Monday, February 29, 2016

What Price Humanity? by David VanDyke

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(Military SF) When Vango, a top pilot for EarthFleet, awakens in virtual reality following a battle against the aliens invading the solar system, he figures they're repairing damage to his body. But something seems wrong. (10,402 words; Time: 34m)

Rating: ★★★★★, Award-Worthy

"What Price Humanity," by (edited by Jerry Pournelle), appeared in There Will Be War Volume X, published on by .

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

Pro: Vango gets his wish to fly against the enemy again, but not at all the way he expected to. Rereading the story after knowing the ending makes it clear just how well the author signaled what was really going on. There are countless little touches, like comparing the date on the memo that frames the story with the date on the missiles that Lock notices on their final run.

During the story, we come to love Vango and his crew, and it hurts to realize that their last mission was real, and they're not coming back. From the initial memo, we understand how grave the situation is, and perhaps we can accept the need for the sacrifice, but it hurts nonetheless. From the title, that appears to have been the goal. Well done.

Con: The framing story detracts from the rest of it. The closing note that Earth was destroyed after all diminishes Vango's sacrifice.

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1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. I rate this a 4, recommended. I agree with the critique, but I didn't see the stakes as being very high for Vango and his crew since they "live" as software now and are replicated for each set of attacks.

    It should have been possible to save their last moments and reintegrate them into the master so their electronic "lives" would continue with each experience, though that makes it similar to David Brin's excellent "Kiln People" novel.