Charles Stross. Bit Rot. (Engineering Infinity).

It’s way too long since I read a short SF story from Stross, and this fits the bill nicely.

Two long paras of infodump explaining the intricacies of ‘active magnetars’ are the only quibble, in a tight drama on a spaceship. Two clones of a wealthy dowager are a long way from home, working on a mining vessel a long way from anywhere, having taken the parental advice – “I’m bored. Being old and rich is hard work. But you don’t have to copy me. Now fuck off and have adventures and don’t forget to write.”

The ‘active magnetar’ causes the ship, and most of the crew on it some seriously big problems. The protagonist, Lilith, is lucky, having been doing repair work inside a shielded part of the ship, underwater, and therefore has had limited exposure to the outpourings of the magnetar. Her sister, working on the outside of the vessel, is in a much more serious state.

It’s well written and structured, giving a real voice to Lilith, and the clever bit is that Stross weaves in an element that is a popular meme in contemporary genre ‘SF’ media and television to ramp up the tension. I was tempted to compare the story favourably to the very, very long clone-shatterling adventure of Alastair Reynolds in his novel ‘House of Suns’, in terms of the law of diminishing returns, but decided not to.

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