Friday, September 22, 2017

Faceless Soldiers, Patchwork Ship, by Caroline M. Yoachim

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(Military SF) Hybrid creatures who assimilate parts from the bodies of other aliens, are on the verge of acquiring teleportation, so Ekundayo goes on a secret mission against them before it’s too late. (9,595 words; Time: 31m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

"Faceless Soldiers, Patchwork Ship," by (edited by Jonathan Strahan), appeared in (RSR review), published on by .

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

Pro: Ekundayo finishes her mission honorably, if not successfully, earning the respect of her sister and teammates. And she comes up with an idea that might lead to a lasting peace.

Con: The conclusion is very difficult to swallow. Ekundayo seems to be a traitor to humanity, not a hero standing up for principles. Her actions might not result in the extinction of the human race, but she couldn’t have known that.

The setup is a bit hard to believe. Making human-alien hybrids on purpose seems biologically impossible and pointless even if you could. A virus that does it automatically pushes disbelief a step too far.

Also, if you assume they had that amazing biotechnology, why did they have to depend on someone with sickle-cell anemia? Why couldn’t they just engineer whatever they wanted?

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4 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I was really glad to see your observation about Ekundayo's actions/results. In my Tangent review, I was cutting vigorously, trying desperately to get it down to manageable length, so cut a section which included, "[the story] has some odd moral theory (the protagonist thinks her action is bad only if the consequences turn out badly)." That was a real problem for me and I'm glad it made the final cut here. :)

    I tried to note some thematic motifs and did note similarities between "Broadcast" and "Faceless" but it goes further than that and is even present in the Watts and maybe others: these stories actually have their characters commit what is treason or cowardice under fire in their contexts and not really suffer for it.

    1. Yes, I found it very hard to identify with "heroes" who seem like traitors to me. Particularly when their reasons for treason are uncompeling.

      In the case of "ZeroS," the hero has reason to believe that the super-soldier system is broken and is causing the team to kill children. He quite properly uses his override to stop it--not realizing that those things aren't really children.

      So I put that one in a different category.

    2. I think the other two feed from the same broader idea that affects 7 of the 15 stories in the anthology: that the military is bad/useless, so it's not really treason to mess them up.

    3. I could have easily have taken the story the wrong way but it seemed to me the ZeroS guy had reason to think that at first but then he just seems to get stuck on ChildrenChildrenChildren! I kept saying "Children with guns who are trying to kill you and your friends!" But I agree that his story is distinct from the other two. Not least because he's a zombie who's other part, rather than rational mind, made the fatal final mistake.

      As far as the others, it's partly that and partly just "I know better"-syndrome. "My heart is pure according to my own definitions of 'pure' so all I do must be right." It was worse in "The Last Broadcasts" than in this one because it wasn't even an argument over the merits of panic vs. preparation regarding the survival of humanity but just, "If anyone is suffering anywhere, you must know about it and feel it even if millions of humans die as a result." Metaphor shear where the point the author was trying to get across bore little relation to the literal situation the story depicted.