In order of individual publication, here are my reviews of the stories contained in this anthology.
The Greatest Host
In this short and amusing story, Ilrod and his fellow organisms (known as the Mists) have had to abruptly leave their planet where they shared a symbiotic relationship with their hosts for many years. Now, alas, the planet is destroyed and many of the Mists have been lost. It takes many, many years, but they eventually reach another habitable planet and begin their search for a new host species.
This was a cute story that gave me several chuckles. The Mists made me think vaguely of jellyfish in that each Mist is made up of individual molecules that cooperate together to make one functioning being. The Mists look like just how their name implies and they search for symbiotic relationships with other animals.
I enjoyed the last few minutes as Ilrod and his fellow Mists discover a new species to play host to them. The descriptions from Ilrod’s point of view were amusing and I quickly guessed what kind of animal they had come upon. Once again, the author has provided quality entertainment.
Circle Is Closed
Commander Leopold Harnessy is leading a mission to test a new FLT (Faster Than Light) technology. The humans of planet Horizon hope to find old Earth and perhaps resettle her but first a test ship must be sent to see if the new tech works. If it does, then larger ships could be sent the same way. The Horizon humans left Earth many, many generations ago but they still revere her. Now, they wish to reclaim that heritage.
Harnessy must leave his family on Horizon as he undertakes this possibly dangerous mission. His daughter Rose asks him a serious question about Earth during the send off ceremony. Harnessy hopes to find the answer to it and many other questions. When Harnessy & crew arrive at Earth, she is healed of all the environmental damage that forced humans to leave her so long ago. However, Harnessy and his shipmates are met with a surprise.
The author did a great job for such a short story. There’s plenty to consider in this compact tale. I was quickly drawn into the tale. There’s some big questions the main character has to consider, both before he leaves Horizon and once he gets to Earth. While the story moves swiftly along, it has depth.
The 4 laws of conformity have maintained a functional society for generations: 1) Continue making units; 2) Protect all units already made; 3) Expand the knowledge base; and 4) Maintain variation in thought. Helen strives to follow the last 2 laws in her scientific studies.
I quite enjoyed this tale of non-organic beings and their well-organized society. Helen and Lorenzo often join Eve and Roberto for dinner and discussion. Helen is a bit fascinated by the local DNA-based life forms, but the topic is considered a bit gauche. Nevertheless, Helen and her lab assistants (Ivan and Lorraine) want to continue their observations.
What Helen and her assistants discover is rather disturbing to not only herself, but to her society. It was pretty cool how the author had the main character discovering this long-forgotten truth and how her immediate friends and colleagues react. It’s akin to when humans started accepting that the Sun, and not Earth, was the center of the solar system. I’ve read Perreault’s SIMPOC books, but this is my favorite of his works so far. Definitely some food for thought there. What if a society developed so far and forgot their origins, only to discover them later?
Good Morning …Processes Must Be Improved
Robert has been assigned to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, to mine methane. Much of the operation is done by robots and a human is needed to fix minor break downs and such. The resident built-in AI is TCI12, or Tessy. Things start off well enough but then little by little they fall apart.
This was a fun piece of scifi. While it’s a bit of a classic plot set up, I still enjoyed seeing how the author played with it. There’s some miscommunication with Earth about shipments, supplies, and the state of the miningbots on Titan. As Robert sees mangled messages congratulating other mining colonies, he both redoubles his efforts and becomes more and more pessimistic.
Meanwhile, Tessy does it’s ‘best’ to keep Robert on schedule, prodding him with daily reminders of the shipping quota and how many bots are down. On the surface, Tessy seems quite helpful and organized. Can an AI have ulterior motives? Or a (twisted) sense of humor?
I liked that Robert comments a few times about how it’s a tough assignment, being the only human on Titan for so many weeks/months at a time, how important it is to stay busy in order to stay mentally balanced. This is a good question for the story, not just for humans, but for any sentient being stuck on Titan with minimal socializing for any significant length of time.
I liked the ending because it speaks of further mischievousness. I hope when us humans start using AI for stuff in general, folks go back to the ‘Perreault classics’ and build in safety features that prevent and/or recognize questionable behavior in AIs at an early stage. This tale is a worthy read, and would make a good lunchbreak story.
I received a free copy of this audiobook from the author.
Narration: For The Greatest Host, Christopher M. Allport did a great job with this short story. As the voice of Ilrod, he was excellent at portraying the Mist’s emotions, first at the loss of the planet and fellow Mists, and later at the wonder of discovering such a compatible host. For Circle Is Closed, Christopher M. Allport tossed in some real ship sounds for when the ship AI is answering questions or announcing something. Each character was distinct and the the female voices were realistic. He also performed an old lady and a little girl with success. For Progeny, Christopher M. Allport did a good job narrating this story as well. His female voices were believable and his story-telling style was straight forward, letting me sink into the tale without being hung up on vocal theatrics. For Good Morning… Processes Must Be Improved, Christopher M. Allport gave a good performance. He made transmissions sound like transmissions with radio noises and such. I liked his helpful, calm voice for Tessy. He also did a great job with Robert’s voice, showing how Robert was somewhat enthusiastic about his assignment at the beginning and how little by little, that changed over the course of the story.