Thursday, January 31, 2019

Vigilance, by Robert Jackson Bennett

★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

(Near-Future Dystopian Horror) About twenty years from now, a reality show that pays young men to go into public places and stage mass shootings is the most popular show in America. Tonight will be the show of a lifetime. (33,094 words; Time: 1h:50m)

"," by (edited by Justin Landon), published on by .

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

Review: 2019.081 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: It’s very well set up, so the big twist isn’t a reveal so much as an “ah ha!”

I was very pleased that the AI software didn’t work perfectly, had limitations, and that it worked with people, not all by itself.

Con: The what-if is impossible to believe, particularly in just 20 years.

The story has an overwhelming political message that it hammers on relentlessly. In fact, it has multiple messages, clumsily delivered via infodumps. Tabitha’s speech at the end is particularly painful to read.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I give it 4-stars. It is a very compelling read.

    This is not the sort of story I normally read or even normally like, but I read the author's City of Stairs novel and loved that, so gave this a go. It is a very far cry from his fantasy novel but it is very well-written. Has a lot of swearing, gun violence and horrible characters.

    Delyna the waitress, is the only sympathetic character in the entire book. So is Phuong for the short time that she appears.

    I did not find Tabitha's speech painful. Nor was it an infodump.

    The what-if (Televised mass shootings becoming reality TV) is a stretch for the time frame in the novella but I put that down to the "fiction" part of science fiction.

    As for the technology, we already have it to some degree. I can also see reality TV getting more extreme in the future.

    What political message or messages ? I don't see this.

  2. I too give this 4 stars and found it very much a page turner.

    The social setting was in keeping with current trends in the USA as seen by me as an outsider.

    Organised, televised mass shootings may be a reality-step too far, but is a legitimate what if given the direction of reality TV and the firearm-cum-libertarian lobby hopes for gun control. After all, science fiction is purely about technology.

    Possibly, there was a message in the fiction but as the story was drawing on current social trends whatever that message was was very muted. Tabitha's speech simply highlighted those social trends. If there was an infodump there, for me that dump was less obvious than engineering wire-diagram dumps I've been subject to in other stories.

  3. Okay, I downloaded it again and skimmed over my notes.

    As far as message goes, the story sends a strong message for gun control, and, at the same time, it caricatures the people who want guns as dumb hicks. (I'm a strong supporter of gun control, but this was over-the-top.) It's also virulently anti-American. "America is dead . . . It needed to go. Better to burn it to the ground." I have serious concerns with what's happening today, but this just pissed me off.

    So we definitely know the author's political opinions from this story. It has a strong message, and it hammers at it on almost every page. (I highlighted one rant after another; this is such a screed that even the narrator uses the f-word.)

    It's okay for a story to have a message--even a distasteful one--but in this case the message dominates what little story there is, and it's delivered in such a ham-handed way that even the parts that I agree with break my suspension of disbelief.