Friday, March 11, 2016

Blood Grains Speak Through Memories, by Jason Sanford

★★★★★ Award-Worthy

(Post Apocalypse; Blood Grains) Frere-Jones controls the nanobot "grains" that help protect the ecology in the bit of land she "anchors." She's come to view the grains as a tyranny, but there doesn't seem to be much she can do about it. (12,214 words; Time: 40m)

Recommended By: RHorton+2 Nebula+2

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 195, published on .

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

Pro: Frere-Jones wants to be with Haoquin, whom she misses terribly. She wants some vengeance on the grains who killed him, but from the first few paragraphs, it's her sadness that dominates her feelings. By the end, both of her wishes are fulfilled--at great cost.

Alexnya, on the other hand, wants to be an anchor. She wants to stop having to travel. She gets her wish too, also at great cost.

Chakatie wants to improve her family's standing, and she takes a long-term view on everything. She was kind to Frere-Jones from the beginning because she expected she'd be useful. Likewise, she gave him her troublesome son both to reduce her own problems and to see what might happen--at someone else's expense. After the bloodbath, she gains enormously, getting a puppet where Frere-Jones once ruled and installing her descendants on the now-empty lands.

The grains want compatible anchors, and they get that too--also at a price.

All the threads reach their conclusions together, and, somehow, we feel that Alexnya is set up to succeed.

Con: It's not clear why the grains would really honor their promise to Frere-Jones about which memories to share in the future. They had no problem violating their promise to Alexnya about her parents. It doesn't seem that anyone is any closer to ending the awful system than they were to start with. It's just that everyone surviving is content with it (or at least resigned to it).

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9 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. This one isn't grabbing my attention in the first couple of pages. May not be for me? Try again later?

    1. Since I read everything all the way through, I may not be paying enough attention to how long stories take to get going. Or this one just might not be your cup of tea.

  2. This was impressive! First, I just enjoyed the story. Second, it looked at environmental protection, refugees, gun control, over-reliance on technology, and probably more I'm forgetting or missed.

  3. The world building in this was fascinating, and the central character was well drawn. I have slight reservations about the prose that mean I might not go five stars myself, but definitely an excellent story.

  4. I rate it ★★★★, one less than RSR. Having also read They Have All One Breath -- another God-as-nanobots novelette from this year -- I can compare and contrast. :-)

    While both stories literally have "God" everywhere, Blood Grains needs humans as agents to enforce a vengeful God's will whereas One Breath's loving God can zap offenders directly and non-fatally. I enjoyed both, with Blood Grains being the more imaginative and exciting story whereas One Breath was more contemplative.

    However, it bothered me that Blood Grains -- as powerful as they were -- had arbitrary seeming limitations like needing human agents and a special medicine to kill grains in order to let the children of anchors move across territories, both of which were necessary to make the plot work.

    One Breath just worked better for me by avoiding such complications and also bringing up answers to obvious questions like where would food come from in a non-violent Nature First world and self-actualization still being possible, and in fact the primary goal for humans, unlike the ones left in a hunter-gatherer(?) state in Blood Grains.

  5. There's something to be said for the concept here, but poor writing makes this story a non-starter. I'm surprised it left the slush pile.


    1. Well, that's a big disconnect! :-) What did you see that bothered you so much?

    2. I don't think there was anything so egregious that I could pull up a specific example. The tone and style just didn't work for me. It came across as amateurish and (at times) downright bad. If I didn't know that this was a published story, I would have guessed that the author was 16 or 17 years old. If they had presented a draft of this story to me, I would have told them to take what they had learned, put it aside, and write something new.

      Of course, the joke's on me, because this story was nominated for a Nebula.

      By the way -- reading this reminded me of my first experience with Piers Anthony. When I tried to read the first Xanth book, I strongly disliked it. If it had arrived in my slush pile, I can honestly say that I would have rejected it without a second thought. And if you had asked me if it had any selling potential, I would have said no way, it's awful. But again, the joke's on me, because Xanth turned into a 40-book series and counting. Oh well.

    3. Different people definitely have different tastes, in addition to placing different emphasis on different story aspects. That's why it's so important to get different points of view.

      And it's very unusual, I think, to find a reviewer who agrees with you more than 30 or 40% of the time.