Healthy or Else & other stories

3.666665
Author: 
Allan Regier
Genres: 
Fiction
Genres: 
Science fiction
Genres: 
Short stories
Healthy or Else & other stories by Allan Regier

This is a collection of four short stories by Allan B Regier.
'Healthy or Else' is a speculative satire about the health care industry assuming dictatorial powers in a recognizable near future society. It is the story of one family's brush with the health care regime and what happens to these good people. The trends are in play; the future may not be as far away as you think.
The other three stories in this collection are Sci-Fi themed flash fiction.

Editor rating (1-5): 
4
Editor review: 

These short stories are science-fiction-oriented: mainly set in the future, in more developed societies than ours. The stories are very original; full of imagination and surprises. Overall I would say the stories are very well written and thoroughly enjoyable. I would recommend the collection to fans of short stories with mysterious endings. My only critcism is that the collection is too short; I would like to read more, longer stories by this author.

Comments

Brief and Promising

3

This is a collection of four short stories by Allan B Regier about medical dictatorship set some time in the near future. It is brief enough to read entire on a thirty minutes commute. Like much good science-fiction, it takes one aspect of our current technological state of affairs and extrapolates it to provide a warning.

There are always two questions to be asked of this sort of thing. Firstly, does it work as fiction? Are the characters plausible, is the writing engaging, is it well paced? Secondly, is its critical stance justified?

The answer to the first question is yes. Healthy or Else & Other Stories works well as fiction. The title story is by far the longest and shows the author’s talents to their best advantage. The others – ‘Saving Paradise’, ‘Flowers from the Stars’ and ‘The Last Leaf’ – are really extended parables, fictional anecdotes with a twist in the tail. They provide little scope for characterisation or dialogue. However, they are all engaging.

Regier’s book straddles the line between science-fiction and satire, because arguably what he is depicting – at least in the title story – is our current situation writ large. Which brings us to the second question, above. Is his critical stance justified?

The question of whether we really are in danger of a medical dictatorship is a controversial one and likely to divide readers. While it is true that the state sometimes enacts draconian-looking laws to protect its citizens, we shouldn’t fail to take account of the power of advertising to make us act against our better interests. In a world where a packet of cigarettes costs £4.50, makes your clothes and breath smell and puts you at risk of cancer, why does anyone still start smoking? One popular answer: “Because it’s an inalienable expression of our freedom”. Of course, that is exactly what big-business wants us to believe. But having the ‘freedom’ to become poorer, smellier and more likely to die is arguably a bit like having the ‘freedom’ to chop off your arm. Indispensible, but hardly likely to be required in any sane society.

Regier’s stories are short enough to make us temporarily suspend our disbelief. Any longer, however, and this might be a problem. It is difficult to see, for example, what any dictatorship has to achieve by keeping antagonistic citizens fully fit and healthy, with unclouded minds, when, left to their own devices, large swathes of them would probably become blotto. Surely, the former would make them more, not less difficult, to control?

Some readers will argue that this sort of criticism misses the mark. If Healthy or Else is more satire than science-fiction, then it doesn’t have to reflect the discussion. It has to provoke. If that is true, it works well.

In summary, I would say that the author is clearly talented, and I would be very surprised indeed if this collection – competent though it is - represents the best of him. His depiction of the central characters in Healthy or Else, his ability to maintain tension to the end, his dialogue and his attention to detail, all mark him out from the crowd. If he writes anything more (and I have a gut feeling he will), I would urge him to concentrate on these strengths.

I loved it

4

It was so real that at times I thought it was true. For a time in New Zealand we were being told to use only mercury filled light bulbs as the others were to be banned. Keep up the good work Allan I loved it. Well done.

A good story about an important subject

'Healthy or Else' is a good, solid story about an important subject. I have one criticism: a cautionary story of this sort tends to be more effective the gentler it is. If, rather than tackling the horror in its depths, you depict the inception of the thing feared, when unease is the dominant reaction, you avoid the "it can't happen here" reaction that blunts many otherwise fine pieces of cautionary fiction.

by Francis Porretto