Ken Liu. The Message. (Interzone #242, September-October 2012)

A second story this year from Liu which is more straight SF than his usual stories and which similarly doesn’t quite reach the heights that his other stories reach. Earlier this year was his The People of Pele in Asimoves which I felt covered already previously well-covered sf regolith, and ditto this.

The set up in this story is quick and simple : a xeno-archeologist has had to hurry to pick up his daughter, who he has never met, having been born after his wife, her mother, left him. The wife/mother is now dead and he has to take on the parental role. He has her with him as they descend to a planet, whose xeno-architectural treasure trove is about to be obliterated by the multiple comet strikes the terraformers have aimed at the planet.

There are two questions to be answered : can the two build a relationship, and can they decipher the message evidently set out in the ancient ruin he has been exploring. There is a table of data presented in the story (not having read Analog for a year or two, it’s quite a while since I read a story with this kind of presentation – I’m guessing there is enough data in the table to provide readers of a scientific bent to guess the message), and the story doesn’t quite work for me as it relies on the couple not having with them some very basic science kit (that exists today) that you would expect anyone exploring an alien planet would have access to, and which would have made the ending quite different.

Unlike many of his other stories that’s pretty much all there is to the story, whereas he often delivers much more complicated, detailed stories. If you want a very straightforward piece of SF adventure, fine enough.

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