Friday, January 24, 2014

Surfing the Human Wave: Brad Torgersen's Life Flight

I've made it pretty clear already that I love Brad Torgersen, so it's probably no surprise to any of you that I squealed when his name once again popped up on the cover of the most recent issue of Analog. And what does Torgersen offer up for our consideration in Life Flight, his newest novelette? The story of a sub-light colony ship as seen through the eyes of a character who can't preserve himself in stasis like the rest of the crew and is therefore forced to grow old on the journey.

In Life Flight, Torgersen takes a page from Daniel Keyes' book and records his point-of-view character's thoughts and feelings in journal form -- and in my judgment, I think he does a masterful job. Like Keyes, it seems Torgersen knows exactly how to adjust his style and tone to reflect his main character's gradual evolution. The early journal entries are simple and perfectly convey the concerns of a pre-teen child; the later entries grow steadily more mature and reflective. And it all works.

Throughout, the main character's emotional arc is profoundly interesting -- and, thankfully, morally grounded. When his childhood dreams are tragically ripped away, he initially loses himself in suicidal ideation and a selfish sense of entitlement. But as he grows older and wiser, he realizes he can still find meaning in his life by focusing his attentions on the other people on board -- and ultimately, while he is robbed of the chance to set foot in the promised land, he's strangely okay with that result because he knows being the guardian and shepherd of the mission still mattered.

This story absolutely bears the Torgersen mark: human characters doing big, hopeful things in the face of tragedy. I can't wait for it to become available in a generally accessible form so I can pimp it to folks who aren't subscribed to Analog.

Final Verdict: Highly Recommended.

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