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FORWARD Stories of Tomorrow

by | Read by Evan Rachel Wood, Rosa Salazar, Jason Isaacs, David Harbour, Steven Strait, Janina Gavankar

Science Fiction • 8.5 hrs. • Unabridged • © 2019

ARK--Part of an Amazon Original collection of six stories, this work by DIVERGENT author Veronica Roth weaves a tale of memory and experience in the face of impending doom. Even as the Earth is about to be destroyed, the story remains understated, focusing on the little things that make us human. Narrator Evan Rachel Wood portrays Samantha in a soft, resigned tone that fits a story in which humanity has already been through the painful grieving process and has settled into a somber acceptance of its fate. Wood's cool, relaxed delivery takes listeners through Samantha's efforts to catalog the flora of our planet before it's destroyed. The botanical details are interesting, but it's the gentle emphasis Wood gives to the connections between humans that makes this audiobook such a compelling listen. N.H.

SUMMER FROST--Rosa Salazar provides a dead-on, almost eerie, performance of an AI in this short science fiction story. Part of the Amazon Original "Forward Collection," this is a tale of pushing boundaries and taking risks. Virtual game developer Riley pours her life into creating a character so advanced that it starts to exhibit its own free will: Meet Maxine. Salazar brings Maxine to life, altering her performance as the AI refines and reinvents itself throughout the story. It's a startling evolution of character, driven home by Salazar's transition from passive dialogue to gut-punching directness. The story challenges what it means to be human and gives sci-fi listeners some poignant moments to ponder long after the credits end. N.H.

EMERGENCY SKIN--Narrator Jason Isaacs's voice is the perfect mix of insistent, pedantic, and scornful as he portrays the AI inside the head of an "instrument" that is sent on a mission to gather valuable biological materials on what's left of Tellus--or Earth. Listeners are directly addressed by Isaacs as if they, too, are on this mission. They too experience alarm and curiosity as the AI discovers that Tellus isn't a dead planet at all, but is full of people with a thriving ecology. Isaacs smoothly transitions between the AI's cool British tones and the charming Southern accents of the humans who address the "instrument," leading it to question everything it's been taught about technological advancement and society. This brief but clever tale is truly best enjoyed on audio. E.E.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

YOU HAVE ARRIVED AT YOUR DESTINATION--David Harbour narrates a unique short story from Forward Collection, six mind-bending sci-fi works, each published separately. In this story, a husband and wife visit a high-tech fertility lab that can not only produce a couple's ideal child but also present projections of possible lives the child might lead. An introspective look at nature versus nurture and the meaning of free will follows. The story feels unfinished, but Harbour's lively narration makes for a performance that's difficult to stop listening to. The short length works well, and characters crackle with life as Harbour's gruff cadence and occasional spot of humor keep the story engaging. The work will stick with listeners, thanks to its compelling narration and intriguing "what-if" elements. J.M.M.

THE LAST CONVERSATION--This audiobook presents a chilling near-future scenario in which the very nature of human consciousness is questioned. Steven Strait's dreamlike and at times mournful voice fully captures the protagonist's disorientation, sadness, and increasingly desperate need for answers. A man wakes up in a dark room with no memory of how he got there or who he is. His only company is a disconnected voice coming from another room--that of a woman called Dr. Kuhn. Over time, Dr. Kuhn helps the man regain his physical strength and his memories. The man's life before his time in the mysterious facility begins to take shape, but something is clearly not right. The final reveal isn't a huge surprise, but it still resonates deeply, thanks to Strait's emotional narration. A.T.N.

RANDOMIZE--Narrator Janina Gavankar excels in delivering this short audiobook, part of the Forward collection of six audiobooks. THE MARTIAN author Andy Weir brings his scientific flair to his novella about a Las Vegas casino heist. When brilliant minds use a new quantum computer system to hack the game of keno, a determined casino owner turns to his own resources to block the scam. Gavankar uses a well-balanced blend of accents, changes in tone, and varied pacing to infuse personality into her well-done character distinctions. In a work filled with technical jargon, Gavankar's variety of dialogue goes a long way toward keeping the story engaging. N.H. 2020 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine [Published: ]

Trade Ed. • Brilliance Audio • 2019

DD ISBN 978-1-7997-5519-7 $18.99

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