Monday, January 31, 2011

Wheat Rust

Novelette by Benjamin Crowell

Rui is a ladies' man on a long-term space habitat out near Neptune. The people have been there so long they have formed low-tech nations who fight each other over food and farmland. The petty local government doesn't really understand how the habitat works (although everyone knows they live on a big metal tube in space at least).

One day, while romancing Anu on the beach, Rui sees two men in spacesuits fall from the sky. They are a survey team sent by a higher-tech outside civilization to check on the maintenance of the habitat. It turns out that a very efficient wheat rust has infected one of the neighboring nations and is spreading through the habitat. The food shortage is part of what makes them so warlike, but in the long run, everyone will starve if it isn't dealt with. The survey team was sent with a yeast that infects and kills the fungus, but they can't spread it without help, and the local government doesn't want to help their enemies by fixing their food shortage. Shortsighted bureaucracy at its finest.

Anyway, this is a story about the rogue who finally falls in love for real, and realizes all his heroic actions have been out of a desire to please a girl he thought was just a fling, but finds himself risking his life for. A classic tale if there ever was one. A happy little love story with some thrilling heroics, the main plot wraps up a bit too quickly and easily, but I like that the very last paragraph throws in a new complication, and a new daring solution. We can see that Rui is well down the road to romantic action hero from his start of uncaring womanizer. And the habitat is explored a bit, which is nice scenery at least.

I seldom say this, but this could have stood to be a longer story. Would have allowed for some more depth, this was fun but very light. And we could have seen more of the world, and of Rui's development. Plus a more detailed and dangerous resolution of the main plot. Exciting enough, and not too long. Certainly not boring, but nothing much here.
3 talking robo-flies out of 5.

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