Friday, September 6, 2019

Paradise Unbound, by Edward M. Lerner

★★★★☆ Exciting Hard SF Thriller

(Lost Colony Apocalypse) The Paradise colony was finally making a success of things when they discovered an incoming asteroid would wipe them out. But there’s still hope. (7,039 words; Time: 23m)

Recommended By: πŸ‘STomaino+1 (Q&A)

"Paradise Unbound," by (edited by Trevor Quachri), appeared in issue 09-10|19, published on by .

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

Review: 2019.471 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: We can understand Sheila’s decision to stay aboveground and die with her world, observing until the end the asteroid she discovered. But the story doesn’t really get interesting until she starts trying to communicate with the “alien” ship.

Her difficulties talking with their human cousins are understandable. English is a dead language to both of them, and they’ve got different rules for pronouncing it. Sheila’s solution of depending on the written form being more consistent is a good one, as are her solutions to convey information like “where is the asteroid” when they’ve got no agreed-upon frame of reference.

The idea of a “stand-off nuclear explosion” to divert an asteroid has been around for a while. It works better the sooner you can apply it, since the goal is not to demolish the thing but to divert it. However, I suppose a gigaton-sized bomb might be enough to vaporize an asteroid the size of a mountain. Anyway, that’s not available, and that makes a certain sense. The colony never had multiple governments or wars hence no need to build nuclear explosives. And the merchant ship certainly had no reason to carry such a thing.

It also makes sense that the merchants don’t think of repurposing their anti-gravity devices for this purpose because that’s not how their civilization deals with problem asteroids. This calls for someone to think out of the box, so it’s very reasonable that Sheila comes up with the ideas.

Somehow, all the way to the end, I wasn’t sure whether the author was going to save the planet or not. I might have been biased by the previous two stories, where the protagonist died at the end, but, regardless, it had a lot of tension and so a big emotional release at the end.

Con: A little too much info is dumped on us. The epilogue fell a little flat. And it’s the wildest of coincidences that a spaceship turns up right when they need it.

A side-effect of the difficult communication in the story is that there’s not much character development.

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Edward M. Lerner Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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