In the last few years, I have come to enjoy reading anthologies and short story collections. There is something satisfying about a story that entertains within so few words. Dead Reckoning and Other Stories contains a good number of solid and satisfying stories.
The possible consequences of our ever-increasing technological connectedness are explored in “Reboot”. Tasked with overseeing the worldwide network and making sure it runs smoothly, Bellarbi must call in an old expert to help him figure out a growing problem. Castaneda is a sharp old woman who knows her stuff, and I loved how she was able to take charge in the situation. I found the story fun and prescient, given how many people these days use technology without understanding it. The gap of understanding is only growing, too.
My favorite story in Dead Reckoning and Other Stories was “How Much Is That Doggy?”. Earl Duarte is regularly harassed by his daughter to move into an assisted living facility, but Earl values his independence too much. With his health declining, Earl suddenly finds new joy and energy in a puppy he adopts. I found Earl’s thoughts on moving out of his home to be very real. This was the most compelling thing about this work.
The grittiness of war is driven home in “Dust to Dust”, when a soldier is pulled out of a firefight—moments before he likely would have died—by aliens who want his help. The needs and desires of the aliens are pitted against those of the soldier, Holbrook, as he tries to convince them to send him back to his life. The aliens are benevolent, but have difficulty understanding why Holbrook wants to go back to a much worse situation instead of being treated very well with them.
While that story showed the soldier with respect, I was disconcerted by the apparent disrespect shown to the military character in “Murphy’s Law”. Devuyst was so stereotypically a dumb grunt (despite being a Lieutenant) that it frustrated me. In every situation, it seemed she was only interested in blowing things up or shooting them. Despite this, the story was quite good, and I really liked the ending. It was smart and funny at the same time.
“He Who Controls” was a respectful nod to “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury. Think of it as a similar story but told from the point of view of a character who initially doesn’t know that the world is subtly changing all around him due to the careless actions of others. I was very satisfied with how it ended.
Oddly enough, the story that resonated the least for me was the title story, “Dead Reckoning”. No matter how hard I tried, I could not connect to the main character. Some of the concepts discussed in the story as it progressed were interesting, and I understand where the author was trying to go with the story. However, I found Hector and the other characters in the story to be soulless. This story just didn’t work for me.
Overall, Dead Reckoning and Other Stories was very entertaining. After I got past the first story, I found most of the tales to be engaging and interesting. Because taste is a fickle thing, you may even thoroughly enjoy the works that didn’t click for me. I have no trouble recommending this collection to anyone who likes good science fiction, with a tiny little touch of horror thrown in for spiciness.
“How Much is That Doggy?”
“Dust to Dust”
“A Slight Imperfection”
“He Who Controls”
“One for the Money”
Review copy kindly provided by the author.
Release Date: August 24, 2015 (USA)
ISBNs: 0993889050 (9780993889059)
Publisher: Nemesis Press
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (occasional)
Language: 1 (mostly minor, some stronger)
Sexuality: 1 (very brief)
Violence: 2 (some violence, nothing graphic, death)