The Duke’s Dish & One Bare Foot by Bernd Struben

I like Bernd Struben’s writing, period. I read his debut novel, 40 Years, a while back and enjoyed it, but lost track of him until this past January when I went on an ebook buying mission on the kindle store. I found out he’d written another novel, The 13th Zookeeper, which I promptly ordered, but also that his publisher, Strider Nolan, had released a couple of kindle-only short stories. I’m not a massive short fiction reader, mainly because working my way through collections and anthologies never works out, but having them as individual stories is another matter entirely. I’m glad I purchased them too because, despite their short length, I enjoyed the hell out of both of them.

I’ve put some story-specific thoughts below, but one thing that strikes me about Struben is his ability to write a story that you just want to read. His prose is easy to read and flows off the page, completely engrossing you in what’s going on. I found that both these short stories were over way too quickly, and it’s nudged me to put The 13th Zookeeper right near the top of my to-read stack…

the-dukes-dishTitle: The Duke’s Dish
Release Date: 14 May 2011
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A group of college students wait out a nuclear holocaust in a fallout shelter, a satellite dish their only connection with the rest of the world. When the dish stops working, do they dare venture outside and risk the unknown dangers that await them? A novella by science fiction author Bernd Struben.

The Duke’s Dish is a simple premise, but executed well. The relationships between the friends is well described, and the effect of being locked up away from the world is also thoughtfully dealt with. It’s short, but Struben manages to convey everything we need to know about the hows and whys they’re in the shelter, making it believable. There could easily have been more he could have said, but it was self-contained enough not to need it.

one-bare-footTitle: One Bare Foot
Release Date: 15 May 2011
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Years after a devastating nuclear war pushed humanity to the brink of extinction, a hunter follows a strange set of tracks: his prey is a human being with one bare foot. A novellete by Bernd Struben.

I think I enjoyed this one more the The Duke’s Dish, but it was a close call. Another post-apocalyptic setting, with no real explanation as to why, but plenty of suggestions that we’re left to decide upon. One Bare Foot is more the story about our hunter, and the world he must live in, rather than anything bigger. It’s good, if not a little disturbing in describing what he must do to survive, but all in all it works.

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