Thursday, February 25, 2016

Project Empathy, by Dominica Phetteplace

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(Near-future SF; Project Empathy) Teenage Bel worked as a host at a Blue Cup restaurant in Concord, CA before Blue Cup moved her to San Francisco for special training. Very special. (8,156 words; Time: 27m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average
Recommended By: RHorton:5

"Project Empathy," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 03|16, published on by .

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

Pro: The main plotline is how Bel adapts to San Francisco, and by the time she learns about her watcher chip, her transition is complete. Bel has a lot of attitudes that make her less sympathetic (e.g. trying to humiliate Berto by asking where he's from) but most of the time her heart is in the right place, and we're rooting for her.

Another thread of the story is simply figuring out who and what the Watcher is. As first-person narrator AIs go, this is one of the better ones because he's clearly a slave to his programming. He has no desires of his own, he's not "violating his programming" or anything. He's serving Blue Cup and Bel--in that order.

Con: There are a lot of loose ends here. We don't know if she dumped her parents or not. We get a hint of subversion from Angelina, but it goes nowhere. (We wonder why there isn't a revolution.) And, at the end, we don't know what the Watcher displays nor how Bel responds (although his prediction ability is awfully good.)

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 03|16)
Dominica Phetteplace Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB

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