14 hours ago
Monday, August 15, 2011
Title: Dead Men Don’t Cry
Author: Nancy Fulda
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 48,000 words
Reviewer: Pearson Moore
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Nancy Fulda serves up an eclectic and often engrossing collection of short stories from her fertile imagination.
From the Publisher
This collection includes ten stories by award winning author Nancy Fulda. From computers that invent God to minds that travel through time, electronic ghosts to enigmatic extraterrestrials, these stories stem from a love of fiction and a fascination with the boundless possibilities of our universe. Fans of Orson Scott Card, Lois McMaster Bujold and Timothy Zahn are likely to enjoy this book.
I found a good mix of well-imagined science fiction stories in this collection. The strength of the author’s imagination overcame a few minor storytelling deficiencies and left me with an overall positive impression. All of the stories were original, yet they often referred to well-known science fiction classics, and a handful of them delivered a powerful punch I will not soon forget.
Ms. Fulda has a bare-bones style well suited to the expression of her imaginative and quite original ideas in flash fiction or very short stories. Her shorter stories, in which the thesis carries the thought, capture the reader’s attention more completely than the longer works, which I found to suffer thin plots and lack of character development. “Let There Be Write” is a playful retelling of the Hebrew story of creation, with the accoutrements of the writing craft replacing the well-known elements of the six days of creation. This is such a charming and delightful bit of flash fiction I believe just about any reader would enjoy the story. “Pastry Run” was long enough that I found my mind wandering to the implausibilities of the scenario; if the story had been rendered as flash fiction humour I believe it might have been more effective. “Dead Men Don’t Cry”, the title story, I found possibly the weakest of the entries. This full-fledged murder mystery didn’t seem to conform well to the rubrics of whodunits, with critical characters and facts revealed piecemeal throughout the story.
I consider “Blue Ink” and “The Man Who Murdered Himself” the highlights of the collection. Both are imaginative stories regarding cloning, but a special type of cloning called “molecular replication”, which allows the replicated individual to come face to face with the original from which she was created, with some quite profound consequences. However, “The Breath of Heaven”—essentially a retelling of the HAL 9000 story, but with a very different outcome—with its intricate examination of directives was a quite plausible updating of the classic three laws of robotics, and in some ways outshone both Asimov and Clarke in the way the story unfolded. Finally, though perhaps not as strong as the cloning stories, I found “A New Kind of Sunrise”, in which an artificially implanted group of humans faces the challenges of living on a world with physical constraints—and especially seasons and climates—very different from our own, to convey a powerful message about the value of individual thought and action in the context of stifling tradition.
This is the first book I have reviewed for SIFT that did not disappoint me due to deficiencies in basic writing ability. I decline to review most submissions, almost always due to elementary errors in grammar, spelling, syntax, or basic composition. Ms. Fulda is one of the few indie authors I have read who has demonstrated full command of the basic rules of the English language. In that regard, I found this short collection a real breath of fresh air.
If I rated this collection strictly on the basis of the cloning stories and “The Breath of Heaven” alone, I probably would have awarded four and a half or five stars. However, I am obliged to rate the work as a whole, and for this reason I award three and a half stars. I feel just about anyone could enjoy at least a few stories in the collection, and some may rate a few of the stories, such as “The Breath of Heaven”, as classics in their own right. Overall, I found reading this collection more delight than chore, and I hope Ms. Fulda will continue to challenge us with entertaining, engrossing, and thought-provoking tales.
Three and a half stars
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