Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Shikasta, by Vandana Singh

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(SF Exploration) Four college friends collaborated on a probe to an extrasolar planet. Now they’re struggling to make sense of what the probe is telling them and wondering if they need new definitions for life and even for science itself. (14,251 words; Time: 47m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

"," by (edited by Ed Finn and Joey Eschrich), appeared in , published on by .

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

Pro: The story makes a serious attempt to examine the philosophy of science, with an eye toward incorporating some of the values of three non-western cultures.

The fact that X, the fourth member, is never identified suggests that the reader is invited to imagine that he or she is that person.

Con: The story is way too long for what it contains. We learn that a probe is looking for life as we do not know it, then there are pages and pages of undergraduate-level speculation on life and science, and finally we get real results from the probe right as the story ends.

Several things in the story break suspension of disbelief:

  • 2035 is way too soon for us to send a probe to another star, much less be getting results back.
  • Impossible to believe a Kickstarter campaign could raise billions of dollars for such a mission, even if we knew how to do it.
  • Even if you allowed the rest, four fresh graduates aren’t going to build and launch such a thing.
  • The AI in the story is way too advanced for anything we’re likely to see by 2035.
  • The global catastrophes described in the story are so severe that they make it hard to believe anyone would even be listening to space probes—much less launching them.


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