The Year’s Top Short SF Novels 5 edited by Allan Kaster (CD review)

December 27, 2015 | By | Reply More

Here we have a collection of six short Science Fiction novels of 2014 from established and emerging writers. It’s a bumper pack of 14 CDs lasting 16 hours presented in a neat package and narrated by two very experienced readers, Tom Dheere and Nancy Linari, both being familiar to listeners of previous presentations from this company. They seem to know how to express every nuance and inflection of the words, bringing them to life in a pleasing way. They bring solidity to the stories, stimulating the imagination in an almost effortless manner but they have narrated many works before and by now it must be a natural process for them.

The price of $39.99 is reasonable enough. They say it’s reduced by $10 because of a sale. Well, they’ve always got a sale or so it would seem, so it’s time they did away with this marketing ploy which is wearing a bit thin by now. Why not just stick to a regular non-sale price? Most people would be happy with that.


Complaints aside, minor though they may be, there is certainly nothing wrong with the package. These stories are good! No doubt about it and most people would enjoy listening to them on CD. I think possessing the works on a CD is more tangible than an audio download. It’s a concrete reality which you can place on a bookshelf just like a book and dip into at any time in the future. So what’s on offer with these discs? Six stories are as follows:-

John P Murphy’s ‘Claudius Rex’ reminded me somewhat of Raymond Chandler’s private eye Marlowe with his staccato sentences and short witty remarks. This time the private eye, Baldwin, is out to solve the murder of an artificial intelligence creator. Having been out of town for a while, he is a bit unfamiliar with recent advances in technology, including Jeeves, his electronic companion who is a bit disrespectful. The conversations between the two are quite funny. Well delivered by the narrators, it’s a pleasure to enjoy.

The second story, William Preston’s ‘Each In His Prison, Thinking Of The Key’ is set in contemporary surroundings of an out of the way prison in Texas. Jimmy is telepathic and he interrogates prisoners. With experience from Iraq, he is sent there along with a girlfriend to solve the mystery of a dangerous and grumpy inmate called The Stone Man. The old guy, a big tall chap, at first didn’t say very much if nothing at all and it was going to be a battle of wits between the two of them to see who would come out on top. Investigating the man’s past and present life of four years inside the prison, Jimmy began to wonder who actually was the real prisoner. An engaging and challenging story!

‘The Last Log Of The Lachrimosa’ by Alistair Reynolds is an exciting story set on another planet. Named Holda, this orbited a gas giant which in turn orbited the star 82 Eridani. Barely able to support life, there were habitable regions around a large volcano and it was in this region where a ship called the Teterev had crashed. Seeking plunder, a crew of a starship decide to investigate only to find the task not too easy. On the planet was a weapon which would make them suffer.

‘Of All Possible Worlds’ by Jay O’Connell told the tale of the Old Man, who was the founder of the Better Place Foundation. Basically, he was a bit of a down-and-out in a rundown apartment, despite being relatively wealthy, and was also a bender of time and space. He wanted to organise things to change the future to avoid catastrophes on Earth and in doing so enlists the help of a younger man, someone in the neighbourhood who looked after his well-being. This is a great story, well told and interesting.

Ken Liu is a popular author and a very good writer and here with ‘The Regulator’. A prostitute gets murdered and the private investigator called Ruth investigates. In order to do her job properly, she has a regulator fitted. This is an electronic device to control her emotions maybe a bit like Sara in Swedish TV’s ‘The Bridge’. There was the possibility that the murderer is actually a serial killer!

Finally, in ‘The Man Who Sold the Moon’ by Cory Doctorow, a group of people investigate phenomena and try to solve the root of the problems. Cancer is one of the topics and also construction on the Moon. This story is full of ingenious ideas and devices, including the 3-D printer on the Moon used to manufacture construction panels. The story won the 2015 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short fiction. You can listen to it here. A really great story!

There you have it. Six excellent stories on CDs! They are varied and all are narrated to perfection, so much so that listening to them is an enjoyable experience. It is a good package, as you would expect from this company and it’s one to recommend.

Rod MacDonald

December 2015

(pub: Infinivox/Audiotexttapes. 14 CDs 16 hours 6 stories. Price: $39.99 (US) inc p&p. £ (UK). ISBN: 978-1-884612-72-5)

read by: Tom Dheere, Nancy Linari and Dara Rosenberg

check out websites:, and

Category: Music/Audio, Scifi

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