|Jul. 16th, 2014 @ 01:34 pm Chaplain's Legacy|
This was a reasonably enjoyable adventure story with some problems detailed below. Humanity is in an awkward stand-off with an alien race with more advanced technology, brokered by a chaplain's assistant who's part of a prisoner-of-war planet, and an alien professor. The professor persuades their command that postponing extermination is worthwhile because cultural exchange will give worthwhile things to study about humans, especially about their concept of religion which the aliens don't have. Now the peace is breaking down, and the chaplain's assistant is called on to try to re-broker the peace.|
It's a traditional boys-own-like space adventure story. The characterisation of the military is above average (I think the author may have some experience), it felt more like real-world military than space-opera military. Lots of exciting things happen. And I'm a bit torn, because a straightforward story of triumph of hope over adversity is a pretty good thing, and I often feel embarrassed to like things like that, but think I shouldn't be (after all, I like Harry Potter); but on the other hand, I think there are some actual problems.
There are all the common quibbles about worldbuilding in that sort of story. Why space fleets fight in the middle of nowhere, but happen to be over a neutral-territory planet? Why chief alien negotiates with representatives of a much weaker species in person? Why she automatically has absolute power to order a cease-fire without being overrules by other political factions? Why the humans automatically believe that?
I like the touching friendship between the protagonist and the alien professor, the way he was obviously in the alien culture, but didn't have much control over their politics.
I liked slight sci-fi touches, the idea that humans started to retreat full time into VR pods, not in an idealised VR world sort of way, but more of a "playing computer games full time" sort of way. And the trend was only reversed when war threatened, and many children who'd not experienced much of the real world needed extensive rehabilitation in special ex-VR orphanages, etc. And the aliens have a more-long-term but more-benign synergy, semi-permanently attached to little float-disks that provide movement, life support, etc.
Although like other things, it's a touching premise, but also a bit cliche. Sure, MOST aliens never leave their disks. But NO-ONE tries it? Even if it's taboo? There are always some humans who live without most forms of technology. There are humans who live without sex, or without speech. There are humans who TRY to live without food, or without water. If any of these made humans able to fly, someone would have discovered it by now! :)
As with several other stories, I enjoyed the focus of morality and spirituality. I specifically liked the fairly multicultural view, of all religions being a way to tie into some innate human spirituality or morality, and consistent with a literal or metaphorical view of souls (although I don't know if that view is actually equally representative of religions less like christianity or not). I don't completely agree with that, but I like many aspects of it.
On the other hand, I found many of the eventual answers too easy. "Bad person has never really seen goodness, and does bad things. Bad person sees goodness. Bad person repents," is a good story, a bit old-fashioned, but enjoyable when done well. But I'm uncomfortable extending that to a whole species: they're a hive species, but they've never seen self-sacrifice before, but when they do, they suddenly recognise how moral it is, and think that's to do with human souls, not primate tribe instincts? And I feel a little uncomfortable, am I supposed to apply that parallel to atheists, or foreigners or any other non-Christian groups, that they're mired in darkness just waiting for someone to show them how to be good? Or am I reading too much into it?
This is one of the stories which Correia pushed people to nominate because of the author's politics. FWIW, Torgerson appears not to have actively solicited Correia's support, but is in a similar position: friends with Correia, happy to accept the endorsement, and doesn't endorse Vox Day's vitriolic calls for racial cleansing, but nor willing to say there's anything wrong with that. The story itself is mildly pro-military and pro-religion, but shows both pros and cons, and isn't otherwise objectionable (except to stellar cartography :))
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