Tuesday, October 9, 2018

When We Were Starless, by Simone Heller

★★★★★ Touching and Bittersweet, with Tension and Excitement

(Post-Apocalypse; Shrouded Earth) In the ruins of far-future Earth, Mink’s tribe desperately needs the resources of a large building that vanished humanity left, but she needs to purge it of “ghosts” first—and it has lots of them. (13,204 words; Time: 44m)

"," by (edited by Neil Clarke), appeared in issue 145, published on .

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

Review: 2018.540 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Mink herself is the greatest strength of the story. By standing up to her fears, figuring out what Orion really is, and selling her tribe on the idea of accepting his protection, she earns her victory. And it’s not just a victory over the rustbreeds; it’s a victory over the traditions that made her kind moribund. She has bought them a future. She’s not human, yet we relate to her anyway.

Orion starts off confused when Mink accidentally turns him back on, thinking Mink is a child and the exhibit still has a public to view it. But his AI is capable of integrating new information, and once Mink rubs his nose in it, he realizes he has no purpose at all now.

The tragedy is that he was designed to teach, and he could have taught Mink’s people so much, yet as he himself saw, they had to destroy him in order to continue to live at all.

The moment when he gives them a vision of the starry sky was very moving.

The bleak setting itself is very well done. I have a vivid picture of the blasted landscape under the flat, reddish light of the sun filtered through clouds that never part.

Con: Their situation is so bad that one wonders how any of them are still alive at all.

It didn't seem that they spent enough time trying to find a way to save Orion or at least get more knowledge from him before they lost him.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 145)
Simone Heller Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

Follow RSR on Twitter, Facebook, RSS, or E-mail.

2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I've noticed in other reviews that you rate scientific accuracy to be important in stories. Now, maybe I missed this, but how can the tribe (with all of their non-human traits) be able to communicate so easily with the ghost? Was this explained somehow?

    1. Yeah, that's a good point. It seems really unlikely that her people still speak English after all this time. Of course we don't really know when the apocalypse was nor do we know anything about the genetic engineering project that must have created her people.

      So, yeah, that's definitely a strike against the story. Not enough to spoil it, though.