“My Shorts” by Arthur Doweyko

Presented with a title like this and a cover image of a man in a spacesuit holding a clothesline with underwear on it, you might expect a certain amount of humour in the book. In the case of this collection, don’t expect it to be of the underwear-on-the-line variety. Any humour Mr. Doweyko blesses us with is likely to be grim, sardonic, and a bit twisted.

This collection is notable because of the variety of ideas it contains. “The Catch,” has a rather 1970s-era theme. “The Boy Who Couldn’t Lie” has an original precept, and I enjoyed the open-ended nature of the conclusion. One of the stories (I won’t tell you which) contains no science fiction at all, because the scientific elements are part of a clever scam with great poetic justice in the ending. Another is a ghost story. The rest are various demonstrations of what happens when technology allows some of the less pleasant elements of human nature to develop.

Some plots are rather elaborate, and the necessity of revealing all the details rather slows down the action. Some are so complicated that they get lost in the translation. For two, I never did figure out exactly what happened in the end. Unfortunately neither of them fascinated me enough to make me want to dig enough to find out why. Others require a much more complete system of disbeliefs to allow their concepts to flourish. These would be better used as the basic world-builders for novels, because there are just too many plot holes that the short story format does not give time to plug.

Since a theme of time travel runs through the collection, the author is tempted, too often, I think, into jumping back and forth from real time to various stages of flashback.

All this makes for an entertaining and eclectic collection of tales, held together by a rather cynical view of human nature. Recommended for the experienced reader looking for variety.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)



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