Weeding Womb


Geropods by Robert Onopa. Mr. Onopa is apparently an associate professor of creative writing. Unfortunately, he threatens to prove the old saw that "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."

This isn't to say he's a bad writer, per se, but this story reads like a beginner's story, and makes mistakes that only a high school writing teacher should overlook (and even then it's iffy). The story is about an extremely lucky group of seniors who bust out of their retirement home in an effort to help one of their own visit vengeance upon the conman who's married to his daughter and squandering the family fortune.

Why are they lucky? Every step they take is advantageous. They meet a group of female seniors out for the day and, lo and behold, there's an exact match for each one to fall in love with. Even the guy in the coma has a new comatose girlfriend. The characters happen to make a seemingly random choice on naming something that later turns out to be critical in their hastily-formulated Vengeance Plan B after Plan A fails. The story is rife with such conveniences. But the worst by far is when, after the conman is conned and disgraced, the police officer he calls (in order to have the seniors who conned him arrested) asks the deaf senior if he heard anything and asks the blind one if he saw anything. Even the newest officer on the force would, had they made that mistake, just ask the opposite questions. Nope. Evidently you only get one question per suspect/witness, because they're let go despite the fact that they (by the narrator's own claim) are acting suspicious. (They have, by this point, been 'peeping toms', trespassed, fraudulently misrepresented themselves several times, attempted vandalism and break and enter, and loitered in front of a private home. You could, if not for a loophole in the geropod laws, add forgery to that list.)

Another problem with the story is not the fault of the author - it's the fault of the anthologizers, David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer. This story is not science fiction. It's in the future, since it makes the point of claiming that one of today's younger actors is in his dotage as the story opens. But Miss Cleo spoke of the future a lot, and you don't see her getting Hugo nominations that often.

Some people were aggravated at Mr. Hartwell and Ms. Cramer's inclusion of David Morrell's Resurrection a book ago. It was a story all about one man's quest to help his father, stuck in cryogenic storage with an incurable disease. I thought it was a fine, if very unremarkable, piece of work. However, at least one reviewer railed against the choice since it was only the cryogenics that made the story SF. Otherwise, it was something that could've happened twenty years ago.

In Geropods, there's not even that much. The only SF is the high-tech hearing aid one of the characters wears - which is bulkier than current ones, oddly enough - and a cheap subdermal microchip credit card that is, again, there only because it's convenient to the story for a hospitalized guy who's in a coma to have easy access to a line of credit, no matter how unlikely that may be.

Oh, and of course, there's the titular Geropods. The anthologist's teaser made me think of some hard SF, with several mentally weakened seniors being wired together into a pseudo-hive-mind in an attempt to generate one full-intelligence entity who could take care of "itself". Nope, turns out it just means that if a deaf old guy and a blind old guy want to go out in public, they can form a "Geropod", a legal entity that is "equivalent to one human being" who can check itself out of a nursing home where the individuals couldn't, since it has one functioning set of eyes and one functioning set of ears. The implication is that deaf people aren't allowed out in public anymore, in the far-flung future world of 2060 or so.

This story, however, neglects several things. It doesn't cover for the fact that young blind and deaf people aren't required to pair off to do things - indeed, judging by the characters, anyone in this universe over 65 is disabled while anyone under is whole and healthy - and it doesn't explain why the narrator can't go it alone. He's deaf, but has a high-tech hearing-aid hat (else he wouldn't be able to hear the dialogue and recount it for us). His only other weakness is that he has the shakes, a condition which doesn't detrimentally affect his performance in any obvious way, as he walks about unaided and even performs basic medical procedures that he was tasked to do before leaving the nursing home. In other words, he's a non-cripple being stopped by a rule that, by the author's definition, affects crippled people.

And it doesn't explain why all the people have to be old. When the people in the geropod hire a driver to drive them around, I was led to the question of why an old man with a disability can't hire a young man to form a geropod and get him out of the nursing home for a while.

Overall, the geropod requirements seem to be arbitrary to the point where they were crafted after the story in order to justify it all. Like the rest of the universe it takes place in, really. This is the kind of story that I could see being used as a true account to prove the existence of God, since the entire thing, from one end to the other, smacks of a divine hand guiding it. It gets a point for the happy ending, but a half-point deduction for making the happy ending not so much expected as predetermined.

Light fluff with a happy ending for everyone, even the people in a coma. Not bad if you've got some time to kill waiting for a bus, but no good if there's anything else to read, like a story about characters who adapt to their environment, rather than an environment that adapts to its characters.

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/geropods.htm
Main URL: http://www.archonrealm.com/reviews/geropods.htm
Tripod URL: http://archonrealm.tripod.com/reviews/geropods.htm
Backup URLs: http://s91291220.onlinehome.us/reviews/geropods.htm http://archonrealm.cjb.net/reviews/geropods.htm