Friday, April 14, 2017

Runtime, by S. B. Divya

Runtime is the next to last of the Nebula Novella nominees I will read this year, unless they make John P. Murphy's "The Liar" available for free somewhere.  It's a fairly straightforward YA level competition story in the mid-future range.  Our protagonist is Marmeg, born "unlicensed" but later purchased, who is trying to get by on hacking while she arranges for a college degree in a (somewhat) robot proof area--elder care.  But she dreams of professional racing, specifically physically augmented off-road running.  She sets her sights on the Sierra Madre Minerva race, where placing would set her up financially.  She's up against much more sophisticated competitors though, so her odds are long.

This one is really different from any others I've read, or probably will read, this year.  The language is very plain and the description sparce.  It's very straight up reporting, even though it's told in the first person so we know what Marmeg (Mary Margaret) is thinking.  Smart termaexoskeletons that are reprogrammable are pretty much current day.  But there's some forward social thinking, particularly in the way she comfortably handles how the future will refer to transgender people.  She thinks discussion of income inequality and immigration will remain current 30 years from now, and I think she's right.

The best part for me is how real her characters end up being, even though they are described in very simple terms.   Marmeg gets both good and bad breaks, people are both devious and generous, all in a very realistic way.  There's tremendous potential here, because Divya has real talent for how to construct a story.

I highly recommend reading this story, it's simple but an eye opener.  4 stars for flashes of brilliance, from me.

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