Sunday, February 14, 2010

Turning the Apples

Short Story by Tina Connolly

It's worth noting that Tina Connolly also wrote my second favorite poem of the 2009 Asimov's Science Fiction magazines.

So this is an SF/horror story dealing with a very unusual brand of crime on another planet. A small number of tourists contract a unique disease on first visiting the unnamed planet of the story. Adults are turned into walking coma patients, most children die, and a select few survive and gain psychic mind-rewriting abilities. Criminals use the orphaned children to program the coma victims for manual labor, and the reprogramming effort has a narcotic effect, getting the kids addicted to helping the criminals.

Szo, our protagonist, is one such orphan, addicted and never able to escape because he hopes to someday find a way to help his mother, who's thoughtless body hauls nuclear waste. One day the police officer he sometimes informs to offers him hope.

The story isn't so much horrifying as exceedingly dark. But it is still the stuff of nightmares rather than good dreams. This is a very different take on the addiction/psychic powers connection, something I'd like to read more of. I'm not sure what it is, but this story will stick with me for a long time.

A brief comment on narration: It is quite good. Another example of the narrator actively improving my enjoyment of the story rather than just relaying the events. His voice makes the thing seem even more gritty.

4 out of 5.

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