I received these two short stories from the author, in exchange for an honest review.
Poignant, and unexpected. These are the first words that came to my mind as I finished my first read of this story.
Since the author’s presentation spoke of a link with the Chinese myth of the Monkey King, I went to check on it before reading “Monkey Talk”, and therefore expected something light, humorous and somehow related to mischievous deeds, since the myth’s protagonist is basically a trickster. What I found instead is a deep, thought-provoking tale about bias, recognition and acceptance, told in a deceptively light tone that nonetheless lets you perceive the deep pain underneath.
Professor Towry is a chimp – an evolved and educated one, but a chimp nonetheless, which makes his acceptance by humans an uphill path. Oh, certainly they go to his lectures, invite him to events, but still he’s looked on with amused curiosity at best, and in this short story humanity does not give its best at all. Towry tries to be ironically defiant about it, but you can sense the hurt lying under the careless attitude, a hurt that is compounded by other problems undermining the Professor’s self-image and hold on sentience.
This is a story to be read and enjoyed, rather than summarized. Its aftermath will stay with you for quite some time.
The Thirteenth Prophet
In the future depicted in this story, people wear personalities like they would clothes and those personalities are variations of twelve basic standards embodied by the so-called Prophets, this world’s gods and inspirations: Desire, Defiance, Grace, Satisfaction, Solitude, Strength, Clarity, Courage, Care, Passion, Control, and Bliss. As the tale opens, we are informed that Defiance is dead and private investigator Burke is called on to solve what looks to be a murder.
Burke is an interesting figure, because if he’s aware of the ravages time is operating on his body, he’s also far from feeble or ineffective, and he’s a shrewd observer of people. He represents the classical P.I. from many hardboiled novels, as one can see thanks to the narrating voice that takes disparaging note of society’s faults as well as his own, and that’s what lulls the readers into a false sense of security that leaves them quite surprised at the unexpected but totally consequential ending.
The story is also a fascinating take on present society, on our need to stand out while at the same time conforming to the rules of fashion and passing fads: it takes these needs to the extreme and offers an outcome that is quite alarming in its total feasibility.
I’ll have to confess I’m nor much of a short story reader, preferring to “sink my teeth” into the complexities of a novel, but these two stories have been both a pleasant surprise and a satisfying read: their brevity is quite deceptive, since they pack a great deal of information and background in as few sentences as possible. There is a definite perception, in both of them, of the wider background in which they deploy and even when that background is barely sketched it’s possible to see and understand what lies behind. This speaks, to me, of excellent powers of synthesis and a great ability to reach out to the readers and make them see. I would indeed welcome more from this author.
My Rating: 8/10