Lee Lackey’s Zomb-eh Review

 “Random Fire” by Van Aaron Hughes

Undisclosed Government Facility


GWMT 1400 hours

Preface:  Researchers attempting to follow up on my work should read the previous set of notes here.

Notes of Dr. Celebus:

I have been given permission to give the test subject another short story.  His reaction to the last one elicited profound possibilities for control of those contaminated by our secret virus, should it get loose.  Until we verify the mechanisms of the vicarious nourishment provided by literary works, I am to keep all of this a secret from basic military personnel.  It is believed they may cut our funding if they discover such an easy solution to the problem they created.

Until such time as we can determine these principles, our test subject shall go by the code name Hermes.  Let us hope our messenger to the underworld can give us insight into the workings of the mind after death.

The story today is “Random Fire” by Van Aaron Hughes, in the 2011 4th quarter edition of Abyss & Apex.

Test Subject 3X22, Codename:  Hermes

Urrgghhh—why did you have to put me in the central holding tanks yesterday?  It reminded me of a junior high dance; everyone just shuffled around avoiding eye contact, occasionally grunting.  No one else can even speak.

Wait, is this another story tossed upon the floor?  It’s covered in gory bits now.  Crisp, black and white pages smeared with crimson.  Oh well.  It’s better than attempting conversation with my peers in the holding tank.

It is a fairly obvious scifi story, with the infodump at the beginning.  Not badly done here, but too much to take in at once.

The idea is solid, a variation on the famous double-slit light experiment, but with attempts to excuse devolving into paranoia and dream-like images.  Not a lot is explained, especially about the macro-affecting technology itself—typically a no-no for scifi.

The choice of a diary/stream-of-consciousness narrative sticks the main character right to you, although he isn’t memorable.  He’s a ladder-climbing scientist with a newly-born daughter.  That’s it.  He’d taste like a package of crackers:  okay, so long as you have something to wash him down.  The other characters don’t help with that, though.

The characters don’t draw me into the story, although the idea could, if communicated better.  The author’s mind would remind me of asparagus:  nutritious and served at fine restaurants, but bland.

End transcription

Addendum-Dr. Celebus:

That philistine!  He obviously missed the conflict between the character’s work and home life, echoed in the light beam trying to be in two places (or two times) at once.  I may educate him on the personal impact of quantum physics with my standard-issue taser.

Ultimately, this story put him through two feeding cycles.  The nutritional qualities would be enhanced if death and the virus had not degraded his cognitive abilities.

Rating:  Two out of five brains.