Monday, June 6, 2011

2011 Hugo Nominee: Short Story - "For Want of a Nail" by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov's, September 2010)

Most of this story involves an attempt to repair the damaged AI of a generational starship. The AI is named Cordelia, and one of the passengers named Rava dropped her and damaged her access to her memory. In the process of the repairs, Rava and her brother Ludovico discover that she has developed an emotional connection to another member of the crew and that she’s been covering for his health problems – health problems that would be a death sentence for him, as the ship’s limited resources must be conserved. There’s actually a fair amount going on in this brief and simple story. On top of all I mentioned, there’s the fact that the crew has become dependent on the AI for all of their history-keeping, and there are also reproductive politics (a theme this year?) concerning whether Ludovico can have a child. There’s even some random Victoriana because, hey, that’s pretty popular these days. The story doesn’t quite live up to the epic qualities of its title; there is a chain reaction, but no kingdoms fall in this fairly intimate short. However, it is well-constructed, interesting, and well-written.

Grade: B

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