Welcome back for another #OcTOBLERfest post! Today, I’m doing a review of one of E. Catherine Tobler’s many fantastic short stories. Elise has had multiple stories published in such excellent magazines as Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and more.
This particular story I’m gonna talk about today–“.identity”–was published in Clarkesworld Magazine‘s June 2016 issue. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but I definitely recommend reading the tale in question before proceeding!
Venningen, bathed in the faint crimson light pouring from the overhead, crouched before me, his hands wrist deep in my torso. Venningen had isolated my torso from the rest of my body, to further segregate the virus, and I could not feel his hands at work. It was only when he sank my torso into place and brought systems back online that I could feel his fingers on my core. I traced every whorled fingerprint in waking light to confirm his identity.
Gorgeous lines. Gorgeous. That’s something I’ve come to expect from Tobler and she doesn’t fail to deliver here. But Elise’s work has always been just as much about substance as it is about style. That is, it’s not just purple prose. These lines mean something. They say important things in gripping, beautiful, tactile ways. It’s one of the things I admire most about Elise’s prose.
This story features a protagonist, a narrator, who is an AI. So you probably know now why I picked this one to review, what with my penchant for robots and artificial intelligences.
Elise brings this particular AI to life in wonderful ways. There are things both familiar and human about Daidala, but there are just as many things that are distinct to AI. Specifically: the passage of time.
He watched me for another six seconds. As the time passed, I monitored the harvest of greens in the greenhouse, looked in on the continued upgrades to the dwarf-pod tubes, made an adjustment to the environmentals controlling the reproduction banks,…
Those two lines I italicized so perfectly and deftly communicate the difference in time as it’s felt for a human and it is felt for an AI. Incredibly well done.
The connection between Venningen and Daidala was touching to me, much more so because it was very much shown rather than told. It came through in the little moments and descriptions–the way Daidala knows Venningen’s fingerprints, the sensory details like the following:
He always smelled of oil, his clothes and skin showing signs of the work he did, the work he loved. But this was my oil, and it struck me odd—
I should probably stop quoting patches of the story, but it’s hard not to. There are just so many damned good lines. I won’t talk very much more about the plot, but I hope you’ll take a few minutes out of your day to read the story as it’s very much worth every minute.
Although this story is very much science fiction, it’s got a lot of mystery, a lot of power, and a lot of heart. Stop listening to me ramble and go read it for yourself if you haven’t already.
Stay tuned this Friday for an announcement about my Week 3 giveaway!
Thanks for stopping by and Happy OcTOBLERfest!