Saturday, September 10, 2011
Novelette by Erick Melton
Emil pilots ships between the stars, creating bubbles in space to exceed the speed of light. After enough trips, these bubbles can stabilize into wormholes. But it seems his ex-wife has manipulated him into helping her reach something strange in the middle of the sponge that is the universe. The whole story is told through his hallucinations, hearing of thoughts, voices, memories, and glimpses of the future, all caused by the strange nature of a mind twisting itself to control little bubbles of spacetime.
It seems a lot of people found the story structure confusing, and it was at first, but you have to just read straight through to the end, without going back to try and figure out the meaning of one or another sentence. It all clears up toward the end of the story, and there are several narratives going on in different times. I also quite like the world Melton built and the rules for physics and FTL. It's a neat idea.
That said, the story seems kind of boring to me, once you get past the confusing bits. Emil is an exceptional pilot. His ex knows this, and with her research has figured out why. She tries to use him to advance her research, and he eventually figures out what is going on: with his abilities, her plan, his hallucinations, his future, and spacetime in general. The reader figures this all out with him, which is fun and a bit mind-bending. In a good way. But that is really all there is to it. It is nice that the character is as confused as readers will be, but this is very much a story of a world, and how the physics in it work. Emil and the reader figure that out, there isn't much story to be had, besides some vague bits of Emil's future career direction. It's a puzzle to be unraveled, but the plot isn't much beyond that, and the characters are hazy by necessity, since most everything happens inside Emil's head.
3 sponge space futures out of 5.