Women Destroy Science Fiction! Anthology Review: In the Image of Man by Gabriella Stalker (Narrated by John Allen Nelson)

November 2, 2016 2.5 stars, 2016 Review Challenge, Anthology, Audiobook, Book Review, Boring Main Characters, Science Fiction, slice of life 0 ★★½

Women Destroy Science Fiction! Anthology Review: In the Image of Man by Gabriella Stalker (Narrated by John Allen Nelson) two-half-stars
In the Image of Man by Gabriella Stalker
Published by Skyboat Media on November 18, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Length: 15 hours, 11 minutes
Narrated by John Allen Nelson
Buy It Here!
The summer of 2013 was a rough one for women in science fiction. Every few weeks there was a new reminder that to a certain subset of the field, women are not welcome. There were multiple articles returning to the tired accusation that women aren’t writing “real” SF; disputes about the way the field is represented by vintage cheesecake art on the cover of a professional trade publication; the glib admonition that if women are to succeed, they should be more like Barbie, in her “quiet dignity.” For many readers, it was a very nasty surprise to discover this undercurrent running through the ocean of imaginative fiction we love.

And it just. Kept. Coming.

We got tired. We got angry. And then we came out the other side of exhaustion and anger deeply motivated to do something.

Thus the Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue of LIGHTSPEED MAGAZINE was conceived. We did a Kickstarter campaign in early 2014 to help make the issue into a double issue; we crushed our fundraising goal in about 7 hours and ended up funding at more than 1000% of our original funding goal, with more than 2800 backers. Because of that tremendous success, we unlocked two major stretch goals which resulted in the publication of companion volumes Women Destroy Fantasy! and Women Destroy Horror!, which are being published as issues of LIGHTSPEED’s sister publications, FANTASY and NIGHTMARE.

FROM THE EDITORS — Christie Yant, Rachel Swirsky, Wendy N. Wagner, Robyn Lupo, and Gabrielle de Cuir
Editorial, June 2014: Women Destroy Science Fiction!

ORIGINAL SHORT STORIES — edited by Christie Yant
Each to Each by Seanan McGuire – narrated by Cassandra Campbell
A Word Shaped Like Bones by Kris Millering – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir
Cuts Both Ways by Heather Clitheroe – narrated by Grover Gardner
Walking Awake by N.K. Jemisin – narrated by Bahni Turpin
The Case of the Passionless Bees by Rhonda Eikamp – narrated by Jonathan L. Howard
In the Image of Man by Gabriella Stalker – narrated by John Allen Nelson
The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick by Charlie Jane Anders – narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Dim Sun by Maria Dahvana Headley – narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
The Lonely Sea in the Sky by Amal El-Mohtar – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir with Cassandra Campbell, Cassandra de Cuir, John Allen Nelson, Stefan Rudnicki, and Molly Underwood
A Burglary, Addressed By a Young Lady by Elizabeth Porter Birdsall – narrated by Judy Young
Canth by K.C. Norton – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir

ILLUSTRATORS — art direction by Galen Dara
Li Grabbenstetter (“A Word Shaped Like Bones,” “Each to Each,” and “Love is the Plan the Plan is Death”)
Elizabeth Leggett (“Cuts Both Ways,” “Salvage,” and “Like Daughter”)
Hillary Pearlman (“Walking Awake”)
Christine Mitzuk (“The Case of the Passionless Bees”)
Galen Dara (cover artist)

In the Image of Man depicts a future where everyone lives full time as a consumer. In the Image of Man tells the story of consumerism and big business taken too far. The names of numerous commercial brands and goods are an integral part of In the Image of Man and are name dropped throughout.

Just to be honest, I didn’t really enjoy In the Image of Man. I felt the ending lacked any type of real resolution although the entire [story] idea felt extremely plausible. For the most part, I was rather bored with In the Image of Man but the narrator did such a fabulous job. John Allen Nelson’s narration was perfect! He reminded me a great deal of the voice-over done for an old cartoon: Animaniacs Episode #42 “Hollywoodchuck.” I think that the only reason I finished In the Image of Man was the narrator.

As I said, I really felt that In the Image of Man came across as very, very possible. The story seems to have it’s roots in the ideas of The Mall of America: almost everyone in this new future of In the Image of Man lives in a mall. Malls are where people shop, worship, and go to school. Malls are where you LIVE and how you get entertainment. Everything is in the mall and 100% based around spending money – even the churches are sponsored (which the corresponding trademarks decorating religious robes) and you can buy snacks in church during church from a snack nun who goes up and down the isles.

Why do I think this is so plausible? Currently, there ARE apartments that are located in a mall right now – but instead of a combined living/shopping center, it’s an historic mall [building] that’s been converted into micro-apartments. We are also all quite familiar with the [now] typical living/shopping/transportation centers that are everywhere right now. One perfect example would be Rhode Island Row in Washington, DC. I used to live within walking distance of this center many, many years ago when it was simply a stand alone metro station in a dicey neighborhood with some very light shopping across the street. I was greatly surprised to see what it’s now become: apartments, restaurant, and even a DMV office! That’s on top of the fact that the metro is still right there.

To emphasize the rampant commercialism, In the Image of Man gave the future an insidious twist: Teen Funds.

There’s a program called “Teen Funds.” Teen Funds are…actual loans given to teenagers of up to $60 a week! These funds are available everywhere and are disbursed by ATMs which are strewn about the mall(s). Teens do not need permission to access these funds from their parents…they can get them as they desire. What’s worse is that since Teen Funds are loans they have to be repaid. The MC’s mother once chastises him, “You want to be like your father??! Still paying off your Teen Funds at 45!?” That single comment gave me vast insight into the Teen Funds: a program even better at creating life-long debtors than credit cards for college students! $60 a week equates to $3,120 a year…for a teenager. O_O

In the Image of Man follows one teenager (and thus his girlfriend and a classmate) as they navigate part of their senior year in high school. The main character – a boy who has swallowed the idea of Teen Funds hook, line, and sinker: “Teen Funds are my right! They help the mall and they teach financial responsibility.” He has a hard time thinking for himself and thus is able to avoid thinking about the future. A future that will include paying back thousands of dollars (at who knows what interest rate!). The reader gets to follow along as the MC goes about his day(s) – spending money on unnecessary crap while not paying attention to the future…

…and as this goes by, I start to think to myself: Self, why are you still reading this? You are bored, Self. Go on to the next one. But John Allen Nelson’s narration kept me going.

While the story feels very plausible, it’s still a “slice of life” story with no action whatsoever. Near the end the MC has an epiphany but its rather anti-climatic. And then the story ends.

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