“Dead Men Don’t Cry” – by Nancy Fulda

Cover ImageFrom a high-speed space flight to deliver French pastries to the moon to a nomadic tribe struggling across a harsh world pursued by a sun with no mercy, Dead Men Don’t Cry demonstrates that in the science fiction genre there are still plenty of tales to be told.

I’ve never reviewed an anthology before. I’m usually more of a one-story guy. When I was invited to review Dead Men Don’t Cry, I wasn’t quite sure how the experience would would turn out. Thankfully, a combination of good writing and good stories made the experience very worthwhile.

The anthology starts with a fun story called Pastry Run. This is probably the lightest of the collection and is a fun look at the hazards of getting pastries from Paris to the moon in time for breakfast. It turns out that pastry delivery is a hazardous line of work. It’s a nice ice-breaker. From here the collection offers up both longer and shorter works with a variety of themes and settings. Rather than outline every story, I’ll summarise some of my favourites.

Blue Ink and The Man Who Murdered Himself are fascinating stories featuring rather grim views of cloning; one set in a future where the wealthy clone themselves to trade in labour and the other where a hobbled and diseased man opts for a cloning technique to make a disease free version of himself. Both stories are unsettling but from different angles with one offering a disturbing view from the clone’s perspective and the other presenting a cautionary tale to those who would want to be cloned. Both left me cold which I treat as a total success.

Backlash and All Praise to the Dreamer both offer tense action stories; one a techno-thriller which would be at home on the big screen and the other a hopeless flight from god-like creatures presiding over the earth at the price of human sacrifice. Both were gripping, but I also found them to be interesting for a different reason. I felt that the reader was being shown something about why people make the decision to rebel, and it wasn’t so much about recognition of injustice, but more how our attachments and relationships colour our decisions; how we make dangerous and sometimes futile stances for those we love because we love them.

The Breath of Heaven¬†is a great tale about computers gifted with artificial intelligence loaded with prime directives to protect a space colony. It explores the hazard of relinquishing control to that of an artificial mind, but also presents a fascinating study of one A.I. as “she” contemplates the actions that have been taken in the name of the prime directives. “Her” slowly building unease – almost guilt – indicates a partial progression from analysis and directives to humanity and subsequently turns a 2001-esque cautionary tale into an evolutionary tale more in the style of Asimov.

The last story is possibly my favourite. A New Kind of Sunrise¬†follows the seasonal trek of nomads across a dangerous world where the sun kills. A way of life dictated by tradition is offered a new perspective when the tribe encounters a stranger from the north. The binds of tradition are slowly broken for Mikki, our main character, and the possibilities are left open for a rebellion and adventure into the harsh oppressive world of The Brotherhood – the stranger a catalyst and possibly a future companion. I understand the author is planning a novelisation of this story and I couldn’t be more pleased.

The writing in these works is near perfect and it is no surprise to me that the author has collected nominations and awards for her stories. I would like to see what Fulda can do in a novel where it might be more challenging to maintain the tight focus she applies so successfully in these shorts, but count me as eager to road-test the attempt.

I highly recommend Dead Men Don’t Cry to all those who enjoy intelligent science fiction in short form – and even to those like me who usually prefer the longer form. Get it – and enjoy.

Rating: 4.5/5

Price at the time of review: $6.95 US

Available: Smashwords,Amazon,Barnes & Noble,Kobo,Diesel

Author site: http://www.nancyfulda.com/
GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11709447-dead-men-don-t-cry

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