Ed Schweppe (edschweppe) wrote,
Ed Schweppe

Hugo Nominees - "On A Spiritual Plain"

I'll start my reviews of this year's Hugo Award nominees with the short-story nominations, going in alphabetical order (not coincidentally, the order in which the nominees are listed on the Hugo ballot).

Title: "On a Spiritual Plain"
Author: Lou Antonelli
Published in: Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014
Slates: Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies

Synopsis: Our (unnamed) narrator is the chaplain assigned to the only Terran base on the planet Ymilas. The natives (called Ymilans) have a "genuinely unique" religion, as the spirits of dead Ymilans stick around for an additional six generations. When the first Terran dies (due to getting his helmet smashed open and his temple crushed by a wayward shipping container), his ghost finds itself stuck on the planet, and (naturally) goes to see the chaplain. The ghost and the chaplain join a Ymilan pilgrimage to the North Pole, where the polar magnetic vortex allows spirits to dissipate.

My reactions: It's an interesting concept, and the writing isn't particularly terrible. The "Faraday segway" was particularly neat. However, the world-building kicked me out of the story several times, starting with the claim that a planet which has "an energetic planetary core" and "a very strong magnetic field" would also be "spectacularly bereft of minerals useful to Terrans". I also couldn't buy the idea that a fifty-person base would have a full-time chaplain - I spent four years on a US Navy submarine with a crew of well over a hundred, and we didn't come anywhere near rating an assigned chaplain - let alone a large-enough transportation office to support multiple low-level clerks, plus at least one bar (as we discover at story's end). There's also a very sloppy bit about how 1:4:9 is supposedly the "Golden Mean" (by which I presumed Antonelli meant φ, the Golden Ratio). And how, exactly, does one get from a base "near the equator" to the North Pole of an even vaguely Earth-sized planet at a walking pace in only twelve days?

This could have been really good with a fairly small amount of editing. As it stands, though, it's pretty bad, and is going below No Award on my ballot.

Originally posted at http://edschweppe.dreamwidth.org/192433.html - comment wherever you please.
Tags: hugos

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