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Wasps at the Speed of Sound Hardcover – Mar 20 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Prime Books (March 20 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809544881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809544882
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 445 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,757,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian short story writer Murphy specializes in miniatures, close-up pictures of people coping with a crisis. Sometimes the problems come at them from outside, but usually they must confront an ecological disaster that is, however indirectly and passively, their own fault. The results, in this 11-story collection, are compelling if not exactly lighthearted. Closest to being humorous is the nautical "Day's Hunt," a rowdy but scathingly ironic tale in which harpooners chase mutant whales in a sea of liquefying garbage. The title story, on the other hand, imagines superpowerful insects preparing to desert Earth en masse because humans have polluted it so thoroughly. Our mistakes have changed the rules of the game, Murphy insists, so we must decide to understand and adapt—or perish. He still believes we may have a choice. If this sounds like environmentalist preaching, almost all the selections work as stories because they feature believable action in convincingly detailed settings; their message comes across successfully because we do sympathize with the characters' dilemmas and their struggles. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Derryl Murphy s stories have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies over the years. He is also the author of the ecological science fiction collection Wasps at the Speed of Sound and, with co-author William Shunn, of the ghost story Cast a Cold Eye. He has been nominated three times for Canada s Aurora Award, and anticipates that someday he ll be nominated and lose again. He lives on the Canadian Prairies with his wife, two sons, and dog, and vaguely remembers the day when he thought this whole writing thing would be glamourous.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa7d41e7c) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7d4f564) out of 5 stars 6 out of 11 stories are excellent, well worth reading, but $4.99 is pricey for such a short book. Dec 5 2013
By Wordwizard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
WASPS AT THE SPEED OF SOUND is a collection of 11 SF short stories by Derryl Murphy, collected for the first time, including one that has never been published before. I was given a copy of this book by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, so that I might provide an honest review. For some unknown reason, this book has been out for several years without acquiring a single review, which I find puzzling. I suppose the author has had the integrity to refuse to ask family and friends to write 5 star reviews! It is difficult to rate the whole by a 5-star system, since there are 6 excellent stories, 3 that are eh/OK, and then, 3 (the shortest ones) that are duds. Given that the current price listed for an e-copy is $4.99, and the book is short (175pp), with not all of it pulling its own weight, I hesitate to rate it too highly, yet there are 4 star stories within. I would recommend skipping the 3rd through 5th stories, which are collectively the length of one or two of the others.

"Lost Jenny" is a beautiful story of an abandoned youth and an alien on the run, with a poetic feel that falters only once, with the words "which as you know means". There is no real explanation for the title, since the alien is not named Jenny, but it seems to be a favorite name of the author's, since he uses it in three other stories.

"Island of the Moon" which is an old name for the island of Madagascar, where it takes place, is another tale with an alien being. It begins with a Madagasy field station employee (="native guide") shooting an ecology-disrupting feral cat. I noticed one minor editing error, a quotation mark used instead of an unquotation mark. This story is told from the point of view of a journalist. A primatologist fills him in on what he (and we) already know(s) at one point:
"Charismatic megafauna [megafauna having been defined, just before, as large animals]," I repeated.
"Good-looking animals that have great visual appeal. You ought to know exactly what I mean."
I nodded.
Gradually it becomes clear that the reason for the journey is to cover the death of the last Golden Bamboo Lemur on a national park forest-island of the island of Madagascar, which parallels the coming extinction of the human race on Island Earth.

SKIP "Those Graves of Memory". Not much I can say about this one. Disappointing, but at least it's short.

SKIP "Father Time". Another mercifully short disappointment. A time travel story that goes nowhere. His first published story. Plenty of room for improvement!

SKIP "Day's Hunt". "…by what magic of technology Davies and his mates did not understand. But, more likely centuries later and unlike so many other found items it still worked," is a semi-comprehensible cheat. Perhaps more important, though, is that the author's intent seems to be to gross the reader out.
Hunting a whale with two 3-fingered hands and no explanations as it swims in an ocean-sized cesspool is not my idea of a fun time, especially with a gruesome decapitation thrown in for good measure.

"Wasps at the Speed Of Sound" the eponymous story, has a killer title. The tale is only OK. I can't really comment without giving spoilers, which I would rather not do. I caught my second typo, "has" for "as".

"What Goes Around" I found my third typo, "it will happen right [a]way". There are couple more in this story. This is a time travel, alternate reality tale, written to be confusing both to the main character, and the reader. In his introduction to the piece, the author notes that it is farthest from the general theme of the book, Us and the Environment. Maybe you'll like this one better than I did. The basic plot line is that a TV show can influence the future, and vice versa. Yawn.

"Blue Train" Another beautiful story, about water rights.

"The Abbey Engine" is amazing and moving! I checked various references included, and they're all genuine.

"The History of Photography" Another beautiful story. I am reading it shortly after seeing TIM'S VERMEER for the 4th time, which certainly makes the opening discussion of the camera obscure easy to follow. The author claims that this is his best-known story, which, reprinted in a photography magazine without mentioning that it was fiction, generated a vast quantity of letters from outraged photographers…

"Summer's Humans" is the next to longest story of the collection, and the only one original to this book. The author states that it is a recasting of Nadine Gordimer's JULY'S PEOPLE. As he points out, the only "original" story is a remix. I have not read JULY'S PEOPLE, but after reading this, I've just put a hold on it at the library.
HASH(0xa7d4f5b8) out of 5 stars an interesting collection Jan. 11 2014
By tarsh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
A collection of 11 apocalypsi (apocalypses?) - I think the thing that impressed me the most was how very different all the apocalypsi were, apart from a common environmental theme. Well written stories, and I enjoyed reading all excepting one (What Goes Around, which I just didn't get). My favourite is probably The History of Photography, but Blue Train, The Abbey Engine, and Those Graves of Memory also made pretty good impressions. Day's Hunt didn't overly appeal - it was pretty gruesome in fact - but still well-written. I have the feeling if I met most of the protaganists in the street I'd possibly cross it to avoid them, but somehow despite that Derryl Murphy made me care about almost all of them, leaving only the viewpoint character in the final story (Laura, from Summer's Human's) and everyone in the aforementioned What Goes Around that I was happy to leave.

Bottom line: Skip the foreword, go straight into the stories. A lot of interesting apocalypsi await you.

Note: I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme
HASH(0xa7d4f9f0) out of 5 stars Good Sci fi Jan. 3 2014
By Solaria 42 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
This is the newest edition of Wasps at the Speed of Sound, with 11 short science fiction stories (the original had 10). All of the stories have an environmental warning but this enhances the stories rather than detracts from them.

My favourite story was the Blue Train in which most of humanity that still exists after an extreme water shortage travels the world on a gigantic train in search of water and their subsequent freedom from this train by one man who dared to question the company's monopoly on the earths water.

Murphy constructs the world of each story so well, with little extraneous language as possible so the reader can create a vivid image of their own. Truly a pleasure to read for any science fiction fan and possibly for any environmentalist too.
HASH(0xa7d4fdb0) out of 5 stars Thought provoking Dec 21 2013
By Sandra Padgett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Very thought-provoking and entertaining stories. Most of them have an underlying environmental element to them. My favorite story is Those Graves of Memory-about a boy, memories and a very distant future. Others go from a human who has a chance to leave the earth and save himself and possibly humanity or stay and die, to changes in the human body on an alien planet far from earth. These stories are well told with characters solid enough for a short story. The good variety is one reason I read short stories. I received this free as an ebook through Library Thing giveaways for an honest review.