Sunday, February 22, 2009

Review - "A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn's Eye", "Stone", and "giANTs"

Here we go with another two years of Nebula winners that didn't win the Hugo the same year. You'll note that both short story winners represented here are by Edward Bryan. Unfortunately I didn't care for either of the stories though for one of them I'll acknowledge that I'm not the right audience for it.

"A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn's Eye"
by Charles L. Grant
1978 Nebula Winner for Best Novelette

In the not too distant future acting as a profession has nearly vanished. The only regular jobs are for those willing to fill some basic parts in reacting to spectacles sent straight into adolescents' brains in order make them mature faster. Theater does still exist but it has tried to keep pace with the thought productions and so becomes more elaborate. An actor who has swallowed his pride to take work on the mental stage reacted badly to some of those theatrical shows and savagely beat their producers. He then needs to decide what to do with himself.

While reading this story I was reminded a lot of "The Darfstellar"; they share themes of changing media, actors who are angry about those changes, and a certain ludditism in thinking that the old ways are the better ways. It annoyed me while reading the story but Grant won me over by telling these well worn themes very well. The actor was a vivid character and in the end I found the whole thing effective. Not brilliant but definitely effective.

by Edward Bryan
1978 Nebula Winner for Best Short Story

A technician at a concert where there is a mental feedback between the performer and the audience recounts his love for the star and their relationship. I think you can fill in the blanks for the rest of the story from there.

And since it is a pretty standard story it depends on the strength of the characters to carry it. Unfortunately I just didn't care what happened to them. Bryan does try to give them a bit more definition than disaffected starlet and her adoring fan/lover, I just couldn't connect to them. Bryan also attempted a distinctive narative style at the beginning of the story that is dropped for a more straightforward narative by the end and I think that "Stone" simply wasn't long enough or consistant enough for this to work. The overall effect was that I was left not really caring about anything in the story.

by Edward Bryan
1979 Nebula Winner for Best Short Story

There's a scientist who has reoccurring dreams about the movie Them! a mysterious government project, and the threat of deadly killer insects. Unfortunately there isn't really a story either. What you can find in "giANTs" is a concept and a whole lot of exposition about that concept. It's played as the interaction between a lonely old scientist and an agressive reporter. Bryan attempts to establish a character arc between them that never manages to come together for me.

Perhaps the biggest problem is the "punchline". While reading the story I was wondering if Bryan was just handwaving a basic physical law that any schoolboy knows. Ignoring it would have been fine for me. Unfortately the punchline in the story is that the law isn't ignored and its the whole point which makes the reporter just look very foolish and most of the conversation pointless.

I started with high hopes for "giANTs" and was severely let down. I can't recommend this one.