Friday, September 8, 2017

Children of Xanadu, by Juan Paulo Rafols

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(Dystopia) In a China-occupied Philippines, Dr. Garcia engineers superior children for his people’s conquerors. He’s got a plan to turn the tables, if he can execute it before he dies. (14,941 words; Time: 49m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Exciting, Emotional, and Thought-Provoking

"Children of Xanadu," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 09-10|17, published on by .

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

Pro: Garcia wants to break the power of the Meritocracy and force them out of the Philippines; he accomplishes that. He hates what the Meritocracy makes him do to the stunted children; he ends up giving them the power to seek their own revenge. He smothers his hatred for Wenxue and Li Lei; he kills them both. And he wins vengeance for his lost love and their child.

The story really brings Garcia (aka Espinueva) to life. We feel his pain, his loss, his humiliation, and his hatred. When the children come through for him, there’s a big emotional release. It’s fitting that the one who speaks with him is Siva, the Destroyer.

The setting and technology are fascinating and horrifying. The humans enhanced to the point where they’re a different species. The hordes of metal soldier bots that defeated armies and navies. And the cruel government they’ve created on top of their technology.

Con: The Meritocracy is so evil it’s a cardboard villain.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 09-10|17)
Juan Paulo Rafols Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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5 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I'd rank this as borderline Hugo-worthy. My main criticism (other than the cartoony nature of the evil Meritocracy, as you noted) is that I think it should have been longer: it would really have benefited from the story being fleshed-out a bit more. Very impressive debut.

  2. Another great suggestion from Rocket Stack Rank. A joy to read. Some arguable minor flaws in the writing (explaining plans and then saying they were carried away as they were is not only boring but unrealistic). The main character, who talks in the first person, becomes a tad too sententious sometimes, although sentences are easily agreed with. The final revelation from the protagonist might feel a tad disjointed with the rest. But these are minor deffects to be outgrown with a little bit more matureness as a writer.

    The cocons in the creche and the virtual environment with the big house surrounded by nature seems drawn directly from the 80's comic Next Men, by David Byrne. The educational software might have a debt with The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson. Nothing to object as good artists do recycle (but it is good to say thanks as well).

    Again, a true joy to read. A real pageturner. To F&SF, keep more from Juan Paulo coming.

    To Greg and Eric, thanks for making these mini-reviews, and for Rocket Stack Rank. It really allows to change the way one reads: When there is not time enough for all the stories, the time invested becomes a bet in the dark on a handful of stories, that sometimes leave a not-so-good aftertaste, and then there is not time enough to read those that might have compensated for the weakest ones.

    So far, RSR's fives and fours have proved to assure a great, memorable read (and then, one is free to foray for additional stories as well). RSR delivers.

    1. Wow! Thanks for the kind words! And thanks for writing detailed, thoughtful comments.

  3. Very impressive for a first pro publication. Will be keeping an eye out for this author.

    1. As others have said, it was a very impressive debut.