Thursday, April 14, 2016

Terminal, by Lavie Tidhar

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(Planetary SF) A vast fleet of "jalopies" carry individuals on a one-way trip from Earth to Mars. People do it for different reasons, some of which we learn about in this story. (5,941 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended
Recommended By: GDozois:5 RHorton:4 NClarke JStrahan

"," by (edited by Ellen Datlow), published on by .

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

Pro: Mei merely wanted to see Mars before she died. She accomplished that, and shared her joy with everyone who would listen. There's a victory in that, and it's the strongest thing about this story.

Con: The what-if is too unbelievable: What if Earth decided to send anyone who wanted to go on a one-way trip to Mars in one-person vehicles. This makes no sense from so many perspectives that I couldn't suspend disbelief enough to enjoy the story.

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4 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I agree with the RSR rating. I like the idea of a once-in-a-lifetime one-way "stairway to heaven" journey which people take for various reasons, but the technical details of single-person ships, CB-radio communications, just caused too much disbelief for me. Instead of a space fantasy, I might have enjoyed this more as a historical fantasy featuring the great Polynesian migration across the vast Pacific due to fewer technical WTFs. :-) There was also an echo of the sky-spanning "conveyor belt" in Greg Egan's "The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred."

  2. This was too much of a downer for me. I could suspend disbelief for the technicalities. What I had trouble with was an endless stream of people wanting to do this. That there'd be street vendors everywhere?!

  3. I recommend this only if you like very literary science fiction that is also rather "art house" in its approach.

    It is implied Earth is slowly dying. I gather it is global warming and/or pollution, but this isn't clear at all.

    Mei wants this trip because she is seriously ill. Terminal isn't just s physical destination on Mars.

    Haziq takes the trip, I think, due to a mid-life crisis, but this is not clear either. He cannot explain why he took such a risky one-way trip.

    There is no reason I can see or guess as to why Eliza ends up wanting to do this trip.

    I agree with Laura about this story being a "downer", and the lack of strong motivation for 2 of the characters to take such a risky trip was hard to swallow.

    1. Yeah, this wasn't for me. Mei hoping as she's dying that Haziq will be the one to pull her dead body out and bury it on Mars -- Ugh! Why would you wish that on the poor guy who's clearly fallen in love?