As I promised the other day, here we go with another short work from the Sunflower Cycle. Although it was the first of these stories to be published all the way back in 2009, this is currently the third act of the series and takes place a very long time after my initial point of reference, 2019’s Freeze-Frame Revolution.
Although it came first, this work reads like it was a fresh installment of a long running series in terms of how developed the world and characters were and how cohesively it fits into with the stories that would come later. Set aboard the spaceship Eriophora as it continues its unending mission to construct transportation gates, this 40 page short story references (or rather foreshadows) a lot of things that happen in Freeze-Frame, most notably the crew’s efforts to limit the authority of Chimp, the AI that controls the ship and mission. In these pages, we join the eternal Sunday Ahzmundin as she is awoken to investigate an unexplained signal emanating from the area of the ship’s next construction site. When the source is determined to be a sentient life form unlike anything conceived of before, Sun and Chimp have a profound disagreement over their obligation to avoid harming it. Adding to the intrigue is that the only other person around is a rather odd crew member named Dix, an artificially conceived child of Sun with some very complicated loyalties guiding his view of the argument.
I found this story absolutely fascinating for a number of reasons. First and foremost for me was the alien lifeform. It was just so far outside the scope of human comprehension and the norms of what you tend to come across in most sci-fi stories that I couldn’t help but be drawn to it, and the outcome of its encounter with Sunday and Chimp left me even more taken in by it. Speaking of the two leading characters, it was a whole lot of fun watching their calculated aggressions against each other, all the while both fully aware of how much they ultimately need each other. This dynamic between the two also shaped my other two highlights of this story (and indeed the series in general), those being the psychological effects of a life divided up into short moments across the eons and the exploration of humanity’s place alongside advanced artificial intelligence. With both of these topics, the author manages to create a great deal of tension in the stories that doesn’t necessarily always have a resolution which is definitely something that will keep me coming back for more of this series.
I’ll keep this post short and sweet and close by saying that this was an absolutely brilliant short and one that I highly recommend. That this story managed to pack so much depth into such a small amount of space is truly amazing and something that must be read to truly appreciate. There are still a couple of Sunflower Flower stories out there that I really enjoyed, but in the interest of keeping things fresh around here, I might not review them for a little while. My schedule is freeing up a bit in the near future and I have a number of other books I’m eager to get to!