Author Topic: EP425: The Boy in Zaquitos  (Read 19257 times)


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Reply #50 on: January 04, 2014, 02:33:01 PM
I had to Google "bat bomb" but, boy am I glad I did. Holy crap. In the spirit of epidemics, can we make them rabid bats?

What none of you know is that this story was actually part of Escape Pod's CIA Recruitment Partnership Program. The story is purposely implausible to generate a lot of brainstorming about how we'd do it better, and the person with the best plan will be selected to go finish off that rather tenacious kid in Zaquitos they've been having trouble with.  ;)

Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science


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Reply #51 on: January 15, 2014, 03:49:22 PM
I just wasn't wild about this story. I tried to get into it, but the narrator's asides about Y.Pestis seemed ill timed, and I got lost. Plus, I didn't enjoy the framing mechanism of having the narrator telling his story many years after with the benefit of experience.

It's an interesting concept, but I would have been more engaged with a more present-time telling. I didn't feel any tension. When I reached the end, it was kind of a shrug - meh.

After all the pre-story buildup about the author, I expected much more.

"You don't fix faith. Faith fixes you." - Shepherd Book


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Reply #52 on: January 31, 2014, 10:58:11 PM
The other thing that bothered me with this one was the narration. Not that John Chu did a bad job, he did a very excellent job reading this story. I just didn't feel like his voice fit the character we were being presented with. I mean, the first line says he's sixty-eight years old. John sounds like a teenager. So already I'm thrown off trying to picture this gruff old CIA agent with a kid's high-pitched voice. Not to mention the fact that John, to me anyway, sounds Asian. (Admittedly that might be due to the fact that the only other stories I've heard John narrate were for Asian characters, and young ones at that, and he did a great job with them.) I'm not saying there's anything wrong with sounding Asian, don't read that the wrong way. But the character in this story wasn't Asian. So having him sound Asian really contradicted the down-home American boy we're presented with. And I found that distracting.

I agree with you on the first point.  It actually threw me out of the story that the narrator sounded so young when he's established to be elderly-ish.  It would have worked if the story had not been a flashback, but since it was crafted that way, I kept thinking, especially after the asides to the audience within the story, that this narrator was wrong for the story.  This is probably the first time this has every occurred to me because that is not something I usually notice or evaluate but it was a super-obvious mismatch in this story.

That said, I have never noticed that the narrator had anything but a neutral accent.  I thought he sounded perfect as an American teenager.


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Reply #53 on: January 31, 2014, 11:19:12 PM
I found this pretty "meh," which makes me sad because I like biological terror stories (albeit usually told from the POV of the scientist trying to stop the plague) and I had rather high hopes.

Somehow it made something horrible very banal and a boring story.  The most interesting part was when he admitted during the interview that felt more like citizen of the world than an American, and then that aspect of his character didn't get revisited again.  It almost seems like a citizen of the world would object a lot more than a gung-ho American. I was pretty bored by the end paid the barest attention is his rescue of "The Boy in Zaquitos" and the ending where he got therapy and everything worked out okay in the end.


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Reply #54 on: April 12, 2014, 05:54:54 AM
I thought this story was just okay. I didn't love it, but I also didn't hate it. It kept me entertained on my run.
The main character was also just okay; didn't love him, didn't hate him. But, I can sort of sympathize with him a bit. Sometimes people just go with the flow, even when going with the flow is morally wrong and costs you personally.


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Reply #55 on: May 05, 2014, 11:25:03 AM
I liked this one, can agree that it seems a bit surrealistic for this guy to be talking about this in class, but then again: check out the documentary  The Act Of Killing for an example of mass murderers happily educating about their deeds in real life. What made this story so dark was of course not just the CIA killing off lots of civilians (we all more or less expect that to happen) but the meek eagerness to participate under a misguided wish to serve his country (and to live up to his fathers deeds). Banality of evil indeed. The way the story conveyed that was it's real strength. For what it's worth, I also found the narration fine, and the discussion above highly entertaining.


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Reply #56 on: May 06, 2014, 01:44:18 PM
While I had some eyebrow-raising moments about the story being set in a classroom, I had no problems with the rest of the story.  It wasn't particularly memorable, but it was well put together. To address some issues:

  • Why pick a teenager?
The MC was a great candidate for many reasons.  He was motivated to work for his country, but not intelligent or driven enough to be a useful member of any agency.  He was VERY malleable, as most teenagers are.  He had no connections other than his parents, who would understand obligations and secrets, and wouldn't ask many questions.  Most importantly, he had the right biochemistry.  I don't think that the government spent boatloads of money searching for the right candidate, I think they had "plague-spreader" on their loooooooong list of projects, and the MC matched the requirements, so they went ahead. 

  • Why did he care about the boy in Zaquitos and not the thousands of others that he killed?
Because that's what humans do.  That's why we care more about the death of the family dog than the death of tens of thousands in a genocide in Africa.  Our brains just can't cope with that scope, and refuse to process it most of the time. He found a personally relevant attachment to the boy, and therefore felt obligated to save him.  It also internally absolved him of the deaths of the thousands of others, and more importantly(to him) the death of the pretty girl in St. Whatsit. 

  • Why would the government do this?
Because like the MC at the end states, the government has plans like this in the works ALL THE TIME.  Maybe not all of them to this scale, but there are some crazy/devious/insidious plans in the works all the time because they need to be prepared for various contingencies.  Go read about some of the wacky Cold War and nuclear defense systems.  Or look at things like mustard gas and napalm.  Those are atrocious, yet very effective weapons. 

  • Why use a person when you can use fleas and/or rats?
Because the person is infinitely more controllable. 

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