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Author Topic: EP112: The Giving Plague  (Read 40237 times)

Russell Nash

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Reply #80 on: July 21, 2007, 08:54:21 AM
This is the thing about evolution.  The virus doesn't "know" anything and never will.  It's not sentient, it doesn't really work through any trial and error plan.  It's a simple matter of luck, really.

Every day lots and lots of viruses mutate, those that change something and fail (use ear wax as a vector, for example) die out, ones that luck into something that causes them to propagate better or survive longer spread out more - that's it.

That makes much more sense (also: I don't ever want to know how ear wax would transmit anything. Yik!). I think that since the narrator was talking about ALAS as almost having sentient qualities, it got me thinking as the virus in the mode of having sentient qualities.

The narrator gave it sentient qualities the same way you give sentient qualities to plumbing when you're having trouble fixing a pipe.  "Come on you bastard fit.  You just don't want to help me…"  You just can't think of your adversary as unsentient(sp?).



chornbe

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Reply #81 on: July 24, 2007, 02:30:20 AM
That was a good one, but the ending... the last few seconds... kinda let me down. Otherwise, very good.

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Listener

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Reply #82 on: July 25, 2007, 12:15:24 PM
My computer crashed the Sunday before this story was released, so I just now finished listening to it.

If this story falls down anywhere (to me, as a lay-reader with only lay knowledge of blood donation and pathology), it's toward the end.  I kept hearing good places where the story should stop, and it kept on going.  Of course, it kept going so we could get to the part where the narrator chooses to be altruistic (a great payoff to his general misanthropy toward altruistic people), but toward the end I kept thinking "oh, come on, MORE?"  (I've made similar mistakes in some of my short-stories.)

The fact that, at heart, the narrator wasn't a good person is what helped make this story work for me.  I find evil people more honest than good ones -- except when they're lying -- because if an evil person is giving you a deathbed confession, and the evil person has admitted to being evil, why lie now?  What would it serve?  I believed the narrator because he admitted, right out, that he was not a nice person and was really only in it for fame.

I had a feeling that ALAS would turn out to be a gateway plague.  Though Brin did not explicitly state it, I think ALAS was an alien lifeform or weapon of some kind, engineered to kill off humanity by bringing it closer together and then mutating.  TARP was from Mars -- but was it left there by the creators of ALAS?  I don't think ALAS was intelligent as we measure intelligence; I think it was programmed.

There's a line in a Star Trek TNG novel where Worf praises the inventor of the neutron bomb, which kills people but leaves cities inhabitable.  I'm guessing the creators of ALAS are using it as some sort of similar device/weapon -- they'll send in a crew to get rid of the bodies and then take over our cities and such.  I know the narrator said 15% of the population might survive, but 15% of the population is easily subjugated by a more powerful alien race.

The choice of the narrator as a scientist from Texas is an amusing bit of mental culture clash (can't think of the perfect term here).  I'm not saying people with that particular accent can't be extremely intelligent scientists, but it's not something often addressed in writing.  I think that choice kept the narrator interesting as well, along with his misanthropy.

The reading was good.  I like how Sullivan kept it low-key, even when the narrator or other characters were getting worked up, like all this stuff can happen and he's still not going to lose his mind.  If it fell down anywhere, it was the end, where the narrator asks ALAS, point-blank, if it knew this was happening.  If I had been reading it, I might have interpreted the last sentence ("Did you?") as a simple, resigned statement, infusing it with disappointment and exhaustion.  The fact that the narrator got worked up at the very end, just for that last bit, broke it for me slightly.

Overall, I enjoyed the story.

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eytanz

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Reply #83 on: July 25, 2007, 01:20:03 PM
I had a feeling that ALAS would turn out to be a gateway plague.  Though Brin did not explicitly state it, I think ALAS was an alien lifeform or weapon of some kind, engineered to kill off humanity by bringing it closer together and then mutating.  TARP was from Mars -- but was it left there by the creators of ALAS?  I don't think ALAS was intelligent as we measure intelligence; I think it was programmed.

That's an interestin view, but not really one I think is justified by the story - as far as I can tell, ALAS led to TARP because without ALAS, humanity would still be too embroiled in wars and inefficient uses of resources to ever get to Mars. I can see TARP be a weapon left there in case humans manage to survive, but I can't see how ALAS could be part of it, at least not if the aliens aren't some really cheesy B-movie villians (Though this is by David Brin, who wrote Earth, which has exactly this as a plot, so who knows).

Mostly though, the story (through the mouth of Les) makes a big point of arguing how viruses like ALAS are part of the natural cycle of life on Earth. Having it be some sort of alien virus would undermine much of the narrative and since there's no evidence at all that that is what it is, I personally think it should be taken at face value.



TimWhite

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Reply #84 on: September 06, 2007, 03:44:22 PM
This is in my top 5 of escape pod stories.

Even though the story gets bogged down in typical Brin-esque "Here's some science you should know about" exposition in several spots, I am an absolute sucker for the twisty ending (O. Henry rocks), and this delivered in a very satisfying way.



Peter Tupper

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Reply #85 on: September 09, 2007, 05:03:43 AM
Brilliant.

Although I think there are easier ways to wealth and fame than molecular biology, this story is a profound exploration of the idea that, whatever our ideas about good and evil and how good or bad we want to be, biology trumps all of that. Even a self-conscious villain still believes in free will.



El Barto

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Reply #86 on: September 25, 2009, 10:06:29 PM
I just read this story and loved it.    The other commenters covered most of the reasons but I felt like I owed it to the author and to Steve to drop this quick note and say how much I enjoyed and appreciated the story.   Great concepts, well-executed, nicely unpredictable.   

It was a nice twist on the old literary saw about how if you bring out a gun in the first act of a play it had better go off by the third.   



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Reply #87 on: February 23, 2010, 06:27:01 PM
I find evil people more honest than good ones -- except when they're lying

This line made me LOL.  :)



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Reply #88 on: February 23, 2010, 06:29:46 PM
I didn't get all the way through this one--it was just so exposition heavy!  The blood-donation virus was an interesting concept, but it took forever to get to the point of that.  I listened about halfway through and it was still getting to the description of a blood-donation virus via a very roundabout way as if I hadn't already figured it out more than 10 minutes before that.  I kept waiting for some new information and kept not getting it and eventually just hit the Skip button.