October 1st, 2011

agent

The Survivors' Menagerie, by Kyle Aisteach

The Survivors' Menagerie is available for download at Goodreads, Amazon, and other locations. I think the pricing is a uniform $0.99.
Previously, at Kyle's behest, I reviewed an anthology in which Kyle's strong story was one of my very favorites. This time, he asked me take a look at this, a standalone novelette. As in "Too Close for Comfort", this story takes a close look at a science experiment that's quite a bit beyond our present capabilities, presents some ethical quandaries, and then details the dramatic consequences.

This time, it's time travel. Not just time travel, but the 'abduction' of subjects from the past (who were fated to die soon (shades of Silverberg's "Gianni", a favorite of mine)) for research purposes. A gladiator, a young woman from the Titanic, and a physicist enter a bar are the primary subjects addressed in the story. Through their interaction with the research staff and each other, they and the principal investigator all advance toward their destinies.

Unfortunately, I wasn't as impressed by this effort. The Gladiator's Tale, while clever and exciting, is not integrated enough with the rest of the characters and overall story. I have some issues with some rather suicidal motivations. A few other details here and there bother me, but it's hard to explain without ruining the story. There is a lot to like about the story, particularly the resolution of the main(?) story (although I'm not so keen on the antepenultimate and penultimate paragraphs). But something about the relative proportions and integration of the various stories, and some of the character motivations, didn't quite work for me.

I believe Kyle also acted as publisher in this case. I read it as a PDF and the format and text was perfectly fine, and the copyediting nearly flawless -- I spotted just one 'and' for 'an'. But I think the story could well have benefitted from the outside input of an independent editor.