[Short Story] Review: Beyond Lies the Wub by Philip K. Dick

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beyond lies the wubTitle: Beyond Lies the Wub
Author:
Philip K. Dick
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Mark Turetsky (Audiobook Narrator)

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The wub stood sagging, its great body settling slowly. It was sitting down, its eyes half shut. A few flies buzzed about its flank, and it switched its tail.

“It” sat. There was silence.

“It’s a wub,” Peterson said. “I got it from a native for fifty cents. He said it was a very unusual animal. Very respected.”

“This? It’s a pig A huge dirty pig “

“Yes sir, it’s a pig. The natives call it a wub.”

“A huge pig. It must weigh four hundred pounds.” Franco grabbed a tuft of the rough hair. The wub gasped. Its eyes opened, small and moist. Then its great mouth twitched. A tear rolled down the wub’s cheek and splashed on the floor.

“Maybe it’s good to eat,” Peterson said nervously.

“We’ll soon find out,” Franco said.

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(This review originally appeared on my blog Winter Distractions on May 14, 2013)

I’m finding that I don’t read enough short stories. In my collection, I have quite a few short story collections, but I always find that when I go to read a book, I must read the ENTIRE BOOK and not just settle at one story out of the book. So, for me to read a short story is quite an accomplishment.

Science fiction is not something I read every day. For me, I like to find science fiction stories that are not only accessible to new-to-the-genre readers like me, but ones that are also quirky and somewhat different. With Philip K. Dick’s Beyond Lies the Wub, that was exactly what I got. For most of the story, I had a scrunched-up look on my face because it was just so different that by the time I finished, I knew that I had found the short story for me. And maybe the author for me (since I really haven’t read any of Dick’s work in the past).

This story is about the “wub” — a pig-like creature that is found by the crew of a space liner. What’s interesting about the “wub” is that the description we’re given pretty much lays the creature out as a pig, which makes the inhabitants of the space liner very keen on eating it. However, the wub talks and has philosophical conversations. Apparently, that’s one smart pig.

It was interesting not only that Franco (who seemed to be the leader of this crew) was so keen on killing and eating the wub, but that the wub was also very much aware to this fact. What makes the wub any different from a human on the space liner? I mean, the wub seemed to have a brain, an opinion, and an awareness — buy just because it speaks, does that make it any different from any other animal that does NOT speak?

Really, this story just opened up a huge bag of philosophical worms and even though the pace is slower, it’s a short read, and there’s nothing overly exciting in it, it’s still very much a quirky story that will open up conversation among its readers. Especially that ending. Once I finished reading it, I had to go back a few paragraphs to read it again before I could fully form an opinion on it. In some ways, it’s a delightfully quirky little read, but in others, it’s kind of horrifying and sad.

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Review: Hellgoing: Stories by Lynn Coady

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hellgoingTitle: Hellgoing: Stories
Author:
Lynn Coady
Genre: Short Stories
Source: Purchased (eBook)

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With astonishing range and depth, Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist Lynn Coady gives us eight unforgettable new stories, each one of them grabbing our attention from the first line and resonating long after the last.

A young nun charged with talking an anorexic out of her religious fanaticism toys with the thin distance between practicality and blasphemy. A strange bond between a teacher and a schoolgirl takes on ever deeper, and stranger, shapes as the years progress. A bride-to-be with a penchant for nocturnal bondage can’t seem to stop bashing herself up in the light of day.

Equally adept at capturing the foibles and obsessions of men and of women, compassionate in her humour yet never missing an opportunity to make her characters squirm, fascinated as much by faithlessness as by faith, Lynn Coady is quite possibly the writer who best captures what it is to be human at this particular moment in our history.

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Short stories have always been something that alludes me. I mean, I understand the novel and I kind of get poetry (something I never really studied in university. Give me books!), but when it comes to short stories, I felt like it took a lot of work to really extrapolate the TRUE meaning of the story. If there was a meaning. Which, in university, there’s ALWAYS a meaning.

I’m not sure if I would have picked up Hellgoing on my own, but when I saw that local author Lynn Coady was up for a Giller Prize with her collection of stories, I decided to give it a whirl. Not only do I love trying out prize-worthy books, but I also have been on a mission to really explore the depths of local talent we have here in the capital city.

Without a doubt, it’s easy to see that Lynn Coady has talent. Right off the bat, I was in love with her writing style. It’s more mature than what I was used to, but it was also very accessible. I didn’t find myself fumbling through the text and actually found myself absorbed in the stories. Shocking, right?

I think my favourite stories in the collection have to be The Natural Elements, Wireless, and Body Condom. All had very real characters and interesting studies in our actions as humans. The stories aren’t light, they’re hard and sometimes a bit crude. It can be hard to really get to know a character through a short story, but I think there are certain characters (as in my favourites listed previously) who stand out. We don’t get a lot of filler with a short story, nor do we really get a lot of backstory. Instead, we get the here and now and the story that’s happening in this moment. It’s like we’ve suddenly attached ourselves as flies on the wall of someone else’s life, if only for a brief instant.

I’m definitely interested to try out some of Lynn’s full-length works. I think she is a true local talent and definitely worthy of acknowledgement. I’d be interested to see her writing a little serious of a story — maybe something with a mix of seriousness and a bit of humour, but I’d still say that this is a good introduction to her work.

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Review: 40 Below: Edmonton’s Winter Anthology (Various Authors)

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40 belowTitle: 40 Below: Edmonton’s Winter Anthology
Author:
Various Authors (Edited by Jason Lee Norman)
Date(s) read
: October 10 – 12, 2013
Genre: Short Stories
Source: Publisher (Paperback)

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40 Below is Edmonton’s Winter Antholgy. Stories, poems, and essays about or inspired by winter in Edmonton.

Featuring: Jason Lee Norman, Diana Davidson, Jessica Kluthe, Michael Hingston, Jennifer Quist, and much more. 

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Thank you to Wufniks Press for the copy of this book for review!

Winter in Edmonton is a strange beast. We all know that it’s going to come in at some point and yet some of us are NEVER prepared. For me, I look forward to winter every single year. I’m not sure what it is, but when winter comes, the world slows down and gets a little quieter. We all retreat inside of our homes with our fireplaces and blankets, our coffee or tea, and hold our loved ones close in an attempt to warm up just a bit more.

“Despite living for several years in Canada, I always feel depressed and tired during the winter season. As you gradually accustom yourself to the Canadian weather, you’ll stop getting excited for the snow and winter.”
- from My First Wild Winter by Amir Baharun

(I feel like I also have to promote one of the songs I’VE written about winter. After reading so many beautiful stories in this collection, I think I can make at least one contribution. I wrote Wild Birds in 2008 and it still remains to be one of my favourite songs.)

“Of course, I know that I romanticize Edmonton winters. It is lovely and wonderful and magical when one doesn’t have to experience it directly.”
- from Southern Lament by Gregory Ramshaw

Anyway, when I started this anthology, written entirely by Edmonton authors, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be full of fictional tales? True accounts? Abstract things written about the strange Edmonton climate? What I got was all of the above. The anthology is a beautiful mix of short stories and poems — all of various lengths. My personal favourites remain to be the true accounts of winter in the city, usually told by people who haven’t lived here all their life. Being someone who loves the snow, I know that feeling of the first snowfall and wanting to walk down the crunching streets feeling that winter chill on your cheeks. (In fact, I’ll let you in on one of my favourite things to do in the winter — when the snow is falling and night has draped our city with her blackness, I like to bundle up and go for a walk with Radiohead’s OK Computer playing in my ears. It’s perfect.)

“and for you
winter in Edmonton leave nothing
nothing at all to complain about”
- from O Jackie by B. Joanne Underwood

By the end of the book, I felt completley prepared for this upcoming winter — in fact, I was looking forward to it. There was something about these stories that not only brought out the terrifying moments of winter, but also the beauty of winter. I hope that the stories will make people long for the days of winter rather than run in fear. Winter — and really, the seasons — is one of the best parts of living here. I definitely plan to revisit some of these stories in winters to come.

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