Review of "What to Change" and "A Stop at Stanford," two short stories by Robert Collins
What To Change: Doug Patterson is nearing 30 and feels his life has been one mistake after the other. A mysterious professor sends him a letter, offering him the chance to go back in time to change his life. Will Doug take that chance? If he does, what will he change?
A Stop At Stanford: Doug Nyren makes videos. He wants to move to a place where the other artists aren’t snobs and his neighbors won’t try to push him to be a sell-out. He visits the tiny town of Stanford on the planet Gypsum. He meets some interesting people there, but will Stanford be the new home he’s looking for?
In “What to Change” and “A Stop at Stanford,” Robert Collins combines science fiction with realism, exploring the banality of everyday life through the lens of time and space travel. In both stories the main character is named Doug, despite the fact they don’t seem to be the same character. Apparently Collins just loves the name Doug. Although it is refreshing to see science fiction that isn’t all about action/adventure, aliens or robots, Collins plays it a little too safe. The result is two pieces that are...dare I say it...boring.
Collins’ writing is fine, but not great. The author’s use of italics to denote the main character’s inner thoughts is a nice touch, but italicized sections also appear for other purposes, particularly in “What to Change,” so it is confusing to read at times. The plots are okay, but not fantastic. I feel like time and space travel is an exciting thing, particularly for the two Doug’s (both of whom are looking to make big life changes) but the author makes it all seem humdrum. The main characters are uninspiring, and as they embarked upon their respective quests I found my mind wandering.
The stories aren’t bad. My literary sensibilities weren’t offended, but neither were they impressed. Ultimately, the stories lack memorability. In many ways, they are rather like the lives of the characters they are written about: mediocre. Yet another instance of art imitating life.
Reviewed by Aubrey Bennet
Buy "What to Change" on Amazon US.
Buy "A Stop at Stanford" on Amazon US.