Saturday, April 20, 2019

Perihelion Summer, by Greg Egan

★★★☆☆ Average

(Apocalypse) A black hole doesn’t have to hit the Earth to cause catastrophe—it just has to come close enough to change its orbit slightly. Matt plans to ride it out at sea on a mobile aquaculture platform, but his family in Australia won’t let him help them. (41,310 words; Time: 2h:17m)

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"Perihelion Summer," by (edited by Jonathan Strahan), published on by .

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

Review: 2019.213 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The story fakes you out a couple of times; first when you think the black hole will cause a global apocalypse from tidal forces and then later when you expect a bloodbath when pirates try to take over the ship.

The setting is fascinating, and the math and science are spot-on. The issue that locations on Earth become uninhabitable at a sufficiently high wet-bulb temperature is a very real one, whether it’s caused by conventional global warming or by an unexpected cosmic encounter. The way this particular encounter disproportionately affects the southern hemisphere is a nice twist, keeping the apocalypse from being universal.

It’s particularly chilling the way Arun casually notes that the loss of two of his cousins isn’t so big a deal when you consider that 700 million other people in India will die in the next six months.

Con: The biggest problem with this story is that it leaves too many loose ends. As Matt himself observes at the end, nothing has been solved. It’s not clear there’s any way they can keep doing this. This almost feels like the teaser for a novel or even a series of novels.

And I thought his mom blaming him personally for the black hole was the height of absurdity. Her level of ingratitude was so great that I thought less of him for not leaving her behind.

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