Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Kill Me

Short Story by Vylar Kaftan
Read for Escape Pod by Mur Lafferty (Audio Only)
Text Available Free from Transcriptase

Kaftan sets up an extremely interesting world in which memory downloading and uploading into clones is possible, but due to "sanctity of life" legislation just dumb enough to be right up Congress's alley you can't have backups of yourself or otherwise more than one copy at any one time. Oh, and less plausibly with our current society, but I'm willing to assume society has changed, this allows for women to be hired out to get murdered, and then revived later, under the logic that this will allow psychopaths to vent some of those urges and not go after non-consenting women.

Our protagonist, Ada, is a professional masochist who owed a great deal of money to pay for her new body and upload after a car crash. Due to planned obsolescence, she has to buy a new body every few months, and they are too expensive to save up more than one or two in advance. In this way, the resurrection company has her in a kind of indentured servitude to be constantly murdered by psychos and brought back every few months.

Right here, Kaftan has a killer premise, and one I'd love to read a story about. Indeed, the opening third of this story is great. It establishes the messed-up ugly world, Ada's situation, and the fact that she doesn't mind her job all that much, although she doesn't really get off on it anymore. I'd have loved to keep reading about Ada trying to get out of her job, or to read about another woman who can't bear the work she has to do in order to keep herself in a new clone body every few months.

But rather than any of the several promising and interesting directions we're presented with, Ada gets a mystery client and Kaftan throws us for a sharp left turn that takes the middle of the story into a long, boring ineffectual let-me-tell-you-my-evil-plan rant, and the last half turns into a completely different, drawn-out, story of her general dissatisfaction with life. Kaftan is trying to tell a story here about gaining power by relinquishing it, hence the submissive BDSM references scattered throughout, but this only partially works. The ending is not very convincing, and it is trying to be profound. And the big evil plot doesn't actually make any damn sense when you think about it, especially considering it's nearly unenforceable nature.

I liked the world, I liked a lot of the options Kaftan set up, but I wasn't satisfied with the story she ended up building out of this world and character.

2.5 out of 5.

Originally Published in Helix, 2007

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