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Author Topic: EP207: Wonder Maul Doll  (Read 4799 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: July 19, 2009, 11:55:30 AM »

EP207: Wonder Maul Doll

By Kameron Hurley.
Read by Kim the Comic Book Goddess.
Appeared originally in From the Trenches.

We set down in Pekoi as part of the organics inquisition team, still stinking of the last city. We’re all muscle. Not brains. The brains are out eating at the foreigners’ push downtown, and they don’t care if we whore around the tourist dregs half the night so long as somebody’s sober enough to haul them out come morning. When the brains aren’t eating, they’re pretending to give us directions in the field, telling us where to sniff out organics. They’re writing reports about how dangerous Pekoi is to the civilized world.

We’re swapping off some boy in a backwater push the locals cleared out for us. We’re sitting around a low table. I pass off another card to Kep. Luce swaps out a suit. She has to sit on one leg to lean over the table. It’s hot in the low room, so humid that moths clutter aroundour feet, too heavy to fly.

The boy’s making little mewling sounds again. Somebody should shut him up, but not me. This is my hand. I’m ahead.


Rated R for violence and sexual situations.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Swamp
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« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2009, 04:35:43 PM »

Not a fan of this one, for many reasons, but not because of the "violence and sexual situations".  I'm not that warm to military sf to start with (though I do like some), but the plot seemed very uninteresting to me.  Then, I learn that the story was just trying to prove that women can be just as rough, tough, and nasty as men.  So, no wonder...what's interesting about that?  The flesh-eating bugs were cool though.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2009, 04:46:38 PM »

"It's Iraq... but in SPACE!  And with women soldiers!"

Ya, didn't work for me either.  As my politics are very anti-war, I didn't teach me anything or change my views on anything (I already agree) and it wasn't enjoyable either.
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Doom xombie
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« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2009, 08:39:09 PM »

All i really understood from this story was that there were rough, nasty women that were looking for people with stuff inside them. There's only one way to tell if this stuff is in them, and that process involves killing the suspect. There are hostile natives which are stereotypically putting up a fight against the better trained better armored foreign force. They find out they were wrong and end up killing 3 girls. They show no emotional response. I hate them by the end of the story. Its been mentioned here before that violence has to be "earned" through having a strong plot/characters/idea. This didn't have any of those in my mind and therefore the violence was nasty, uncalled for, and unearned.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2009, 11:39:16 PM by Doom xombie » Logged

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Praxis
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« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2009, 03:18:48 PM »

This was not a good story.


[edit:  See EP208 for how a well charactered, atmospheric, structured and paced story is written.]
« Last Edit: July 24, 2009, 06:22:50 PM by Praxis » Logged
Darwinist
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« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2009, 06:43:00 PM »

Oh, jeez.  Just a little too over the top for me.  Too much violence against little people.  Those were someone's kids they were digging around in. 
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Void Munashii
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« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2009, 01:26:57 PM »

  While the trip was entertaining enough, I was left totally unsatisfied at the end. it was just dark and violent for the sake of being dark and violent with melting flesh and killer bugs thrown in for the sci-fi factor. I didn't hate the story, I just felt a little let down by it

  I was also unimpressed with the explanation that the reason they are women was to demonstrate that women can be just as big a bunch of bastards as men can. The whole riff about having wombs removed and restored was completely lost on me. The women-can-be-tough-too type of story has been done before and better on EP.
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DKT
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« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2009, 05:24:46 PM »

Personally, I dig all the things that were left open and unexplained. Sure, I know the authors reason for making the soldiers all women, but I don't know what the worldbuilding behind it was, and that kind of intrigues me.

And, oh, did I like the worldbuilding in this one. Slicks. Biting off a bug's head. Sprays that dissolve people's heads. Yeah, this one was pretty dark and brutal.

Excellent reading, too. The clipped dialogue and sentences seems like it would be a hard thing to get across in audio, but the Comic Book Goddess did a pretty fantastic job of it.

Not my favorite, mind. I did have a hard time keeping track of who was alive and who had died and it's difficult to empahtize when I have little sympathy for the protagonists, but it was a decent way to pass the commute and I'm glad I got the chance to hear it.
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Talia
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« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2009, 08:41:33 PM »

I liked it. Gritty and disturbing. Th eending was telling, I thought, just how - dehumanized, if the warriors were even human to begin with, the lead character had become. All cold ruthlessness, that one.

creepy.
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wakela
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« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2009, 03:05:52 AM »

I agree with most of the comments above.  War stories are much more interesting when there is some moral ambiguity, but this didn't have any.  It could have taken place just as easily in Vietnam or Iraq.

The short and similarly structured sentences got repetitive.

It felt like there was a cheat with the "organics."  The author dropped us into the world without explaining anything, making us play catch-up, which I do not have a problem with.  We knew that the soldliers had not found any organics after being in this place for a long time.  Then they come across those girls in the tunnel, and they all know that they have found organics.  Why?  Well, since I've been left in the dark about most details in the story, I assume that the author has something in mind.  If organics can be easily and obviously detected, the soldiers wouldn't bother explaining how they knew about them in a story like this.  Fine.  But the kicker at the end is that the girls didn't have organics.  So why did the soliders think they did?  Why isn't there a test if these things are so important?  This felt like a cheap way to have a solider cut open a poor little girl for no good reason.

This led me to a bit of a Writer's Insight.  If you are writing a story in which details are going to go over the reader's head, you still need to keep track of them yourself.  The reader is trusting you to. "Ah-hah.  Tricked you!  You thought there were organics in the girls, didn't you."  Well, only because you told me there were.  The reader puts trust in the author in a story like this than in a regular story where everything is explained. 

Though I did think that, while so much military SF is full of super-powerful soliders, the weakness of these soldiers was interesting.  Instead of power armor they wear "slicks" and instead of megawatt plasma rifles, they use "spray."  Two of the soliders are killed by stick-figure villagers with rocks and bugs.  I wonder if the soldiers were weak because of the frailty of the people they are fighting.  Had soldiers become weaker and weaker over the years as civilization declined?  Or was it just in this one case?  I don't know if this was intentional, but it was an aspect of this world that I thought was interesting. 
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Listener
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« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2009, 07:38:36 AM »

Steve made all the points I was going to make.

Ocicat echoed them.

DKT mentioned that he wanted to know more about the worldbuilding, and so did I -- especially the bugs.

Overall I didn't really like the story. It was TOO deep down in there, with NO explanations for anything.

The details/grittiness were done well, though.
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thomasowenm
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« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2009, 02:53:19 PM »

I felt lost from the first word.  It felt not like a story but more like a student piece where the teacher said to create a scene with a strong female antihero and a lot of action.  There were too many assumptions the author made with regard to our knowledge of his world.       
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Planish
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« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2009, 04:10:29 AM »

... that were looking for people with stuff inside them. There's only one way to tell if this stuff is in them, and that process involves killing the suspect.
You had an advantage over me. I didn't get that until the end (which made for a long boring listen). Even then, there was no clue as to why it was important. For a long time I was half thinking that maybe the natives themselves were the "organics" and the soldiers were (non-organic) robots or something, except for the reference to the wombs and the reactions to bug bites.

If the point was to show how the ladies could be just as badass as the guys, then it could have been a much shorter and different story.

Quote
I felt lost from the first word.  It felt not like a story but more like a student piece where the teacher said to create a scene with a strong female antihero and a lot of action.  There were too many assumptions the author made with regard to our knowledge of his world.

Yeah, like that. How was it that the soldiers were all women, or what was the nature of the "organics"?
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Katie
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« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2009, 05:39:13 PM »

Thanks for the warning label on this one. I didn't heed it, but probably should have. I respect the author for dragging us to such a relentlessly nasty place, but I wish I'd gotten off of this ride sooner.
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2009, 05:24:47 AM »

Brutal, which is not a bad thing for me; but ultimately pointless for all of the reasons stated above.  I would like to hear more stories about female characters handling difficult situations, but this was just so forced. 

This is also the second time we've had a story that used this same technique.  The earlier one, the name of which I can't come up with, had a halfway house for essentially the soldiers from this story.  The science used to justify female soldiers in that story was also forced. 

These two stories were the Sarah Palin of military-SF short fiction.  I have no problem with a story about women, but seriously is this the best we can do??  Just like there are better female politicians; there have got to be better stories about women soldiers. 
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izzardfan
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« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2009, 02:26:11 PM »

I agree, as well, with most of the negative comments.  I do like Kim's voice reading this, but at times when the text called for whispering, she was so quiet I missed what was said, and with the unexplained and unfamiliar terms, it just added to the confusion.  I am biased in that I hate military SF, but I never skip over an EP story just for that.  I give everything at least a chance to entertain me.  This was an epic fail.  The story Russell mentioned about the halfway house (Elites, forum folder here) was way more interesting than this, even though it, too, failed for me.
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #16 on: August 01, 2009, 10:56:43 AM »

The story Russell mentioned about the halfway house (Elites, forum folder here) was way more interesting than this, even though it, too, failed for me.

Thank you.
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izzardfan
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« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2009, 03:50:33 AM »

The story Russell mentioned about the halfway house (Elites, forum folder here) was way more interesting than this, even though it, too, failed for me.

Thank you.

You're quite welcome.   Smiley

I had to go find it, once it was mentioned (OCD with me), but I was so surprised to find it had been over a year since it was posted.  It didn't seem that long.
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koosie
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« Reply #18 on: August 02, 2009, 05:25:32 PM »

I'm intensely squeamish, so I found this pretty disturbing and it rather reminded me of my reaction to Norman Spinrad's The Men in the Jungle which also has an interesting take on the dehumanizing effect of gung-ho logic. A good story though and I wasn't too taken aback the lack of background information about what was actually going on as by the end you have a complete enough picture.

As for the all-women soldiery thing, I thought that was pretty appropriate given that males are increasingly biologically surplass to requirements now that artificial sperm is close to a reality. There is of course an excellent depiction of all-female army in Alan Moore's The Ballad of Halo Jones. Book 3.
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robertmarkbram
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« Reply #19 on: August 02, 2009, 11:25:38 PM »

I wanted to like this story - I generally enjoy military SF, but I was just too confused.

I didn't understand who/what the bad guys were. Bugs? Organic humans?

Why were they looking for "organics" when the soldiers were obviously organic themselves? (They had wombs.. they needed water..)

I wasn't satisfied with the distinction between "brains" and "muscle", nor could I understand the kind of structure they were working within. Why would the "brains" let the "muscle" go off on some planet by themselves and then ignore feedback from "grunts/muscle" about changed conditions with regards to the enemy?

At first I was expecting the "muscle" to be little more than automatons.. then I upgraded them to grunts from "Starship Troopers" or maybe even Aliens.. but then one of them got killed BY A ROCK!?? Come on!!

I also got conflicting notions about whether our protagonists were winning or losing the war. It sounded like they were losing because they had lost whole troops and part of their own troop died, but at the same time they didn't seem scared of the enemy they were looking for. Sad
« Last Edit: August 02, 2009, 11:39:58 PM by robertmarkbram » Logged

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