Weeding Womb

100 Candles

100 Candles by Curt Wohleber. For his first sale to a magazine, this one's a doozy - it's a fascinating and wonderful discourse into mortality and what comprises one's soul. The main character is Geneva, and she summons up an odd image - in her youth she was a rock star typical of the kind you've seen since the 1980's. However, this is not the 1980's. In fact, Geneva has just turned 100 years old. At her birthday party are the oddest assortment of guests one ever saw:

Archbishop Ichiro (a Japanese archbishop - what a lovely image as well). Geneva's friend and a man who, as I'd expect, has the belief of his church - that a soul is something you have while you're alive that hies itself off to an appropriate afterlife when your body dies; AIs and other constructs based on living beings don't have souls.

Lauren and Ben. Geneva's children. Though he treats them well at the party, in Ichiro's eyes they're long dead. They've had their minds converted to a more technological and rugged forms. The bodies at this party aren't their only ones - whenever they get wanderlust to go traveling or exploring or somesuch, they get another body made and split their minds into two. One side takes the wanderlust with it and goes does whatever dangerous things it wants while the other stays at home, safe and sound.

Tan and Sergei. College pals of Geneva. Thanks to genetic engineering, they're now amphibians. I won't say more because that's all the story says about them.

Jakob and Elizabeth. Amish who have a stricter policy on extending life than Ichiro does. They're in their 70's and don't look good for much longer.

Geneva herself. While she has similar (though far less strict) beliefs to Ichiro, hers are born of experience, not faith. She has had some cybernetic and medical 'tweaks' done. Not enough to fall out of favor with the Archbishop, but far more than the Amish couple.

'House'. The house AI. Ever-present, he shows up throughout the story as a talking painting in each room.

Assorted other people who aren't mentioned, except to comment on their individual immortality solutions, each one a bit odder (though no less technological) than the last.

The story follows discussions Geneva has with the Archbishop and also with her children, as well as a flashback to the early days of turning humans into immortal cybernetic beings. We learn why Geneva feels like she does about computer assisted immortality, and what stake she had in those early days. We also see the birth of an AI-from-a-human that may indeed have lost its soul, as well has an AI-not-from-a-human that has more soul than most flesh-and-blood beings.

I won't ruin the end, but Geneva faces her own mortality (as well as an image from her past) and learns that a soul may be lost long before - or after - its body is.

Highly recommended.

The Archon

(Return to top of index, no frames.)
(Return to top of index, frames.)

Go back! To the index of titles with thee!
Run along home.
This site and everything on it are Copyright (C) The Archon 1999 - 2006, unless otherwise noted. So there.
Current URL: http://www.archonrealm.com/reviews/100candles.htm
Main URL: http://www.archonrealm.com/reviews/100candles.htm
Tripod URL: http://archonrealm.tripod.com/reviews/100candles.htm
Backup URLs: http://s91291220.onlinehome.us/reviews/100candles.htm http://archonrealm.cjb.net/reviews/100candles.htm