The Incarceration of Captain Nebula


Michael Resnick


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

January 2nd, 2014

his is a book of short stories by Michael Resnick, who has won multiple awards for his science fiction. Indeed, many of the stories in this collection were nominated or won awards (after each story, Resnick includes a paragraph or two with notes about the origin of the story and how it fared with respect to awards.) I picked this up because the review at SF Site made it sound like this was collection of truly noteworthy stories. But overall I was unimpressed.

Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge - 4 stars. A party of aliens lands on earth in the distant future, long after the extinction of humans. At one time, mankind ruled the galaxy as feared and ruthless conquerors, but now he has perished and the other intelligent races are relieved. This scientific party is examining ancient relics to learn about how such a species could arise. 1995 Nebula and Hugo award winner.

Barnaby in Exile. 3 stars. A story told from the viewpoint of Barnaby. Barnaby is a chimp who has been trained in sign language and socialized with humans. But the lab that taught Barnaby no longer has funding. Highly unlikely premise that such a creature would be returned to the wild. 1995 Hugo nominee story.

The Last Dog. 3 stars. After an unspecified apocalypse, the Last Man wanders a lifeless landscape, scrounging for survival. He encounters the Last Dog, and they hang out together. This story is much too short, the man and dog are so undeveloped that they don't even have names. This story too obviously tries to be a tear jerker - ooh, the last loyal dog! Best Dog Writers of America Short Story in 2007

Article of Faith. 1 star. - an android working in a church wants to learn about religion, but the parson refuses to teach the him, because after all, Jackson is just a soulless machine. God is only for humans! What a horrible story - this is a lecture about prejudice, very loosely hidden in a story clothing. The preachiness is so overt. Yuck. Yet is was a 2009 Hugo nominee

The Big Guy. 1 star. Another failure. Again, a robot tries to join humanity - in this story the giant android is a perfect basketball player. He is 7 feet tall, quick, never misses a shot, never gets tired, etc. blah. Resnick completes misses the point about sports. What is interesting is the best humans competing against each other to the best of their abilities. Playing basketball against a 7 foot machine is not interesting. Playing chess against a super computer is not interesting. That is why there is such outrage against dopers and cheaters. Resnick tries to make a story about a machine learning feelings, yet some how the perfect machine is oblivious to the consequences of its actions. Fortunately this was not nominated for any awards

The Boy Who Yelled Dragon - 1 star. A boy goes out to slay a dragon, but instead ends up in conversation with him, and they make a plot to fool others. I swear I have read this exact same idea in a story written by someone else. Unoriginal, but mercifully short. No awards!

Alastair Baffles Emporium of Wonders - 3 stars. Two old geezers, named Silver and Gold, return to visit the old magic shop that they encountered in their youth. Surprisingly, the shop still exists, and the proprietor looks like he hasn't aged a day. Hmm, could he truly do magic? Nominated for 2009 Hugo.

Distant Reply - an old guy sees a young woman who looks exactly like his deceased wife. So he sits down with her at diner and starts a conversation - and wouldn't you know it, the young woman is EXACTLY like his Deirdre (whom he gave the unfortunate nickname DeeDee). Likes the same books, same hair style, same perfume, etc. The problem with this story is: why? Why is the young Deirdre such a sharp echo of the deceased DeeDee? Apparently, it is merely a coincidence, which really lessens the interest in this story. 2008 Hugo Nominee

Bride of Frankenstein - 2 stars. An entirely predictable story about poor Mrs Frankenstein coming to appreciate the qualities of her mad scientist husband. This is science fiction? 2010 Hugo Nominee

The One That Got Away. 1 star. A wererabbit and a werecoyote fall in love. Meant to be funny, but I found it merely annoying. This is Science Fiction?

All The Things You Are. 4 stars. A really good story about an alien presence on a distant planet. A journalist goes to investigate why soldiers who had been rescued from that planet seem to have a suicidal death wish. The story is fatally flawed because none of the visitors to the think of returning to the planet. Why not just go back?? 2007 nominee for best Hugo

The Incarceration of Captain Nebula. 5 stars. The best story in the book. Captain Nebula is here to save the Earth, but unfortunately the humans think he is crazy and have confined him to an asylum. But maybe Captain Nebula is telling the truth? Resnick does a great job of keeping you guessing. No mention of this story being nominated for any awards - my favorite story gets no recognition

Six Blind Men and an Alien - 3 stars. A team hiking up Mt Kilamanjaro encounters a corpse of an alien. Each person speculates on how the alien got there and what it might mean for their personal future. The ultimate resolution of the story is unsatisfactory (images aren't just stored locally on magnetic media, they are immediately transferred to storage on distant servers, safe from strong magnetic fields.) Also, the idea of Jaka hanging around isn't plausible - the alien is just going to wait?