This is one of six short stories published by Amazon and all of them deal with some sort of technological advancement which is not my usual kind of genre, so I don’t think these would have even been on my radar if not for this short story by N. K. Jemisin. And she never disappoints.
I’ve actually come to associate second person POV with the author, so I wasn’t at all surprised when this story began the same way. As per the premise, I was expecting the space explorer to find a much destroyed Earth but what he encounters is something completely unexpected. The author tells most of the story through the AI which lives inside his head (if we could even call it that), giving instructions to him about what to do on Earth and what rewards await. In just this short story, we get a great glimpse of the kind of new society these so-called Founders have built in a far away galaxy – a white homogeneous male world in which only the rich and privileged have access to skin and all other pleasures, whereas the majority live in composite suits.
The major theme of the story is the belief in a socialist utopian society, the idea that all the earth’s problems would be solved if all human beings worked towards the betterment of everybody and not just themselves. In a story that’s just about 33 pages, we get excellent commentary on misogyny, fat shaming, racism, classism, ableism and capitalist greed and while the author’s solution to save the world might not feel realistic, the underlying problems she talks about are nevertheless completely true. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong in envisioning a world that’s better for every one of its inhabitants.
In the end, all I can say is that Jemisin packs a powerful punch in just a few words, and it’s overall hopeful message is brilliantly done. It’s a very short, enjoyable and thought provoking read and I think everyone should give it a try. You’ll of course enjoy it more if you are familiar with the author’s writing style (and like it) and lean more left liberal in your politics. I haven’t still decided if I should try the remaining five stories in this collection, but maybe someday.