Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Of Apricots And Dying, by Amanda Forrest

Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, December 2015; 8,406 words
Rating: 4, Recommended  Recommended By:   SFRevu:4 SFEP

In a near-future Pakistan, 19-year-old Asma has to choose between a high-tech job in the city or staying home to help her family. A complex story, and there is more to things than meets the eye.

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The primary arc is "Asma decides what to do with her life" but the other threads enrich the story considerably. We learn why Asma's mother is so cold. We learn Aunt Iffat's history. We understand why Papa worries about Rashid.

Asma's decision to go to the city satisfies us because her reasons are more than selfish. And it helps that it's realistic; much as we might want her to aspire to change the unjust society she lives in, that's not practical. Doing something to make things a little better is enough.

Con: We aren't emotionally engaged by anyone in the story. We're not sad at Papa's passing; he's been too deceitful and brutal. We aren't really elated by Asma's decision, probably because it has been presented as the only sensible thing for her to do. We don't know Rashid well enough to care whether he goes off to fight or not.

The conflict with SIMICO seems a bit far-fetched. China would hardly disown a company that way, and no company would position itself to fight one army, much less two.

2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I agree with the rating. It is a story that engages the reader, and is worth reading.

    Asma is engaging, but some of the other characters could do with some more development.

    1. This is a story I really like but something falls short about it.

      The "aunt" could have been developed more as she turned out to be a rather important character.

      Her job - the ending hinges on this.
      We never saw her apply for, get interviewed for it, or get tested for it. This particular talent should be tested by someone with a confirmed ability in it imo.

      The only thing we saw was her aunt had found her a very prestigious job in the city. Whether the aunt applied on her behalf, we don't know. All the reader saw was Asma's father not being keen on it, asking for more information and basically shutting down the idea.

      At the end of the story, Asma acts like the job is secured and she can just go to it.

      As it stands, it is a very good human interest / social type story. Showing the job in some way more would have increased the SF content of the story and covered up the gap.