cover image Wasps at the Speed of Sound

Wasps at the Speed of Sound

Derryl Murphy, . . Prime, $29.95 (196pp) ISBN 978-0-8095-4489-9

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)