Friday, August 26, 2016

The Visitor from Taured, by Ian R. MacLeod

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(Near-Future Hard SF) Lita learned Rob's obsession with alternate universes in college, but waning interest in science made it hard for him to explore it. (8,970 words; Time: 29m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Award-Worthy
Recommended By: SFRevu:4 GDozois:5 RHorton:5 NClarke JStrahan

"The Visitor From Taured," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 09|16, published on by .

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

Pro: On one level, this is the story of Rob's doomed quest to prove the existence of multiple universes. Rob faces obstacles in the mathematical difficulty, in the indifference of scientists who've given up on understanding the universe, in lack of money, and then resistance to sharing equipment. But in the end, he's undone by the nonexistence of the thing he sought, and, unable to accept that, he takes his own life.

Parallel to that, it's the story of Lita's doomed quest for Rob's love. She faces obstacles like her own reluctance, the big differences between them in terms of interests, then their geographical separation, then their relative economic differences. But in the end, she's undone by the fact that he didn't love her enough to stay around once his experiment failed, and, unable to accept that, she abandons her life, imagining that he's in an alternate universe and will come back to her.

Narration and dialogue are spot-on, and the scientific descriptions of the experiments all sound very plausible.

Con: The first half of the story is a bit slow, and there's no tension anywhere.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I agree with the rating and most of the review comments. Yes - it is award-worthy.

    I can see why this story is on so many "Best Of" lists for 2016. It is a really great story. A novelette.

    Well-written, engaging, serious SF story with a romantic side-story. I never saw the ending coming until the last page.

    The first half of the story sets up the world the 2 of them live in, and establishes their relationship. It draws the reader into the story.

    For me the tension was "will they or won't they". It just wasn't glaring. They were friends first.

    1. That's a good point. I should pay more attention to romantic tension. Not all tension has to be life-threatening, after all.

  2. I agree with RSR's ★★★★★ rating. Excellent writing with likeable characters in a sweet and believable friendship, plus a fun meta discussion of books and SF that takes place in an SF story. :-)

    My only criticism would be Rob killing himself when he failed to prove his theory, because all researchers have done failed experiments en route to their PhDs, and the post-doc disappointments he's suffered prior to succeeding as a science popularizer should have prepared him for the possibility he could be wrong.