Friday, March 20, 2015

The Grand Jete, by Rachel Swirsky

Rachel Swirsky is a very reliable award nominee, it seems like I have reviewed a story of hers every year.  They are always good literary stories, and The Grand Jete is no exception.  The speculative piece is a robot avatar--a capture of a person in robot form, developed for military use.  It is a rather light framework for the story, concerning the relationship between a dying girl and her engineer father.  The cultural exploration is Jewish--the father tries to keep Shabbat and kosher, but they bend the rules significantly, particularly to accommodate her illness.

It's a fascinating and difficult exploration, told from both the father and daughter perspective.  The father intends to keep the robot as a replacement for his dying daughter, but in order to complete the process must have her permission.  We see what she goes through as she considers this.

The story has a little bit of a feeling like it's both speculative and dated.  We have a household run by AI (only a mild enhancement of Google Now) but it is exercised mostly to play DVDs.  It's in keeping with the household and the father, though--he is a tinkerer and has patched together the household components.

Overall, I give it a strong 3 stars for literary value.  Enjoy

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