Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Bridge of Dreams, by Gregory Feeley

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(Hard SF) After centuries of solitude at his post on Pluto, Heimdallr has come to fear that humanity is extinct. Then he receives a summons from the inner solar system. (10,723 words; Time: 35m)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Needs Improvement
Recommended By: GDozois:4 RHorton:5

"," by (edited by Neil Clarke), appeared in issue 115, published on .

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

There's very little actual story here. Instead, it's nearly all infodump describing Heimgarð's travels plus a handful of words describing the "deal."  Such story as there is is nearly impossible to believe. Why would the people in the Gardens contact Heimdallr after centuries of not communicating? Why would they even expect he'd still be there--much less be someone they'd want negotiating for them.

The physics is appallingly bad. Start with the bridge between Pluto and Charon. The author describes it as being thick at the ends and thin in the middle, but, in fact, space elevators have to be thick in the middle and taper toward the ends. Pluto's gravity is so weak that we could build this elevator ourselves today out of commercial Kevlar.

Other problems include confusing velocity with acceleration (things in orbit don't have to accelerate to stay in orbit), imagining an orbit near the sun would result in acceleration stress on a vehicle, thinking that if you throw objects from Pluto they'll fall into the sun, imagining that a spiral is a possible unpowered orbit, etc. Since the story is mostly infodumps, the fact that the science is so uniformly bad makes the whole thing a disaster.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 115)
Gregory Feeley Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB

5 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I liked it better than you did, possibly because I accepted the invitation presented by the characters' names and approached it as myth/science fantasy rather than hard SF. Of course Bifrost is thicker at the ends than the midpoint - it's the Rainbow Bridge. Bad science doesn't bother me when it serves the myth.

    With that said, I still didn't love it. The pacing was way too slow, the attempt at bigendered pronouns was distracting and awkward as hell, and too much of the bad science _didn't_ serve the story. There's no excuse for _gratuitous_ scientific solecisms. I think this would have been a much better story at half its length, with the mechanics of the universe painted in a broad brush.

  2. BTW, I'm Jonathan Edelstein - not quite sure where the "N.R.E." came from. Which reminds me: I know you want to spark discussion on the stories, and I think you'd get a lot more of it if you allowed name/URL commenting rather than opening comments only to people with outside accounts.

    1. We've thought about that, but the problem is that with thousands of pages on the site, we fear that policing it for spam would be overwhelming. We may have to move to Wordpress to get the sort of control we'd like to have.

  3. I found myself getting more and more angry at this story as I read through it. Nothing was at stake, the author tried too hard to make a science fiction setting resemble ancient Norse myth, and the creative pronoun seemed pointlessly aggravating.

  4. Trying to combine Norse mythology and hard science fiction just ended up spoiling two genres I normally like quite well on their own. The plot was nothing but a drawn-out tour of this fantasy universe. And the point of melding Heimdallr and Garðrofa into Heimgarð seemed to only be the chance to use different pronouns. I could see no real change in the character and no exploration of gender.