Counting Tadpoles

{4.5/5} “One heard of Flying Box People. They were ignorant, of course, of People’s ways, and did some awful things, not knowing any better. But they seemed to intend friendship. ‘No knowing what harm we may do them in ignorance,’ Levery said to Eblio. Eblio agreed. One could make awful mistakes through ignorance, even among People only a few days’ walk away.”

Counting Tadpoles by Uncle River was published in 2009. It’s a collection of short stories, two of which I published in my magazine Challenging Destiny.

“The Dashing About Flying Box People” — Eblio is curious about the Flying Box People who have come from another world. The Flying Box People give some gifts, offer People rides in their flying metal boxes, and do a lot of rushing around urgently. One of the aliens seems willing to communicate, so Eblio sets about learning their language — otherwise how can one find out what they really want?

This is a story that’s a combination of fun and serious. The aliens are unique, the situation is completely plausible, and the story has a dry humour. When we meet aliens will we be — can we be — careful enough that we don’t do something horrible unintentionally?

“The Building Inspector” — One day Umalal receives a message from Earth saying all buildings must be inspected, therefore they need a Building Inspector. Since Earth will pay the salary and will never know how many buildings are actually inspected, Bagge decides to sign up for the job. Newcomers to Umalal don’t happen very often, but when some do show up they want to build a house so for the first time Bagge is asked to actually inspect a house.

The story is filled with wonderful details like cheer (sort of like beer) and foosh (sort of like fish). The inhabitants of Umalal are living a pleasantly low-key existence. It’s an amusing story that shows people can live in different ways.

Although Uncle River has spent many years as a hermit, he is an astute observer of human nature. He lives in the American Southwest — some of the stories reflect that experience in their setting and characters.

The moral of some of the stories: we live in a crazy world. River doesn’t have much use for bureaucracy or hypocrisy.

If you’re a fan of science fiction short stories, I encourage you to check this out. The stories have an understated quality — you won’t find a lot of spaceships, explosions, or bad guys. What you will find is interesting ideas and slightly absurd situations.

River has published a small number of novels and quite a few short stories. This is his first collection — I hope there will be more.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 3rd, 2012 at 9:21 pm and is filed under Reviews of books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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