Review: “The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette

4 of 5 stars.

Picking up where Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein left off, this sci-fi, horror novella warns of the dangers of science not guided by ethics. Not all knowledge that can be gained, should be gained. This is true when the pursuit of knowledge threatens or harms the freedom, well-being or life of sentient beings.

Dr. Cynthia Feuerwerker, dismissed from the crew of a living spaceship for unethical practices and experiments, is abandoned on a Saturn-orbitted space station that will airlock her if she remains. Under dodgy circumstances, she is brought onboard the Jarmulowicz Astronomica that is otherwise entirely crewed by notoriously insular Askhamers for their forthcoming trip to salvage a dead med-ship, Charles Dexter Ward [status of the crew–unknown].

The dead ship like the doctor’s previous living ship is a many-eyed, tentacled boojum that distorts the space-time fabric. [No less than four other alien species are seen or mentioned in this story including the cat-niche cheshires that hunt ship rats and dimension-hopping toves.] Boojums rarely die, so CDW‘s death is curious. Along with her only friend [Hester] on the new ship, Feuerwerker is assigned a spot on the search team that will explore the dead ship. An independent salvager ship has beat them there. But they see no signs of them beyond their docked ship.

Within the corridors of CDW, the exploration team make a grim discovery when they spot a member of the original crew emotionlessly working in the rotting vessel. Then, the team spots the wide burn hole through his re-animated corpse . . .

“The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward” appears in New Cthulhu 2: More Recent Weird edited by Paula Guran after originally appearing in The Drabblecast #254 & #255, August/September 2012. I’d previously read Monette’s beautiful and excellent “Somewhere Beneath Those Waves Was Her Home” and Bear’s consistently enjoyable short stories: “The Hand is Quicker–“, “Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle”, and “Swell”
[Check out my other reviews here.]

2 responses to “Review: “The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette

  1. Pingback: Short Story Review: “Cryptic Coloration” by Elizabeth Bear | Jaffalogue

  2. Pingback: Short Story Review: “Impostors” by Sarah Monette | Jaffalogue

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