The Incarceration of Captain Nebula and Other Lost Futures by Mike Resnick
I find many story collections to be mixed affairs and, unless it’s a “Best of” collection, I open the book with the assumption that I’m going to find a few stories I like among more that I won’t get particularly excited about. But I’ve loved the stories I’ve read by Mike Resnick, so I had high hopes when I opened The Incarceration of Captain Nebula and Other Lost Futures, a collection recently published by Subterranean Press who are known for their lovely productions. Even with my lofty expectations, I was extremely pleased with this collection.
It begins with a charming introduction in which Mike Resnick brags about having the best job in the world. He explains that he didn’t used to think of himself as a short-story writer until one of his stories (“Kirinyaga”) won a Hugo award. Since then he has written about 270 short stories and is the leader in awards for SFF short stories. Each of these fine tales in The Incarceration of Captain Nebula and Other Lost Futures also has a short afterword in which Resnick explains the story’s origin:
- “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” — In this stunning award winning story, a group of alien archeologists excavating the Olduvai Gorge in Africa relive the evolution, history, and extinction of the human race. They decide that humans are atrocious, arrogant, and practical. This beautiful story is both a celebration and a repudiation of the human spirit. It won the Hugo, Nebula, and several other major awards.
- “Barnaby in Exile” — A smart chimpanzee from a research lab discovers language and a new way of thinking. Then he’s let lose in the wild after funding dries up. I loved this story. It was nominated for a Hugo award.
- “The Last Dog” — This is a terrific post-apocalyptic story about the last dog on earth. It could make a dog lover out of even me. “The Last Dog” was rejected by all the SF magazines Resnick submitted it to and was eventually published in Hunting Dog. It won the American Dog Writers Award for Best Short Story of 1977.
- “Article of Faith” — A robot whose job is to clean a church starts asking the preacher about God. This Hugo-nominated story not only makes us wonder if robots can have souls, but also serves to chastise hypocritical Christians. The end is chilling.
- “The Big Guy” — A robot created to play basketball decides he wants to learn about human feelings. Mike Resnick’s robots feel so real! This is a touching and excellent story.
- “The Boy Who Cried “Dragon!” — In this moving story, a gangly teenage boy needs to prove himself a man by slaying a dragon… and an awkward teenage dragon needs to prove himself an adult by eating a man.
- “Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders” — Two boys who met at Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders when they were 11 years old grow old together and decide to visit the magic shop one last time before they die. This is a beautifully nostalgic story. Don’t miss Mike Resnick’s afterword.
- “Distant Replay” — An old widower meets a young woman who looks and acts just like his wife did when they were married more than 50 years ago. This sweet story had me crying at the end.
- “The Bride of Frankenstein” — Mike Resnick’s take on the old horror movie — it’s funny and sweet.
- “The One That Got Away” — A short and silly paranormal Wild West tale.
- “All the Things You Are” — A deputy in the space service visits the planet Nikita to find out why the few surviving veterans of a war there are so eager to get themselves almost killed. This Hugo-nominated novelette is an intriguing science fiction mystery.
- “The Incarceration of Captain Nebula” — This fun story is about Captain Nebula, a Buzz Lightyear-type character who’s in a mental asylum because he thinks he needs to save the galaxy from an evil emperor. I anticipated the ending, but I loved the story anyway.
- “Six Blind Men and an Alien” — The ice on Kilimanjaro is melting, so Geography Magazine sends a team to find evidence of the leopard that Hemingway wrote about. Instead of the leopard, they find a frozen alien, so each of them speculates about how it got there. This novella was my least favorite story in the collection, mostly because I found it to be a little too long and repetitive, but it’s still a fine story which, like the first story in the collection, gives an alien perspective on human behavior.
The Incarceration of Captain Nebula and Other Lost Futures is a superb collection of stories from a highly decorated author. It’s full of deep characters (human, alien, and robotic), lots to think about, and plenty of emotion. I laughed, cried, and considered the plight of humans (and robots and aliens!) while reading these beautiful stories. If you’re a fan of Mike Resnick’s, you won’t want to miss this collection. If you’re not a fan yet, you definitely shouldn’t miss it!
Yep, which is why I'm willing to give a sequel a shot
Thanks for the reviews you two. I put the book on my TBR as soon as I saw ads for…
We seem to be on the same page. Yeah, the depiction of some (at least two) of the women characters…
The correct and more accurate term for the book thing is "challenged," I think. Frankly, the intentional removal of books…
Not sure I can be persuaded on two of these articles. When I was young book-banning meant you couldn't sell…