Monday, November 21, 2016

Where There is Nothing, There is God, by David Erik Nelson

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(Time Travel) Paul finds a job selling drugs for the mafia in 1770s America. (22,378 words; Time: 1h:14m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Fun story with a sophisticated plot
Recommended By: SFRevu:4 RHorton:4

This is set in the same universe as the author's "The New Guys Always Work Overtime" (February 2013 Asimov's) and "There Was No Sound of Thunder" (June 2014 Asimov's), but this story works very well all by itself.

"Where There is Nothing, There is God," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 12|16, published on by .

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

Pro: The big pleasure of this story is watching all the pieces come together. For example, we're told early that witches get hanged, and later Paul sees his doppelganger hanging from a tree. Or how Paul decides to go barefoot because it's impossible to get the wear-and-tear right on old shoes, but entirely forgets that human feet have wear-and-tear too, with the result that his perfect human feet convince the blacksmith he's an angel.

Another pleasure is watching Paul's self-awareness develop, such as when he realizes he really did once have a serious meth habit.

The minor characters are interesting as well:

Chico is a caricature of a drug lord, but we're led to believe it's something of a put on, so it's entertaining, not offensive.

Peggy is a totally amoral academic, who happily devotes her skills to helping the mob, but who really is passionate about her material.

Pastor Otis is hilariously earnest about his beliefs--even when he totally converts to the meth gospel. His best moment is when he refers to the hanging of Paul's doppelganger as "all that . . . transpired."

The conclusion is well-done. Chico and Peggy get their just desserts. Paul does not get off Scott-free, which is only right, given the pain and suffering he's caused, but it's precisely because he abandoned those two that he ends up in hot water (the Feds wanted the big fish, but Paul was all they got).

Con: James, Paul's partner, is little more than a cipher. Having them live in an alternate reality where gay marriage was never legalized seems to serve no purpose in the story. Although Chico definitely gets what's coming to him, it's not as clear that Peggy deserves it.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 12|16)
David Erik Nelson Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB

1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. For me this was entertaining but didn't really rise to any heights. I think I was looking for something a bit more involved, with the potential of the time loops, or the artifact retrieval, or the religious element, to be developed more.