The Kiribati Test

REVIEWS - Book Reviews

"The Kiribati Test" by Stacey Cochran

Reviewed by Andrea Speed

Short story collections seem to be the last place a writer can stretch his wings and try out several genres at once.

Sometimes authors try out a couple different genres in one story, which could be seen as spicing things up or hedging your bets, depending on how the story turns out. Such is the title story of this collection, "The Kiribati Test," a science fiction story that also has dashes of action, humor, romance, and conspiracy theory thrown in.

It's quite ambitious, but by the end of the story I was admiring its ambition more than the story itself.

Better is the story "The Drunk", another science fiction tale with some humor,  about the media of the near future and the packaging and commercialization of rebellion and identity, among other things. Although it comes off as rather scattershot at first, it evens out into a story as much about characters as ideas, which is what the best science fiction is all about.

"The Quiet Couple" is a genre shift into heist melodrama, as an unusual crew plan and execute a complex  jewel heist, although not without complications. It's a story that gets to the action pretty quickly and moves along at a pretty good pace, making it a fairly brisk read.

"Born On The Bayou" falls more into a revenge style drama, which has some great atmosphere going in, but too much of  the tale depends on coincidences, and while the things that happen to our anti-hero hero are awful, he's not a very sympathetic character. Still, it has a sort of Carl Hiasen air about it much of the time, which is a compliment.

"Harvest Time" is an odd science fiction/horror hybrid, about a spaceship crew taking Christmas trees to a distant planet--but Christmas trees that appear to be haunted. By a vengeful spirit or some odd kind of alien? This tale never quite decides what it is, and while there is a creepy scene or two, it just never gelled for me.

"The Cuda" is a "Twilight Zone"-inspired tale about a car with a magic  trunk. While reasonably enjoyable, it's predictable all the way through, and is a bit reminiscent of Stephen King.

I hate to mention it, but there was a typo throughout this book that irked me. Every time the word "losing" shows up, it's spelled "loosing." I realize this is essentially a self-published book, but please, watch your Spellchecker or get someone in to proofread next time, because every time I came across that typo, it threw me out of whatever story I was reading.

That aside, this is a fairly enjoyable read, and Cochran shows some promise as a writer. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with in the future.

2 1/2 stars

Lulu Enterprises, 2004
ISBN 1411613589