Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Threnody for Hazan, by Ray Nayler

★★★☆☆ Average

(SF) Baris watches helplessly as Hazan’s obsession with her work destroys her. (8,930 words; Time: 29m)

"A Threnody for Hazan," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 03-04|18, published on by .

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

Pro: The use of the mind-transfer technology to explore the past is interesting. It’s appropriate at the end that Baris pays a price for his weakness just as Hazan pays a price for her obsession. And his belief at the end that some future, healed version of her is joining him on the boat is bittersweet.

Con: It all seems so pointless. Why did she risk her life just to experience scenes from World War II? And if the story takes place “hundreds of years” after World War II, why is she so obsessed over what happened to her ancestor in it?

The notions of the connectome and the singularity are both very cool, but the story barely seems to scratch the surface of what might have been done with this technology. Hazan's real tragedy is that she let her obsession ruin her work, burying her real achievements.

It’s a bit odd that academia doesn’t seem to have changed a bit across centuries.

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I've really liked Nayler's other stories that have appeared in Asimov's, and this was well done, but... yeah. There's no explanation as to why Hazan is so obsessed with this time period**, and it just seemed highly unlikely that one person would be allowed to control technology that is so powerful, with no oversight. And it wasn't just academia - nothing at all really seemed to have changed, for a story that takes place centuries from now.

    **Did I miss something? I didn't get the impression that Hazan was searching for an ancestor, only that she was obsessed with occupation deaths in WWII. There's this weird statement she makes to the effect that only the murdered tell the truth.

    1. I'm not sure if the future where most things haven't changed is a failure of imagination or not. I see it in lots and lots of stories. I wonder if the truth is that modern readers would struggle to relate to a story where everything was different, not to mention how the author would struggle to clue us in without infodumping us to death.