Fantastic start - initial 10%, if you have the right kind of tastes & some exposure to stories about uploaded consciousness. While there are elements here borrowed from other stories, the whole setup is wholly original. At least I had not read of this kind star-travel before. Far fetched - as is all space opera, but interesting.
Rest of the story is mundane though readable. But the start carried me through rest of the story.
Full text of this story is available as a free download.
Story summary.It's set a long time into future. Humans are effectively immortal - thanks to ability to save/read/backup consciousness, can assume almost any animal shape by manufacturing the body from locally available materials & downloading a stored consciousness into it, nano-factories are common, & humans are part of a galaxy spanning civilization that presumably includes many alien species. This civilization is called Amalgam.
A pair of humans have traveled far - to an unnamed world, to make first contact with local aliens known as Noudah. Most interesting part of the story is this travel. A few molecules delivered to a world called Baneth in the alien target world's system via a fancy (& generally incomprehensible) mechanism where they transform into nano-factories that manufacture a communications receiver. And listen just in time to a carefully timed manufacturing program arriving there from another star system.
They will use this program to build two beings that look like natives of target world, & upload the consciousness of two human beings into them (with multiple backups still kept elsewhere). These beings, Anne & Joan, will make contact with the locals.
These factories will also manufacture two small spaceships using local materials - one for each of the two humans. Then the factories will self-destruct, after removing all traces of their presence.
Why two individuals in two ships? Well - the target world has two superpowers (Tira & Ghahar), & they are the only ones considered worthy of contact. Anne will make contact with Tirans; Joan with Ghahari.
Ostensible reason for contact is to read archives of Niah - a lost & very advanced civilization on this alien planet. Due to local apathy, these archives are likely to be soon lost. Humans preumably think highly of the mathematics of this long lost race, & are keen to learn all they can.
There will be much drama - after all, these aliens represent current human polarizations. Eventually, both visitors will die there - Anne killed by military of Tira, Joan doing self destruction. Oh - they aren't really dead. Only local bodies are gone - they are going to be revived from backups elsewhere in galaxy. It's apparently cheaper & more plausible than return trip.
- Gardner Dozois (Ed)'s "The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection" (2008).
- Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan (Eds)' "The New Space Opera" (2007). Original publication.
Fact sheet.First published: Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan (Eds)' "The New Space Opera", HarperCollins/Eos, 2007.
Nominated for Hugo Award 2008 in novelette category.
Added to my best of the year 2007 list.
All stories of Greg Egan.