Alright, time to get back to the books! While looking back on my reads from the past year, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed Peter Watts’ 2019 novella titled The Freeze-Frame Revolution and how excited I was to find out that it was part of a series called the Sunflower Cycle. Luckily for me, the rest of these short stories are freely available here on the author’s website. For those keeping track, this work was originally published in 2014 and marks the chronological beginning of the series.
The sun’ll die long before we do. We’re gonna outlive the whole damn galaxy.
In the book we meet a young woman named Sunday Ahzmundin who is about to embark on a mission that will span the eons. The product of a specialized breeding program and some rather extensive genetic and psychological manipulation, it is a role she was literally born to fulfill. That knowledge, however, does little to curb her tendency to push back against the people running the program and mock their claims she is free to decide her fate. Rebellious and often destructive to herself and others, she recruits her friend Kai to accompany her for an experience she hopes will provide a sense of acceptance and inner peace regarding their upcoming mission.
I liked this story a lot, though I’m not sure how I would have felt about it not knowing a little bit more of the story, especially some of the details about the mission. Conversely, this also filled in a few things from Freeze-Frame that I had wondered about, so I don’t feel like I made a mistake in my reading order. Chronology and understanding seem to be rather fluid here, which is perhaps appropriate given the complicated relationship these characters have with time. Indeed, there seems to be a general consensus among readers that the order isn’t particularly important for these stories and that there is even a benefit to weaving your way through them along different paths.
Moving on from that, what I enjoyed most about this particular work was its psychological profile of Sunday and the very long view of it takes of human development from the perspective of people about to become outside observers. There was also an interesting look at technology here as well, specifically at its uses and limitations and what room these leave for human action and agency in an age of highly advanced artificial intelligence. There was a whole lot of this content packed into a mere 23 pages and that was definitely more than enough to inspire me to read on!