Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Waterlines, by Suzanne Palmer

★★★★★ Great Characters, Great Plot, Great Setting

(SF Thriller) By treaty, people on Erax never talk to the Oceanics, so when an Oceanic turns up at a south polar base to deliver a few dead human bodies, it’s trouble for sure. (35,183 words; Time: 1h:57m)

Recommended By: πŸ‘STomaino+2 (Q&A)

"Waterlines," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 07-08|19, published on by .

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

Review: 2019.368 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: It’s kind of cool the way the story morphs from a first-contact story to a murder mystery to a thriller in a way that steadily ratchets up the tension and never drags. Plenty of action, plenty of excitement,

The setting itself is very rich. The surface operation has quite a few people doing various jobs across the planet, and the hints of what Earth society is like are pretty grim, what with nonstop surveillance and executions without trials. The Oceanics’ society (nice touch that they’re not natives either) is well-enough developed to be interesting as well, and their harmony between organic beings and AIs is a nice idea. Finally, the awful injustice of the people turned into Yetis makes a horrible sort of sense as well.
Of course, the final revelation is a big deal too, which I think means that not only are the Yetis modified humans, so are the Oceanics..

There are only three well-developed characters, but they’re great: Ray, of course, who’s much more competent than he gives himself credit for. Lena, whose mix of honesty, loyalty, and cleverness makes her adorable. And, of course, Ajr en Logo, who knew it was urgent that his people and humans learn to work together.

Finally, the scene where Hudson has tried and failed to save Haldi is really touching.

There are a number of small touches that are really nice, but I particularly liked “Lena in self is more frightening than you.”

I liked the explanation for why the Dwellers and Drifters had such good command of our language.

Con: The key bad guys are introduced early, but they make so little impression that you have to look them up again when you meet them during the climax.

The dialogue with John Eddy at the climax hits a wrong note for some reason, although I can’t put my finger on why.

A small but annoying detail: “Hollie Goodman” turns into “Hillie” in the middle of the story.

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Suzanne Palmer Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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