You’re All Alone

By Fritz Leiber

Rating: 4 stars

This book contains three stories. The title story, which takes up about half the length and two shorter stories. My favourite was probably the middle story, Four Ghosts in Hamlet, which had only only tenuous fantasy elements, being a first person narrative of an actor in a touring Shakespeare company telling the story of what happened when they let an old, but now alcoholic, actor join the company and play the ghost of Hamlet’s father.

The title story is an odd one. It starts off with shades of Sartre’s Nausea, with the protagonist having feelings of isolation and extreme loneliness before veering into deterministic territory, positing that most of the people in the world are automatons, running without consciousness, and only a few people are truly ‘awake’, and how nasty and unpleasant those people could be. Our protagonist is accidentally awoken by a girl, who is herself, fleeing for her life from one of these gangs. The intriguing concept is worried around the edges, but never really tackled head-on, but I think the story benefited transitioning from a philosophical tract into a romantic thriller.

The last story, The Creature from Cleveland Depths, is set in a future where most inhabitants of the US have retreated underground, seeking safety from Soviet missiles. One of the few who remain above ground has a friendship with the research director of one of the underground companies, Fay. In a fit of pique over a missed TV programme, our protagonist suggests that Fay have his people build a device that can remind people about important events. This story takes that idea to its extreme, quite disturbing, conclusions. This was an enjoyable, creepy story with a oddly amusing denouement.

So all in all, some solid and enjoyable storytelling by Leiber in this volume.

Book details

Publisher: Ace
Year of publication: 1972

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