Starting the part 2 of my review of the FORWARD Series from Amazon Publishing, I kept the order going, so I first listened to Amor Towles’ short, YOU HAVE ARRIVED AT YOUR DESTINATION, which was narrated by David Harbour, who was pretty much the perfect voice for this story.
Sam drives up to a brand new fertility lab run by Vitek, a cutting edge tech company at behest of his wife. They want to give their future child a boost in the increasingly competitive world, yet as Sam is walked through the process and even given reports of what sort of life his child could lead, he begins to question his own decisions and choices that have made his life his own and brought him to Vitek.
Overall, this story was a pretty interesting existential reflection on the lives that people take and how much of that can either be in our control or not. Obviously, Towles is taking the concept “nature v.s. nurture” and ripping it apart, but I thought Sam’s reaction to visiting Vitek and his conversations/reflections afterward to be particularly revealing of humanity and as a father, that resonated with me. Be sure to listen to this one, because Harbour’s narration just cannot be missed!
Next up in the FORWARD series is Paul Tremblay’s THE LAST CONVERSATION, which all things considered may have been up there with Jemisin’s inventiveness of story-telling, which was great. It’s a creepy one, based on the second person POV, but Steven Strait’s deadpan delivery also enhances this as well.
The main character finds themselves in a room with no memory of ever being there or even seeing anything. They wake up blind and are only guided by the projected voice of a caretaker, Dr. Kuhn. She tells the main character that she is there for their well-being and that she will provide therapy to help recollect everything that they have lost, but can she be trusted?
It’s hard to talk about this one, since the entire premise could break it. This was a hard one to get into based on the second person POV and because you follow the main character, who is in the dark and confused for most of the story, it creates an uncomfortable tension for the reader. I found myself asking more questions and not having them answered as we went on this slow burn narrative. I did enjoy Tremblay’s prose a lot and I plan to read some of his more recent work, but this story was more uncomfortable to me than truly horrifying. Maybe that was the point?
And finally to wrap up FORWARD is RANDOMIZE by Andy Weir, which as the last story in this series was pretty underwhelming, following heavy hitters like Jemisin, Towles, and Tremblay.
When casinos have to upgrade their security to protect their games, Chen the IT head for the Babylon asks for a quantum computer, which he tells his boss, Rutledge, is “full proof.” Little does Chen realize that maybe he’s not the only one who knows all there is to quantum computing.
Set up as a classic heist sort of story, Weir spins this narrative to tell the story of a struggling young couple, who is looking for a way to “elevate” their station. Enter rigging a casino to pay out how they want it to. While, it would seem easily to buy in on this premise, but Weir retains a rather cool distance from his characters, while keeping them within carefully calibrated characterizations. There’s plenty of “science” here, which is mostly quantum computing info dumps, but considering the series hasn’t really had that, one story was going to.
All in all, if you appreciated THE MARTIAN, then this story will be up your alley. It’s one of the shorter stories in the series, not a bad way to spend half an hour.