Despair: Catgut Series

He knew that his body had changed. He felt more muscular, could feel his barrel chest moving up and down as he breathed the clear air. Fear gripped him, he was within his primate, and all was dark. Sparks of light flashed in the darkness. He saw shapes and movements and tried to move but was paralysed. Panicking, he tried to cry out, but no sound emanated from him. The sparking lights coalesced, whirling into a frenzy, until terrified he could hold on to consciousness any longer and he fell into blackness. Addiction can be cured - or so the experiments will prove. Using the revolutionary consciousness transfer by the team at Trans-Con, mental illness has been eradicated successfully and with the focus now on addiction, Leo Skazi is a reluctant participant in a larger experiment. He needs to rid himself of a nasty gambling habit, and has to take the risk to avoid off-world prison. But when they've finished with him, will he be the same? The fifth story is the Catgut series provides a glimpse of the dystopian future, where medical science has slipped its bonds of ethics, and surges on, rampant and unchecked.

Kirkus Independent Reviews


A subtle and meaningful collection about humankind under stress.

A clear concern for humanity, reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s dystopian fiction, appears throughout all of Falconer’s stories.


Dystopian futures reveal the universality of primal human emotions in this SF story collection.

Each story in this anthology focuses on people grappling with the consequences of intense emotions. Highlights include “Terror,” in which a father and son living in a subterranean city win a lottery to join a group of citizens headed aboveground to prepare Earth for repopulation. According to their leaders, “the Terror,” defined as having “sharpened pointed” teeth and “catlike” eyes, live on the surface. As part of their pre-ascent orientation, the citizens view frightening images from the past. The leaders manipulate them through the use of special effects (“thunder rolled around the room, so that the very benches they sat on trembled”) so that they’ll uncritically accept the mission. In “Despair,” Skazi, a gambling addict and prisoner, awakens in corporate psychiatric facility Trans-Con, which rehabilitates mentally ill persons by shifting “the consciousness of patients…to primates and returning it back.” It turns out that participation in the program is mandatory, and noncompliance of any kind results in enslavement and exile to another planet for life. A clear concern for humanity, reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s dystopian fiction, appears throughout all of Falconer’s stories here; their characters start out as victims of their unique situations, as one might expect, but they’re also at the mercy of their own individual flaws, as well. As if to accent the theme of humanity, the stories all distinctively open with the protagonist encountering a specific smell, such as “garlic,” “perfumed floral air,” “roasting coffee beans, “freshly cut grass,” or “sweat, linen, plastic.” Moreover, they all struggle against greater societies where humanity—as a group and as a state of existence—has been diminished, giving the tales an unmistakable feeling of profundity.


A subtle and meaningful collection about humankind under stress.


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