Is There Anybody There? by Kim Newman
Section: Mazes and Traps
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5 Rating
About the author:
Max Beerbohm’s full name was Sir Henry Maxmilian Beerbohm, once he accepted the knighthood from King George VI in 1939. An English essayist, parodist, and caricaturist, his first short story was published in 1897 (“The Happy Hypocrite”), and his novel Zuleika Dobson was published in 1911, although most of his written words were nonfiction. “Enoch Soames” plays with time travel via a deal with the Devil. It was first published in 1916 in Century Magazine.
Due to my busy work schedule the part few weeks, I haven’t been able to read any of The Time Traveler’s Almanac. That means, that this is actually the first story in the “Mazes and Traps” that I’ve read. If this represents the types of story this section has in store for me, than I am very excited.
Madame Irena is psychic who talk to those from the world beyond. Unlike many is her field though, she has the ability – for real. During one seance with one of her wealthier clients, Miss Walter-David, Irena ask the after spirits a “yes-or-no” question. Instead of moving to the “yes” or “no” symbol, the spirit guides their hands to “Y”. This is unlike any spirit Irena has talked to, and as their conversation goes on, it becomes clear that Irena and her sitter are not talking to a spirit from another world, but an actual someone.
I was very skepticl how this story was going to be – starting off in the middle of a seance with a ouija board, talking to a spirit. I was expecting either we would time travel back to when the spirit was dead; or this would end up being a “time-travel” story, with the time-traveling being only the the background. Newman threw me a major curveball though.
While Irena and Miss Walter-David are talking to this “spirit” via a ouija board, the “spirit” is communicating with a computer (you find this out on page 2). The spirit is actually a man named Boyd, who goes primarily by the name “MstrMnd” on OnLine is Chat Rooms.
Boyd is used to playing and tricking people in Chat Rooms with his multiple accounts, and stealing their identity and money and lives; he gets a sadistic pleasure out of it, keeping tally to see how many people he has caused to commit suicide. When he starts chatting with Irena, and has difficulty finding info, he becomes to believe that he is actually being manipulated this time.
The story end ends up being a race between the two groups of people, each convinced that someone is playing them: For Irena, an evil spirit; for Boyd, an vindictive OnLine chatter.
Spolierific Speculations: (Highlight to read)
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I found this story to be all around great, and have zero complaints about it. And don’t have much to say except go check it out.
I was actually able to find an audio version of this book online from Tales to Terrify, the magazine Is There Anybody There? was originally published in.
Is There Anybody There? starts at 17:00 http://talestoterrify.com/tales-to-terrify-no-5-kim-newman/
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See you next Thursday for Fish Night by Joe Lansdale