Robert Reed. Empty. (Asimovs December 2015)

asimovs1512Reed continues to be happy to take on big picture stories, and editor Sheila Williams continues to be happy to give away much too much in her editor’s intros to stories in the magazine.

She gives away the whole point of the story in her intro, which is a shame. (This review is going to do that BTW, so don’t read on if you don’t want a spoiler from me..)

Reed starts with an intriguing opening sentence – “The Cleansing was predicted”. The narrator then used the opening paragraph to describe how humanity has come very close to eradicating itself from our Solar System, the only system we have spread out through.

Exactly who the narrator is is revealed – an AI machine, one of the Data clan, one of the younger AI machines. We gain his perspective on what has happened (he’s not an entirely reliable narrator) and then the story progresses, and there is drama around Data’s actions, those of other AIs, and then the bigger picture is revealed, with plot twists, towards the end. (OK, I’ve kept from mentioning that, so you will have to read the story in a Year’s Best anthology next year.)

It’s a clever story and I’m putting it onto the shortlist of the Best SF Short Story of the Year Award 2016.

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