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Author Topic: EP204: The Fifth Zhi  (Read 8481 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: June 18, 2009, 04:09:17 PM »

EP204: The Fifth Zhi

By Mercurio D. Rivera.
Read by Steve Eley.
First appeared in Interzone.

Zhi 4’s scream pierces the Siberian night.

My spiked metal boots crunch through the snow as I race towards him, with Zhi 6 running at my side. The nanochip in my brainstem clicks on, and I reach out with my mind, but I can’t sense even a trace of Zhi 4. A few seconds earlier his form had been outlined by the dark turquoise glow of the force field.

We stop twenty feet short of the field’s perimeter. Beyond it, the hazy silhouette of the colossal Stalk looms, its millions of cilia undulating.

My bodysuit hums as it transmits data back to Xiang Xu Base, situated behind the Rusanov ice cap half a mile away.

My pulse flutters in anticipation and I take a deep breath to try to rein in my excitement. I — like all Zhis — have been designed with an insatiable curiosity about the Stalk’s origins and vulnerabilities. Knowing I’ve been bred to feel this way doesn’t make me feel it any less. Where did the Stalk come from? Why is it here? How can it thrive in these temperatures? I see the same questions reflected in Zhi 6’s expression.


Rated PG-13 for cloning and some adult themes.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: September 10, 2009, 12:26:53 PM by Russell Nash » Logged
Yargling
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« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2009, 07:56:27 AM »

Great story, really interesting to consider the concept of non-mass based sentience - and given dark matter seems to be 90% of the matter universe, it seems possible that some form of life within the realms of dark matter or dark energy
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Nobilis
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« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2009, 06:00:48 PM »

Listening to this, I got a very strange feeling of deja vu.  But that might just be a holdover memory from my clone-father.
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Praxis
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« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2009, 05:47:08 PM »

So......the earth's pretty much over after the stalk, yes?

Or would we not be engulfed in vast, deep lava flows?
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Nobilis
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« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2009, 08:48:45 PM »

The story said that the only global effect of the Stalk was the nightmares.  No earthquakes, no volcanoes, even though there should have been.
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« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2009, 04:11:30 PM »

For the first 10-15 minutes I expected Zhi to somehow change to jack.... Anyway, I found this to be an alright story but for some reason it didn't hit my buttons. I think it probably has to do with the fact that the main character had problems with his father and I can't relate. It made the story more foreign than I think was intended. I also think that the part of the story that I  might have enjoyed more, the cloning, took kind of a backseat to the father idea.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2009, 08:51:55 PM »

Great story, worked for me on several levels.  The father stuff did work for me - I can completely relate - my father is a distracted scientist type who was very hard to please.  I really liked the atmosphere of the story too, and the strange alien plant thing.  I was curious about the mystery of it, and the feeling kind of harked back to the Golden Age of Science Fiction - which is to say, when I was 8 years old.  It just evoked that sense of wonder.

So ya, big thumbs up here!
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Listener
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« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2009, 09:03:13 AM »

I didn't really like the story. It was pretty well-written, and interesting, and the way the Stalk thinks and the reason it's there is interesting too, but I didn't actually like the story, per se. Can't really explain it.

Kudos to the author for vomit-tech.

Michael Crichton, in "Sphere" via the character of Norman, asked what would happen if aliens came to our planet and breathed air but excreted toxic gas... or something similarly alien, so alien that it was impossible to understand or killed us inadvertently. I rather think the Stalk wasn't trying to hurt us; it was just trying to learn more. About a race that, when children repeatedly ask "why", has been known to ask its offspring to "go play with your toys and stop asking so many questions".

Interestingly, Norman's focus group in "Sphere" also was overseen by a general who came in, read the report, looked at the alien they'd "created" for the purpose of their exercise, and said "where's the anus?" I read "Sphere" when I was 12 or so, and that made me laugh.
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Praxis
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« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2009, 12:53:57 PM »

The story said that the only global effect of the Stalk was the nightmares.  No earthquakes, no volcanoes, even though there should have been.

Yes, I listened to you the story too.

I wiz meaning, after the stalk is killed off (and it has no way to mitigate the effects of its presence on/in the earth), there would be possibly, a pretty big hole through the earth, unless the stalk was not really displacing anything.

I thought this was one of the better EP stories for a while.  Well paced and an interesting main character (if you don't count Mr Stalk as the main character Tongue  )

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Praxis
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« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2009, 01:03:25 PM »

Michael Crichton, in "Sphere" via the character of Norman, asked what would happen if aliens came to our planet and breathed air but excreted toxic gas... or something similarly alien, so alien that it was impossible to understand or killed us inadvertently.

I think that is why I thought this story was so engaging, even if it did take till late in the story before it was made explicit: 
we meet alien life only, being alien, it is pretty much impossible to relate to in any way, good or bad.
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MacArthurBug
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« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2009, 11:36:28 PM »

really odd good bit of fic. It threw me for a spin. The ending was skin tingling.
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« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2009, 02:31:32 PM »

I hope Zhi 5 had a happily ever after existance of traversing the universe with his alien buddy. It's hard to tell.
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deflective
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« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2009, 03:37:56 PM »

i enjoyed the scope of this one, bizarre stuff happened and interesting concepts were explored.

after the stalk is killed off (and it has no way to mitigate the effects of its presence on/in the earth), there would be possibly, a pretty big hole through the earth, unless the stalk was not really displacing anything.

this is a reasonable explanation, it did come from a massless existence.  as mentioned in an earlier post, there was a sentence about the stalk not having expected effects on the planet (the core may have stopped spinning!!!) so it's probably something the author didn't worried about.  i appreciate it when authors takes a moment to acknowledge that parts of their story aren't fully thought out since it can save frustration on the reader's part.

it looks like ep's 'dehumanized constructed consciousness month' was arranged to culminate on father's day.  not sure what to make of that.  this year, as well as collect calls, fathers get a full month of neglected and discounted offspring striving for acceptance.

this particular story seems to have a strong theme of god as a surrogate father figure.
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« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2009, 12:06:51 AM »

The stalk and the clones were good ol' ideas-based, mind expanding SF.  The father issues and the idea that that even though a giant alien comes to Earth, gives everyone nightmares and kills people, it is we who are the enemy, kind of tired to me and not very interesting. 

Yes, I like "good ol'" and don't like "tired."  Make of that what you will. 
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2009, 06:15:46 AM »

Yes, I like "good ol'" and don't like "tired."  Make of that what you will. 

Man, you're a pain in the ass.   Cool
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wakela
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« Reply #15 on: June 29, 2009, 06:27:41 PM »

Yes, I like "good ol'" and don't like "tired."  Make of that what you will. 

Man, you're a pain in the ass.   Cool

Yeah, but you're a real sack of peaches, Rus. Grin
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2009, 02:55:46 AM »

Yes, I like "good ol'" and don't like "tired."  Make of that what you will. 

Man, you're a pain in the ass.   Cool

Yeah, but you're a real sack of peaches, Rus. Grin

Don't you forget it!
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Planish
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« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2009, 02:37:50 AM »

I didn't really like the story. It was pretty well-written, and interesting, and the way the Stalk thinks and the reason it's there is interesting too, but I didn't actually like the story, per se. Can't really explain it.
Me neither. There were a couple of interesting ideas, in some of the details. I couldn't root for any of the characters, (the zhi were what, clones? robots? cyborgs?) and the ending (such as it was) was a non-sequiteur, like the police arresting everybody at the end of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

No, I take that back. MPatHG had hints of the arrest all through the movie.
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izzardfan
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« Reply #18 on: July 17, 2009, 04:46:30 AM »

I'm really getting tired of the "authority figure doesn't believe the hero and tries to prevent his actions, even though we know the hero's right" thing.*  It's a really annoying and tired plot device.  I'm no writer, but can't they think of something else?

An example (spoiler, highlight text to read):  I've been watching Merlin on NBC, and in one episode, King Uther tries to keep Arthur from going after a rare flower to use as an antidote to a poison.  Without it, Merlin, who drank the poison, will die.  Even though Arthur retrieves the flower successfully, upon his return, Uther throws him in the dungeon and crushes the flower, saying "Maybe someday you'll learn to do things the RIGHT way." There's got to be a better way to bring drama to the story.
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Darwinist
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« Reply #19 on: July 21, 2009, 06:46:08 PM »

Loved it.  Crazy, misunderstood alien sitting in the snow.  Wish we would have something like that show up in MN in January to spice things up a bit.
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