Wednesday, August 10, 2011

One Out of Many

Novelette by Kyle Kirkland

Neuroscience detective story. Tad is a government science regulator, and one day a criminal kidnaps him to force him to look into NeuroFac, a new street drug that has been approved for over-the-counter use. Several dull and overexplained neuroscience infodumps later and Tad is on the run for his life while trying to solve the mysteries of who is trying to kill him, why the gangster wants him to look into this drug, and what exactly he's expected to find. He finds love along the way, and discovers some neat things about consciousness.

The science behind the story is interesting and fully explained. But Kirkland has a tendency to overexplain these concepts, with more jargon, longer sentences, and several more details than really needed to get the idea across. And he spends too long on these details, and comes back to them too close together, so that it is really hard to keep reading the first part of the story.

On top of that, some background details seemed unbelievably stupid, like government agents not being able to do more than one search a day, or print anything out from the database, and hot air balloons and sailboats for long travel. But these don't make up much of the story, and the gondola/logboat style public transit system is pretty cool. The point is, this story takes a while to get going, it draws you on partly through reveals that everyone but the reader is already aware of, and it jars your suspension of disbelief a bit too hard. The resolution almost went into Philip K. Dick territory, and I would have been happy with that, but it loses courage at the last minute and the whole thing resolves neatly with a scientific discovery and a few big reveals in which our hero has very little agency. I'd have actually liked this story, despite it's other flaws, if it could just take a chance, either with severe long-term effects from the drugs, either on our hero's perception of events, or using split-personalities to better effect for betrayals. As is, this story takes no risks, less risks than the stories it most reminds me of.

2.5 logboat-trains out of 5.

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