If short stories can sometimes be a difficult medium, because the compressed space they must be worked in often leaves the reader unsatisfied with the way characters and narrative are developed, this collection of very short works from John Scalzi enjoys a different track record: the humorous nature of these stories lends itself quite easily to brevity and they feel more like well-developed jokes than anything else, or like some of the witty posts with which the author delights his blog’s readers.
So here you will find, for example, a mock interview with a very peeved Pluto, whose demotion from the status of planet still burns deeply, despite the abysmal cold in the fringes of our Solar System: the annoyed ex-planet takes this opportunity to vent some of its displeasure toward some old and new adversaries, the scientific community at large and – quite inexplicably – Phil Collins. Just to give you an idea of the tone of these stories, here is a quote directly from the ex-planet:
[…] people start calling me and telling me I’m the newest planet. And I remember saying, I don’t know if I want that responsibility. And they said, well, you can’t not be a planet now, Walt Disney’s already named a character after you. That’s really what made a planet. Not the astronomers, but that cartoon dog.
Or we can read the advertisement for a very special travel agency that can send its customers into alternate universes, offering various possible scenarios about a certain event: the example used is the death of Adolf Hitler, and despite the far-from-palatable subject, Mr. Scalzi manages to make you laugh out loud with his vision of alternate futures. My favorite is the one where the time-frame alteration keeps sending the city of Vienna back and back into the past, transforming it into a battleground for competing armies, until
[…] when the time traveling pro-Magyar forces show up, they are slaughtered by everyone else which is tired of all this time-traveling crap, thereby ending the causality loop.
Or again we are treated to a collection of hilariously crazy tweets the author posted to ease his boredom during a long flight, imagining the assault on the plane’s wing operated by a gremlin bent on plunging the vehicle down to earth. If you don’t think this could be funny (especially in the case of people who are not comfortable with flight), reading this brief piece will make you change your mind.
Each story is prefaced by a few words about its inception and history, and all of them are accompanied by little drawings that complement the story to perfection. If you want to spend a couple of light-hearted hours in the company of a favorite author, or if you want to discover John Scalzi’s peculiar brand of humor, this is the perfect place to start.