REVIEW: Stories from Daily Science Fiction, October 2-6, 2017

Reviews of stories published in Daily Science Fiction from October 2 through 6, 2017. Reviewed by Caitlin Levine.

I’m going to do something a little different here. I usually give short reviews of four of the week’s Daily SF stories and pick one to look at in length in a separate review. This week I had trouble limiting my wordiness to just one story, so I’m going to run a little long here…

“The Seven Deadly Genes” by Candice Lim, Oct 2, 2017: Read Online.

Lim creates a futuristic feel right off the bat with vibrant images of a world-of-tomorrow, while her characters’ actions and emotions feel just like our world today. She creates an interesting juxtaposition of the strange and the familiar, the advanced and the never-gonna-change. Our shifty narrator takes a quick turn for the honorable, leading us into an enthralling race against the clock.

For a society concerned with law and justice, we sure love the story of the honorable thief. Jean Valjean, who steals to feed his family; Robbin Hood and Zorro who steal to save their people. But Lim gives us a world where there is no justice, per say. No courts or judges to grant leniency. Laws are encoded into a person’s very body, and breaking a one of them means death. But for the honorable thief, there are worst things than falling prey to Greed.

“The Eternal Army” by M. K. Hutchins, Oct 3, 2017: Read Online.

Future meets past in a heartfelt tale of ancient roman soldiers and a future Rome. Mythology is layered with the worst of the modern world. Hutchins uses vibrant characters and clever dialogue to explore the theme of valor and the idea that “eternal” is not some characteristic of a place, but something that is created through hard work by those who refuse to let a place die.

I loved how Hutchins gave her roman character some old sensibilities but also made him completely accepting of how the world had changed.

This story makes me cry every time I read it – in a good way.

“The Interrogation” by Kelly Jennings, Oct 4, 2017: Read Online.

How would you handle it if you wanted to build a slave labor force that could never rebel? Assume that you have access to all that futuristic bio-engineering but you still have to use humans as your base. Give it a thought for a moment.

In Jennings’s story, they take the tack of keeping them cute and helpless. Jennings tells this tale as one side of a recorded interrogation, and does a fabulous job of making it understandable. The narrator manages to strike a tone that is both belligerent and helpless.

Now, the science in here actually works pretty well. Heads up for some light Spoilers: What this story is talking about is called horizontal gene transfer, and biologists think it has happened multiple times throughout the history of life on Earth. It is usually facilitated by a bacterium or a virus. Bacteria are always exchanging small gene packets with each other (it’s one of the ways that immunity to an antibiotic can spread so quickly), and viruses insert their own genes into a host’s chromosomes so that the host will replicate the virus. Because of this capability, modified viruses are often used as a tool in genetic engineering to insert the desired DNA into a new organism. Both of these mechanisms could end up inserting a piece of DNA from one host into another. It doesn’t happen often to multi-cellular organisms, but the possibility is there. Now, add to that a set of genes that are designed to mesh with the human genome, and have perhaps already been transferred by virus once? This isn’t looking improbably to me at all.

“Automaton” by Matt Handle, Oct 5, 2017: Read Online.

How do you tell a human from a robot? Or, a better question – how does a human tell whether they are a human or a robot? What, really, is the difference between the complicated programming of an advanced neural network and a human brain? Perhaps it is morality, emotion, and responsibility. And wouldn’t it be nice if you could give those up? Or maybe you just never had them in the first place.

Handle combines all of the philosophical debates surrounding otherkin with themes of personal responsibility and how we rationalize our actions.

“Glass” by Adam Dean, Oct 6, 2017: Read Online.

There area a lot of stories out there that take a look at Cinderella’s life after her marriage, but this is the first I’ve read that doesn’t deal with the short term. Instead of seeing Cinderella’s initial disappointment or delight, we jump forward years to see a Cinderella who has spent most of her life in an unhappy marriage. How could she leave, as a literal trophy wife? How bad do things have to get before she’ll try?

Dean’s story creates the same trapped feeling that comes with the fairy tale of Cinderella, told in an older and more world-weary voice.

This is Dean’s debut story, and a promising sign of work to come.