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BOOK REVIEW: This Long Vigil (Short Story) by Rhett C. Bruno

| 22 January 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: This Long Vigil (Short Story) by Rhett C. Bruno

Pervino Corp.
December 2015
ebook, .99c
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Science Fiction

7/10

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Aboard the Interstellar Arc, Hermes, Orion has spent the last twenty-five years being entertained and educated by Dan, the artificial intelligence that runs the ship and ensures the continued viability of its cargo, only needing human hands occasionally.

As I reached the top of the ladder, zero-g gently lifted my body. I drifted into the space – a tremendous, hollow sphere around which the Living Ring rotated. Rows of plantings and heat lamps wrapped in 360 degree arcs as if I were in a sea of green. Dan’s many appendages tended to the crops, probably using Fish’s remains to fertilize them.

Dan is transporting one thousand people to another star system, some 350 years away from Earth, which has an eighty-three percent chance of being able to harbour human life. Each person on board is suspended in a chamber full of fluid, connected to life-sustaining tubes for oxygen and nourishment from birth to seventy, at which point they are recycled.

When I reached the pregnant inhabitant, I turned my back to her chamber. It never seemed right to me to watch them give birth. The tubes attached to her would lift her legs and spread them so that the spindly apparatus descending from the ceiling could draw out her offspring. When I finally turned around, that metallic arm was lifting a bloody infant up through the opened ceiling. I made sure her readings were satisfactory while I waited for it to disappear. Everything went perfectly, as usual. The red-stained fluid in the chamber was flushed and replaced straight-away, clean as ever.

At any given time, there are 999 people aboard the Hermes living and dying without ever waking up, their ages staggered so as to insure a range of abilities when they reach their destination. One person, a monitor, is allowed to wake for roughly twenty-five years, returning to their slumber once they hit fifty, never to wake again before recycling.

“In twenty-three hours you will be fifty-years-old. As you know, I was programmed by my maker to ensure that there is always an able-bodied human on watch-”
“I know that!” I snapped, somewhat unintentionally. Last time he told me it was thirty-seven hours. There was less than one day until my eyes would never open again. It was going by too fast.

Orion, the sixth monitor, isn’t ready to hand over his post just yet. He wants to know another person, he wants to set foot on a planet, he wants to live.

And time is running out.

“You only have nineteen hours remaining-”
“Stop!” I bellowed, so loud that if the Life-Chambers weren’t filled with liquid I might’ve woken half of the inhabitants outside my quarters. I leaned my head against the cold metal wall beneath the viewport and stopped myself right before my clenched fist slammed into it. “Just stop.”

 

With the exceptions of the one instance in which the character “mouthed” things he actually spoke, and that time he “depressurized” the air lock while the interior door to the ship was still open, this was a tightly written story.

Presented here, we have a different take on long-distance space travel, with people not in cryo-sleep, but rather being born and eventually recycled as nutrients for the plant life on the ship, and possibly the sustenance of the other travelers, à la The Matrix.

Throughout the twenty pages of this story, Bruno taps into a particular type of despair that all humans must face. Mortality is that ever-present, ever-hovering threat. Even if we stay safe and healthy our whole lives, it comes to an end eventually. There’s no way to stop it, and we very rarely feel we had enough time.

But what would you do if you had a designated time at which you would leave this world? A time when you would close your eyes for the last time? Wouldn’t you want to do some living in that limited time you had? Wouldn’t you want to see the universe? Wouldn’t you want to know love?

There are other questions brought up here, such as why, exactly, is incubating and recycling these humans a better option than cryostasis? Was there any kind of debate as to the morality of this particular method of transport? Did people sign up for this trip, or were the original travelers all created from stored embryos? Is the continued production of people all from frozen embryos, or are the… reproductive materials extracted from the people in the chambers? If these people are born on ship and wake up with all the knowledge of a new born, how are they supposed to build a successful colony when they reach their new home?

Some of these questions fit into the classification of potential logic fail/oversight, but the rest invite curiosity and fascination. They have this reader intrigued, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the forthcoming Titanborn novel which takes place in the same universe.

This short story is a fun, quick read, and only .99c!

 

 

 

 

 

Stephanie O’Connell

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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