Brilliance Audio is now producing some science fiction story collections on audio, and recently they sent me a few of them to review. The first one that caught my eye was this one by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. It contains two related stories: “The Big Trip Up Yonder” narrated by Emmett Casey and “2BR02B” narrated by Kevin Killavey. I recognized both as stories that were produced on audio by Jincin Recordings and have been available at Audible.com for a couple of years. In case you didn’t know (and in case you’re interested), Brilliance Audio has a relationship with Audible and often produces CD versions of Audible titles a couple of years after the original release. In fact, it occasionally happens that Brilliance Audio sends me a review copy of a book I’ve already read at Audible.
These two Vonnegut stories happen to be on my wishlist at Audible, so I was happy to receive and review them. This particular collection is only 45 minutes long, so it was the perfect length for my daily commute. (By the way, the package says in one place that the CD is 2 hours long and in another place that it’s 1 hour and 45 minutes — this is wrong. It’s 45 minutes. Somebody on their staff made a big mistake!)
Anyway, I loved the stories. “The Big Trip Up Yonder” (25 minutes, originally published in 1954 in Galaxy Science Fiction) is about a future (2158 A.D.) America in which aging has been stopped, the earth is overpopulated, and families are forced to live together in small apartments, eating seaweed and sawdust. Nothing new here for those who read science fiction, but Kurt Vonnegut’s take on it is hilarious as he details the life of one family who can’t wait for its patriarch to die and who might even be willing to help him along. There’s a terrific twist at the end.
“2BR02B” (19 minutes, pronounced “To be or naught to be,” originally published in 1962 in Worlds of If) is also set in an over-crowded world where life is cheap. The title, 2BR02B, is the phone number of the Municipal Gas Chambers of the Federal Bureau of Termination where people can make an appointment when they’re ready to die. The story takes place in a hospital waiting room where a man waits for his wife to deliver a baby. When he finds out that she has delivered triplets, he’s got a real problem. If he wants his babies to survive, he has to find three people who will volunteer to be terminated.
“The Big Trip Up Yonder” and “2BR02B” feature Kurt Vonnegut’s absurd sense of black humor. This is great entertainment, but these stories also vividly point out the problems we’ll have if we ever conquer the aging process, something that seems so much more possible today than it did when Kurt Vonnegut wrote these stories. I enjoyed both Emmett Casey’s and Kevin Killavey’s narration.
OK, here’s where I feel a little guilty. Brilliance Audio was nice to send me this collection and I’m going to link it in this review so if you click on that pretty cover up there you’ll be taken to Amazon where you can purchase it for $9.99 and FanLit will get a 6% referral fee, which is nice. But, I’m compelled to also let you know that you can purchase the downloadable version of “The Big Trip Up Yonder” at Audible.com for 95¢ ($2.43 if you’re not a member) and “2BR02B” for $1.95 ($3.47 for non-members). Sorry, Brilliance Audio, but as good as these stories are, 45 minutes for $10 just isn’t a good deal. These stories are, however, definitely worth the cost for members at Audible.