Sunday, May 5, 2019

Unfinished Business, by Bill Johnson

[Asimov's]
★★★★☆ Cool setting, complicated plot, fun story.

(Alien SF) A fossil discovery in Nova Scotia entangles Dana and Mac in the politics of the technologically advanced giant insects of The Ship, which only visits Earth every few million years. (15,327 words; Time: 51m)

Recommended By: 👍RSR+1 👍STomaino+1 (Q&A)


"Unfinished Business," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 05-06|19, published on by .

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

Review: 2019.240 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The best part of the story is the setting. The denizens of the Ship aren’t exactly aliens, but they might as well be, since they hail from different eras of Earth’s past. The complex issues that affect New Summit, the human colony that will represent our own era on the Ship, and the difficult relations between Earth’s governments and the Ship make the background more interesting and add texture and tension to the plot.

We never do understand quite why malcontents want to poison level 8, but we don’t really need to. The threat is real, and it’s clear that Dana and Mac have to somehow hold it off. It’s a cute touch that the dog’s sense of smell works as their secret weapon. That plus such a simple “weapon” as baking soda and vinegar.

It’s suitable that Dana and Mac get to be together as part of their reward as well as getting to travel the universe with the Ship.

Con: Both Dana and Mac come across as weak characters for some reason. I can’t put my finger on why, but I ended up feeling zero emotional attachment to either one.

It’s not clear what the whole point of the Ship is. And why does it only pick up species from the Earth? If the rest of the galaxy is so empty, why does it go there? Also, it’s rather hard to believe there were intelligent civilizations in every era.

There are some problems with Point of View; in some scenes we accidentally read the thoughts and emotions of characters who aren’t the focus.

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