Review: “A Better Way To Die” by Paul Cornell

2 of 5 stars.

This story contains some interesting ideas and additions to the possibilities of humankind by way of alien technology. Unfortunately, it doesn’t spend a paragraph to explain any of the mechanics of said technology and the characters remain largely uncurious. After the aliens, here called Foreigners, move into the solar system, human acquire the tech to utilize parallel dimensions. Servants can do work unseen by occupying a parallel dimension to accomplish a task. How it gets accomplished in this dimension from another is not answered. Nor is the seemingly easy movement between dimensions, or universes.

The use of the body doubles found in these other dimensions is a bit more nefarious. Not all dimensions are time-synchronized. One man finds his less-scarred, more-handsome self of a different dimension and transfers his consciousness into it, after destroying its original consciousness. The thematic issues raised are those common to use of human clones.

The protagonist, Hamilton, is called to his old college by the colleague wearing a new, less-scarred body. At a mixer he is introduced to his own other-dimensional self that, at barely an adult, is easily less than half Hamilton’s age. Hamilton can’t figure out why he is being introduced to his double or what his colleagues are playing at. He is ruffled enough by his younger, cockier self to challenge himself to a high stakes game of cards. After busting the younger double, Hamilton tries to write off the debt of his otherworld self.

Not long after, Hamilton is called in to find his younger self that has taken off and hidden among the multi-dimensions in and around a British hunting estate . . .

No sense is made of any character’s motivations which is disappointing.

“A Better Way To Die” appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015 edited by Rich Norton and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Rogues.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

2 responses to “Review: “A Better Way To Die” by Paul Cornell

  1. I found this story to be a confusing disappointment in an otherwise excellent collection of material in “Rogues” edited by RR Martin. It was more than just “not my cup of tea” but rather a poorly constructed story or one that required the context of other information. It was more a chapter than a story unto itself.

    Liked by 1 person

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