On August 27th, Tor.com released an audio collection of five previously published science-fiction/fantasy stories by some of the most popular writers in this genre. Ranging in length from around twenty-five minutes to over an hour and a half, each story is rich with its own uniquely futuristic vibe. Tor.com has produced a well-polished collection, using skilful narrators each well suited for the particular story they tell. From post-apocalyptic worlds to alien invasions, satire to dark humour, there is something for all science-fiction/fantasy lovers to be found here!
“As Good As New” by Charlie Jane Anders (originally published in 2014) takes your basic genie in a bottle tale and adds a delicious twist. The world has come to an end but a lone female by the name of Marisol has survived, hidden in a panic room, subsisting on a diet of frozen dinners and old episodes of The Facts of Life. Years later, when she finally works up the courage to venture out of her safe haven, she stumbles upon a genie in a bottle … but this is not your average genie and Marisol is not your average wisher. Afraid to waste her three precious wishes (and perhaps just glad to have someone to talk to after years of silence!) Marisol begins to engage the genie in conversation, in hopes of learning more about what happened to the world around her. Anders presents an intriguing tale that engages the reader in asking: Will three wishes be enough to reverse the apocalypse and prevent it from happening again?
“A Dead Djinn in Cairo” by P. Djèlí Clark (originally published in 2016) tells the tale of paranormal investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi, who joins forces with the police in Cairo to examine the death of a djinn. This death is puzzling, as djinns are nearly immortal; and when they do die, it is not by suicide. As the investigation unfolds, Clark builds a vast, stunning world where fantastical creatures such as ghouls live alongside real-life terrors. Fatma comes to learn, however, that more than just solving the death of this genie is at stake. The fate of the world lies in her ability to unravel this mystery.
“The President’s Brain is Missing” by John Scalzi may have originally been published back in 2010, but considering the current political climate in the United States it remains as relevant today as ever. As the title oh-so delicately suggests, the foundation of this story is that the president’s brain literally goes missing. One day it is there. (Well, if you can call what the man has in his head a “brain.”) And the next – poof! – just an empty space in his skull. As one may imagine, this news would be devastating if released into the wrong hands. Scalzi details the efforts of the president’s staff to solve this conundrum with dry humor and a satirical edge. However, these staffers uncover more than they bargained for along the way.
“This World is Full of Monsters” by Jeff VanderMeer (originally published in 2017) centers on an alien invasion, as a “story-creature” inhabits the narrator’s body, essentially killing him by placing him in a deep slumber for a century. He awakens to find the world as he knew it completely overtaken, transformed. He also soon finds himself being used as a terminal for memories and information, which others download from him in order to learn about the world as it once existed. As memories of the narrator’s previous life begin to flow into him, VanderMeer viscerally relays the pain of what he has lost and the shocking realization of how the world is forever changed.
The final piece in this collection is “Warm Up” by V.E. Schwab (originally published in 2013). In this prequel set in the same world as Vicious, a man named David dies. And subsequently comes back to life with unimaginable powers. Inexplicably his death resulted from an avalanche, however now everything he touches seems to burn. After hiding in his home for hundreds of days, David finally decides to go out into the world … but is he prepared for what he may face? Schwab packs a great deal of action and introspection into this short tale which explores what happens when one cheats death.
Tor.com is consistently known for their bold and innovative science-fiction/fantasy works, and you won’t find a better array of award-winning authors than those in this carefully curated collection. From the Hugo and Nebula Awards to the Locus and Shirley Jackson Awards, the authors included in this grouping of audio short stories represent the best in their genre. So what are you waiting for? Go take a listen!
My sincere thanks to Tor.com Publishing for the gifted audio of these short stories to review for The Nerd Daily. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.