Friday, September 6, 2019

The Waters of a New World, by Jennifer R. Povey

★★★★☆ A clever puzzle story

(Hard SF Adventure) A colony ship can’t populate its target planet because of something lethal in the water. (3,139 words; Time: 10m)

"The Waters of a New World," by (edited by Trevor Quachri), appeared in issue 09-10|19, published on by .

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

Review: 2019.475 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: This is a good hard SF story because it’s all about Francesca’s attempts to understand the problem in the water and then find a way to defeat it. In particular, I liked the fact that her attempts fail, one after another, but each failure teaches her more about her adversary.

The thought that it might be a nanotech agent deliberately planted by aliens who wanted to wipe the planet clean for their own use added tension and urgency, but the final conclusion that it was a disastrous failed attempt at geoengineering by the original inhabitants made much more sense.

It was also a nice touch that the cosmic disaster that destroyed the Earth was never explained in detail. It’s not relevant to the plot, so any details would be a distraction, but it was enough to avoid the usual kooky idea that the Earth got too polluted or something.

And, of course, it ends on a warm, happy note.

Con: I’m not sure why the engineered Martian bacteria had an edge over the nanotech.

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