Anything You Can Do
By Randall Garret
Published by Librivox
Read by Mark Nelson
I have not read enough of Randall Garret. I know him mostly from his Lord Darcy stories, although admittedly I did not read them until after reading Michael Kurland’s contributions to that series. So when I came across this Librivox offering I figured it was worth a listen.
The story, I think, is typical of Early 1960’s SF, which is not a condemnation. This is the sort of stuff I grew up reading and what kept me interested enough in science fiction to try my own hand at it decades later. In Anything You Can Do, we actually have two storylines that eventually converge. The first is about the Nipe, a caterpillar-like alien of amazing speed, intelligence and ferocity, who becomes stranded on Earth and attempts to find a way back off. The problem is, due to his own cultural prejudices, he does not see most humans are true people, even though they have language and build things and do the various stuff we equate with intelligence and civilization. It is a fascinating reminder that alien intelligence may be just that, alien.
The other story line involves a pair of twins, one of which is crippled while they were still very young. Where the lines converge is when the government chooses this pair as their best defense against the Nipe and begins a very long-term project designed to eventually capture or kill the NIpe. How does it all turn out? Read the story!
Mark Nelson generally does a fine job when reading aloud and this is no exception. This is no surprise as he is one of the professional readers who donates time to Librivox and unlike some of their readers, who by and large do an adequate job, his professional experience shines through.
I would go so far in this case to say that his reading improves the story. The story does drag on a bit in the middle and een gets a bit repetitive. The Nipe is hiding out in the sewers of a big city (New York?). Yeah, we get it. You’re using automated rats to track him? Yes we heard that once or twice before too. It is not until late in the book that Garrett explains why the rats can just deliver a payload of poisonous gas to kill the Nipe and when that happens it gets added in as though it is a retcon of the o-going story. Did Garrett’s wife read what he had written so far and pointed it out? Possibly.
However, Mister Nelson’s smoothly emotional reading carried the story past its slow parts and kept me listening throughout.
In all, this is a typical SF story for the time it was written and in spite of its flaws was worth reading, but Mark Nelson’s reading improved the experience.