Review #2: The Grandmother-Granddaughter Conspiracy by Marissa Lingen

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Jan 7, 2010 in Reviews |

Author Website: http://www.marissalingen.com
Published by: Clarkesworld Magazine, December 2009

The Story:

The Grandmother-Granddaughter Conspiracy is a sweet story about Dr. Hannah Vang, a marine xenobiologist on a mission to prove advanced intelligence in a native species of cephalopod on a sparsely settled human colony. The moral stakes are high, since if she fails, the local government will take a portion of the cephalopods’ habitat to cultivate edible aquiculture.

Hannah has problems brewing at home as well. Her mother Dee is suffering from injury-related memory loss which could be easily treated on more populous colonies, but with the limited resources of their home planet, Dee must use an often-faulty memory augmenter that has already fractured their family and is a heavy burden on both Hannah and her daughter Lily.

The Craft:
SPOILERS

I’m a sucker for all things tentacle, so I got pulled into the story pretty quickly. The Grandmother-Granddaughter Conspiracy opens with a slight buildup for Hannah, then immediate disappointment as her squid-like alien experiment fails to remember the solution to a puzzle. The story raises an interesting question of what constitutes higher intelligence, as the squid frequently use tools to get what they want, however, they don’t appear to communicate or have any sort of long-term memory.

The story then segues nicely into Hannah’s personal life, where her own mother’s memory loss has caused Hannah’s husband to move to the other side of town after several frustrating incidents with the authorities, since every time Dee’s memory augmenter pops out, she thinks he’s an intruder. Fortunately, Hannah’s daughter Lily seems to pick up the slack, working closely with her grandmother, building the bond that leads them into their well-meaning conspiracy against Hannah.

The story itself is straightforward, nothing fancy done with the plot or the characters, but its strength lies in the philosophical questions it poses, which are fun to muse about. I enjoyed that Hannah’s mother and daughter got together to help solve the problem, though their solution did seem to come a little out of left field. I would have liked to have seen more buildup to their solution and more mystery as to where they were running off to behind Hannah’s back.

In the end, we’re left wondering not only if Hannah will be able to save the squids’ habitat, but also the true extent of the squids’ intelligence, leaving the reader with endless possibilities to ponder.

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