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Captive Dreams Paperback – August 31, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Prometheus Award winner Flynn (In the Lion's Mouth) assembles six tales delving into deep melancholy and moral ambiguity. Each story builds from scientific what-ifs to a reality of human fragility and despair. In Melodies of the Heart, genetic conditions have a young girl aging too quickly and an old woman too slowly. In the title story, ideological differences hinder a young boy s ability to make sense of afterimages and echoes floating in his brain. Hopeful Monsters pulls back the curtain on the world of designing babies. In Places Where the Roads Don't Go, a lifelong friendship is strained when a heated debate over the nature of mind becomes more than talk. Remember'd Kisses explores science that offers to absolve emotional pain. In Buried Hopes, buried objects keep hope alive. While great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary outshine the scientific concepts, the stories will linger after the last page is turned. --Publishers Weekly (Starrred Review)

(5 Star Review) Captive Dreams is not a short fiction collection or a fix-up in the usual sense. Some of the stories herein were previously published, others were written for this volume. The character set is the same for each story regardless of which characters appear in any given stories. What makes this volume unique is that one neighborhood is the setting, and all the characters in the stories live in that neighborhood. Flynn has also added afterwords for each story which describe how he came to write each piece, a great way of answering the standard question, Where do you get your ideas?

Flynn has created a fictional work from disparate parts that feels homogenous. Melodies of the Heart establishes the milieu and the tone of all the stories in its recounting of a part-time doctor at a retirement home who thinks he finds a key to unlock the chains of his daughter's illness in an older resident s memories. The title story is a deeply affecting meditation on how parents of handicapped children can grow too attached to their child's handicap instead of the child. Buried Hopes focuses on a foreign-born member of the shared neighborhood who finds himself in need of psychological counseling. It's an intriguing tangent from the aliens live next door trope that shows how devastating homesickness can be if allowed to grow, and what the outsider might do to improve its mental state.

As Flynn notes in the Afterword to the Afterwords, the stories in Captive Dreams share a common ambience of deep melancholy and terrible ambiguity. Each story reflects the human element of scientific advancements, the good and bad of breakthrough treatments, programs to improve the human body and mind, the persistence of the mind after physical death, and other what-ifs often found in science fiction. Captive Dreams represents an alternative to fix-ups that works very well. --Janine Stinson, Foreword Reviews

In the final Afterword to the Afterwords , Flynn writes, I am not a critic, least of all of my own stories. He is too modest. In the individual Afterwords he not only footnotes the various speculative ideas but underlines and reinforces the stories thematic and structural features and notes the various conditions and influences that went into their making. His accounts of how he wrote and rewrote them show how well he does the essential writerly job of self-criticism, and his reflections on how they work and what they say are as thoughtful and perceptive as one could wish of any commentator. Come to think of it, a decent analytical review could be assembled from the Afterwords, thus making my job pretty much unnecessary. I suppose modesty and good manners prevent Flynn from the final function of the reviewer, which is to make a recommendation, which I provide herewith: I enjoyed half of these stories years ago on first reading them, and I enjoyed encountering them again, along with their new companions and their creator's thoughts on their creation. I think I will not be alone in that. --Russell Letson, Locus Magazine

About the Author

Select Previous Publications

Eifelheim (Nominated for Hugo Novel)

The Forest of Time (Nominated for Hugo Novella)

In the Country of the Blind (Won Prometheus & Compton Crook Awards)

Fallen Angels (with Niven/Pournelle: Won Prometheus and Seiun Awards).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix Pick; First edition (August 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612420591
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612420592
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,228,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Michael Flynn's six stories all share something unusual. Each story's main characters live in the same neighborhood. Two roads fishhook into each other, creating a large oval of land bordered by pavement. Houses positioned around the inside of the oval enclose a wildlife area large enough to offer surprises, but small enough that residents can see the back of houses on the other side. The woods are completely surrounded by private property and therefore free from future development. It's an interesting setting.

This quirk isn't what makes the collection great, though. These stories explore solid science fiction themes, such as nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, extended lifespans, and alien visitors. At the same time the stories explore hard decisions, strained relationships, and the deep pains of being human. In one of this story "afterwards," the author notes, "These stories share more than a neighborhood. They share a common ambiance of deep melancholy and terrible ambiguity." Each afterward is also a great reading experience. They offer chances for the author to explore ideas from the stories without risk of spoiling them.

It's impossible to pick favorites. Here's a little about each one:

"Melodies of the Heart" is superficially about an old woman recovering memories of the past and her doctor who is trying to understand them. The characters are flawed, but likeable and the narrative is textured and believable. The writing is superb.

"Captive Dreams" shows us the struggle of a single mother to care for her son, whose senses deliver unsynchronized messages to his brain. Once understood, this condition can be corrected. This requires difficult decisions about how to proceed.
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I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from this collection. I had read the author's novel Eifelheim after seeing it pop up on a few recommendation lists and enjoyed it, so I decided to try this collection of short stories. They're linked by being mostly set within a common location, a neighborhood with multiple people dealing with issues of medical and biomedical engineering ethics. Several of the stories had been previously published elsewhere, so if you're more familiar with the author than I was only part of the collection will be new, but while the links between the stories aren't always very strong, it is interesting to see brief interactions between various characters. A few of the stories have lagging spots where characters stop to have a long discussion on science or philosophy, but some of the ideas raised were very thought provoking and stuck with me well after I finished reading. Overall while the stories are largely melancholy and certainly not happy, I found myself empathizing with the characters and while I didn't always agree with a character's position on an issue, you could understand where they were coming from and found myself enjoying seeing the thought processes they went through. Highly recommended if you enjoy near future stories that leave you thinking about where our current society might me headed.
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Format: Paperback
Absolutely a wonderful book! Certainly one of Michael Flynn's best. He shows great depth of compassion and empathy - some of the stories may prick one or another ideology, but characters on both sides of an issue are treated with human dignity. It's really true that some of the stories are like to make you weep, but they are not depressing as are some of the modern nihilistic literature. There always seems to be a light of hope; I'm not sure exactly how he does this. I will have to read it again! This will be a good gift, particularly to a philosopher friend of mine. For Sci-Fi aficionados (such as myself), there is much interesting science, well explained, too. I strongly recommend this book.
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