Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Those Shadows Laugh, by Geoff Ryman

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(Near-Future SF) The secretive parthenogenetic women of Colinas Bravas usually don't allow outsiders into their country, but they invite Ms. Vargas to fix a genetic problem with their children. (9,833 words; Time: 32m)

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

"Those Shadows Laugh," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 09-10|16, published on by .

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

Pro: Vargas hasn’t been happy anywhere she’s lived, but she falls in love with the location and with Evie—with unfortunate consequences. So great is her obsession that she never bothers to tell us whether the genetic treatment—obviously meant to let lesbians have their own children—actually worked as intended. It simply ceased to be important to her..

Con: The biggest problem with this story is that it just goes on too long. The heroine is a stalker who throws away her whole career to pursue her obsession, so it's hard to be very sympathetic to her. Worse, she routinely does things that she's already told us aren't acceptable--like declaring that she wants to marry Evie.

It doesn't help that everyone in Colinas appears to be a Mary Sue; they are perfect in almost every way. Not only is their simple culture so much more satisfying than any other, their technology is so good that they dominate the world in things like power windmills.

The genetic problems that apparently result from cloning themselves too many times aren't realistic. There are many species of parthenogenetic reptiles, and they show no adverse effects. Given only five original genomes, it's not clear why allowing sexual reproduction would help much--they're still going to be intensely interbred. (In fact, it should make things worse.)

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 09-10|16)
Geoff Ryman Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB

7 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Drat! I pressed "delete" by mistake, and Blogger has no undo. Catfish complimented us on the new graphic we're using stars in the ratings.

    Anyway, thanks. Eric thought the stars looked better than having just a plain number.

  3. This one really bugged me. It was extremely well-written, but my hackles rose at the naked utopianism of the piece.

    Ryman's Colinas are eternally cheerful and joyous, appear to suffer from no want or strife, and overall just seem tremendously simple. I cannot buy this as utopia; as worthy of the longing the protagonist expresses. This culture seems to have nothing to say beyond how serene and happy and live-in-the-moment they are. It reads to me like a society lobotomized, and then exoticized to present that blankness as perfection.

    1. I don't think I've ever seen a description of a utopia that I'd want to live in.

    2. I've seen some better than others.

      When the characters in The Just City recreate Plato's Republic, well, I wouldn't want to live there, but I can identify with their utopian drive for a society of wisdom, debate, philosophy, and equality.

      In Too Like The Lightning, the utopian elements are not without cost, but I can definitely see their attraction -- an end to geographic boundaries; fierce individualism; a curbing of the influence of gender stereotypes; religious and ideological warring as culturally taboo.

      There's "I wouldn't want to live there," and then there's "That's not actually attractive in any way" :-/

  4. Something about this really bugged me, but I really can't put my finger on it. I just didn't like how the topic was portrayed and the perspective it took.

    1. Well, anything with a master race always bothers me at least a little bit.