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Author Topic: EP386: Finished  (Read 2636 times)
eytanz
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« on: March 07, 2013, 12:41:49 PM »

EP386: Finished

By Robert Reed

Read by Joel Nisbet

---
What did I plan?  Very little, in truth.  An evening walk accompanied by the scent of flowers and dampened earth, the lingering heat of the day taken as a reassurance, ancient and holy.  I was genuinely happy, as usual.  Like a hundred other contented walkers, I wandered through the linear woods, past lovers’ groves and pocket-sized sanctuaries and ornamental ponds jammed full of golden orfes and platinum lungfish.  When I felt as if I should be tired, I sat on a hard steel bench to rest.  People smiled as they passed, or they didn’t smile.  But I showed everyone a wide grin, and sometimes I offered a pleasant word, and one or two of the strangers paused long enough to begin a brief conversation.

One man—a rather old man, and I remember little else—asked, “And how are you today?”

Ignoring the implication, I said, “Fine.”

I observed, “It’s a very pleasant evening.”

“Very pleasant,” he agreed.

My bench was near a busy avenue, and sometimes I would study one of the sleek little cars rushing past.

“The end of a wonderful day,” he continued.

I looked again at his soft face, committing none of it to memory.  But I kept smiling, and with a tone that was nothing but polite, I remarked, “The sun’s setting earlier now.  Isn’t it?”

The banal recognition of a season’s progression—that was my only intent.  But the face colored, and then with a stiff, easy anger, the man said, “What does it matter to you?  It’s always the same day, after all.”

Hardly.  Yet I said nothing.


---

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2013, 11:55:56 PM »

Well, this certainly was an odd take on Immortality. I should expect nothing else from the author of Marrow.

He certainly circumvents one of the big problems of immortality (how do you feed a population that lives forever when the population keeps growing?). Though I think there'd be an employment problem, eventually at least, if the Finished have to keep working to pay off debt (and you thought Baby Boomers were bad!).

Of course the worst part is the emotional lock on your last day, since, well, you never change. I think that would really suck. Of course, would you know it would suck, if you were constantly locked into one frame of mind? And why would be able to learn new things, but not change your emotional state? are the two really that different?
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Listener
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« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2013, 08:58:51 AM »

I didn't much care for the beginning or ending of the story, but I liked the middle -- the slice-of-life stuff and the way Justin lived now that he'd been Finished. I think the beginning tried to be almost TOO clever, and the ending, where Bonnie somehow knew that Justin was using her or whatever (I'm still not 100% clear on it), came on too suddenly. I liked the last line, though.

The technology created for the story was interesting, in its way, although because of the length of the story I kept having to mentally piece together the differences. The brain is a crystal, the bones are ceramic, the skin is synthetic and getting better as technology improves, etc. I don't recall anything about whether a Finished person really looks that much like a human, but I'm guessing Justin doesn't QUITE, judging from the opening scene.
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2013, 12:33:20 AM »

I quite enjoyed this story because I kept having to backtrack. Normally, that annoys the living crap out of me, but for some reason, I found it entertaining, here, instead of annoying. Nicely done.

The ending took two turns I wasn't expecting and made me enjoy the trip.
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Dem
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« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2013, 09:51:16 AM »

This is one of those stories where I can forgive a lot, like the mechanics of how the whole thing works and who knew what when, because the idea of a never-ending state of mind, frozen in place when you're 'finished' is jaw-dropping. Like the smell of fox poo, it has some initially attractive notes, and then the whole noxious range kicks in. What a risk, that you pick the right moment for your process. And what if you went with the Betamax equivalent of the technology? Would there be a conversion service or would everyone else just wave their shiny VHS wigs at you until you couldn't get the parts any more and found yourself at a boot sale? Think I'll stick with the virtual world consciousness upload please.
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2013, 06:12:35 AM »

Quote
Like the smell of fox poo, it has some initially attractive notes, and then the whole noxious range kicks in.

So many life experiences I haven't been a part of yet.

This story with the appropriate title chilled me.  For all I could see, he was a dead man walking.  What's to be had?  An unchanging mind and a thousand years of debt.  Count me out.

 
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2013, 02:55:37 PM »

Interesting that there are so few comments on this story even though it's been out for most of a week. Is everyone getting too distracted or comment burned out because of the flash contest?  Tongue

Overall I really liked this one. I agree with Listener that the opening was a bit too much. He was guided by what, fate? to throw himself into traffic because that's how he would meet Bonnie. Not that he knew he would meet Bonnie, that's just what happened. But then, if their relationship was based only on him seducing her into being Finished to pay off his debts, then what did fate have to do with anything?

The middle was very interesting, especially Justin's backstory about becoming Finished. Such a fascinating technology and idea. I really loved the exploration of it. And I really liked how, even though the real conflict of the story--Justin's upcoming betrayal of Bonnie--didn't come until probably three-quarters the way through, it didn't feel like it was missing either. Then it had the expected revelation that all was not as perfect as it seemed, and then we get a tidy reversal from Bonnie and it's done.

Again, like Listener, I'm entirely clear how Bonnie was able to come to her conclusion that Justin was using her, especially with how careful Justin explained he'd been with not being too pushy, but it didn't bother me too much.

A good, interesting, and unique tale.
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Scumpup
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...


« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2013, 03:38:21 PM »

Something not really addressed in the story is of intense interest to me.  Are Justin and the other Finished really who they think they are?  It seems to me that the Finishing process kills the person and creates a robotic copy.  The copy may have the memories and even believe itself the same person, but it is still just a detailed copy.
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matweller
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« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2013, 03:54:28 PM »

Something not really addressed in the story is of intense interest to me.  Are Justin and the other Finished really who they think they are?  It seems to me that the Finishing process kills the person and creates a robotic copy.  The copy may have the memories and even believe itself the same person, but it is still just a detailed copy.

I always have that problem with "new body" stories. Partly because I think of the consciousness/soul/self as something contained within your body that ventures elsewhere when released. So, saying YOU can be moved into a new body or cloned into multiple bodies suggests that this intangible can be bound to a new body just because the other information in your brain was able to somehow be copied.

I generally have to suspend that part of my belief system when consuming these stories because it's rarely addressed well if at all. Mostly because it's as based in science as Anne Rice's vampires.
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BrentN
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« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2013, 06:27:39 PM »

I didn't find this story so novel - the author telegraphed the outcome pretty heavily early on. What was endearing about it was it's somewhat nostalgic emulation of the patronizingly sexist SF of the 50s and 60s, with the twist of having the heroine turn around at the end and break our expectations.
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Jade Praerie
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« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2013, 10:46:08 PM »

Loved the mild mystery of discovering just what our narrator was, plus the twist at the end. Very well read, too. A great story all around, and the best since Mur left. Glad to find you've still got it. Four stars. Cheers!
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2013, 06:03:13 AM »

Something not really addressed in the story is of intense interest to me.  Are Justin and the other Finished really who they think they are?  It seems to me that the Finishing process kills the person and creates a robotic copy.  The copy may have the memories and even believe itself the same person, but it is still just a detailed copy.

I always have that problem with "new body" stories. Partly because I think of the consciousness/soul/self as something contained within your body that ventures elsewhere when released. So, saying YOU can be moved into a new body or cloned into multiple bodies suggests that this intangible can be bound to a new body just because the other information in your brain was able to somehow be copied.

I generally have to suspend that part of my belief system when consuming these stories because it's rarely addressed well if at all. Mostly because it's as based in science as Anne Rice's vampires.

I do not believe in a soul or consciousness that transcends the physical body, but I also don't think we'll ever be able to copy the inner workings of the mind.  I find the idea disheartening, since I've always hoped that teleportation would someday become reality.

That being said, I did not have to suspend my belief system to follow the story.  After the main character was finished, he was no longer the same.  If you're unaware that you're fundamentally different, does that mean the procedure was a success?  As an outside observer, I'd have to say no.
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Peter Germany
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« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2013, 03:39:11 PM »

I really enjoyed this one, more like this please  Smiley
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Jade Praerie
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« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2013, 05:57:43 PM »

My thoughts keep returning this episode. Love the double-meaning of the title: "Finished" as in polished/perfected, or as in done/ended. Also the politics of finished citizens, their place in society, and the growing power of the industry: Could finished persons come to be the majority? Would this path in life come to be the norm? Would nearly everyone get hooked into a life of debt through unending upgrades? Would all children be born of artificially incubated frozen reproductive cells?
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Skycaptain1883
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« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2013, 12:59:18 PM »

Review of Finish

This story leaves us with just enough unanswered questions to make us think.

Justin carefully selected the day and his mood so he'd be happy (and horny) forever.  However, if he was so all fired happy why did he try to kill himself by walking into traffic?   Or was it a suicide attempt? Did he really know a lovely young woman was in the pink Cheetah and did he target her or was it just dumb luck? 

He went to the hospital for his procedure with a woman who abandoned him as soon as his procedure was done. He was mortified when she left because she was supposed to help pay for his med bills. She lied and admits it. Sounds like she was in the same business he is now in -- Seduce the unwitting into being "Finished" to pay off his own debt.

I was really dismayed by the unethical behavior of the corporation that performs the "Finishing". Apparently they will "Finish" any one with the down payment. The telling of the friend's father who will be dying forever was the saddest part of the story.  Society has progressed significantly with technology, but at the heart of it all is corporate greed. 

The story is a puzzler. It makes you think -- would I want to live forever? At what cost? If it goes wrong, I'll be miserably forever and unable to leave this contemptible corporeal plain. Is it worth the risk? Would YOU be willing to pay the price?

This corporeal plain is not the be all end all for me. It's been a fun rise this time, but I'm looking forward to the next round.And I don't want to wait 10,000 years to get there.

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Skycaptain1883
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...


« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2013, 01:50:36 PM »

I don't see the Finished as people paying the price for immortality.  Justin et. al. died as a result of the Finishing process.  The in-story description notes that it involves neurotoxins and neuron-destroying nanites.  The Finished who we get to know in the story are automatons imprinted with a static image of the original person's emotional state at the moment of death.  They are no more than sophisticated recordings, at best.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2013, 12:14:10 PM by Scumpup » Logged
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« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2013, 02:39:31 PM »

Something not really addressed in the story is of intense interest to me.  Are Justin and the other Finished really who they think they are?  It seems to me that the Finishing process kills the person and creates a robotic copy.  The copy may have the memories and even believe itself the same person, but it is still just a detailed copy.

I always have that problem with "new body" stories. Partly because I think of the consciousness/soul/self as something contained within your body that ventures elsewhere when released. So, saying YOU can be moved into a new body or cloned into multiple bodies suggests that this intangible can be bound to a new body just because the other information in your brain was able to somehow be copied.

I generally have to suspend that part of my belief system when consuming these stories because it's rarely addressed well if at all. Mostly because it's as based in science as Anne Rice's vampires.
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« Reply #17 on: March 13, 2013, 02:48:01 PM »

I really liked this story, but I'm not sure about the end.
On the one hand I don't like how Justin's actions were explained, as if to the idiot reader who hasn't yet figured it out. I like stories where you have to figure things out, and I get upset when they end up spelling them out to you.
On the other hand, the last line of the story is much better had it not ended with Bonnie going into the clinic.
So I don't know about the ending.

The beginning was OK, took a while to hook me, but I loved how as the story progressed more and more of the beginning made sense, and I was able to put the pieces together.

Still not sure where I stand on the singularity issue. But at some point in the story I asked myself this: Justin assured Bonnie that the technology keeps getting better. But that's not always true. History has proven that already. So what happens to all these Finished people when the next Dark Ages hit? Not only do they stop living forever (no more upgrades, tune-ups and repairs), but the people to whom they owe money start to lose it. That could start a stock market crash (or equivalent) that would drag society even deeper into the murk. I would not bet my eternal life on something like that. When the singularity comes, I intend to learn everything I can about cybernetics, so I could take care of myself.
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« Reply #18 on: March 13, 2013, 09:08:51 PM »

Liked it, didn't love it.  Interesting idea, but I found the main character emotionally distant ... maybe that's an effect of being finished, but I just couldn't really care too much about him or his mark.

I am also confused by the beginning.  I don't think he's suicidal. It almost seemed like a rom com "meet cute" ploy, but how'd he know that the driver would make a good mark.  And even then its something of a give away since he got an obvious warning not to walk into the road.  Plus if he's got money concerns then the cost of repairs would seem to be a problem.

I am less confused about the ending. My take is that Bonnie is not an idiot.  She's simply aware that she's not the kind of woman a rich man would pick for a lover so she knows he's using for for something.  (I mean that line about best sex ever because of her was over the top ... enough of those lines and she'll figure it out.)  Eventually she sees his game and decides (or had already decided) to use him herself to get what she wants.  She's got a bit of a self-esteem issue and figures she's only going to get worse with time so it's best to be finished now and there's no way for her to pay for it on her own.
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Lionman
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« Reply #19 on: March 14, 2013, 01:34:36 AM »

I generally liked this story, as it made me think of something from my own past.  A long developing storyline about a pair of characters, twins, brother and sister.  While young, the two were separated, the sister growing up on a wholly different world, likely star system from her brother.  A world where the inhabitants developed 'magical' powers, which in reality turned out to be simply be TK skills, able to go right down to the subatomic level, allowing them to effectively rearrange matter at that level.  Thus allowing them to renew their bodies for an extremely long time.

She later discovers she has a brother, and embarks on a journey to find him.  Once found, she uses her abilities to keep him young as well.  This seems to work out fine for a few thousand years.  Then, he finds someone he wants to settle down with and live out his life with.  This is where the problem develops.  His body has become adjusted to keeping itself young and strong, and it doesn't slow down immediately.  He ages, but still a great deal slower than it should, rebuilding itself from wounds faster than it should normally.  This leaves him with the problem of not being able to grow old with the one he loves.

Needless to say, immortality may not be all it's cracked up to be, if you leave behind, if you constantly outlive, those things that become important to you.

So, as I was saying, this story made me think, though it didn't really evoke strong emotion, which to me is the true purpose of a story.
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