This post continues my reading of the Amazon Forward series.
The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay
The first page of this story opens with a character alone in a room with no memory of the past… Uh, have we been here before? So, my mind starts to wander… Lab Experiment? Asylum? Medical Accident? Where is this going to go?
The unnamed character lies in bed and receives instructions from the Dr. over the loud speaker… He refers to himself as “I” for the first couple chapters, then the narration turns to the 2nd person, “You.” I am still grappling with the Why of this…
As his physical and mental strength returns, he gets frustrated. Dr. Anna’s word association games and his time on the tread mill are getting old. He wants answers and he wants out. How will the Dr. weigh his feelings against his needs? Why is he in this room inside the “Facility?” The answers will slowly be revealed…
Has this opening premise been overdone? I felt like it was a bit repetitive as I kept reading, like I had read this before, but there’s a point to which the overall plot arc starts to veer away. It’s an interesting take, one that has been done before, but original in many ways nonetheless.
I’ve never read any of Tremblay’s work, but I have been interested in The Cabin at the End of the World. I know that that one has been specified as horror, but The Last Conversation is speculative fiction. I guess I liked it, but it didn’t blow me away.
Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin
The Founders fled Earth at a time when they thought the planet was no longer inhabitable. Their prediction software knew that the time was coming, so they squirreled away resources and developed technology that would enable them to reach a new world. And under their guidance, build a sustainable hierarchical culture. Yet, there are still small samples they need in the decimated old world… they send a servant. Blast him through the light years with a guardian in his consciousness to ensure correctness in the mission.
And this is how the story is told. Exclusively through the 2nd person instructions and replies of the Founder who is telling the main character how to interpret the new Earth. An Earth that has bounced back from environmental fallout. An Earth that has figured out how to work together to take care of billions of people. How did they do this with people of different skin colors? And with people of different physical abilities, and genders, and people who even get old??? Ew! The Founder sees this all as a hoax. A demented try at survival that will surely go wrong…
An arrestingly unique storytelling device is perfect for the subject of this story. Jemisin has taken us centuries in the future to a time when our world should be in shambles… but why has it been able to make that 180 and thrive? Themes of race, privilege, and cultural blindness blend to create a depth in this work that is both surefooted and disjointing… I enjoyed the story and it will resonate with me for awhile.