Sunday, January 24, 2010

Unintended Behavior

Short Story by Nancy Kress

Annie has had enough of her cheating, patronizing, emotionally abusive husband and decides she's leaving. He uses his absolute control over all the electronics in the high-tech apartment to make her miserable. She and the talking-helmet-wearing-dog finally confront him in a great, although not unpredictable climax.

Although Don is an absolute asshole, one of those types where you can't imagine why anyone would put up with him in the first place (but suspect is horribly realistic), despite the fact that a female writer is writing about an older woman leaving her abusive husband, Annie comes off as very flawed. Not in a reprehensible way like her husband, of course, but she isn't the perfect victimized martyr you'd expect from a lesser writer trying to make a point. She is sympathetic, not perfect, and this matters to me a great deal.

Finally, the talking dog, the one really SF element is actually vital to the story rather than filler. Besides the comic relief given to a necessarily dark story, it develops the dog as a character, the only source of sympathy Annie has, and the limited vocabulary allows for a lot of depth to be added, while still not confirming or denying the sentience of the dog. And the ending, which I already said was great, does depend on this development of the dog and it's limited vocabulary. Anyway, great story, although the Don The Husband is almost a caricature, which could be realistic, but more depth to him might have made the story less clear-cut. 4.5 out of 5 dogs would prefer this translator to the one from Up.

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