Friday, February 4, 2011

Angry Rose's Lament

Short Story by Cat Rambo
Originally published free online in Abyss & Apex
Read for Escape Pod by Mur Lafferty

Paul Rutter is a negotiator for a third-string interstellar corporation, who has to seal a major deal with an alien species. The Solin are a race of brain-eating space-wasps who have chosen to deal with Rutter's RecoveryCo instead of any of the major corporations, and it could be their big break.

RecoveryCo is a company founded by a group of recovering drug addicts, and failure by Paul could cause his friends to slip back into their old ways. Apparently the drug has a 90% relapse rate. There is some very interesting world building here, a lot of density in very few pages. The world is almost like an aggressively capitalist version of Brin's Uplift Universe. Not with uplifting local species, but with new races ending up indebted to the older ones. But humans are the dominant species in this civilization.

Anyway, Paul finds himself facing an impossible choice. More than just large benefits and losses, it is a choice where Paul has almost none of the relevant information. Angry Rose, a pilot who initially explored the planet tells him the Solin are dangerous, they seem to have plausible explanations and Paul has no way to confirm either party's statements. More importantly Paul doesn't know what will really be better for his friends and the company. He eventually makes a choice, but we are left unsure of whether it was the right one, for him or for anyone else.

That is the real strength of the story, Paul doesn't know anything for certain, and neither do we. The central situation is well set-up, and Paul is clearly the ideal person to tell the story. I'm inclined to agree with his choice, but I can see the other side as well. Mur's outro is fairly insightful on this story, and her reading is good. I definitely recommend the podcast version given the choice. This is a story worth thinking about the implications of.
4 space-wasp brains out of 5.

No comments: