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2014 Story 126

From the  May, 2014 issue of Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams:


126. SHIVA IN SHADOW by Nancy Kress  The novella length of this story allows the author to explore in solid detail two diverging histories for the same characters. The set-up is a small three-person science mission to the center of the galaxy with a complication: the actual scientists (experienced Kane and up-and-comer Ajit) and ship's crew (Captain/Caretaker Tirzah) cannot enter the higher radiation of the galaxy's core, so they upload AI's of themselves into a probe that can survive the radiation longer. The Uploads have all of the knowledge and personalities of their Originals, and therefore can do research and make decisions as their Originals would. Even with the same three core characters, events proceed differently on ship and probe almost from the moment the probe is launched. Each set events has multiple moments where a small decision could bring success or tragedy, and each divergent decision drives the lifepaths of the characters further apart.  I loved all three characters (or all six, depending on how you perceive it). Both divergent paths are narrated by Tirzah, and where Kress really impressed me was in the subtle differences in word choice and vocal tone between Original Tirzah and Clone Tirzah; a subtle touch in amidst the more obvious differences between Ship and Probe, but vital to the reader's investment in the story I think.

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