Thursday, June 23, 2011

2011 Hugo Nominee: Novelette - "Plus or Minus" by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov's, December 2010)

This story follows the crew of a grungy 22nd-century asteroid-mining ship ironically called the Shining Legend. We spend about half the story meeting the crew, especially the point-of-view character, a teenage girl named Mariska Volochkova. In the second half, something goes wrong with over a hundred days left in their trawl through the solar system, and the crew has to come up with a way to conserve oxygen.

The “technical problem in space” is a classic hard sf plotline. So much so that I get a little nostalgic whenever I read a story in this mode (come to think of it, “For Want of a Nail” qualifies as well). There are some new things here – most of the crew are clones genetically engineered for space travel, and everyone can link their thoughts, or “mindfeed” (I’m assuming through some sort of wireless implants).

Still, the technical details are all pretty boilerplate, so the story’s success or failure rests on characters and atmosphere. Luckily, both are pretty darn good. Mariska is solid enough, and her relationship with her boss, mother, and flirtatious coworker all worked for me. And, the ending worked quite well to boot. A very solid story that's familiar in a good way.

Grade: B+

No comments:

Post a Comment