Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Heaven-Moving Way, by Chi Hui

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(Hard SF Adventure) Zhang Xuan steals a starship to go hunt for her brother Kai, who went off to look for living alien civilizations in the galactic core and never came back. (4,382 words; Time: 14m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

"The Heaven-Moving Way," by (translated by Andy Dudak, edited by Jason Sizemore), appeared in issue 104, published on .

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

Pro: Xuan finds her brother and he’s despondent over what he’s learned. She gives him hope for the future. That's pretty much the entire plot.

It’s nice to find an author with a firm grasp of the Fermi Paradox.

Con: The story presents itself as a hard SF story, but the science in it is very uneven. E.g. a blue supergiant star won’t last for billions of years. There was no ancient civilization on Mars

The Milky Way is huge, with about a quarter of a trillion stars. None of the ancient races in the story ever filled it up, so it’s not clear why access to other galaxies would change anything.

The writing style is very narration-intensive, with too many info dumps.

The entire first part of the story (the hijacking of the starship and the escape from the authorities) is completely unrelated to the rest of the story.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 104)
Chi Hui Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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6 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. This was okay... the relationship between the siblings is well-done. The way she reframes his perspective from hopeless to hopeful is sweet.

    1. Very different from anything you'd normally find in Apex, which doesn't usually do "sweet." :-)

      I think this is because the editors of magazines normally pay 6 to 10 cents per word, and they only pay for stories they like. But with a translated story, it costs 25 cents a word before they can even look at it. Once they've paid that much, they have to print it, no matter what it's like.

      Neil Clarke told me his partners in China have gotten better at understanding what it is he wants to see, and that that's why the quality of Clarkesworld's translated stories has gotten better, but it has taken four years.

  2. I'd think that technology that magics people 30 light years away instantaneously would be the kind of thing Hard SF as a genre was created to avoid. Who's calling this hard SF?

    1. Depends on your definition. I consider a story to be Hard SF if it has a focus on the science and technology. Bad science and ridiculous technology don't make it soft SF; they make it bad hard SF.

    2. I've never heard that definition before. I've only heard it defined as being focused on scientific accuracy so that bad science and ridiculous technology would, indeed, make it soft SF (or not Hard SF).

    3. But soft SF isn't bad science. It's social sciences like Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed.

      Been a while since I read this one, but I think I'd probably call it space opera.