Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Lights Go Out, One by One, by Kofi Nyameye

★☆☆☆☆ Needs Improvement

(Exploration SF) A team trying to save humanity travels tens of thousands of light years to steal someone else’s star. (7,397 words; Time: 24m)

"The Lights Go Out, One by One," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 03-04|19, published on by .

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

Review: 2019.134 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: I’ll give the story credit for creating a scenario where the human race would have to leave the solar system in order to survive. There’s no escaping a black hole big enough to eat the sun.

It’s quite a shocker that they decide to take the target star anyway.

Con: The story is full of infodumps, intrusive narration, and bad dialogue. Beyond that, the science is awful. The idea that the best planet they could find was a rogue planet, with no sun that isn’t even in our galaxy, and rather than fix this by moving the planet, they hunt for a star to move. (If they’ve got this much power, why not just move the solar system out of the way of the black hole?) What’s worse than an infodump is a nonsense infodump, and this story has them one after another.

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I can't recall the last time I encountered written science fiction with science this bad; apparently everything the author knows about astronomy he learned from the films of JJ Abrams. Rocky planets the size of Jupiter. A 95% Earth-match planet that is 65% water, and is located in the Andromeda galaxy, and that's the only viable candidate for terraforming.

    It's probably a bit esoteric to know that it is very unlikely that there are ~ 1000 solar-mass black holes, but if you posit that such a thing exists you should at least realize that it isn't going to come to a stop and devour the Sun and then the planets: it's most likely going to scatter the planets like bowling pins. (In fact, a much more plausible few solar-mass black hole would do the same thing.)

    But the most egregious thing of all, as you note, is the failure to think through the implications of the story's technology (also a characteristic flaw of JJ Abrams movies): if you can move other suns, then there is no reason why you can't move the Solar system (especially as there is apparently the capability to transport the entire population of Earth to the Andromeda galaxy; this also lets you get around the problem of radiation inside the wormholes: just remove the Earth's fauna wholesale, then return it after passage). For that matter, if you can move stars around without difficulty, why not just do a little stellar rearranging to nudge the oncoming black hole's trajectory well away from the Solar system, and obviate the need to move the Sun at all?

    It's clear the author just wanted to set up the story's moral dilemma, but the framework for doing so is just absurd beyond belief.

    1. It's quite a shock to see a story this bad published in Asimov's.