Greg Egan. The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred. (Asimovs December 2015)

asimovs1512Egan closes the issue with a strong novella.

It starts with some clever trademark technology from Egan, as Camilla is about to take a high-risk journey – desperate times calling for desperate measures. We find out about the measures first, as she is hitching a ride on a lump of rock in Vesta orbit. She is in a cocoon, about to go into suspended animation, as the rock is sent on a long journey to distant Ceres, as part of a trade arrangement in which Ceres sends ice to Vesta. And there is some clever use of Newtonian Laws as the ice and rock trade forces to help each other on there way.

Once en route, the story progresses through a couple of POVs. Once is Camilla’s, as we find out what has caused the desperate measures : some members of her colony that a minority of their members (of which she is one) are descended from part of the original settlers who are now perceived as not having paid there way in the early days. What seems at first an oddball minority view (shades of what is happening now in UK, Europe and USA) snowballs to become the prevailing view, and suddenly she finds that she has the hi-tech equivalent of a yellow star to wear.

As her story about resistance, and then flight, is progressed, the other protagonist is the commander of a station orbiting Ceres. They are happy to receive the regular hitch-hikers, but when a full ship of ‘terrorists’ flees Vesta, the stakes are suddenly much, much higher.

A good blend of technology, politics and characterisation.

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