Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Song, by Erinn L. Kemper

★★★☆☆ Average

(Near-Future SF Horror) A lonely widower on a whale-processing station in the middle of the Pacific strikes up a friendship with a woman researching whale behavior, which has lately been getting very strange. (7,016 words; Time: 23m)

"," by (edited by Ellen Datlow), published on by .

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

Review: 2019.103 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The story does a great job of making SeaRanch 18 feel cold and claustrophobic. First, there’s the fact that everyone is trapped there because animal-rights terrorists preventing their replacements from arriving. Then there’s the increasingly erratic behavior of the crew, and Suzanne’s physical deterioration. Nothing is ever described as bright or sunny. There are no fresh smells. It’s an awful place.

Dan himself seems only half-alive since his wife’s suicide. Earning money he has no plans of spending because the future he and she once saw no longer exists. His interest in Suzanne suggests he might be ready to return to life again, but that’s a false dawn.

The horror seems to be that the whales have figured out what’s happening to them, and, unable to fight back, they’re electing to commit mass suicide. Their song shares this hopeless feeling with other whales, with other species, and, eventually, even seems capable of infecting human beings.

Con: It didn’t make sense to me that Suzanne would want to commit suicide nor that Dan would quietly let her do it. That seemed to come out of the blue. Unless we’re supposed to believe that the whole world was suffering a suicide epidemic.

I have trouble believing that whales would reach the conclusion that things are hopeless now, when hunting has been sharply curtailed, and not decades ago when they were hunted to near extinction. Nor that the people butchering them would be any more susceptible to suicide than the people who work in any sort of slaughterhouse.

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