Having read and enjoyed other stories by Jason Sanford, I was looking forward to reading his latest work. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. SF/F has a long tradition of stories serialized over many years. Sometimes a reader’s enjoyment of the latest tale in the series does not require familiarity with the previous installments. Other times, it’s essential. In this particular case, I suspect I would have greatly benefited from having read the two previous stories set in this universe. Both stories–”Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” (a Nebula award finalist) and “The Emotionless, In Love”–appeared in BCS and are available in the magazine’s archives. However, not having read those two stories, I found this story’s premise difficult to accept and its large cast hard to understand.
I now know, my maybe on-day love, that memories aren’t reality. But I still hope the memories I’ve shared hold true. If only for a little while.
I really enjoyed this one. Told in a series of nine ‘Lattices’ – memory experiences that are able to be live-streamed or uploaded to the greater mind web – Sanford tells the story of Amali, her family, and Mareena a girl who washes up on their home Lifeboat Merkosa – a massive floating island for refugees of a technological crash caused by a rogue AI.
This has one tough opening sequence. I struggled with the first two ‘Lattices’ – the world-building, the technology, who my main character was and generally what was going on was all dense difficult to grasp. But Lattice 3 gives the world and characters context and it romps home from there. I went back and re-read the first two Lattices after finishing the piece and they made much more sense after the fact. Readers should stick with this one to at least Lattice 3 to give this novelette a proper chance.
Though it takes a while for all of it to become comprehensible, readers are rewarded with a story that includes issues of refugees and nationless-ness, piracy and exploitation of the vulnerable, and characters who are morally ambiguous at best all tied up into an action story set in a surreal post-apocalypse with smaller, human moments at its heart.