Sunday, August 4, 2019

One Thousand Beetles in a Jumpsuit, by Dominica Phetteplace

★★★★☆ A Nice Protagonist, a Fun Adventure, and a New Start

(SF Adventure; Robot Country) Isla’s job at Omega Corp seems to involve walking through a huge place called “Robot Country” to test something, but they haven’t really given her a clue what that might be. (9,805 words; Time: 32m)

This begins a new series, but it tells a complete story in and of itself.

"One Thousand Beetles in a Jumpsuit," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 111, published on .

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

Review: 2019.440 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The best part of the story is Isla herself. Her matter-of-fact observations are alternately charming and amusing. I particularly liked her observations about the pros and cons of “shy guys.”

The interactions between Isla and the robots are delightful. I loved it when their idea of “dinner” was a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and a shot of whisky. And I loved the uncertainty of whether the robots asking for her to help them fool Kaya represented something real or if it was just part of the experiment.

It’s amusing that Isla sells out for the promise of “points” from the robot spider. The spider, unlike Isla’s boss, has plenty of time to talk to her, and it seems to be taking care of her too. It seems like a reasonable thing for her to do but at the same time it seems like a huge mistake, and that adds a good bit to the tension.

Her character arc is very satisfying overall. She starts off broke, seeking purpose for her life, and still clinging to the boyfriend she just broke up with, but by the end, she’s solvent, she has a new purpose, and she’s met a much more suitable boyfriend prospect.

Con: The story leaves quite a bit unresolved, but that’s not a big surprise, since it’s the first story in a new series. I’ll look forward to the next installment.

Much of the story implies this is a cardboard dystopia, where the world is run by evil corporations that just kill anyone who disagrees with them, although Isla’s interactions with Zayn imply that Omega is actually unusual in that regard.

From the mentions of Diane von Fürstenberg, we can assume the story takes place not long after 2030, but the level of AI and medical technology suggests Twenty-Second Century, as does the level of environmental collapse.

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Dominica Phetteplace Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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