Weeding Womb

The Violet's Embryos

The Violet's Embryos by Angélica Gorodischer, translated by Sara Irausquin. A good story, in need of a better editor.

This story, in some ways, comes across as a subtle parody of Star Trek's prevailing modus operandi. A group of a dozen or two expeditionary types have been tasked by the Space Force to take a starship and visit an unpopulated desert world in an effort to find a similar ship that disappeared in the area years before. They find a desert, but they also find a rich and verdant oasis, populated with Earthish animals... and far more humans than were on the original ship. When they find how the original ship's crew have created a paradise, albeit one with some very unorthodox social standards, the captain immediately attempts to force them back into Federation Space Force-approved ways of living, even if it means destroying the entire society to do it.

It's everything else that's terribly un-Trekkish. And that's good.

'Why an editor', I hear you ask? Because the story is utterly confusing. I don't know if it was the author, or translator, or a typesetter, but there's no scene breaks. For instance:

"How many men?" asked Lord Vantedour.
"Eight," answered the lookout.
"The thing is," said the commmander, "the data don't match up, so there must be an error somewhere." (...)

Sounds like the commander is responding to the lookout's assertion that there's eight men approaching, right?

Wrong. The commander is one of the eight men, miles away from the lookout. There's a scene break there. The story is rife with these sorts of problems, and it really damages one's enjoyment of the story until halfway through, when everyone finally meets and the scene changes are fewer and further between.

It probably reached its worst when, due to a number of scene shifts in quick succession, three individual concepts - a group of low-tech hunters, a table in a meeting room, and the fast-approaching starship types - got welded together and I was left with the image of a bunch of barbarians sitting at a table that's somehow moving towards Lord Vantedour's keep at a high rate of speed. (I imagined the table and chairs all on wheels, travelling merrily down dirt roads while the hunters argued. No one seemed to be driving.)

This is compounded by the odd cast of characters introduced in those same pages. Leaving out the starship people, we meet: Lord Vantedour; another lordish type who's higher-tech; a guy who's alternately a war hero and a torture victim; a drunk who claims he would demand a new green suit if he weren't so far from 'the violet'; and some embryonic thing in a mobile womb. All five somehow are related to the original, vanished ship.

Believe it or not, by the end of the story, all of that makes something approaching sense.

Once it gets on its feet, it's a good story. The creation of the paradise seems a bit odd, but the rules are at least consistent, and allow for a rather interesting discourse into exactly what happens to a person when they're given ultimate power. It all holds together fairly well, and the interactions between Lord Vantedour and Dr. Sessler (the one 'rescuer' who's content to leave Vantedour and his fellows alone, and the nominally main character of the story - as the story gets less confusing, he comes into his own more).

A very enjoyable story at its core, but one that could stand a lot of editing work from someone somewhere along the line. (You might be better off skipping the first 4 or so pages, since they don't really make that much sense, and the info they provide can mostly be inferred from context, or from this review.) Still, if you're brave it will make a good time-waster.

The Archon

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