Story Time Reviews is a blog series that reviews stories both read and read aloud. Today’s post introduces you to “Solemnity – Firing Blanks” by Richard Noel. It’s a space opera short story, 22:44 minutes long, performed by Chris Herron on Tall Tale TV.
In a future space ship, in another galaxy, a crew works to keep their ship flying toward a interplanetary war. The ship carries machines that can make a huge difference in the war’s outcome. The point of view of this story comes from a crewman on this ship. While he has no strong opinion, his shipmates are disdainful and not at all compassion for these weapons. Genetically engineered machines, they are biological machines, warriors.
The brief story’s themes touch on prejudice, discrimination, and the nature of programming machines versus what makes us human.
By the submission specifications of Tall Tale TV, this story is no more than 6,000 words long. Such a short story can’t devote many words to characterization and I found most of the characters to be flat. The narrator of the story has more dimension.
The climax of the story is gruesome and heroic and offers food for thought on the serious social issues it touches upon.
By the denouement, the narrator feels more natural and relatable. It is a bit too on-the-nose for me. Long before the story ended, I saw the line coming.
I could not find a website, web bio, or other social media presence for the author. From the brief bio at the end of the performance, Richard Noel is from the United Kingdom. He enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy short stories as a hobby.
The Voice Talent
Born in Arizona in 1983, Christopher Herron dabbled in writing and loved to read prior to becoming legally blind because of complications from type 1 diabetes. The sudden rupture of a blood vessel in his eye caused him to lose vision, to lose the ability to read, to escape into fiction. This loss caused him a lot of distress and depression. His wise wife took him to the library and helped him check out audiobooks and his new passion was born.
Fortunately, he learned and changed his life. His vision stabilized, and after about nine months, he could read again. But his new passion had taken hold. He shifted his focus from writing to learning new skills and becoming an audiobook narrator.
Now he runs a YouTube channel and podcast, with a presence on various social media, called Tall Tale TV. He narrates short stories written by indie writers on his channel. Read his about me on his website. It is delightful and inspiring. Seriously, read it.
The quality of the production is very good. Herron has a pleasant and expressive voice. His range is not large, at least in this story. There is some, but not a lot of tonal variation between most characters. That may be specific to this story, since the story has a narrator. Herron’s mechanical voice is recognizably different and appropriate. Overall, the lack of distinct tonal variations did not detract from my enjoying this story.
The story kept my attention. In my humble opinion, keeping the audience’s attention is essential for a successful short story. Still, this is a flawed story.
Its brevity allows the author to do more telling that I customarily would like. The author’s style of writing often uses weak word choices that suggest simultaneity. And there are word choices that skate perilously close to cliché. Another flaw is that the story offers nothing new in the space opera realm. Finally, as mentioned above, the characters have little to no dimension. However, these flaws do not make the story unenjoyable because of two things: its brevity and its most successful scene.
The most successful part of this story is the climax scene. The description is gruesome and compelling and horrifying. Because of the well-written climax, I downgraded the importance of flaws I listed above.
Listen to the story yourself to see if you agree with my assessment.
If a story entertains, it has performed its primary function. This story kept my attention during multiple replays as I dissected it for this post. Therefore, I call it a successful story. And that’s enough for this lover of science fiction.
Do you agree that if a story entertains, it is a successful story?
Top: Image by Parker_West from Pixabay
Second Image: Logo image for Tall Tale TV courtesy of the Tall Tale TV website.
Third Image: Headshot of Christopher Herron, an uncredited photo from the Tall Tale TV website about me section