Saturday, June 15, 2019

Between the Dark and the Dark, by Deji Bryce Olukotun

★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

(Generation Ship) A century into its journey, a ship’s cameras transmit images of cannibalism back to Earth, and the authorities debate sending a destruct signal. (12,596 words; Time: 41m)

"Between the Dark and the Dark," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 109, published on .

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

Review: 2019.336 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: It’s pretty obvious from the start that the crew of the Lion’s Mane are dedicated to their mission, so whatever is happening must be a horrible misunderstanding. This adds a good deal of tension.

Con: Unfortunately, the story’s premise fails suspension of disbelief. First, all these ships should easily be able to communicate with Earth given a powerful enough laser and a big parabolic mirror. Second, the whole idea of “retiring” a ship is absurd. If nothing else, the people on the ship would figure out how to disable the mechanism at some point. Also, given that it took the 100 years to go 3 light days, it’s going to take them over 130,000 years to get to Tau Ceti, which looks completely hopeless.

Beyond that, the science is really, really bad. For example, a message sent from 80 billion kilometers will take three days, not fifty years to reach Earth. Ships on interstellar trajectories will not be able to stop and refuel at random asteroids along the way. A vehicle en route to Tau Ceti will fly nowhere near Neptune. Etc.

The plague of invulnerable crystal flowers that destroys the Earth is magic, not science, as is the method used to cancel the retirement pulse.

The story is unbelievable at a human level too. These “stewards” have huge responsibility for their ships, yet they don’t even seem to talk to the captains and crews. They make a snap decision to kill 300 people and end a 100-year journey with essentially zero deliberation. Etc.

There are also problems in the writing itself. For example, the author wanders back and forth between present and past tense. Much of the dialogue is unnatural.

Finally, a small but telling error: “Hiroko” is a name you give a Japanese girl, not a boy.

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