To Be Taught, If Fortunate is a 2019 science fiction novella by Becky Chambers. Close to the end of the 21st century, science has made a breakthrough in space exploration. Using a revolutionary method called “somaforming”, an astronaut’s biology is synthetically supplemented by a patch worn on the skin, allowing them to survive the harsh conditions of interstellar travel and other planets. Instead of trying to alter the destination, we alter ourselves.
With this bold new technology on hand, a number of manned missions have been launched to survey exoplanets suspected of harbouring life. Ariadne O’Neill is part of one such mission, Lawki 6, along with three other scientists, to explore four worlds in a system 15 light-years away from Earth. Arrival on each world brings unique changes to their bodies, alien landscapes, and news of an ever-changing Earth as the years back home pass them by.Read More »
Different Seasons is a 1982 collection of four novellas by Stephen King. At the time, this book marked a bit of a departure from horror for King, the stories within telling more dramatic tales. Each novella is headed by a sectional title that assigns a season of the year to it: Hope Springs Eternal for “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”, Summer of Corruption for “Apt Pupil”, Fall from Innocence for “The Body”, and A Winter’s Tale for “The Breathing Method”. In the first story, a wrongfully imprisoned convict manages to rise above his destitute fate, in the second a gifted teen becomes obsessed with the dark past of an elderly local, in the third four rambunctious boys go on a quest to find a dead body, and in the final a single mother-to-be goes beyond the natural in order to save the life of her baby.Read More »
Elevation is the newest book by Stephen King, taking place in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, the setting of a great number of his stories. This novella follows Scott Carey, a recent divorcee who suffers from a bizarre illness; he keeps losing weight, yet it has no effect on his physical appearance or how he feels. If anything he feels better. He has more energy and feels lighter on his feet. Despite this, he does wonder whether it will stop, or if a day will come where he weighs nothing at all and what that will mean. His troubles don’t stop there, as tensions develop between him and his lesbian neighbors over dog poop on his lawn, which ends up cluing him in to the way the largely conservative community of Castle Rock has alienated the couple, who struggle to keep their new restaurant up and running.Read More »
The Shadow over Innsmouth is a horror novella written by H.P. Lovecraft. It is part of the Cthulhu Mythos for which the author is famous, making numerous references to recurring places, creatures, and other shared elements. It was originally written in late 1931, though the story did not see publication until April 1936 as a complete book by Visionary Publishing Company. It was first rejected by the magazine Weird Tales for being too long to publish in its entirety yet structured in such a way that it could not be cleanly cut into two parts. I read this story in the Necronomicon published by Gollancz in 2008, which is an extensive collection of the author’s “Best Weird Tales.”
The story follows a student taking a tour through New England to see the sights and appreciate the architecture of some of its older towns. The nearby town of Innsmouth is suggested to him as a curiosity and a cheaper stop on his journey. Upon arrival he learns of some locations of interest, witnesses and interacts with strange people, and eventually bears witness to the horrifying truth of the town’s dark and sordid history.Read More »
There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.
At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.
One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”
On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…
Gwendy’s Button Box, a novella written by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, is a twist on a familiar story/social experiment. I was immediately reminded of the 2009 film The Box, based on the Richard Matheson short story “Button, Button” and previously adapted into an episode of The Twilight Zone by the same name. The story more or less always goes that an enigmatic man gives someone a box with a button on it. If they push the button two things will happen: they will receive a sum of money, and someone will die. What follows is the expected moral dilemma. While I’m certain this book is meant to recall these tales, the situation here is actually a lot more complex.Read More »