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Author Topic: EP207: Wonder Maul Doll  (Read 9068 times)
eytanz
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« Reply #20 on: August 03, 2009, 02:42:02 AM »

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?

The use of the term "organics" was really, really poorly chosen.

The "bad guys" were people who were genetically modified and, as a side effect, had some sort of dangerous substance in their body. The substance was called "organic sludge", and thus the people were called "organics". Every character was actually organic in the way we would use the term - the story redefined it without explaining it which was a major pain in the ass.

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

See above.

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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?

The "muscle" were the soldiers, the "brains" were the officers/political brass. I think this was supposed to represent a war situation where the officers are really removed from the soliders on the ground - the soldiers get orders, but no oversight, so they just go around killing people. The officers are led by political motivations - it was clearly in the interests of whoever sent them that they find "organics" - and don't really care about the facts. So they just ignore the fact that the "muscle" fail to find any evidence of organics, declare the city contaminated, and kill everyone in it.

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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 had the same reaction.

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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

I think the story was trying to make a political anti-war point, in which there is no real distinction between winning and losing. This can lead to a very interesting story, but this story was so obfuscated as to make it totally pointless.
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Talia
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« Reply #21 on: August 03, 2009, 10:38:30 AM »

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

Sounded to me like they were winning, and in some ways, their goverment was using the concept of these alien combatants or whatever as scare tactics to permit aggressive military action.
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Zathras
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« Reply #22 on: August 03, 2009, 05:11:36 PM »

I didn't finish this story.  I tried again today, but just couldn't get into it.  I can't say why exactly.
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DKT
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« Reply #23 on: August 03, 2009, 06:25:32 PM »

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

Sounded to me like they were winning, and in some ways, their goverment was using the concept of these alien combatants or whatever as scare tactics to permit aggressive military action.

Or maybe it was right around the turning point of the war?
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robertmarkbram
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« Reply #24 on: August 03, 2009, 06:55:43 PM »

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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?

The "muscle" were the soldiers, the "brains" were the officers/political brass. I think this was supposed to represent a war situation where the officers are really removed from the soliders on the ground - the soldiers get orders, but no oversight, so they just go around killing people. The officers are led by political motivations - it was clearly in the interests of whoever sent them that they find "organics" - and don't really care about the facts. So they just ignore the fact that the "muscle" fail to find any evidence of organics, declare the city contaminated, and kill everyone in it.

I see now. I thought at the time that the muscle had discovered some new form of the enemy (which I thought were related to the bugs)..

That clears up the point of the story to me - the brains didn't care if the enemy were there or not: just blow it up!

This story should have clearer about what the enemy was and what the risks were to society. Then maybe the point would have been clearer that "in war, we become worse than the enemy".
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JoeFitz
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« Reply #25 on: August 23, 2009, 07:45:47 AM »

Dark, gritty and dystopic. Surprised myself and enjoyed it quite a bit.

I did not have problems with most of the items identified above. I took "organics" to be a MacGuffin and I guessed immediately that the girls found in the whole were going to die and were not going to be "organics" but I did not guess that the soldiers would cover it up.

This story struck me as an intentionally pointless military exercise from which nothing was gained or learned. The soldiers are really not differentiated, and they are not really affected by the events, and certainly do not learn from them. It made reasonable sense in that context that the soldier's experience was never subject to analysis by the "brains" so nothing ever came of their missions. Of course, if it had been done correctly by an effective force, it would have failed its political objective.

As for the villager's rock killing the soldier, I surmised that the solders were wearing "slicks" which were merely impermeable plastic-like material. After all, the weaponry of the soldiers consists of a spray that melts skin, it makes sense to me that their protection guards against that rather than say, projectiles.
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Kanasta
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« Reply #26 on: August 29, 2009, 07:56:35 AM »

I understood this to be the  complete opposite to eytanz's reading. To me, this was set in a world where genetic modification was the standard. "Organics" were rebels who had chosen to remain natural, unmodified- and I guess this was considered unacceptable. When they were cut open, the sludge inside was just your normal mess of entrails, whereas if you cut open a non-organic, presumably it would all be a lot neater in there as organs would have been replaced with tech, etc.
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stePH
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« Reply #27 on: August 29, 2009, 09:41:25 AM »

I just noticed that the title can be reducted to the initials "WMD".  Coincidence?
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Jagash
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« Reply #28 on: August 29, 2009, 11:36:54 AM »

I loved the mood of the piece and the world building, though the characterization seemed lacking to my eyes.
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ComicBookGoddess
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« Reply #29 on: October 01, 2009, 09:43:22 PM »

I'd assumed that "organics" was a military nickname for "organic weapons" - meaning that they thought that the girls had been bioengineered as either a sort of human explosive or a biological weapons delivery system.  This would be in keeping with both the Vietnam and Iraqi war themes - suicide bombing taken another step, with even the girls unaware of whether they may be that weapon.
I feel the need to take issue with the idea that the narrator didn't change over the course of the story.  She did change, just not in the way we hope.  Even though her beliefs and attitudes are reprehensible to begin with, she actually became worse - we can tell from the reactions of her surviving squadmates that she hasn't quite gone this far before. She stepped over the line, and let her experiences wash over and confirm the monster she becomes - a monster that her government's policies are providing fertile ground in which to grow.
Oh, and WMD - good catch, I'd missed that one.  Grin  Very nice.

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Gamercow
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« Reply #30 on: October 12, 2009, 02:07:26 PM »

Overall, this was a disappointment.  I didn't make a connection with any of the characters on either side, and while the grittiness of the situation and setting made it through, I just didn't care what happened to anyone by the end of the story.  This may have contributed to my confusion with the various characters.  And like others have said, it seemed forced to me.  4/10
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #31 on: May 03, 2010, 11:46:50 AM »

I listened to the whole thing, but I couldn't stand this story.

1.  The title sounds so cool and then leads nowhere interesting.  It's not as bad as Evil Robot Monkey, because in that case, it gave a clear promise that was never fulfilled.  In this case it gave a cool-sounding but ultimately unreadable promise and the actual payout didn't turn out to be that cool after all.  It was all just based on the arbitrary naming of the disposable kids, which had no real effect on plot or character, just a throwaway paragraph about their naming becomes the title.

And I hadn't considered the WMD connection until stePH pointed it out.  Now I dislike the story even more. 

2.  The term "organics" was unexplained, and that really hindered my understanding of the point of the story.  Clearly the soldiers were organic, due to various clues, but at the beginning I assumed they were constructs of some kind.  They can tell the kids are organic (supposedly) on sight, but I just assumed that's because they had flesh, instead of being metallic.  Other interpretations upwards in the comments thread make more sense, but this was a major stopping point.  Then at the end, it reveals they weren't organics after all, and since "organic" had STILL never been explained, I just had to take their word for it.  Okay, I've been told they're organic, now I've been told they're not organic--was I supposed to be shocked by the turn of events in apparently arbitrary labeling?

3.  The protagonists were so unrelatable, I felt like I needed to scrub out my brain with a pumice stone to get their clinging residue off of my psyche.  I like to have someone to root for.
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