Robert Reed. The Speed of Belief. (Asimovs January/February 2017)

Originally in : Asimov, January/February 2017.

Read in : The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Three. (ed Neil Clarke, Nightshade Books 2018)

Reed’s ‘Great Ship’ is the setting for a sprawling series of stories, an he has been writing them for about 20 years now, and there’s no reason as far as the setting goes, for stopping any time now.

One concern I have with the stories is that as some of the characters, typically the Ship’s Captain and other senior officers, are long-lived, or essentially immortal (brains stored in indestructible ceramic frames), it can be difficult to engage with them as fellow humans, and that leads to stories being set across centuries.

In this story one human who has but a normal length of existence, sets out with two of the long-lived variety, in order to visit a planet whose denizens have applied for passage on the Great Ship as it passes by their System. The intriguing element of the story is that these denizens are small in number, but each is actually a river…

However, the central conceit didn’t work for me : in negotiating a deal with the Rivers, the Great Ship has acceded to a request for a human sacrifice to be delivered to the planet, and the story features one ‘normal’ human and two of the long-lived senior crew, with lots of interplay across the three. It just struck me as a rather contrived and somewhat unbelievable way of setting the story up, and I found the story did drag somewhat.

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