Strange Horizons, September 2, 9, and 16, 2013

Strange Horizons, September 2, 9, and 16, 2013

Reviewed in these issues are:

“You Have to Follow the Rules” by Ada Hoffmann (9/2/13)
“Difference of Opinion” by Meda Kahn (9/9/13)
“Teffeu: a Book from the Library at Taarona” by Rose Lemberg (9/16/13)
“ARIECC 1.0” by Lillian Wheeler (9/16/13)

In “You Have to Follow the Rules,” Ada Hoffman gives us a child protagonist, Annalee. A young Star Wars fangirl who has Aperger’s Syndrome, she is attending a science fiction convention with her mother. Annalee, dressed as a Stormtrooper, keeps seeing things that her mom doesn’t—doors marked DO NOT ENTER, rooms from another world, and people with white pupilless eyes. When a young, white-eyed girl dressed in a Jedi costume starts communicating with Annalee by writing her notes, a friendship begins. Annalee’s mother intercepts one of the notes. Scared by what she reads, Mom tries to disprove the rules there by breaking them. A well-written story about how children are disempowered—and empowered.

“Difference of Opinion” by Meda Kahn is a look at the speculative universe through the eyes of someone who is different. Keiya is a litch—“derived from leech meaning ‘drain on society, unproductive, waste of resources’”—who relies on an electronic device to help her communicate. Well aware of her intellectual challenges, she works as a janitor on a space station. Morit, a bioethics consultant, comes to the station, seeks out, and expresses an interest in Keiya. At first reluctant, Keiya eventually responds to the overtures. This leads to coffee dates and a dangerous friendship. This story does an excellent job of putting us in Keiya’s head and making us see the world as she does.

Rose Lemberg’s “Teffeu: a Book from the Library at Taarona” is about how one person saves herself through her books. It is unclear whether the method is based in time travel, parallel dimensions, alternate universes, or clones. Teffeu, her name for a Book of Ill Chance that she conceived when she was fourteen is a very special book. She sees it as her grounding stone. It holds a question for every answer she “will need to unlearn to go home” long after the words have disappeared from other books. That the split personality aspect of the story is not explained beyond “the other me,” makes it jarring.

“ARIECC 1.0” by Lillian Wheeler gives us a computer, Automated Road Information and Emergency Contact Computer, version one point zero as the narrator. The system was designed to collect “data, not only about the environment, weather patterns, traffic patterns, and accidents,” between Ottawa and Ontario. It also collects data about itself so that it can recommend upgrades to improve its performance. ARIECC responds to the best of its ability when License Plate 1H24 LLK7, Preferred Contact Ana-Lynn calls just to talk. Ari, as Ana-Lynn calls it, has neither emotions nor algorithms for responding to emotions. The rest of the story is unfortunately predictable.

A version of this review appears on the Tangent Online website.

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