“Monkey Talk” and “The 13th Prophet” by T. Lucas Earle

Hello, readers! Today is a special day, the day I venture outside my novel-filled comfort zone to review a pair of short stories, both by T. Lucas Earle. I can count the number of short stories I’ve read on both hands, so this was a relatively new experience for me. Fortunately, it wasn’t just a new experience but a positive one, and I believe I’ll be seeking out more short fiction in the future.

Monkey Talk by T. Lucas EarleMonkey Talk

“Monkey Talk” is loosely based on the Chinese myth, the Monkey King, a timeless story about who belongs, and who doesn’t. In a future in which Chimps can give lectures on cybernetics, Mr. Towry is a Chimp with an attitude. Unfortunately, the rules are still “No shirt, no shoes, no service.”

Review: The esteemed Professor Towry is a sought-after lecturer and advocate. He is intelligent, articulate, cultured, and an impeccable dresser. He is also….a chimp.

“Monkey Talk” is set in a world where advanced technology has granted primates the ability to communicate with humans. What it has not granted them, however, is equality. Towry may have a brilliant mind, but the world isn’t made for chimps, not even genius ones. For all of his intelligence and civility, Towry faces significant limitations, from the inability to reach the buttons in an elevator to the discriminatory treatment he receives from many humans.

“I cannot stress enough to you that we are all animals. And the only reason we excuse the eating of other animals is because they have yet to step forward and ask us not to, in a language we understand.”

My initial reaction after finishing “Monkey Talk” was, “Wow, if this is what all short stories are like then I’ve been missing out!” Part of why I’ve been wary of short fiction is because I didn’t see how a worthwhile story could be developed in so few words. Earle has proven me utterly, unequivocally wrong. I’m amazed at the excitement and curiosity and sadness he was able to evoke in me in just 15 brief pages.

“Monkey Talk” requires you to read between the lines, to try to piece together the bigger picture from what is said and, more importantly, what isn’t said. There are many messages to this story, messages about losing yourself, about trying to force yourself to be something you’re not, about the injustice of being told what you should be and yet not being allowed to take all the steps necessary to become that person.

As the saying goes, the secret to success as an entertainer is to always leave your audience wanting more. With “Monkey Talk,” T. Lucas Earle has absolutely succeeded. His work is not just entertaining, but thought-provoking, and I want so much more than the 15 pages I was given.

A free copy of this story was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

 

The 13th Prophet“The 13th Prophet”

In this entertaining short story, T. Lucas blends classic noir and dystopian sci-fi, exposing the strange underbelly where conformity, fashion, and religion collide.

Review: As much as I enjoyed “Monkey Talk,” “The 13th Prophet” wasn’t for me. The story takes place in a futuristic world where god-like “prophets” determine the fashion trends and, somehow, the personalities of the masses. Each prophet represents a characteristic – Bliss, Control, Passion, Care, etc.. One day one of the prophets, Defiance, ends up dead, and grizzled private investigator Mulligan Burke is hired to get to the bottom of Defiance’s demise.

I found almost everything about “The 13th Prophet” to be confusing. I didn’t understand the world building at all, nor could I figure out how the prophets and personality patches and fashion all fit together. I was lost a lot of the time, and at the end of the story I felt like I still had a lot of questions. Not in the “leave them wanting more” kind of way as in “Monkey Talk,” but in an “I have no idea what just happened” sort of way. I found myself wondering, “Why on Earth did character X do action Y?” and “What the heck are the prophets and why are they there?” It’s ok to need to read between the lines to understand a story, but in order to do so you need to have enough lines to read between.

It’s possible that “The 13th Prophet” is a story that needs to be read more than once to truly appreciate it. I do intend to read it again, and I hope that I’ll absorb more the next time around and come to love it as much as I loved the brilliance that is “Monkey Talk.”

A free copy of this story was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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