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Schrodinger's Kitten | [George Alec Effinger]

Schrodinger's Kitten

Twelve-year-old Jehan is a frightened girl tormented by unsettling visions in the Islamic slum of Budayeen. It is here, during the festival marking the end of Ramadan, that she must kill a boy she has never met. A boy that her visions show her may one day do her great harm.
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Publisher's Summary

At first glance, George Alec Effinger's "Schrodinger's Kitten" would seem an odd choice for an audio production. True, this is of the exceedingly rare breed of short stories to win both the Hugo (1989) and Nebula (1988) awards, and Effinger is a writer who's accumulated his share of well-deserved critical acclaim over the years. But Effinger, as a writer, is a stylist. It's his skill with the written word, that elusive knack for putting not just the right two words together on the page, but the exactly right two words that has always been his signature. Whether it's the brooding, Arabic cyberpunk future of When Gravity Fails, the absurdist failure of "Who Dat?" or the outrageous farce of the Maureen Birnbaum tales, it's the deft wordplay that sets these works apart rather than cutting-edge ideas or intricate plotting.

"Schrodinger's Kitten," certainly, shares the trademark wordplay of Effinger's other work: starting with the insufferably coy title. Right away the listener is plunged into a non-linear narrative, which eventually is revealed to be very linear: at least from the perspective of the viewpoint character, Jehan. It's immediately apparent that 12-year-old Jehan is the kitten of the title, a frightened girl tormented by unsettling visions in the Islamic slum of Budayeen. It is here, during the festival marking the end of Ramadan, that she must kill a boy she has never met. A boy that her visions show her may one day do her great harm.

©1988 George Alec Effinger; (P)2004 AudioText

What the Critics Say

  • Nebula Award Winner, Best Novelette, 1988
  • Hugo Award Winner, Best Novelette, 1989

"This complex narrative structure not only translates well to audio, it translates very well." (sfsite.com)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.4 (74 )
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3.6 (30 )
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3.8 (30 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 09-28-13
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 09-28-13 Member Since 2002

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fine but Light"

    This is a fine short story stretched into a novelette with a modestly interesting structure and story, but the characters are weak. The narration is good but does not add much. For the SciFi genre this is a good novelette, but I did not find it engaging. I think it would have been better as a shorter story, but it was still worth the listen.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherine St. Johns, FL, United States 05-21-12
    Katherine St. Johns, FL, United States 05-21-12 Member Since 2009

    I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hugo and Nebula Award Winner"

    Jehan is a pretty 12-year-old Islamic girl who sees visions of her own possible futures. These visions suggest that she will be raped in an alley, disowned by her fundamentalist Muslim father, and forced to live as a whore until she dies. Or she could kill her potential rapist first, but if she does that she will be executed, unless somebody saves her by paying the blood price??? There are too many ???ifs??? and too many potential paths and, as a child, Jehan is haunted by all the possibilities and her knowledge that something bad will happen, but not knowing exactly which of those branches her life will take.

    Interspersed with these disturbing visions, we see Jehan in a possible future as an assistant and then a colleague to the men who are, during World War II, trying to unravel the secrets of quantum physics. Their findings will enlighten the world, but may also give the Nazis the knowledge they need to design horrific weapons. Does Jehan have the power to influence these sorts of future possible paths, too?

    The title of George Alec Effinger???s story, Schr??dinger???s Kitten, refers to Erwin Schr??dinger???s famous paradoxical thought experiment now known as Schr??dinger???s Cat, which he used as an absurd argument to challenge the ideas of Einstein and his colleagues about the role of the observer in the dual state of subatomic particles. The title also refers to his assistant Jehan, whose strange visions of different possible personal futures represent the Many-Worlds Interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics, which Hugh Everett developed to explain Schr??dinger???s paradox. Jehan, a spiritual woman who is a faithful Muslim and personally experiences the understanding that her life has many potential branches which could all possibly be real, suggests that quantum physics is God???s game that he plays with humans.

    Schr??dinger???s Kitten is one of those rare stories that have won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. It???s a well-constructed, mind-expanding story. I enjoyed the discussions of quantum mechanics and the way that Effinger, in such a short space, successfully married quantum mechanics, nuclear war, parallel universes, and spiritualism.

    Infinivox???s audio production was read by Amy Bruce who did a nice job.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Herndon, VA, United States 03-18-13
    Andrew Herndon, VA, United States 03-18-13
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    "Interesting story, but narration a little weak"

    This story does a really good job of illustrating the concept of infinite possible realities and ties it to actual physical theory in a way that non-scientists can understand and enjoy. I was not bowled over by the narration which seemed tentative and even amateurish in parts, though well-delivered in other parts.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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