An uneven but entertaining collection from a strong new voice.

Stories Nobody Tells

A varied assortment of characters populate the stories in Hendrickson’s debut collection.

These 13 tales run the gamut from sci-fi and crime fiction to more mainstream musings about relationships and growing up, and each has a unique narrative voice. Writing in a naturalistic style, Hendrickson imitates the way real people speak, down to stammers and accents. When characters say things such as, “Whattayagonnado,” or “Ohhww, lookit chew,” their voices come through loud and clear. These are less literary tales than they are yarns that one might overhear in a bar; indeed, one of them, “The B-Plus Factor,” seems like exactly that. The strongest stories depict life in small-town Middle America, usually its underbelly. “There are some places here in the rural Midwest that don’t really exist,” opens the final story, “The Sovereign,” one of the most memorable in the collection. These darkly funny tales are about people such as bartenders, survivalists, and drug dealers who live in trailers and farms in the middle of nowhere—people whom the system conspires against. The opening story, “It’s Legal, There,” sets the stage, illustrating the contortions of the legal system as a woman is tried for the murder of her young son. “Three Pines” is an extended joke about three drunk teens who get revenge of a sort on the unlikable cop in their tiny Michigan town. Some stories are so slight as to be little more than vignettes, such as “I Know You Do,” about a lawyer moonlighting at an airport as a luggage handler. Other tales seem to be auditioning as the first chapter of a novel. “It’s Easy As,” a sci-fi story tale set in a highly stratified future society, introduces a lawyer and his client, who is accused of “thought-crime,” but will leave readers wanting more. Even though the selected stories wander through many genres and themes, Hendrickson displays a confidence that promises more exciting things to come.

An uneven but entertaining collection from a strong new voice.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5150-3823-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2015

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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