Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Least of These, by Veronica Roth


(Alien Abduction) Two women are offered the opportunity to save 50,000 human beings from Earth’s impending doom, but there’s something off about the aliens’ offer. (4,240 words; Time: 14m)

"The Least of These," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 119, published on .

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

Review: 2020.204 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The best part of the story is the interplay between Best, who so much wants to do the right thing, and Least, who’s totally cynical about everything. It does raise the excellent question: Are the aliens really acting in good faith? And how would you know?

Con: The numbers in the story don’t really add up. The action needs to be set within the next 100 years, but we don’t have any space probes that will be very far from the sun by then, so the alien story of finding us via a probe makes no sense. And if a plague killed 80% of the Earth’s population, then our environmental problems just got far easier to solve, so the story that Earth is doomed doesn’t hold up either. (Of course you can read these as evidence the aliens aren’t on the up-and-up, but I think these are just things the author didn’t think through.)

As far as the big moral issue goes, I couldn’t relate to how being asked to pick 50,000 people to save was such a dilemma, given you believe disaster really is coming. I’d probably opt for something like a large university, since you get a good number of healthy young people plus adults with a great deal of knowledge, and you get a community, not a random mix of people who’d fight over who was in charge (and likely wouldn’t be able to communicate in one language). What would be a dilemma would be if you weren’t sure there was a disaster coming, and those people being “rescued” didn’t get to say no.

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