Monday, March 13, 2017

And Then There Were (N-One), by Sarah Pinsker

★★★★★ Intricately plotted, Moving, and Fun

(SF Mystery) The inventor of trans-multiverse travel invites hundreds of instances of herself to a conference. It’s great fun until one gets murdered. (18,912 words; Time: 1h:03m)

Recommended By: RHorton+2 Nebula+2 Hugo+2 Sturgeon+2 Eugie+2 Locus+2

"," by (edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas), appeared in issue 15, published on .

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

Pro: Start with the title. Anyone who’s read “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie immediately knows this will be a murder mystery—complete to a bunch of people trapped on an island by a storm. (But, as the modified title implies, only one gets killed, not all.)

Likewise, anyone who’s attended a science fiction convention will find ‘SarahCon” hilarious. It’s also cute that the narrator of the story isn’t Sarah Pinsker the author, although she’s at the event, and her Nebula award is used as the murder weapon.

By the end, we realize that R0D0 created this whole conference for the purpose of finding a Sarah to kill and impersonate. When the narrator hears the talk about the little girl and the runaway horse, she realizes that someone in a world on the bad side of a divergence point might do anything to get to a world where it didn’t happen. She’s initially thinking of the Sarah who was unable to save the little girl, but then she sees it.

What clued me in was when Sarah first interviewed the “DJ” and the woman seemed unfamiliar with key songs. It took a bit longer to guess why, but when the narrator looked at R0D0’s photo of herself and Mabel and thought to herself that Mabel wouldn’t have ever left Seattle, I realized “Her Mabel didn’t leave Seattle.” The author spun a great tale and yet left enough clues for the reader to figure it out.

It touches our emotions as well. The narrator clearly loves Mabel and her friends and family, and she keenly feels the loss that R0D0 feels. She doesn’t condone the murder, but she can understand it. And so do we.

From the beginning, we’ve been told that decisions aren’t something that Sarah Pinskers do very well, so it’s fitting that that’s where we leave her. Making and not making the decision to turn R0D0 in.

Con: It makes little sense that R1D0 would want to take R0D0's place. As far as her own reality is concerned, she's the inventor, and she didn't lose her wife. This makes R1D0 look vastly different from R0D0, and yet we're told they're the most similar pair of Sarahs.

It’s arguable that there’s too much humor for a murder mystery.

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6 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. This was definitely brilliant! Loved it!

  2. Very clever. The ultimate "what if" in alternative history on a personal level.

    I agree with the 5-star rating and the summary "Intricately plotted, Moving, and Fun.

    I agree with the Pros of the story, and I did wonder about the Con that you mentioned as well. I've put that down to an outlier of some sort. Investigative Sarah and DJ drug addict Sarah seemed to be the only ones of that type at Sarahcon. R1D0 must have had a unique motive that didn't make it into the story as well.

    Yes - brilliant and memorable !

  3. I liked the premise and the meta-humor revolving around the Nebula Award, but I was disappointed when the story turned into a conventional mystery (and that's speaking as a mystery fan). Still, it was a well-written and novel story. I just wish it had gone in a different direction.


    1. Given the title, though, it was hard to expect anything else. I think much of the appeal is the hilarious concept of "SarahCon".

      That said, I agree that murder mysteries in SFF rarely work out. It's too hard for the readers to know what they can expect to be true.

    2. Oddly, I've read And Then There Were None, and I still didn't see it coming.

      SarahCon was indeed funny, but I could have used more meta-humor. I'm sure giving any more prominence to the Nebula Award would have been decried as pandering by some, but honestly, I would have enjoyed it.