Friday, November 4, 2011

Boxed In

Short Story by Marc-Anthony Taylor
Read for Escape Pod by Barry Haworth

A young boy makes money by letting rich kids "ride" in his brain. They get a thrill out of experiencing the unclean world outside the dome, breathing polluted air, even suffering from illnesses. The kid's sister acts as his pimp.

One day, a very rich girl offers to pay him an enormous sum of money for a ride with unspecified special conditions. She gives him a nice big infodump explaining history and what she wants, then he does it, with life-changing implications, and the story immediately ends.

The first time I listened to the podcast, I had to rewind. It's a sudden ending, not so much open as lacking in story. A long, flashback-filled history of the character and the world leads to a not very exciting adventure in which he has no agency, he's told to do something, does it, END. We never got to see any change in the character. He never made any difficult decisions, what he did can only improve his life, although that can't be said for others, but neither the character nor the reader is given time to think about any of the implications before the story is over.

Most of the action is caused by the two female characters, his sister, and client, both of whom are static and only appear through dialogue, although they are very much the puppetmasters, he is the unquestioning, unthinking puppet. The world is interesting, but nothing new, and the changes it is about to go through go entirely unexplored, as do the changes that led to the current state of affairs.

No character development, no adventure, no real plot. An overused setting where the rich are sealed into domes and the rest of the world is lawless post-apocalypse. Themes of rich versus poor and grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side are brought up, but nothing terribly interesting or new is said. The first 2/3 of the story are entirely character study of a boring, puppet-like main character, nothing interesting happening until the last 1/3 or so. Needless to say, I didn't like it.

I think what strikes me most is how much detail and time were spent on the character's largely-irrelevant childhood, only to wrap up the interesting non-flashback adventure/plot in one sentence.

1.5 domed delinquents out of 5.

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