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Author Topic: EP373: Chandra’s Game  (Read 1674 times)
eytanz
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« on: December 08, 2012, 12:31:19 PM »

EP373: Chandra’s Game

By Samantha Henderson

Read by Mur Lafferty

---

Joey Straphos, Papa Joe, told me once that Chandra’s Game is a bitch of a city, fickle but generous when the mood strikes her.  But Papa Joe was a romantic.

Chandra’s Game roots in the side of a barren asteroid moon like a tick.  Over the years we’ve burrowed deeper into rock and ice until poor Chandra is mostly Game.  We loop the twin wormholes, Gehenna and Tartarus, roundabout in a figure eight, ready to catch the freighters as they escape from hell’s dark maw.  We strip them of goods and drink their heat, load them up and send them into another hell.  It’s a profitable game, Chandra’s.

My mother smuggled me into Chandra’s Game without patronage and compounded her error by dying without permission; I was Terra-born unless she was lying, which was likely enough.  I joined the other unregistereds down in the Warrens: ferals that lived off the Mayor’s Dole and by odd-jobs when that wasn’t enough.  Papa Joe fed us, and sometimes the tunnels were glorious with the smell of meat, and if you were smart or hungry enough you didn’t ask from what.  Where there’s humanity there are rats, and Joey wasn’t a rich man, not then.  But food is food, and he’d bunk you if he could, and if all he asked in return for the latest Warren scuttlebutt or a few sticks of ephedrine off a freighter’s load, what of it?  Saints are few and far between in Chandra’s Game.

Papa Joe always liked me: I stayed a bit feral, tomboy—nothing like his daughters.  He had them late in life, when he got rich, and they were elegant, lux level creatures.  Not like Joey, not like Mrs. Joe.  She was quiet and kind, and if she knew a nano of Joey’s business she never let on.  When Gregor Straphos died I died a little.  But Mrs. Joe died all the way.

I’d been legit for years.  I still snooped, but in an upright way.  Helped the Company Men find bits of their loads that went astray between Gehenna and Tartarus, passed on Warren talk to the prefects when some smart kid got out of hand, pointed the way to speedwell labs that weren’t circumspect about what went into their product.  Nothing that would disturb the delicate balance between the business of the Family, the Companies and the Mayor.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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ToooooMuchCoffeeMan
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« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2012, 02:57:32 AM »

In plenty of pulp hard-boiled detective stories you can find the cliche, "the rug was so thick I worried it would swallow me before I could get to Mr. Big's desk". Add some sf, stir well, and voila!

Many flagella up!
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benjaminjb
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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2012, 09:14:37 PM »

Funny how easy it is to swap out "Chandra's Game" for "Chinatown," as in "Forget it, Jake--it's Chandra's Game." Which is kind of what I picture happening in the story: detective realizes the problem, but can't fix it.
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Listener
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« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2012, 10:17:55 AM »

As someone who's writing stories in a universe similar to this (getting close to subbing the first), I enjoyed listening to the way another author deals with future-slang and future-measurements. Sarah's epiphany as to what killed the councillor passed me by at first and then when she felt sick I was like... huh? Did I miss something? Also, I felt as though I needed a little more about the carpet dealer... he showed up too late to be an effective accessory to murder, at least in my eyes.

Overall, though, the story was fine. I may not remember it for anything particular, but I listened through the whole thing and never felt inclined to hit "skip", and lately for me that's a pretty big stamp of approval.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2012, 03:04:38 PM »

Generally I don't go much for police procedurals, because generally I just don't have the driving curiosity about how exactly the events went down to care much about the investigation of such.

However, this is been a spectacularly crappy week, and I feel like I enjoyed the story more as a result.  It got my minds off the crappiness for a little while, and while I was not any more excited about the details as usual, my mind is in no shape for a proper mental puzzle anyway, and the reveal of the carpet monsters was funny and entertaining enough that it served me well and amused me.
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« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2012, 05:18:16 PM »

I love hard boiled detective stories.  Hell, I'd piss Continental Op stories if I could.  So, I really wanted to love this story.  Alas, I only fair-to-middlin' liked it.  The description of life in the asteroid was cool.  Good evocation of a thriving underworld and black market economy.  Generally, I have slim patience for made-up future slang, but even that was well enough done to pass muster.  No, it was the "the carpets ate them!" ending where it all fell apart for me.  We hadn't hear enough to matter about the carpets or the carpet merchant for that ending to be satisfying.  Is foreshadowing the word I want?  Anyhow, the carnivorous carpets seemed like something the author came up with because she couldn't think of another way to bring things to a close.
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eytanz
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« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2012, 06:15:30 PM »

I remember once reading a criticism of Agatha Christie's mysteries that pointed out that in most of them, it is impossible for the reader to figure out who the murderer is, because the crux of the mystery relies on information the reader doesn't have (but miss Marple, or Poirot, or whomever, does).

This story had the same problem exactly. It's not that the carpets were not foreshadowed enough. They were not mentioned at all before the narrator figured out what happened. There is absolutely no way for the listener to figure out anything, since every bit of information we do get is irrelevant, and *all* the relevant information is hidden from us.

Now, there's a lot to like about this story - especially the setting which was well fleshed out and interesting. But at the end of the story I felt cheated, because I felt like I was promised a mystery and ended up with a cheap CG monster (and yes, the carpets were cheap CG even in my imagination).
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2012, 06:38:35 PM »

I'm with the general consensus here. The story was interesting to a point, I really liked the life on the the station descriptions, and the interactions with the characters were engaging. But the Carpet Munchers (too much?) came out of nowhere and left me wondering if I'd missed something earlier on. However, the story was not entertaining enough to make me want to go back and listen a second time to watch for clues.

I felt a bit cheated that the missing person was never actually found. There was so much assumption by pretty much every character that she was dead, that when she turned out to actually be dead I was disappointed.

Still, I didn't hate this story, it was fun. I wouldn't mind reading more in this vein of SF.
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« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2012, 04:03:32 AM »

I liked this one. It had rhythm, an engaging protagonist, attention to detail including about future language features, and a sense of humour. Unlike other commenters I do think the murderous carpet was being foreshadowed, in the description of Papa Joe's rooms, but in any event, the sudden deus-ex-machina and denouement isn't outside the conventions of the noir genre.
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jwbjerk
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« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2012, 05:01:29 PM »

I for one, started to suspect the carpet as soon as we got the flashback to when the protagonist's childhood friend disappeared. The friend who it is mentioned, liked to sleep between a bunch of these carpets. So either i'm deranged, and just lucky that "The carpet did it!" was right, or there was some foreshadowing.

I give it points for a creative solution to the mystery, but i do agree with some posters that the solution felt a little contrived-- at least it wasn't a very satisfying solution.  Perhaps if the author made me really feel the horror or weirdness of the carno-carpet that would have helped.

I also totally missed how protagonist came to the conclusion that the carpets were sentient and could communicate with each other.  That didn't seem necessary for an organism to occasionally eat something.

This was apparently supposed to be a hard-boiled, film-noir detective story.  So far so good, Mystery & Sci-fi is a great combination, and i'm always happy to see more of that.  However i felt like the narrator worked too hard to remind the reader that this was a gritty, dog-eat-dog world. "Telling" when there was already enough "Showing," as if she was afraid we wouldn't notice that this was a hard-boiled world. I know those sort of asides are part of the genera, but it didn't ring true for this narrator. That's the sort of thing that a person who lives their whole life in one place tends not to notice, but take for granted.


Final rating:
-- Leave in iTunes to listen to again sometime.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2012, 05:04:36 PM by jwbjerk » Logged
Frungi
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« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2012, 01:22:27 AM »

I’m going to be honest (which is a more polite way of saying I’m about to complain): I had trouble following what was happening in the story due to the reader’s character voices often sounding indistinguishable from each other. This is a real problem in conversations with few or no dialogue tags. Odd, as I don’t believe I’ve usually had this problem when hearing Mur read.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2012, 02:34:26 PM »

This story had me at
Quote
We loop the twin wormholes, Gehenna and Tartarus, roundabout in a figure eight, ready to catch the freighters as they escape from hell’s dark maw.
I loved the image of a rogue asteroid caught and pushed into an orbit around a pair of wormholes, a sort of floating Midway Station from here to there. Like ST DS9, but with real people and real tech, not just flashy lighty thingies.
I also loved the names of the wormholes, two names from two different cultures meaning hell. And just in case you didn't get it, the author even called them "hell's dark maw".
That sort of set the mood for me throughout the entire story. I loved the imagery much more than the actual content of the story. In fact, I was sort of rooting for mysterious pan-dimensional beings living in the wormholes and making the occasional foray outside to capture people for their own nefarious purposes. I eventually did see the carpet munchers coming, but only a split second before Mur gave away the reveal.
In general I like my space opera more on the gritty side and less on the flashy side, so that was a plus for this. But as eytanz pointed out: this was a terrible mystery story.
Too long didn't read: great worldbuilding, not so great story telling.

Was it just me or was Mur doing the outro by the seat of her pants? It sounded totally unscripted to me, and I think I liked it.
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SF.Fangirl
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« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2012, 07:44:57 PM »

Well, I enjoyed the heck out of this one.  I plan to re-listen before to long to enjoy it again and try to clear up the lingering questions.  Upon reading these comments I do agree that the world-building and atmosphere is the story's strength and the plot and mystery is a little weak, but I just enjoyed it so much that my only thought on its conclusion was "awesome!"  I think this probably my favorite Escape Pod story of the year.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2012, 08:47:02 AM »

I was kinda aimlessly drifting with this one until I made the connection that it is noir. Once that happened I was sold and along for the gritty ride. I'm going to listen to this one again and see if the setup was too subtle or if the author didn't foreshadow quite enough. The world and lush descriptions are worth a relisten, at least.
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JoshuaRL
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« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2012, 09:37:08 AM »

Quote from: Max e^{i pi} link=topic=6662.msg106792#  date=1355686466
This story had me at
Quote
We loop the twin wormholes, Gehenna and Tartarus, roundabout in a figure eight, ready to catch the freighters as they escape from hell’s dark maw.
I loved the image of a rogue asteroid caught and pushed into an orbit around a pair of wormholes, a sort of floating Midway Station from here to there. 

So, I'm  HUGE Samantha Henderson fan. Have been since EP 97: Cinderella Suicide. Very few writers are as good at world building and characterization, in my opinion.

Only, this seemed a little light. Maybe it's the weight of my own expectations, or the patina of age on the old story, but I didn't feel as pulled in by the gravity of the narrative (pun intended).

Nah, I've listened to that old story probably 40 times. It still gets me at (from memory), "Then, when we were ready for it, another great boom happens, this time over the Never Never. Down from the sky came rare earths, like Father Christmas tossing pennies. Itrium and Scandium in luscious ashy chunks." Maybe she thought that she shouldn't delve too deep into her impressive world building since it's already a gritty crime noir story, and if you shine too much light the grime goes away. Which, as I'm thinking about it, is a fair point.

I guess ill just end with, I liked it, but not as much as the last one.
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Lionman
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« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2012, 12:04:52 AM »

I think what I liked most about this story was the phrasing and word choice.  The whole genre was just fine and such, but it kept me thinking, parsing, translating on the fly, that made it very interesting for me.
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inqydesu
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« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2012, 08:07:14 PM »

first time commenter here - who was so annoyed by one trivial piece of foreshadowing that it almost ruined the piece.  I really enjoyed the world building, clearly a noir Los angeles in space. I enjoyed the little asides about the space miners, corrpution, etc.  The walking the fine line between the law and the family.  Really i wanted more, and felt other than my picayune hang up was the biggest let down.  The threads about gregor, the company men, growing up with Papa joe, rug merchant etc were great, but not quite fleshed out as much as I wanted,


Now here comes the thing which almost ruined it for me.  That clearly ruined any suspense from the time it first hit my ears.  The name of the rug aliens.  Yes "Thantopian".  What could be more obvious than to name the killer aliens after the greek god of death?  Sorry - but I can't stand this most obvious of signposting.  As misdirection its bad, but it almost ruined a perfectly delightful story with the spoiler contained in the name.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #17 on: December 22, 2012, 03:49:34 PM »

Now here comes the thing which almost ruined it for me.  That clearly ruined any suspense from the time it first hit my ears.  The name of the rug aliens.  Yes "Thantopian".  What could be more obvious than to name the killer aliens after the greek god of death?
Not everybody is well-versed in Greek/Roman mythology. I recognized Thanatos and filed that information away in the back of my brain. The reveal came as no surprise to me, and did in fact protect me from a problem that others had with this story, that the reveal wasn't clear enough.
Furthermore, I like it when some or all character names have some kind of extra meaning. If you pick up on it - great for you. If you don't, then you didn't miss anything. I already mentioned in this thread how I liked the names of the wormholes, and Thanatos was in there. Did you pick up on Chandra? A Hindu lunar deity. Since the moon orbits Earth and goes through its own phases, so too does the city of Chandra's Game orbit the wormholes, and go through changes. The story repeatedly calls attention to Chandra's Game metamorphing and giving birth. Sounds like phases to me.
But this really all does boil down to taste, and there really is no accounting for it.
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eytanz
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« Reply #18 on: December 22, 2012, 07:40:52 PM »

Several people above have argued that there was some foreshadowing of the rug. So I checked the text of the story. There is exactly one mention of the rug *before* Sarah figures out the mystery, which is when she first walks in to Joe's room:

Quote
A thick Thantopian carpet covered the floor, cut from the surface of a place Joey and me would never see—it was the probably the most precious thing in the place, beautifully marbled in blue and green.  The warmth of it struck up through my thin corridor slippers.

So we know that there are carpets that are really expensive and warm. There's no indication there that they are living creatures. Or that the carpet *is* the Thantopian, rather than just being a carpet sold by Thantopians or whatever (a Persian carpet is not a Persian, after all).

Every other piece of information about the rugs - including their nature, the fact that the victims all had them, and the backstory about the friend - come up only after Sarah figures out they are to blame. It's true that there's a period of time between when she figures it out and when she reveals this to the reader/listener, but the basic fact is that everything that looked like an actual clue up to that point was either unimportant or a clue to Carri's betrayal, rather than a clue to the mystery we think we are listening to. Which was the nature of my complaint.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #19 on: December 27, 2012, 02:03:34 PM »

Somehow I never commented on this story. Well, like eytanz I listened back and found the same lack of rug mentioning before she figures out the mystery. Blargh, I like mystery pieces much better when the audience at least has a chance of figuring out whodunnit!

Anyway, I didn't catch any of the mythology references (thanks Max!) but honestly I don't think it would have increased my enjoyment of the story if I had. This one was solidly middle of the road for me, better on a second listen because the world-building was less confusing. It does amuse me that all of these far-future space characters have 1920's names though. Tongue
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