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L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 934, August 6, 2017

To say that the Conservatives have lost
the cultural war is too kind. To say that
they have not fought it is too kind. The
truth is that most of them have shown no
awareness that there ever was one to fight.

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Nasty, Brutish and Short Stories
by J. Neil Schulman
A Review

by Sean Gangol
RGangol@sbcglobal.net

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Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

It’s interesting how J. Neil Schulman in the intro to his book Nasty, Brutish and Short Stories, said that he wasn’t really all that into writing short stories, since I thought many of the stories in this book were up there with the works of Rod Serling. That is why it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Schulman’s short story, “Repossessed”, which also appears in this book, originally found its way into Adventures in the Twilight Zone, a book that was edited by Carol Serling. Then of course there was the episode he wrote for the eighties revival of The Twilight Zone, titled “Profiles in Silver.”

In the first story of the book, “Repossessed”, we have a college professor who in his dreams can see through the eyes of people committing random acts of murder. Though interesting enough, the victims happen to be the same people that the professor had a series of vendettas against and the murderers in these cases never seem to have any recollection of what took place. This begs the question of whether the professor is seeing through the minds of these killers or is he subconsciously causing the murders. This story is definitely worthy of being counted as part of The Twilight Zone saga.

Then there is the more light-hearted of the stories, “The Musician”, where you have a professional violinist who signed a contract for a concert but had no memory of signing. Then there is the story of “For the Sake of Ten” where we have a general who has a moral dilemma placed on him when The Soviet Union launches a nuclear attack on America. Since he is the only one left in charge, he has to make the fateful decision of whether to launch a nuclear attack in retaliation, which will result in the deaths of millions of civilians or show restraint. The decision he makes leads to an unexpected outcome.

There is also the “Pilgrim’s Egress”, which is a more philosophical story full of metaphors, which explains why so many people have a fear of freedom. One of the funniest of the stories is “Benny Rich is Dead”, where the hierarchs of Heaven decide where a deceased hitman is going to spend all of eternity. The dialogue in this story alone is hilarious.

The only two that I didn’t care for were “The Second Remove” and “When Freeman Shall Stand.” My reason for not liking “The Second Remove” could be simply summed up as not being my cup of tea. While “When Freeman Shall Stand” was certainly well written, I am not really a fan of dystopian fiction, where the story only talks about how bad things are in the future and doesn’t offer any resolution on how to fix them. This is more of a personal preference, but I find dystopian stories, where there is little or no hope for the future to be too depressing for my taste.

It’s not uncommon to have at least one story that you aren’t going to like in entire book full of short stories, but I will say for the most part the stories were quite excellent. Of course, some are stronger than others, but I think that they are all worth a read. I also think that it is worth pointing out that I didn’t really find his stories all that Nasty or Brutish, though it does make for a good title.

 

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Nasty, Brutish and Short Stories
by J. Neil Schulman

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