“Murder on the Einstein Express” from Murder on the Einstein Express and Other Stories by Harun Siljak

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[Edit: Originally published  October 29, 2016]

This really is the “Science” part of Science Fiction. I feel like I kind of got a crash course in theoretical physics, if that’s even the right term. I’m certainly no scientist. But if you are a scientist or simply enjoy science this seems like a collection that would be right up your alley. 

“Murder on the Einstein Express” is a very clever story. The story takes place at a university, some teachers have constructed a new experimental class for students to take. It’s segmented into 10 mini chapters, an introduction and then the nine lectures that comprise the course. 

What’s being taught is a thought experiment. The analysis of a physics laden short story, “Murder on the Einstein Express.” Where protagonists A. and N. are trying to solve the murder of Laplace’s demon. Every lecture the Professor reads a bit of the story to the students and then they discuss the elements that come up in that section.

There were some parts, particularly the math parts, that had me reading sections over and over because I was struggling to wrap my head around it and I wanted to. This ended up being detrimental to my reading and I had to resign myself to fact that I wouldn’t understand everything, and indeed you’re not supposed to. Plenty of the students in the story are confused as well and there are also places where the Professor tells the students that if they want to learn more/better understand, to seek outside materials. After that I didn’t feel so bad about not knowing. 

It was a very good story and I greatly enjoyed it despite not having a science background. Though if you’re looking for science fiction of the “easy to read space adventure” type this isn’t the place you’re going to find that. This is like I said before, very science heavy science fiction. It’s stuff I think my dad, who is a scientist, would enjoy greatly. 

You can find the book here.

Related Reviews: Freudian Slipstream, Questioning the Tree

Snaps:

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“Freudian Slipstream” from Small Doses of the Future by Brad Aiken

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[Edit: Originally published September 30, 2016]

“Freudian Slipstream” is the third story in the collection Small Doses of the Future and it’s definitely a fun one. 

It starts on a beach and immediately something feels off. As you keep reading, that offness becomes more and more apparent, until you get some key information about the scenario. Spoilers, it’s not real. It’s a mental construct designed to keep a person’s brain active while they’re in stasis. This particular man, a scientist, is working on a cure/antidote for a toxin that is produced by an alien life form on a planet that humans have a colony on. 

Many of the other short stories in the book have some sort of social commentary tied into them. Not to say that that’s a detriment to those stories, because it definitely isn’t, but this story in particular has less of that. It’s more the “shit, something is going down in space and we have to fix it” kind of story than the “should highly developed AIs be considered people” kind of story. Both kinds of stories are equally good, but they’re different kinds of stories. 

I really don’t want to spoil too much because part of the joy of the story is discovering what’s going on as the story moves forward. It has a very excellent surreal feeling to it that leaves you feeling, at times, like you’re grasping at straws just as much as the main character is. 

If you’re looking for a quick, entertaining science fiction read, “Freudian Slipstream” is definitely a good story to check out.

You can find the collection Small Doses of the Future here.

Related Reviews: Questioning the Tree, Murder on the Einstein Express

“Questioning the Tree” from Small Doses of the Future by Brad Aiken

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[Edit: Originally published September 23, 2016]

I meant to review two stories for today, but school happened so there’s only one. I will likely review another story from this collection at a later date, however. 

So, Questioning the Tree, or the medical science fiction story that I could totally see Leonard McCoy writing if he were so inclined to write 21st century science fiction. 

Questioning the Tree is a short story about the medical world, particularly how doctors are allowed to relate to patients. No longer do doctors make the diagnoses, they rely on a scanner of sorts to make the diagnosis and then the doctors must follow through on what that diagnosis is. They don’t really have much interaction with the patients anymore. And when the machines get things wrong, there’s nothing they can do to help the patient, because of the Tree. The Tree basically determines what the doctors can and cannot do and how they’re supposed to answer and work with their patients. The big thing is that the doctors cannot physically touch their patients. 

That’s what got me thinking about Leonard McCoy, who is a very hands on kind of doctor and would definitely not be pleased if he wasn’t allowed to touch his patients. 

The story opens with our protagonist, Dr. Jenkins, arriving to work at the hospital to find that one of his colleagues has been arrested for deviating from the aforementioned Tree and treating a patient in ways that weren’t allowed. The story follows Dr. Jenkins and how torn he feels about being part of this. He doesn’t feel like he’s being true to what doctors are supposed to be, what he went to medical school to do, but at the same time he doesn’t want to lose his job and be arrested. Yet things keep happening.

It starts with his nurse, who asks him questions like she thinks he might not fully believe in the Tree.

Then he runs into an old friend from med school, Doug, who as it turns out is running an illegal clinic where they treat patients with traditional methods. Jenkins almost shows up, but before he gets the chance the clinic is raided and everyone arrested. 

After this Jenkins lays low, doesn’t do anything, until finally he’s had enough. The story ends with Dr. Jenkins opening up his own secret illegal clinic, and helping a patient he hadn’t been able to properly help at the hospital he worked at. 

I very much enjoyed the hopeful note it gave and that it didn’t end on a dark note like it could have. As well as being a fun and enjoyable read it’s also a very insightful piece.

You can find the whole book of stories here.

Related Reviews: Freudian Slipstream, Murder on the Einstein Express