Monday, October 30, 2017

Carbo, by Nick Wolven

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(Near-Future SF) The young narrator hacks his self-driving car to get around a few restrictions, but soon it takes on a life of its own: watching porn and chasing girls—making it impossible for him to take people anywhere. He can’t undo his changes, and it’s getting worse. (11,035 words; Time: 36m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

"Carbo," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 11-12|17, published on by .

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

Pro: This is really the story of how Jim and his mother reconnected, even though most of it seems to be about Jim’s car problems, and it has a happy ending, with both car and relationship fixed.

Jim’s problems are just an extrapolation from the sort of problems people can have today with their laptop and desktop computers, and the twist about the problem living in the cloud and making deletion difficult if not impossible isn’t far-fetched.

Big points for not making the car actually intelligent or emotional! The idea that it's simply doing what it was designed to do is a strong one.

Con: It’s hard to believe there wouldn’t be some option to completely reset everything. Jim could hardly be the first person with this problem, and there ought to be discussion about it all over the web.

Jim’s mom is a CEO. It seems very unlikely that she’d understand the cars well enough to help Jim at all—other than by writing a check to someone who really could do it for her.

Given the point of the story, too much time is spent on very specific details about the car.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 11-12|17)
Nick Wolven Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I'm finding myself increasingly exasperated with Nick Wolven stories in F&SF -- they all seem to follow an identical template, of "social media annoyance goes crazy and gets entirely overwhelming."

    I guess this is kind of petty of me -- it's, what, a couple of stories in the magazine a year -- but when the "NEXT ISSUE" text this time opened with "next time, ANOTHER Nick Wolven story!", I was kind of gnashing my teeth.

    He's a fun writer. I just wish he wasn't so one-note.

    1. I try really hard to rate each story on its own merits, assuming that readers haven't read earlier works. To me, this is a big part of "review the stories, not the authors."

      I'll agree that he does seem to be in a bit of a rut, though.

  2. Yeah, I agree that I'm a little tired of the cautionary tale about smart tech. At least it is mitigated here by the focus on the mother-son relationship.