Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Robots of Eden, by Anil Menon

★★★★☆ Gradually Creeps up on You

(Trans-Human SF Horror) In the near future, a man and his wife manage a peaceful separation, partly thanks to their brain implants, which help them stay rational. But is that a good thing? (6,482 words; Time: 21m)

"The Robots of Eden," by (edited by Nisi Shawl), appeared in (RSR review), published on by .

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

Review: 2019.274 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The story does a good job of showing how the brain implants help, but the more we see of how they work, the worse they seem to be. By the end, it seems they’ve stripped the characters of their basic humanity.

The narrator anticipates the return of his wife and daughter from a visit to America, and that seems normal enough. But when he finds his wife wants a divorce, he’s briefly upset, but then his implant calms him down to the point that he even makes friends with her new husband. Here and there we see a slip as the real person briefly peeks through, such as the moment he signs the divorce papers, but for the most part, it keeps him under tight control.

His friendship with Sollozzo seems real enough and deep enough to make it seem that at least that kind of emotion is safe from the implant. Sollazzo’s suicide shows that there’s at least one escape from it, but the narrator’s laughter at his death makes it clear that whatever he feels for Sollozzo, it’s not any kind of deep feeling we can understand.

As for Sollozzo, perhaps he finally realized that augmented people really don’t have any use for fiction. Lacking any purpose to his life, he ended it.

His bafflement at Velli’s abrupt departure tells us that he’s even losing his ability to comprehend normal human emotions.

What’s so scary about it all is that the implant seems to be a very subtle enhancement and yet it’s thoroughly dehumanizing in the end. The occasional hints of the real person inside screaming to get out are just chilling.

Con: There are no major characters in the story to really care about, so the story doesn’t have as much punch as it could have had.

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Anil Menon Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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