Immunity to Strange Tales (Susan Forest)

Immunity to Strange Tales is a short story collection by Susan Forest.
[I got this book from a LibraryThing Early Reviewer Give-Away. I am not early with my review, but honest.]
Finished on: 1.9.2018

Immunity to Strange Tales is a good collection of very different stories. Not all of them worked equally well for me, but it does have a few really strong ones. And since the stories are so varied, it’s pretty easy to find something to your taste. I really enjoyed it.

The book cover showing a cat with strange eyes in front of a moon.

More about each of the stories after the jump.

Back

Alan and Victor are working on a time machine. And they know that they’ll make it, because their future selves already let them know. But even with that knowledge, building a time machine really isn’t easy.

I like time travel stories and I liked this time travel story, too. The twist may have been a little obvious, but the ending was really funny. Alan was a little overexplained for my taste, but other than that, I really enjoyed Back.

Playing Games

Zekielina has a plan: she is going to find Santa’s elves and learn their secret. Her friend Patty is doubtful if she can succeed, but Zekielina is determined.

It took me a while to understand whether the story is being literal or symbolic. For such a short story, that determination took me a surprisingly long time. But the metaphors in the story give you a lot ot chew on: loss of innocence, sexuality, from childhood to capitalism – take your pick!

Immunity

Jorge calls Trine and Katya to examine his sick father Greg. Trine isn’t a doctor, but as the ore station’s administrator, she is responsible for all the workers there – and she has to determine what happens to Greg.

The set-up of this story is pretty simple, but effective. The characters are very clear in their thoughts and motivations. And I thought that the moral conclusions the story comes to, are interesting and pretty unusual as it weighs integrity against being too hard on yourself. I really liked it.

The Right Chemistry

Ox and Jen are an oxygen molecule, and they have been a bonded pair of atoms for a while now. At this Christmas party, though, things between them become a bit tense.

The Right Chemistry builds on a pun, and I’m not sure I understand enough of chemistry to appreciate all of it. But in any case, for me the story overstayed its welcome a little bit, despite being really short.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow

On a farm, a mother with her children seem to be the only people left in the world. And the mother has to think about all of their, all of humanity’s future.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow is a difficult story with a difficult topic. It never becomes sensationalistic about it, which is something. But it did make me wonder whether children really are all that important – and that I wondered about that surprised me. Definitely thought-provoking.

Angel of Death

Ben fights for a living. He is a mutant after all, and mutants don’t have many options. But when non-mutant Razor offers to fight him fair and square, Ben gets the chance to do something really big for all mutants.

Angel of Death was mayb e a little predictable and tropey. Foster could have made more of that story, especially since it was well-written and emotional. But it was lacking a certain spark for me.

Paid in Full

Willy and Freddy go way back, so when Willy asks Freddy to take his gnat in while he repairs his stable, Freddy doesn’t see much choice but to do it. But something is wrong with the gnat.

Paid in Full builds on a “It was a dark and stormy night” pun – “store me gnat” – and turns it into one of the strongest stories of the collection. Willy and Freddy are both vivid characters with a very interesting relationship dynamic. And the gnat idea is really great.

The Way Back

Rebram was sent away from home to study and bring knowledge to his village. And he has finally finished his studies and is ready to teach everybody. But teaching is not that easy.

The Way Back tackled the conflict between tradition and innovation in a very interesting way. I definitely enjoyed it, but I did wish the ending had been a little more concilliatory – Rebram using storytelling to turn science into magic would have been a nice way to go.

The Strange Tale of —-

At the end of the 19th century, a man experiences visions or maybe he is actually astral projecting. In any case, he witnesses a monster doing things that deeply upset him.

The story uses the literary style of the time very well, but particularly because it was so close to the time in style, I would have liked it, if the story had been a little more modern, with giving voices to people who wouldn’t have been given a voice at the time. In short, I would have liked a little more subversion and a little less hommage.

Killing the Cat

Mimi was hired by her sister Agathe to do some spying, infiltrating. Not that easy when you’re just fresh off drugs and not even sure that Agathe’s mission is such a good one.

I liked the set-up for the story, and I liked the idea with the cat, but here too, as with a couple of other stories, the execution was a little too predictable. Although I have to admit that the ending remained a bit of a mystery to me.

The Director’s Cut

Lasha and Jim make movies. Well, Lasha does everything and Jim takes care of her. And whenever she has time, she dabbles in the occult arts.

The Director’s Cut has a feverish quality to it that didn’t really lend itself to straight-up interpretation and didn’t always work for me. But it did use a couple of very strong images that I enjoyed.

Orange

Earth is under attack and people try to save themselves.

Orange is hard to sum up, but it’s a beautifully structured and narrated story that left me curious to know what will happen to everybody mentioned here. It was a strong ending for the collection.

Summarizing: Very nice short story collection.

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