Saturday, November 19, 2016

Prodigal, by Gord Sellar

Find this issue
(Near-Future SF) Benji was an ordinary terrier until his master decided to have him sentientized. (9,628 words; Time: 32m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Moving, thought-provoking exploration of animal uplift.
Recommended By: SFRevu:4 GDozois:5 RHorton:4 NClarke Readers

"," by (edited by Trevor Quachri), appeared in issue 12|16, published on by .

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

Pro: The surface story is fine; Benji discovers he's a second-class citizen, rebels, and loses his family over it. But as a metaphor for losing a loved one to a cause, it's dynamite.

We sympathize both with the narrator and with Benji. The narrator and his family really loved Benji, and, for a while, at least, he loved them too. We feel their pain at losing him and watching his love turn to hatred.

But Benji is in a worse position than any slave ever was. He may be mentally uplifted, but physically, he and others like him will always be at a serious disadvantage. Add to that a society that still puts down stray dogs, uplifted or not, and Benji has good reason to be angry.

Con: The visit from the police dogs was hard to take seriously.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 12|16)
Gord Sellar Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

Follow RSR on Twitter, Facebook, RSS, or E-mail.

5 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I rate it ★★★★, one less than RSR. It's a well-written story with emotional punch, but even though I enjoyed the "what-if" where dogs are uplifted, the light-hearted tone (many doggie adaptions like a smell-o-vision dog channel, scooters and equipment for sentient police dogs) mixed with a serious matter like terrorism and the unsatisfying ending kept me from putting it on my Hugo nominations.

  2. I wanted to like this more than I did. The premise is intriguing, but the result is so heart-breaking. And there's just too much contrast between the tragedy and the silliness.

    1. It's definitely a challenge to include comic relief without ruining a story. Worst is when they start off as humor but end up very dark. I thought this one managed to balance it pretty well--except for the police dogs.

  3. This was certainly worth the time - an interesting idea and I liked that the story got down to business straight away. As with Laura, I did feel that some of the imagery was throwing the tone off - the circle of dogs being harangued made me think Animal Farm - and the police dogs were a step too far, but elsewhere the story was very well done.

    1. I discovered a while back that if I insisted on stories being perfect, I'd end up recommending only two or three a year--if that. :-) It all comes down to how much you can tolerate, and that's likely to vary a lot by person. Even then, a technically perfect story can still flop just by being uninteresting.