Clarkesworld #107, August 2015
“Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker
Reviewed by Eric Kimminau
There are some fantastic stories in this month’s issue of Clarkesworld. Two of these stories were truly phenomenal. Each presented alternative futures with far ranging effects. From the totalitarian freedom-less future to something larger and greater that harkens to the Garden of Eden.
A great lead for this month’s Clarkesworld, “Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker is told from the perspective of Medical Care Android BRKCX-01932-217JH-98662 that has been leased to care for Grandma Mildred who is suffering through Alzheimer’s. Her family “spared no expense” to customize her care and to give Mildred family comfort when they weren’t able to be around. The Android is able not only to emulate family members and past acquaintances but integrate their memories into Mildred’s care. I can only hope that such care is available to me and my family should the need ever arise. Having a thoroughly capable medical care provider that was also able to provide customized family care and comfort would be a truly wonderful thing.
In the future of Virtual Reality gaming, “It Was Educational” by J. B. Park explores one game reviewer walking through his experiences in a Massive Multi-player Online (MMO) style VR world event surrounding a government attempting to quell a protest/riot/war and exploring intricacies of play dynamics such as player and Non-Player Character (NPC) interactions, events, bugs, issues and rewards. A scary look at the future of gaming, virtual reality and our ability to interact with technology within a gaming construct.
“Security Check” by Han Song explores a time in America 20 years or so into the future where all freedoms have been replaced with what has made things “safe.” This is one possible timeline in which China is “the freest country in the world.” The new realities “conform perfectly to the new American national security standards, with all elements deemed dangerous removed.” “Thank God for the subway, for the security checks. They saved America.” But is it an America anyone really would want to live in? I think not. “The terror produced by the security check mechanism is even more terrible, sufficiently powerful to shatter all other terrors. The price we pay is freedom.” But is reality truly what we believed it to be? This story rapidly evolves into something very different from what one expected or suspected and more into a twist on Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that made for an interesting read.
“The Servant” by Emily Devenport tells the tale of Oichi Angelis, a “worm,” or lower class “servant” (more like slave) on the Galaxy Class Generation Ship Olympia, en route to a distant start system as the salvation for humanity. This story is as big as the imagined size of a Galaxy Class Generation Ship. Oichi is given an incredible gift by her parents, that being to impact change and restore the vision of freedom the founders had for Olympia and its inhabitants. This tale of intrigue and subversion hints at the return to humanity, to purity, to a goodness that begins with music and expands the knowledge, insight and intuition inherited by children with wide-eyed wonder. Evil and death are part of that knowledge, just as Adam tasted the apple which led to him being removed from the Garden of Eden, so must the apple of knowledge be revisited in order to return once again to the Garden. This is a phenomenal vision of the future, of mankind rediscovering its path. “Enjoy the flowers, Ashur. But watch for the serpents, too.”
Eric Kimminau is a BBS geek turned IT professional for a Fortune 10 global IT company.