Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Future Two-Fer:: Rut by Scott Phillips & Selected Shorts and Other Methods of Time Travel by David Goodberg

I'll start with the not-as-good.
Rut was received from Concord Free Press.

Rut. Rut is a not-too-distant futuristic novel that sort of tracks a biology PhD student's interest in amphibian life in the small, former ski town, Gower, Colorado. It's about 50 years in the future, and humans have already trashed the place (the earth, that is). Cars are incredibly rare (government issue and rich people, plus, I believe, people in the big cities "on the grid"), medicine is readily available for almost anything (new eyes, new hair, new limbs, boner-pills, etc.), and electricity has become almost prohibitively expensive (for things like phones and non-solar energy). Bridget, the biology student, finds in Gower a lake/pond with non-mutated (though incredibly large in her eyes) frogs, so she settles in for the long haul (a year of research, observation, and sending reports back to her base). In the meantime, she also finds a "pond" with giant tadpoles (and no evidence of any morphing into frogs), clearly mutations, and sends samples back to her base for likely use in future research and development of pharmaceuticals.

But the thing is, even all of that description is most of what happens with Bridget. There's a little romance, a little crush, a little adultury (with other characters), a local business owner with two prosthetic legs (the image on the cover, apparently), a lot of conspiracy - most of which is neatly explained by the end, and a local stiff doctor who ends up learning probably more than any other character in the novel. In other words, there is a lot of life happening, but not much climax. There came no point in the novel where I felt I just *had* to know what was going to happen next. It was all mildly interesting and mildly amusing, but neither fascinating nor inspiring. In the end, I was happy to be done with it but not too excited for whatever I
had to pick up next.

Which was...
Review based on ARC.

This is David Goodberg's debut and a collection of shorts. I almost hesitate to put that in the beginning of the review because a lot of people avoid short story collections. However, if you like time-travel and a wry sense of humor, read it! It was a thoroughly enjoyable collection. Again, I was grateful to follow a bit of a drag-read (Rut) with something so full of life, recharging my reading-stamina.

The short stories in Selected Shorts are amusing with often serious underlying morals or implications. Following each short story was a blurb, lesson, thought, etc. -- sort of a mini-story that filled up less than a page. These blurbs were at least as enjoyable as the stories themselves and often gave me pause. The stories are tied together by the world that has been established by Goodberg, even if the characters within the stories have nothing to do with one another. (e.g., the companies that developed time travel are frequently discussed, even if a character from the first story would never come into contact with a character from the 10th story, who lived a couple hundred years earlier/later in time).

Overall, the book kept my interest and each story only made me want to read the next more. Oh, and the illustrations warrant note: they were a perfect companion! I refrain from saying anything more beyond, Pick it up and read it. It is worth your time. (hehhehheh...)

Rut: THREE of five stars. Recommended for people with a less-than-optimistic view of our not-too-distant future.

Selected Shorts: FOUR AND A HALF of five stars. Recommended for people who like time travel and have a sense of humor... not to mention Hope for our future!