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FICTION

December 23, 1990|Michael Harris

HER PILGRIM SOUL AND OTHER STORIES by Alan Brennert (Tor Books: $17.95; 244 pp.) . An aging Superman, settled down with "Laney" and their children, wearily musters the strength to prevent World War III one more time. Humans who have migrated to far-off planets rediscover an Earth killed by pollution and inhabited by yearning ghosts. A jade talisman left by a doomed pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico transforms a Los Angeles burglar into a faith healer. A reincarnation of one of the Sirens of Greek mythology finds a brief happiness in the 20th Century with a deaf man who loves her for herself, not for her singing. A computer whiz at MIT creates a hologram display that is haunted by the breathing, talking image of the woman he loved in a previous life--an image that ages at the rate of 10 years for every day.

Most of the eight stories in this collection by Alan Brennert are easy to sum up in a single sentence. Hollywood would call them "high concept." In fact, three of them became episodes of TV's "The Twilight Zone," and the title story, Brennert's publisher tells us, "is now the basis for a stage musical, 'What If?', premiering in New York in the 1990-91 season and featuring music by Alan Menken."

Fiction, of course, should be judged on its own terms, but Brennert, a Los Angeles writer, clearly intended his stories to be adaptable. Most of these seem made for the screen, with jazzy visuals, solid research and strong but simple emotions. Superman, punching holes in aircraft carriers, cries out for animation. And the most sophisticated, least fantastic tale of the lot--about the ugly family tensions that surround a child born deformed because of a nuclear accident--is set in a single middle-class interior: a play for sure.

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