Datafall: Collected Speculative Fiction by Rich Larson

On Books: Datafall:
Collected Speculative Fiction

Technology is sinister.

Technology is the ultimate child: the perfect replacement, the next generation human, Homo infinitum. Even the Macbook this review is being typed on is a reminder of every human’s innate relative slowness, weakness, and stupidity. But as disturbing as the thought of being replaced by Google seems, it’s preferable to the inverse. Technology is also the impossible adult: the parent who gives us everything we could ever have possibly wanted, without consequences, without moral censure, and without abatement. It’s mom re-engineered and dad rebuilt. The perfect butler. The ultimate jailer.

Rich Larson, author of Datafall: Collected Speculative Fiction

In Datafall: Collected Speculative Fiction, Rich Larson explores the entrapment of humanity by technology. Each tale is an ideological Trojan horse set in a familiar, hyperactive future where silicon is at least as much a given as gravity and oxygen. Humanity distorts around its monstrous machines until it is only recognizable by its struggle against them.

The improvements people have made to themselves in Datafall must originally have been conceived as conveniencestelepathy, downloadable muscle memory, digital booze. But far from turning Earth into a Utopia, these innovations simply complicate. A murderer escapes judgment by turning himself into a computer. Flocks of wifi hotspots shower Internet access on those few lucky enough to encounter them. A savvy businesswoman trusts so much of herself to her implants that she fails to notice a human threat.

The future is not a place for the faint of heart or mind. This is still our world in all of its grayscale glory; nothing has been righted, but everything has been changed. Once you’ve got implants in your amygdala, just try going back.

Larson’s voice is natural, even while dealing with the most wildly speculative themes, and he’s made an extra effort to make his characters seem extra human Everyone readers meet in Datafall is unique and plausible. The experience of immersion in a hectic swarm of technological “improvements” is consistently vivid and well-imagined, drawing on sci-fi tradition while forging into new territory. Readers will enjoy the short escape from their humdrum, old iPhones. Datafall is at most a few hours’ read, but thanks to Larson’s extraordinary descriptive powers, each story will remain with the reader long after they finish.

While the opening and closing tales were both strong examples of the genre and of good solid writing, some of the works collected in Datafall are slightly rocky plot-wise. “Back So Soon,” for example, just sort of wraps up with the object d’amour doubling as deus ex machina. And “The Garden” is a gleefully visceral piece, but one character’s insanity feels slightly contrived. It becomes a weak point that jars badly with the heavy sensuality of another character’s suffering.

When these lapses occur, it’s easy to overlook them. They are minor sins next to the otherwise entertaining fare: thin points in a plot not necessarily thin enough to break the reader out of the story. And sci-fi fans are used to suspending belief in favor of a good story. One of the advantages of a collection of short stories is that the writer has multiple chances to get it right. In this case, weak stories were bolstered by their companion stories thanks to the strong and well-treated common theme.

Larson is an obviously a talented author with good vision and a future in the business. His short stories have appeared in The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Word Riot, Monkeybicycle, >kill author, and Isotropic Fiction. Readers should have a gander at Datafallonly three bucks on Amazon, well worth the fun. And be sure to look for Larson’s future work.

Isotropic Fiction DingbatDatafall: Collected Speculative Fiction
Rich Larson
Kindle Direct (August 05, 2012)

Anna Call is a librarian and educator. She holds degrees in both creative writing and information science. After working in the private sector for a number of years, she returned to public librarianship in March of 2012. She currently works for a small rural library on the North Shore of the greater Boston area. Her interest in speculative fiction and film is rooted in the work of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.

Anna writes for both Isotropic Fiction and The Big Brown Chair. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts.


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