Tuesday, February 2, 2016

In the Midst of Life, by Nick Wolven

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(SF) In a rude, career-ending memo to his boss, Doug recounts a disaster that occurred on a company property in Indonesia when they tried to evict a group of squatters and their charismatic leader. (14,980 words; Time: 49m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended
Recommended By: GDozois:4

"," by (edited by Neil Clarke), appeared in issue 113, published on .

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

Pro: What if someone discovered a religion/spirituality so powerful (and so real) that anyone exposed to it would thereafter want nothing more than to do it again? Nice concept, well-developed.

Con: The framing mechanism (the "screw-you" memo) detracts from the real story. Several details of the conflict are also hard to buy. For example, when a team of people disappears inside, you really don't send another person in to investigate. When a trusted, senior employee has an extremely traumatic experience, you don't instantly terminate him over an intemperate message; you get help for him. When you do investigate a place where many people disappeared, you don't agree to experience the local guru's magic stuff. The amount of force needed to remove a group of people who're just lying on the ground shouldn't be all that great. And it's really hard to believe in something like this that a) everyone tried and b) worked on everyone.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I was looking forward to this, as I'd read three good stories by him recently, but it was a bit of a mess. The framing device sucked out any tension, which was a pity because the corporate future setting had real promise for something with a bit of satirical bite like his recent work.
    Weirdly, some of the elements - the desperate narrator, the sleepers in the tower, the dreamers from the end of time - made me think of a modernised Lovecraft.

    1. Didn't think about Lovecraft. I'm trying to think of a modernized Cthulhu. Has followers online? :-)

  2. I agree that the framing story doesn't really work well with the guru's story. The scene at the very end where the narrator remembers an older wiser presence looking out through his infant daughter's eyes feels oddly tacked on to the rest. I wonder if a situation like that was the inspiration behind the story idea.