically incorrect, to humorous. Stories like the Obits and Ur, could have come right out of the Twilight Zone. King shows his humor and insight into human nature in stories like The Little Green God of Agony and Drunken Fireworks. He even reveals his poetic side in The Bone Church. That Bus Is Another World is a story most of us can relate to as who has not seen a bus go by and wondered about the people inside? The final story, Summer Thunder, is a look at a possible end times scenario, that is probably more like what could be than most apocalyptic stories.

My only semi negative comment is in the story The Obits. King is writing a fake obit through the character, Michael Anderson, and lists people who died at 27 of drug abuse.  He lists Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. How could he leave out Jim Morrison?

The stories are all excellent, and I enjoyed them even more because of the introduction by King to each story. Giving insight about the background for each story and how he came to write it reveals how King’s mind works.  It was as if we could see inside his head.

This gets five stars and is highly recommended.

It Ain’t Easy by Kesia Alexandra

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Stories that give you pause….   ****

 

These are well crafted short stories about life in the city. While the backdrop is Washington D.C., they ring true for just about any large metropolis.

The first story, Taxes, was a little unnerving, and in my mind, reinforced a mistaken stereotype.  The rest were touching and drew me in to a part of life most of us never see.

Kesia ‘s writing style is fluid and kept me reading, as she describes these vignettes of life. She is a good author and it will be interesting to see more of her work.

fourgolfpencils2This one gets four golf pencils, one less as it could use another pass by a copy editor.

Suppose: Drabbles, Flash Fiction, and Short Stories by Kathy Steinemann

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Something for everybody….

This is exactly as advertised. A collection of short stories, flash fiction and drabbles that are easy, fun reads, with some that actually make you think.

If short stories are hard to write, then flash fiction is even harder. To capture a moment in time in just a few hundred words is not easy. A drabble is usually one hundred words or less and is basically a thought. Most of the short stories, flash fiction, and drabbles found here are good. Some better than others.

While weighted more toward science fiction, this collection covers several genres, so there is something for every taste. The book is designed, as the author states, to be read in spurts, to be read when you have a free moment. I read this pretty much straight through which made reading a little tedious and made some of the stories sound too much alike.

The book could have used one more pass by a copy editor but overall is well worth your time.

fourgolfpencils2This one gets four golf pencils.

 

 

1979: Short Story Collection by Steve Anderson

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Stories to take you back…

 

The best thing I can say about a short story is when it makes me want to read more about the characters or the storyline.  Steve Anderson has written a group of stories that do exactly that.

Set in various parts of the country, mostly the Midwest, Anderson recreates the mood and sense of the late 70’s. While each story stands alone, there is a common thread of innocence and naivete about each of the main characters. I found myself relating to every story as they invoked a memory from my life.

Anderson writes with an incredible insight into what it is like to be a teenager, both from the male and female perspective. These stories will make you laugh, cry, and as in my case, take you back in time.

fivegolfpencilsThis one gets a solid five golf pencils.

 

Mama Cried by Talia Haven

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A Question of Forgiving…..    

When an author can write a story that grabs you, pulls you in, takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotion, then spits you out at the end causing you to re-examine your beliefs, they have done a good job. This would be that kind of a story.

It is hard to review this short story without telling what it is about, so read it before you finish this, unless you don’t mind hearing about it first.

Jenny is a young girl playing with other children who each have two puppies. Soon a guardian, Azula, comes for her and takes her into a concrete structure.  We discover that Jenny was killed by Theodore James Moore III, who is about to be put to death. Jenny is to decide the fate of his soul.

The crux of this story is that Theodore thinks he has been forgiven since he has confessed to a priest and been given absolution.  Here is where the twist comes in.  If only God can give forgiveness, then why is Jenny allowed to decide?  The answer is simple, yet profound theologically.  What if in this story, Azula is actually God and while a priest may be a representative, it is God who decides the instrument for judgement.  In this case, God is allowing Jenny, the victim, to make the decision.

This may be a short story, but the thoughts it provokes will stay with you a long time.

fourgolfpencils2I am giving it four golf pencils, not five, only because it does need another pass through a copy editor.