Review of Jack McDevitt, “The Last Dance”, Asimov’s Science Fiction November/December (2017): 68-74 – Purchase Here. Reviewed by Kiera Lesley.
The Last Dance refers to contemporary technology and social developments such as Facebook pages as memorials for those who have died, or chat bots created from data from text conversations had while a person was alive.
Ethan’s wife, Olivia, died in a car accident and as part of his grieving process he orders a replacement AI program from a company called Celestial. AI “Olivia” has her voice, mannerisms and memories and allows Ethan to live with her makes it as if she never left. Almost.
The story premise is a bit “Black Mirror” but not quite so grim. It explores grief, the difficulties of letting someone go, how the echoes of people we love and miss haunt us, and how this can handled in ways that are both healthy… and not.
I found the core idea and themes were expanded on well, if a little overtly. Ethan’s unwillingness to move on was honest and Olivia’s actions in the end fitted with her motivations through the story, (though I found the final beat a bit flippant). Ethan’s daughter’s reaction to the whole thing was a particularly nice touch.