cover image Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in Tongues

Ian McDonald. Spectra Books, $4.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-29239-8

McDonald ( Desolation Road ) redefines the divisions between rich and poor, human and animal, aggressor and victim in this collection of 11 short stories. Once again he conjures futures in which machines and living creatures combine into new forms of life. Long after humans have slaughtered one another into oblivion, dogs, raccoons and birds continue to wage war, at the recorded commands of their masters, who had upgraded them into search-and-destroy devices capable of delivering nuclear warheads. One raccoon revolts by plucking the implants out of his skull. In McDonald's universe, nature endures on distant worlds like Epsilon Eridani Two, where delphs--dolphins that can speak--hope that an experiment conducted by humans in the new planet's oceans will finish off the only intelligent indigenous life form, sentient plankton, leaving Epsilon Eridani Two for themselves. Fantastic as they are, McDonald's visions also reflect truths about ourselves and our society: on glitzy Atomic Avenue, for example, a pretty rich girl beckons a lad whose friends keep him from her by literally shoving him into the gutter--and we are reminded that ``the rich are always the rich, the poor the poor.'' (Oct.)