Saturday, April 9, 2016

Formal Charges, by Jay Werkheiser

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(Hard SF) Brett helps maintain a particle beam that's accelerating a manned US interstellar vehicle. But something is wrong with the beam, and his team needs to fix it before it kills the astronauts. (5,600 words; Time: 18m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

"Formal Charges," by (edited by Dave Creek), appeared in (RSR review), published on by .

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

Pro: It has a very reasonable, hard SF plot: a technical problem, political complications, but ultimately a technical solution.

Con: The story is unbelievable from a scientific perspective. If China reaching Mars is a recent event (meaning "in the last century") then there's no way the US or anyone else is ready to go to the stars. Even if they did go this route, there's no way the accelerators would just decide on their own to start using nitrogen instead of lanthanum. Another point is that it makes no sense to do EVA just to get data from the beams; anything they can report in person they could just as easily send back to the base via fiber-optic cable or even radio.

The characters are also unbelievable, especially Dave, the captain. I would expect Dave to back up his team, no matter what. That, or else I'd expect them to despise him, but neither is the case here. After Brett uses force against the captain, on the other hand, I'd expect him to be shipped away--and I'd expect him to want to leave too.

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Jay Werkheiser Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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