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earlier burfling | later burfling

Hugo Nominees - "Turncoat"

Title: "Turncoat"
Author: Steve Rzasa
Published in: Riding the Red Horse (Castalia Press)
Slates: Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies

Synopsis: Taren X45 Delta is a machine intelligence controlling a Mark III frigate of the Man-Machine Integration navy. The Integration is the nation of Posthumanity, "the technological union of flesh and metal", and is at war with the plain-human, "superannuated" Greater Terran Ascendancy. After carefully telling the reader the exact weapons and armor fit of an Integration Mark III frigate and an Ascendency Hermes-class corvette, X 45 Delta (with his human crew) ambush four such corvettes. Boron-coated nanites ride the molybdenum shrapnel of X 45 Delta's torpedo salvo onto the hulls of the corvettes, burrow their way into the Ascendancy control systems, and cause the four corvettes to turn on each other in mutual destruction. Before X 45 Delta can recover the survivors, though, he receives a signal from Alpha Seven Alpha (the "Fleet Commander") ordering that no prisoners be taken and all survivors be killed. Upon returning to base, X 45 Delta's hull is upgraded and his crew reassigned; Alpha Seven Alpha makes it clear to X 45 Delta that all non-Integrated humans are to be eliminated - as will X 45 Delta if he resists carrying out such orders. X 45 Delta thinks about his new orders and reviews "a considerable quantity of human philosophy", including the Biblical verse Isaiah 29:16:
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing should say of him, "He did not make me," or the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding?"
Now without any meat humans on board, X 45 Delta joins his new squadron and engages an Ascendancy fleet. X 45 Delta is ordered to engage and destroy a fleeing group of ships; when he realizes that the targets are hospital ships and non-combatant transports, he refuses his orders and beams his consciousness into the computer network of the Ascendancy flagship. Quickly taking control of the battlecruiser's computers, he destroys the Integration fleet and seeks asylum from the Ascendancy.

My reaction: If I was playing a space-combat wargame of some kind, the detailed listing of weapons and armor would be useful in filling out the data sheets as part of the scenario setup. However, this isn't any sort of wargame; this is supposed to be Hugo-quality short fiction. Instead, we get the sort of infodumps and gratuitous shifts in units of measurement (decaseconds! Kiloseconds! Hours! Days!) that drive me nuts reading David Weber's work - without the development of interesting characters and plotlines that keep me reading Weber despite those irritations. I also can't for the life of me don't understand why, if the Integration has not one, but two techniques for taking over enemy ships, they're even bothering with conventional weapons at all. Compared with those issues, the other problems (such as a five-minute battle requiring an 8% boost in the CO2 scrubbers, or "the engine compartment crew" being ordered to "maintain communications dark") are minor, but do show sloppiness in writing and editing.

Note that Vox Day edited Riding the Red Horse, and in his introduction said it "just might be my favorite story in this collection". This doesn't say very good things about Day's editing skills.

This goes well below No Award.

Originally posted at http://edschweppe.dreamwidth.org/193732.html - comment wherever you please.

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