Wednesday, September 4, 2019

By the Warmth of their Calculus, by Tobias S. Buckell

★★★★★ Clever, Exciting, Satisfying

(Lost Colony Adventure) A lost colony survives in the rings of a giant planet which protect it from killer alien robots, but some brave souls must venture into harm’s way to get needed resources. (7,586 words; Time: 25m)

"By the Warmth of their Calculus," by (edited by Jonathan Strahan), appeared in (RSR review), published on by .

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

Review: 2019.455 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: This isn’t really about the encounter with the hunter-killers; that’s over almost at once. This is about the ship’s attempt to escape and then to save the crew. At a deeper level, it’s about the duty leaders owe to their followers, but, that aside, it’s a cool story about clever use of technology to save lives.

I like the way we gradually learn how the matriarchal society works plus the reasons they have such a society (they’re short enough on healthy genetic material that they need to conserve ova, but sperm are plentiful, so men are expendable).

More important, though, it’s clear how this society works emotionally. “Mother” isn’t just a title to them; people like Fiana rule by mothering their boys. We see this very clearly when she debriefs the sortie team and does various things to soothe them. She clearly loves them, she takes care of them and they love her too.

So at the critical point during the mutiny, when she makes herself vulnerable to them and tells them her plan, they fold right away because they trust her implicitly. This works because by that point we’ve seen why they believe in her.

Fiana’s strong stand for trying to save everyone—including the ten stowaways—establishes her as a really good person, but, obviously, she can’t let the whole crew die just because she can’t make a tough decision. It’s gratifying, then, when her faith in her crew’s ability to find a solution pays off.

On the other hand, Audra isn’t a cardboard villain. She sees only one way to save their ship, and no glory in everyone dying when some might live. She’s probably too short on love to ever be in command, but she’s not really a bad person.

Nor are the men irrational to mutiny. It would strain suspension of disbelief if they quietly acquiesced.

All in all, this is a very nice story. Perhaps we’ll see more stories in this universe. I certainly hope so.

Con: I’m not sure why the hunter-killers have so much trouble travelling in the dust plane. It’s not magic anti-robot dust, after all.

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