Author Topic: Pseudopod 274: The God Complex  (Read 3857 times)


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on: March 23, 2012, 10:03:36 PM
Pseudopod 274: The God Complex

By Neil John Buchanan.
“The God Complex” was originally published in the Terminal Earth anthology by Poundlit Press.

Neil John Buchanan (click his name above for his website) lives in the south-west of England with three manic cats, two small children and a long-suffering, sympathetic wife. He is a horror fiction writer with work published in various online and print venues such as Pseudopod, Drabblecast, Necrotic Tissue and Morpheus Tales. He also writes for STARBURST magazine and he’s in the final editing stages of a steampunk/fantasy/horror mash-up novella entitled CLOCKWORK KNIGHTS.

Read by Rashida Smith - click her name to visit Eddygirl!

“She recognized an Echo drone when she saw one. Probably a scout sent to investigate the crash.

‘Pheromone discharge detected,’ the suit chimed, and the helmet slammed shut. A moment later, a tube expanded from the drone’s underbelly, and a thin spray of liquid splashed across Nadia’s visor.

‘I am God,’ it pronounced. ‘Do you come in love?’”

Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


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Reply #1 on: March 23, 2012, 10:23:04 PM
I am the King under the Mountain, and this is the first post on this thread.

Or, should I say, I am the God under the mountain... ;D.


I really wanted to like this one. Thematically, it is a perfect inversion of several of my favorite themes, though I won't bother to explain exactly what. The answer is - everything Alasdair said in the outro. However, I had several significant problems with this story, which in the final arithmetic, kind of spoiled it for me.

Firstly - and I usually don't notice these things in audio, much less comment on them - I feel like the story had some problems in craft. Nothing that just one more edit wouldn't have caught, but significant nonetheless. There were some issues of word choice and repetition, the sorts of issues that don't make a story bad, but just jarringly not awesome in contrast to the usual standards of Pseudopod.

Secondly, there were a few inconsistencies in the story. For example, the main character's symbiotic super-suit? Worst super-suit ever. What's the point of a super helmet that doesn't protect you from a scalpel? What's the point of an AI interface if it's completely disabled by the wearer's panic? A pistol Nadia could have drawn from a shoulder holster would have served her better.

This brings me to my second critique. Nadia? Worst soldier ever. Seriously. Who the heck chose her for this mission? She (in order): panics, freaks out, freezes up (losing an eye, a hand, and most of a foot in the process), passes out, bucks up, and then promptly dies (with "heroic" passivity).

I found both of these problems particularly galling because they could have been solved with just a little work. Some kind of explanation for why Nadia was present, even though she was useless as a soldier. Some kind of explanation for why the super-suit was almost worse than useless, but still included in her gear. Anything would have done it, closing those plot holes and leaving me with a great story.

So, my final reaction is a middling "urhm." Not a great story, not an awful story, but it was a little annoying that the story felt like one that could have been great, but just... wasn't.

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Reply #2 on: March 25, 2012, 11:36:14 AM
I found this one a little off-and-on, too.  For me, the real oddball moment was when we flashed to "God's" perspective; it made the whole thing feel very cheesy.  I mean, I don't know if anyone else here was a big fan of console RPGs back in the nineties and early oughts, but the Echo Project's little monologue is basically every JRPG villain's final speech ever.  (A lot of Japanese RPGs end with your party killing God.  Like, to the degree that I can't think of a single church or organized religion in any RPG that isn't evil in some way.  It's kind of creepy, actually.)  I didn't feel like it needed to be elucidated, and it really took me out of the immediacy of the story, which up to then (and despite ElectricPaladin's valid quibbles about the effectiveness of the suit and the suit's wearer) had been fairly immersive.

Although the author's note kind of explains it, now that I think about it; he thought no one had ever done this plot before and I guess figured he'd have to explain why the robot god was killing everyone.  Even there, though, the conversation with Echo at the end pretty much sums it all up, rendering the POV shift redundant.  I dunno.

Decent story overall.


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Reply #3 on: March 26, 2012, 02:39:35 PM
I am on the fence on this one.  On the one hand I heartily approve of stories that explore aspects of religion, especially nontraditional aspects like robots becoming gods, etc...  The drones' greeting of "do you come in love" was creepy and chilling, especially when they started to slice and dice.

But ElectricPaladin's points about the supersuit are extremely valid.  Why make a suit that doesn't protect you from physical threats?  It's smart enough to administer medical aid automatically, why not have it automatically attack anything that is causing damage to the wearer's body?  And I didn't understand why the drone was spending it's time cutting off small appendages rather than putting a spike through the eye or through the heart.  It didn't seem like the design of the suit was really given much practical thought, which is too bad because an auto-morphing suit is such a neat idea!  ElectricPaladin's comments about this soldier's behavior are also very valid.

Overall I liked it, but there were enough things that just didn't make much sense to me that made it hard to get really immersed.


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Reply #4 on: March 26, 2012, 07:26:03 PM
I really enjoyed it. It is down to personal taste though, I suppose authors cannot cover everything..the suit was a minor for me and like Unblinking I also found the drones greeting very chilling.

I'm all up for giving constructive criticism but have to say found this a great all round short.


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Reply #5 on: March 26, 2012, 09:59:21 PM
For those who want more super suits and a scary story, Everything That Matters over at EscapePod delivers.

This one nailed the mood for me. On a related note, only 2.5 months until Prometheus.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


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Reply #6 on: April 04, 2012, 05:36:52 PM
I was really unimpressed by this one. Every single one of Electric Paladin's complaints also occurred to me. I kept boggling on how useless this suit was. And the planning for the mission? If they knew the drones take people (or bits of people) to the target - dead or alive - why not just have a volunteer walk into the city with the nuke on their body planning to be captured? For that matter, why the hell was the nuke on a timer? The suit was smart enough to know where they were, apparently - why not set it to detonate the moment it gets within range?

And - well, Echo seems to have taken over London, where its power was centralized. But there were apparently drone-free settlements close enough that a malnourished boy could walk there on foot. So Echo's range seemed quite limited. How come the entire rest of the world became the "freeborn colonies"? What happened to all the existing political structures? How come it took over a hundred years for someone to think of nuking the god machine?

I'm not against stories which are driven by concept and mood rather than a realistic logic; but this one just felt sloppy.

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Reply #7 on: April 19, 2012, 01:50:45 AM
I was willing to cut the story some slack, because it dealt with some pretty cool ideas; however, I have to agree there were enough problems that they became distracting. It seemed like the parts where the protagonist got maimed were just there to provide some gore, and it felt a little cheap. Maybe this would have been more effective as more of a pure sci-fi story, rather than sci-fi-horror?

In other news: Prometheus!!

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Reply #8 on: May 27, 2012, 03:46:29 PM
I enjoyed this story quite a bit.  It was pleasant to see a sci-fi story for a change.  I don't know when this story was published, but the machines really seemed a homage to the Geth of Mass Effect.  If I have any complaints, they were addressed already above.  I was particularly disappointed with Nadia's poor performance as a soldier as well (or marine? Unclear as to what military branch she was).  Also, if she is a SGT then the story would have done well to refer to her by her last name, not her first.  It would have made more sense as a story if she was a civilian along for the ride, a scientist or something (although they can be pretty damn tough in sci-fi settings, eh Gordan Freeman?).

My last critique is that as soon as the nuke was revealed, I knew exactly how the story would end.

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