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Aliens Rule
Edited by Allan Kaster
Narrated by Vanessa Hart and Tom Dheere, unabridged
Infinivox, 3 hours, 43 minutes

Aliens Rule
Allan Kaster
Allan Kaster is a baseball-loving, guitar-playing, science fiction fan that happens to be a native Texan that can't get enough Mexican food. He has a loving wife and two teenage kids. By training, he is an anaerobic microbiologist.

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A review by Susan Dunman

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The idea of aliens among us has always been an intriguing concept but it's not quite so appealing if the aliens have the upper hand. In this collection of three short stories, humans must cope with unusual circumstances created by aliens who are in control of the situation.

In the first story, author James Van Pelt offers a bizarre case of alien abduction with, "How Music Begins." It seems that aliens have abducted an entire junior high school band from their bus as they were returning from a performance. Now the band members find themselves living in an enclosed structure that is part dormitory and part performance hall. There is a large glass wall in front of their stage, but the musicians can only see clouds of roiling brown smoke on the other side of the glass. Their lives revolve around daily practice sessions and regular performances for unseen and unknown alien observers.

The story is told from the point of view of the band director, Mr. Cowdrey. Narrator Tom Dheere brings the stressed-out, yet imminently practical band director to life. Dheere's portrayal accurately reflects Cowdrey's concern for his students and his fears for the future. The director's efforts to maintain a sense of normalcy in their anything-but-normal situation keeps your attention and your sympathy.

The second story is a very personal look at human/alien relationships and what the nature of being alien is all about. In "Okanoggan Falls," the alien Watesoons have conquered Earth and have proved to be fairly placid conquerors. That's why it's such a surprise when they come to the small Wisconsin town of Okanoggan Falls to tell the population that they must be evacuated so the aliens can set up a mining operation for sand found underneath the town. Author Carolyn Ives Gilman has done an excellent job of making the hard, dry, clay-like Watesoons seem extraordinarily threatening and, well, alien.

In an effort the win the aliens over by helping them understand how devastating it is for the citizens of Okanoggan Falls to pack up everything and leave their home, the mayor's wife decides to befriend Captain Groton, the alien assigned to evacuate and demolish the town. Although he accepts an invitation to visit her home, Susan soon discovers the unfathomable differences in their perceptions of Earth when Captain Groton discusses his abhorrence of water.

"Water is always dirty." he said. "It teems with bacteria. It transmits a thousand diseases, yet you humans touch it without any caution. You allow your children to play in it. You drink it, even. I suppose you have gotten used to it, living on this world where it soils everything."
Narrator Vanessa Hart has a resonant, sensuous voice that she uses in an understated and tender way to convey the emotions of a human and an alien who both make sacrifices to try and understand each other.

The final offering in this collection is, "Laws of Survival" by Nancy Kress. In a future world decimated by war, aliens have landed and constructed impenetrable gray domes across the world. There seems to be no purpose for the domes and they simply stand vigil for years. Meanwhile, humanity struggles to survive among its own kind, not worrying too much about the aliens.

A woman who is scavenging from a garbage dump finds a puppy and picks it up. She is immediately approached by a robot which emerges from one of the domes, offering to give her food in exchange for the puppy. It's not long before the woman is abducted by the robot and, once inside the dome, she is shocked to find it full of dogs.

Dog lovers will really appreciate this story, as the aliens have evidently decided that dogs are the most worthy species on the planet and they want them to be "trained" for their own purposes as pets. Vanessa Hart also voices this story and she demonstrates great vocal agility with her handling of robots and a very cynical, yet likeable, protagonist who is only trying to survive.

Thematic collections are always a favorite of mine and it was easy to enjoy this collection of alien-themed stories. The narrators do a wonderful job of bringing the text to life and it would be hard to find any better written stories on the topic. Each one will give you something to think about long after you've finished listening.

Copyright © 2009 Susan Dunman

Susan became a librarian many light years ago and has been reviewing books ever since. Audiobooks and graphic novels have expanded her quest to find the best science fiction in Libraryland.


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