Diabolical Plots #73, March 2021

Diabolical Plots #73, March 2021

“Boom & Bust” by David F. Shultz

“The Void and the Voice” by Jeff Soesbe

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Two science fiction stories with very different moods and settings appear in this issue.

“Boom & Bust” by David F. Shultz is a satiric tale set in a world where a business with a positive value can literally wage war on a company with a negative value. The story follows the battle between two such organizations, as fluctuating market prices cause the hunter and the prey to switch roles. The questionable importance of art in this grim future plays a role in the tale’s ironic ending.

This sardonic look at the way that corporations often consider profits over people features a great deal of violence, perhaps more than needed. As with many satires, it’s difficult to imagine how anybody would agree to participate in such activities. The plot point involving art provides a startling conclusion with plenty of bite, but seems out of place with the rest of the story.

“The Void and the Voice” by Jeff Soesbe takes place aboard a spaceship in the asteroid belt, crewed by a man and his teenage son. An accident cripples the vessel. The father is severely injured, so much so that he must be connected to an emergency medical device, while continuing to operate the spaceship through a link between his mind and the vessel. This causes him to narrate random memories from his past. The son makes a desperate attempt to save their lives in a dangerous maneuver outside the ship.

For the most part, the author successfully blends an emotional, nostalgic look at the relationship between father and son with a traditional science fiction problem-solving plot. The story goes on a bit too long after a dramatic climax. The tale walks a very thin line between sincerity and sentimentality, and steps on the wrong side at some points.

Victoria Silverwolf is oddly amused by the fact that the title of one story has an ampersand and the other has the word and.