Visions of Paradise

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Visible Light (The Collected Short Fiction of C.J. Cherryh, part two)

The first portion of the massive Collected Short Fiction of C.J. Cherryh consisted of her 1981 collection Sunfall (which was reviewed here on 9/4/10). The second portion is her 1986 collection Visible Light, consisting of three novellas and three short stories.

The lead story, which, as far as I can tell, is the first piece of short fiction Cherryh published, is “Cassandra,” which won a Hugo Award as Best Short Story. It was a deserving winner, the story of a woman who sees future dead people superimposed on the present, and what happens when she meets a man who is part of both images. A chilling story.

The longest novella “Companions” is nearly a novel at 140 pages. It concerns an exploration mission to a planet which immediately discovers a total absence of all animal life. Shortly thereafter, a devastating disease affects all the members of the crew, quickly killing all but one member, Paul Warren. Before he died, the captain decided the planet is too dangerous for other visitors from Earth, so he rigged the ship never to take off again without exploding. So Warren is trapped on the planet with only an AI for company. The AI hovers over him like a guardian angel, providing less than ideal companionship.

One member of the crew went crazy before dying, killing a number of his fellows before fleeing the ship. Warren decides to search for him outside the ship, causing great discontent to the AI whose robot form cannot accompany him across a river due to its great weight. So Warren is alone when he encounters a presence with no corporeal form and the ability to invade his mind totally. “Companions” is the type of adventure story C.J. Cherryh does as well as any writer. It is carefully-paced (no action-packed thriller here!), based on the thoughts and actions of the main character as he tries to maintain his own sanity in the face of possible lifetime isolation, while also trying to solve the mystery of the mysterious entity. This is very good stuff which deserved an award nomination.

To be continued...


  • I plan on reading this collection later this year.

    Another good review.

    By Blogger Jim Black, At 5:08 PM  

  • Hi, (Adam, I suppose)
    I am involved in reviewing a treatment of a script for "The Time it Never Rained" & ran across your blog. First, I am pleased to find someone who seems to read in as indiscriminately fashion as do I - obviously, your chosen genres would seem to preclude even a cursory glance at Kelton's work. I would be quite interested in 1.) WHY you chose his work to read - what do you think was the initial spark (friend's recommendation, a review, an assignment)?
    2.) Whether you are a Texan - with all that being a Texan implies - and, if you are not (which I believe you ARE not, based on your comments)...
    3.) What, beyond your comments, were the most emotionally resonating moments of the novel? As you state, Kelton's work is very.....can I say, arid, emotionally. So, I guess I'm asking what moments of the novel, in your mind's eye, stand out most dramatically?

    I would be most grateful for your comments....I don't know that anything will come of this at all (not the first attempt at translating this work to film) but it's quite interesting to find someone dissassociated from "westerns" who takes the work seriously & finds merit in Kelton's sparse style. Thank you.

    By Blogger mural1, At 7:25 PM  

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