What I gleaned about the story: Finsbury Gage and his beautiful wife died together in a brutal wreck, but when he woke up in a new body, he was alone. When he woke up again, in a second new body, that self was alone too. Only, this second body is registered to his secret online identity—the one he uses for surfing porn—instead of his normal one, and now someone is trying to mindjack that body by installing a blackmarket OS upgrade and rewriting his very sense of self. Fill out my reader response card under “Fascinated.”
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Analysis: None of these was egregious enough in itself to pop me entirely out of the story, but I eventually noticed the pattern of having to keep my eye fixed on the story and ignore that minor brush fires in the ditch as I went by. Here are a few of the very minor distractions I had to ignore:
- I turn off the wall, pact the tab closed and sit in silence until the food arrives.
- I don’t need something in else in my head to remind me I’m no longer human.
- I round the corner into the alley and run face-first into man waiting there.
If that’s all there is to complain about after 40 minutes, that’s a pretty damn fair result. Especially here in IOD land.
Telling a great science fiction story does not require the author to dream up some entirely new kind of science. All you have to do is find a new premise to explore within the world made possible by that tech. So, sure, the idea of a future in which special insurance policies allow injured/sick humans to be resurrected into cyborg backup bodies is not new. But how about a guy who wakes up twice, in two different bodies? Hmm. Don’t think I’ve seen that before. And then, just to march it a little further from the highway of the well-trodden, what if one of the two new yous has apparently been awakened under the ID of your super-private porn-surfing identity? Why the hell would somebody set up that kind of policy?
So even though I’ve seen the backup-cyborg idea numerous times, I am 100% invested in this one, because it’s showing me new wrinkles on that basic concept. And better yet, the little revelations I am shown are doled out slowly enough that I have time to mull them over, but fast enough that I don’t get bored chewing on one before the next tasty bite comes along. I think it’s this trick that is the hardest to get right in a “what the hell is going on” kind of story arc. You need to keep the reader’s mind fed with new clues on a regular basis, but never so many or so quickly that you overwhelm them. And so far I am 100% hooked and chasing the rabbit as deep and as fast as the story hole will let me.
Anybody want to read the rest along with me?
Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.