Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Story with Two Names, by Ian McHugh

★★★☆☆ Mixed

(Colony SF) There aren’t supposed to be any intelligent natives on this planet, but Mils is sure the humanoids called “koi” must be sapient, even if they don’t seem to have language. (13,754 words; Time: 45m)

"Story with Two Names," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 07-08|19, published on by .

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

Review: 2019.370 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: This is the story of how Mils and the other researchers tried to decide what to do with the knowledge that the “Koi” are intelligent beings—in the face of the company’s desire to suppress that information to avoid taking a loss on the planet.

The story does a good job of making us sympathetic to Mils and to Seen-by-the-Sky’s people. The conclusion is heartbreaking.

Con: The Evil Corporation is a cardboard villain. It can commit genocide, murder its own employees, murder their families back on Earth, and no one ever holds it to account. Except for the three researchers, all the employees are psychopaths.

The idea of killing animals on another planet (another star-system yet) for export is absurd for many reasons (beyond the cost, we almost certainly couldn’t digest alien biochemistry), but that’s part of the what-if, so it’s easier to let it slide.

There’s a lot of needlessly bad science here: The binary system wouldn’t be inhabitable. B-giant stars don’t live long enough for planets to develop much, and the big star is so close to the red dwarf that the surface temperature of the planet would be thousands of degrees. They talk about seasons, but the orbital period would be over half a million years. Beyond that, an atmosphere with 17% O₂ would be perfectly breathable; the limit (at 1 atm) is more like 10%. If the local biology can infect human beings, it surprises me that a helmet alone would be enough protection, nor does the decontamination process seem even remotely adequate.

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Ian McHugh Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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