Saturday, April 5, 2008

David Moles' "Finisterra" (novelette, science fiction): Description of a criminal gang on an artificial world

Quote from short story titled Finisterra by David MolesGood things first: very colorful imagery, & easy to follow language.

Bad is generally a lack of logic, & too much cruelty.

It's not a boring read, but I would not have missed it had I never seen it.

Full text of this story is available for download.

An artificial habitat with illogical design.

Much of the story is set on a planet called the "Sky". This is gas giant, but not of natural origins. It's an engineered planet: "We don't know who built Sky, or how long ago, but it's obviously artificial. A gas giant with a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere? ... And the Earthlike biology—the zaratánes are DNA-based... Whoever designed it must have been very good; post-human, probably, maybe even post-singularity."

Being a gas giant, you cannot go anywhere except in upper atmosphere. That's where certain animals float; these animals are called "zaratánes". Bigger ones are nearly a hundred kilometers in dimensions!! Even tinier ones defy description of their size. "Finisterra" of title is the largest of these animals.

These floating animals live only in the upper atmosphere where it's comfortable for humans. They are so stationary through out their life (several human generations) that people think of them as islands on which they live. There is a thick layer of dust on their back, jungles & other vegetation, human villages, ...!!!

People live in "balloon stations", "elevator gondolas" & on the back of the floating "zaratánes".

If I were building a planet for the comfort of humans, why would I make is so inefficient & so difficult to live in? Some variation of Dyson sphere would be much cheaper; an earth-like planet would be more comfortable.

And living breathing animals with earth DNA that are so still all their life! There are scenes where you drill big holes into their bodies - they still stay still! Their bodies obviously contain a good amount of minerals - they have big bones & blood like us; what do they eat? How does enough dust & minerals get into the upper atmosphere of a gas giant that their backs are cultivable?

Story summary.

OK - enough of uncomfortable questions.

Story itself is about a woman named Bianca Nazario. She's an aeronautical engineer with family problems on earth; so takes the opportunity to undertake an unspecified but well paying & obviously illegal assignment on Sky.

We will later learn the assignment: to build something to take Finisterra, the biggest of floating animals with dimensions spanning a hundred kilometers, further up in Sky's atmosphere - "to the edge of space". Her employer's plan is to bring in a spaceship ("ship itself isn't rated for atmosphere") that will "lower the skyhook, catch the beast, and catapult it into orbit. The buyer's arranged an FTL tug to take it from there." This poachers' gang operates off the back of Encantada, another floating beast in the vicinity of Finisterra.

End is rigged. Till now uncaring government appears at the eleventh hour. Bad guys are done in. Heroine will champion the cause of poor people living on the back of Finisterra.

Fact sheet.

First published: F&SF, December 2007.
Rating: B
Nominated for Hugo Award 2008 in novelette category.
Among the preliminary nominees for Nebula Award 2008 in novelette category.


Rusty said...

You make good points Tinkoo, in asking your "uncomfortable" questions. A lot of the things you bring up really don't make sense. However, I still enjoyed reading this story, and would probably rate it a B+. I liked the idea of the Zaratanes, and I also liked the Earth that Nazario came from - some good things to think about there.

Tinkoo said...

Rusty: Thanks for stopping by.

I've really spent an awful time settling on 3-point rating system, down from a fine grained one I started out with. It's very tempting to add stuff like B+ - and I won't dispute your classification.

The key point is: there are just too many great stories out there. I would much rather not bother with second rung ones.

Doesn't mean I'm not fallible. There are times I've rated things A simply because I had not seen a good story for a while rather than because it was intrinsically great.

On liking Finisterra: I too wasn't bored. It just didn't captivate me. But perceiving the same thing differently is part of being human; I do respect your take from the story.