Deep End by Nisi Shawl

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Oct 17, 2014 in Reviews |

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Psyche Moth is a prison ship, on a slow, long interstellar journey to the planet Amends, some eight light years form Earth. The prisoners, who are on the ship “voluntarily,” have spent most of the voyage in freespace–a virtual world where they frolic weightlessly, in contrast to the new meat bodies they are being downloaded into as they near the end of their voyage. As awful as that sounds, life for Wayna has gotten worse since she downloaded into her meat suit. Her girlfriend has grown aloof, her jealous boyfriend is stuck back in freespace, and her new body–her new and strangely white body–is malfunctioning.

Then the pain hit.

White! Heat! There, then gone—the lash of a whip.

Wayna stopped moving. Her suit held her up. She floated, waiting. Nothing else happened. Tentatively, she kicked and stroked her way to the steps rising from the pool’s shallows, nodding to those she passed. At the door to the showers, it hit her again: a shock of electricity slicing from right shoulder to left hip. She caught her breath and continued in.

The showers were empty. Wayna was the first one from her hour out of the pool, and it was too soon for the next hour to wake up. She turned on the water and stood in its welcome warmth. What was going on? She’d never felt anything like this, not that she could remember—and surely she wouldn’t have forgotten something so intense . . . She stripped off her suit and hung it to dry. Instead of dressing in her overall and reporting to the laundry, her next assignment, she retreated into her locker and linked with Dr. Ops.

Space is the New Black? This story is easy to get sucked into and equally easy to get creeped out by because of its plausibility. It’s not like sending a bunch of prisoners to a remote colony is unprecedented, or anything. These people give up the bodies they are born with, have their minds uploaded into a computer, and then are squirted out into new bodies cloned from the privileged, and live on a new planet that almost nothing is known about. Are they getting a new start? Yes. Did Earth rid itself of thousands of criminals in the name of exploration and discovery? Yes. Are they being exploited? Yes. I know that this is just a story with fictional characters, but I feel my heart aching for them in an absurd soft of way. I hope that they find happiness out there, and are able to make amends with the past that has been stolen from them.

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