Friday, September 8, 2017

Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics, by Jess Barber and Sara Saab

★★★☆☆ Average

(Climate SF) This story follows Amir and Mani’s careers starting when they’re teenagers in water-starved Beirut. (12,087 words; Time: 40m)

Recommended By: πŸ“™GDozois+2 πŸ‘

"," by and (edited by Neil Clarke), appeared in issue 132, published on .

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

Review: 2017.615 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The account of technologies used to deal with the water and pollution problems is interesting.

Con: This is a tale, not a story. That is, there’s no protagonist trying to accomplish anything; this is just a collection of disconnected events. The only common element besides the environment is Amir’s obsession over Mani, and that isn’t described well enough to make us believe in it.

Given the lack of a plot, the story goes on way too long.

In the early scenes, Amir seems to have a really low sex drive for a 16-year-old boy.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 132)
Jess Barber Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline
Sara Saab Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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10 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Ok, I'm a mushy pile of mushy mush after this story. Loved it.

  2. This was so dull that I skimmed the last half. Amir and Mani are not only the least believable teenagers ever, the story doesn't provide any evidence that Amir is the least bit attracted to Mani: when she first approaches him in a blatant come-on, the only thing he notices about her is the amount of shampoo in her hair; he continually comes up with excuses to avoid intimacy. They don't even seem to be friends; they go for months at a time without communicating in any way.

    And the background is just completely ludicrous: supposedly the temperature has risen so much that sea levels have declined. Removing one meter of water from the oceans and putting it into the atmosphere would increase the mass of water in the atmosphere by a factor of 28, making the atmosphere 7% water by mass. (And in reality, we would be talking about ten meters or more of water that has to be evaporated, due to melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps.) From the vapor pressure curve of water, getting just that one meter of ocean water into the atmosphere would require a temperature of about 90 degrees C. Basically, the oceans would be starting to boil and the Earth would have a runaway wet greenhouse.

    Even ignoring that, and just saying it's really hot, the authors don't seem to have any idea what the water requirements of the human body are. (Or, for that matter, how much water is needed to get shampoo out of your hair.) The notion that entire large cities can be sustained by passive water collection is absurd. Places like Somalia are already deserts; if we do nothing to stop it, climate change will render them uninhabitable.

    1. Yeah. I was obviously feeling generous when I gave this three stars.

  3. It made the Hugo I wasn't alone in liking it! ;)

    1. Yes, although this was one that made me scratch my head a bit. :-)

  4. I read it as part of my Hugo nominating but never finished it. I found it very dull reading.

    I've read other works by this author that had far more spark and passion than this.

  5. It's definitely an illustration of how different people put weight on different aspects of storytelling. This one had an unusually strong emotional punch. When I was first reviewing, any story that made me cry, I'd automatically give five stars until I tried to actually explain why it was a five-star story.

    I still consider emotion as a positive aspect of a story, although I know some people are actually annoyed if a story "plays cheap emotional tricks." The way I look at it, even if it was a cheap trick, I wouldn't have cried if I didn't care about the characters, so that's an accomplishment. Anything that can make me cry tears of joy still gets 4 or 5 stars, but those are always so rich it's never a problem justifying the rating.

    1. I disagree - not with your point about the way in which readers may differ in their weighting of story elements, but with your assumption that this explains the difference in reactions. This story only carries an emotional punch if you find the characters engaging** and their relationship believable. If you don't - and for me (and, I gather, for June) those aspects of the story fell completely flat - then the whole thing is dull as dishwater. That's a completely separate issue from whether the science/background of the story is plausible. We could probably come up with examples of stories whose ideas are so amazing and enthralling that they manage to rescue their characters from the Eight Deadly Words, but those are pretty rare on the ground.

      **That isn't the same as likeable: at the end of An Evening with Severyn Grimes I wanted Grimes to be sleeved back into one of his clone bodies and shoved into the nearest woodchipper - but hey, I still cared about what happened to him.

    2. I weigh a well-depicted relationship -- romance, friendship, family, or whatever -- pretty heavily. I saw that here, but obviously it didn't work for others. It's also a memoir-style's focused on how they relate to each other over their lives. So if you don't buy the relationship, it's not going to do much for you.

  6. It was too hard trying to figure out why I found this story so boring, and then articulating it. Nothing was happening that was of interest. I did read the RSR review after I gave up reading it, and agreed with the comments of RSR.