Sunday, July 5, 2020

Ennui, by Filip Wiltgren

[Analog]
★★★☆☆ Honorable Mention

(SF Thriller) Mord is an AI that controls a starship, but the population is dropping as more and more passengers commit suicide due to ennui. And the problem seems to affect all systems everywhere. (4,759 words; Time: 15m)

Recommended By: 👍STomaino+1 (Q&A)


"Ennui," by (edited by Trevor Quachri), appeared in issue 07-08|20, published on by .

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

Review: 2020.341 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: It’s ai’s programming, but ai really loves the people on the ship, and that’s a big part of what makes the story fun. For all of the things that Mord and other AIs do for humanity, they have accidentally taken all purpose from our lives.

This reminded me of the Jack Williamson Story, “With Folded Hands,” in which a team of robots whose Prime Directive was “to serve and obey and guard men from harm” manages to take all the joy out of human life by doing everything for us and not letting us take any risks, however small.

It also reminded me of “The Wreck of the Ship John B.,” by Frank M. Robinson, in which the captain of an interstellar transport ship realizes that the reason so many ships fail to make it is that the ships are so automated that the crew has little to do, and on 7-year trips, they often go crazy. He too solves the problem by creating a challenge for his crew to overcome.

It was heartening to learn that, even under these circumstances, in a pinch, people are still able to come together in an emergency and find solutions. Mord’s solution at the end—the shared solution Mord and Mord’s people came up with—is a decent one.

Con: From the title, I guessed both the problem and the solution almost at once. It’s a bit surprising that people could still be so good at team problem solving when they grew up not having to do it.

A separate problem is that there are no human characters to speak of, which makes it hard to be emotionally involved in the story.

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