science fiction, new weird, old weird, very weird - and everything else
not always save for work. never nice.
To be updated as I read my way through the short stories, novellas and novelettes forming the Sunflowers Cycle. There are four entries so far, I chose to read them in chronological order (which is not the order of publication).
1) Hotshot (first published in Jonathan Strahan's Reach for Infinity) - **
A short story introducing the main character Sunday Ahzmundin and her mission to punsh wormholes into the universe to allow faster than light travel for following generations (or something). It helped to get an impression of her character, but wasn't all that satisfying as a story. It's about Sunday being groomed for her mission and tackles questions of free will vs. determination - yet again. Watts really doesn't believe in free will, but he's told that before, multiple times actually, and here he's so much in the nose about it that it physically hurts. Man, ever heard about subtlety? Over at Goodreads another reviewer descriped the story as self-parody, and tend to agree. Makes one wonder if he has anything else to tell.
2) The Freeze-Frame Revolution (a novella recently published by Tachyon) - ****
Despite a regrettable lack of pandas, I liked this novella a lot more than its chronological predecessor. Our 'spores are now on their way through the universe, on board the Eriophora, a hollowed-out asteroid powered by a singularity-drive. The blunt of the mission is overseen by the ship's AI, called Chimp. The Chimp's intelligence is somewhat limited though, so every now and then it needs some help. That's where the humans come in. Awake for only a few days every hundred or thousand years, they are spinning a web of wormholes though the galaxy, always hoping to see someone else coming through. But after 66 million years, there's still nothing but an occasional demon, still no sign of whatever became of Earth's inhabitants after our crew left. And yet, the mission just goes on and on.
Not everyone is happy with this. Some want an end. Some want the home they have been promised. Some want a revolution. But how to fight an enemy that sees through your own eyes, hears through your own ears, that controls everything around you?
The fight human against machine is nothing new, of course; neither is the kind of affectionate relationship between our narrator Sunday and the Chimp. They have their fair share of HAL-and-Dave-moments - but those really work here and are also symptomatic for the whole novella: The Freeze-Frame Revolution feels charmingly old-fashioned, despite being set 66 million years in the future. It's not as dense and high-concept as Watts' longer works, but high-concept, big-idea sci-fi nonetheless, with character-building taking a backseat. Watts also provides some vivid descriptions of Eriophora's life-support system, haunting midnight-forests, which are a lot better than any of his descriptions in Echopraxia. And even after reading some stupid interview with stupid spoilers, I found the showdown to be tense and gripping.
Although I wasn't exactly rooting for the humans.
3) The Island (short story or possibly novelette?)
4) Giants (short story)
5) Super-hidden secret content: The red letters in The Freeze-Frame Revolution form a message that leads to another short-story. I will get to this in a couple of days.