Review: “Purposes Made for Alien Minds” by Scott R. Parkin

1 of 5 stars.

This tale of a scientifically-constructed human that watches the remnants of a destroyed planet is told through an inane, indefensible gimmick: each sentence in the story contains exactly five words. Except many are not sentences. And hoops must be jumped through to keep up the appearances. The story tries to defend the gimmick by stating that the narrator was constructed to think only in 5-meme clusters. It also can only understand 5-meme groupings.

This is merely bad linguistics as no morphological or syntactic limitations have been placed on the groupings. Many imply a subject–handy. Others contain a non-meme filler word to hit 5. Many are dependent clauses, or even lowly phrases that rely on an adjacent sentence. Technological constraints–such as the character limit to tweets–would make sense. Tradition would too as in the syllable-count in haikus. But here it merely distracts from the story, until it becomes painful in its ridiculous self-justification attempts.

The story, hidden by the gimmick-y writing, is based on terrible science, speculative or not. Humankind has spread to other plants which it has terraformed. The fifth planet colonized was subsequently destroyed by an unknowable alien race in mere days by organic-destroying viruses and other means to ruin the environment and all human-made items. After years of the planet becoming a wasteland with all of the organic detritus still present because even the fungi and bacteria that breakdown organics were destroyed, life re-starts itself again thanks to the aliens. The early generations of life are highly sped up but essentially all of evolution plays out again. In 256 days. Yup, in less than 9 months, evolution has led from prokaryotes to eukaryotes and insects to rodents back to humans that can be seen to be organized in hunter-gatherer family units. In 256 days. These days do have 25 hours, so that stretches time a little, but by this time the story is stretched too thin.

This story is illustrated by artist contest winner Emily Siu. As a quarterly short story contest winner, “Purposes Made for Alien Minds” merited inclusion in the anthology Writers of the Future Volume 31 by L. Ron Hubbard. I received the anthology through Net Galley.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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