Weeding Womb

Ex Vitro

Ex Vitro by Daniel Marcus. A tale of a man, a woman, and betrayal. Which sort of freaks me out because I just wrote a tale of a man, a woman, and betrayal. Though my characters don't have sex, unlike Ex Vitro's pair - much to my male character's annoyance.:)

But anyway.... You have a married couple doing research for a megacorporation, living happily (and alone) on a base on Saturn's moon, Titan. Well, not so happily, as Earth is on the verge of obliteration - countries are starting to lob nukes at each other, though the original two nuclear superpowers are keeping quiet and not risking blowing each other up.

The war is hitting hard on Titan as well, as the two inhabitants' major disagreement is on this issue. Maddy wants to be back with her family, in Paris. Her husband Jax makes the point that it's going to be vapor the second total war flares. Very sensitive fellow, telling his wife her sisters and parents are as good as dead. (Give you a hint on how fares the war - someone vaporized Jakarta mostly to make a point.)

Guess what happens next. Go on, I'll wait. Okay, here we go.... (Major spoilers, natch.)

After Paris gets nuked, a greater part of Maddy's sanity takes a holiday. She and Jax call their corporate sponsor and ask him for some information. (Maddy wants to go back home, still, claiming that they're needed there. Jax still wants to stay put.)

Their sponsor claims (in a prerecorded message, remember the lightspeed time lag from the Moon to Saturn) that the war was quick and decisive. The superpowers managed to keep out of it, though the young upstarts (like all of Europe, it seems) have turned into so much nitrogen gas. The megacorp is strapped for resources but need as much manpower as they can get. If Jax and Maddy want, they can come home and help rebuild. If not, then they can sit tight for the long haul and let the megacorp save its rocket fuel for important things.

Jax intercepts and destroys the message, and tells his wife that their sponsor is too busy recovering from the war to send anyone. Maddy collapses completely after this, and winds up performing a second betrayal (actually, she was first, but she only completes it second). Seems she had created a child (in vitro) and put it into suspended animation. She hadn't told her husband about this, and one gathers that he didn't even know he was donating a chromosome set for her genetic work.

What happens to the future kid? Think of the difference between in vitro (basically, in glass) and ex vitro (out of glass), and how long a premature child would survive ex vitro. Maddy takes the child as ex vitro as one gets - dumping it out into the methane gas of Titan.

Funny thing is, I'd expected her to kill herself. She wasn't even sane anymore at this point, having been permanently cut off from the one place she wanted to be.

Summary time... It was an okay story. Had the ending been any different, I might have said "good". A supposedly loving relationship that's plainly revealed to be completely loveless is not really good fiction because you're mostly screwing with the reader's perception and not doing anything with the characters.

Maybe I missed something and the idea was a relationship going from a loving to a loveless state. If that is the case it was just handled badly; it takes a little more than four hours to fall out of love and decide to lie to your wife about the one thing she wants, just to get your own way.

The embryo plot point felt forced, like it was only there so Maddy could kill someone else instead of herself, and to provide a title for the piece. When it was first mentioned (Maddy was in some VR thing and for no apparent reason starts thinking of the embryo) I thought of it as something completely useless. It didn't flow well with the story then, and it jarred even worse during the second mention when Maddy destroyed it. It also broke logic the second time - Jax was trying to get Maddy to go outside to see his big revelation about the Titanian life, so when she goes outside she goes alone? Only two people in a small station and you don't notice when the other one leaves with a large metal container?

Oh, and the whole life on Titan thing was irrelevant. They hit upon a major discovery (the idea that the life there is psychic, as implied earlier in the story) and then the plot makes a 180 degree turn as Paris gets nuked.

The Archon

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