Saturday, February 15, 2020

If You Take My Meaning, by Charlie Jane Anders

★★★★★ Cool Setting, Fun Characters, Interesting Plot

(Colony SF) Alyssa seeks out the aliens who can give her an augment that will let her exchange thoughts and feelings with other humans. But why does she want it, and what is the cost? (8,540 words; Time: 28m)

"," by (edited by Miriam Weinberg), published on by .

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

Review: 2020.094 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: To start with, Alyssa just wants to be more like Sophie. Getting the grafts will make their relationship even more intimate, and no one seems too concerned about Mouth being left out. Plus she thinks she knows what to expect, so had bad can it be? She didn’t grow up with much, most of her life was as a criminal, and she’s consumed with guilt over her role in installing the murderous tyrant who rules Xiosphant. Accordingly it’s not a big surprise that what she wants from the gift is selfish and very small-scale.

Jeremy has a much more concrete plan for his grafts: he wants to use them to enable a superior form of activism. Why try to convince people with mere words when you can deliver whole meanings to them? He grew up with a life of privilege, which he lost when his family found out he was gay. No surprise, then, that what he wants is very large scale, although it would benefit him personally to some degree.

But the grafts don’t work the way either of them expects. Neither realized how much pain would be involved—apparently Sophie failed to transmit that to them, but maybe that’s not a surprise, since we don’t really experience physical pain again when we remember it. Alyssa tries to kill herself (or at least rip the graft out), and Jeremy tries to kill a Gelent—and then each is consumed with remorse, since their behavior was uncharacteristic of either of them.

Once they get past that, they learn that the Gelent are on the path to extinction, and that humans are at least partly to blame. Further, the reason for them creating hybrid individuals is precisely because they need help.

Now Alyssa wants to be an activist. Suddenly she has a cause worth fighting for. And Jeremy wants to essentially be a personal trainer for people getting the grafts in the future so they won’t have the awful reactions he and Sophie did. These are both much more reasonable roles for each person, so it’s quite satisfying that that’s where they end up.

Con: If Xiosphant is so repressive, it’s hard to believe they tolerate these grafts. If they persecute gay people, it’s hard to believe they don’t persecute hybrids.

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1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. This is a sequel to the novel The City in the Middle of the Night.