Review: “A Story, With Beans” by Steven Gould

3 of 5 stars.

Appearing in After the End: Recent Apocalypses edited by Paula Guran, this story is a work of fantastical science fiction in which robotic bugs devour metal along with anything in their way to the metal including humans. The infestation rages unevenly across the landscape with unaffected civilized areas and still-infested, devastated areas that house emerging micro-cultures.

The outer story is about some guides in the less comfortable, devastated areas escorting three anthropology graduate students to their field research. The students have lead sheltered lives within the infestation-free, civilized zones and do not have a working knowledge of the micro-cultures they have come to study. The inner tale is a love story showcasing one particular micro-culture in which religious zealots curtail the rights and learning opportunities for their female members.

I really like the set-up to this story. However, I found the students to be too caricatured to feel real. A longer story would likely suit the story well by giving time and space to developing the characters and the situation. As it was, the “twist” in the identity of the protagonist in the tale-within-the-story was obvious before the tale had even begun. It is also a distraction. The true story lies in the fate of the couple and the message to be taken from it.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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