Originally in : Extrasolar ed Nick Gevers.
A few hundred years hence, and the good news for humanity is that we aren’t alone. Slightly frustratingly, whilst there is a huge amount of data from SETI searches, we are still without FTL and so have to sift that data, and rely on video feeds from probes that do make it to alien worlds. One young woman, is a student ‘librarian’, charged with sifting data, and trying to make sense of communications from these distant planets.
Whilst in a virtual immersion of a recorded feed, the young woman has a moment of revelation, and is able to identify a much, much bigger picture that has implications for Earth.
There are some great descriptions of alien worlds, and an interesting conclusion, but the story didn’t quite rise to the level of some of Benford’s work. The plotline around the main character reminded me of Clarice Starling at the FBI training academy at Quantico, and the ‘single young scientist discovers something that teams of experienced scientists have so far failed to spot’ story isn’t one that really does it for me.