Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Inscribed on Dark Water, by Gregor Hartmann

★★★★★ Good characters, Cool Setting, Great Story

(Colony SF; Zephyr) Olani’s internship is a disappointment. She’s a glorified janitor, her boss is a religious fanatic, and now a crew of inspectors may shut the whole operation down. Which might also be an opportunity. (8,205 words; Time: 27m)

Although the author has many other stories set on planet Zephyr, this is a completely stand-alone story; you lose nothing by reading this one first.

"Inscribed on Dark Water," by (edited by Andy Cox), appeared in issue 277, published on by .

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

Review: 2018.527 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Olani simply wants to get something worthwhile out of her internship. She’s been terribly disappointed at what they stuck her with, but she’s worked hard regardless, hoping for the best. Right off the bat, that makes her admirable. And, despite that, she may have made a valuable discovery.

Tessa has a colorful past, and even she doesn’t think she has much of a future. She’s a consummate survivor, but she likes Olani and genuinely wants her to succeed. All of her advice for her is well-intentioned, even if the religious bits are unwelcome.

Mingzhen has rational goals, even if she’s slimy. First, she wants to find out the facts about the refinery. Second, she’d like to fool around with the cute intern. She efficiently combines both of these ideas. Her advice to Olani isn’t ill-intentioned, but it’s definitely self-serving.

A good bit of the fun of the story (and the tension) revolves around whom Olani should believe (if anyone) and what decisions would lead her to a job that would take full advantage of her abilities.

What’s gratifying about the ending is not just that her strategy looks likely to succeed, but that if it does, she will have earned it. Her lubrication idea is something that, given her background, she plausibly could have come up with, and the negative info about Mingzhen is something that might well get the General Manager’s attention, particularly at a time when the GM is likely looking for leverage.

And it’s touching that she’s willing to go to Tessa’s meeting, even though she doesn’t believe, simply because she knows it will mean a lot to Tessa. Olani really is a genuinely good person, and it's heart warming to think she'll succeed.

The setting is interesting too, even though we don’t get a lot of details in this particular story. I appreciated the fact that the science was spot-on for the most part, and it amused me that on Zephyr you could get shut down for taking CO₂ out of the atmosphere.

Con: Olani hasn’t actually tested her idea; it might not work. If Mingzhen has been so blatant about her misuse of funds, it’s a surprise that no one caught her before.

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Gregor Hartmann Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I liked this, a lot, although I thought the ending was just slightly off. Tessa points out to Olani that her idea will cost jobs, but then they both ignore this when she decides to tell management about her idea. Also, while Olani is trying to be nice in agreeing to go to Tessa's meeting, I doubt that's going to end well: Tessa is a True Believer, and at some point she's going to demand that Olani become one as well.

    1. Yeah, a lot of stories have the problem that even though they ended on a high note, you've got the uneasy feeling that bad things are going to happen not too long after.

      Of course, that may give the author material for an interesting sequel. :-)