Loosely science fiction, an extremely narrow focus and lack of greater world-building, implied or explicit, veers this tale of aliens and artificial intelligence closer to space fantasy. The narrow POV supports Anat who has little understanding of the greater universe nor her own history. The lack of depth into even the constricted worldview Anat would have, along with the stilted language of over relying on proper names for everything and forgoing natural pronoun usage, counters the flow of the tale making it seem like an outline to a story meant to be flushed out later. As it is, the story isn’t immersive as fantasy and sci-fi tend to be.
Anat and Oscar are alone on a planet called Home populated only by robots called handmaidens and aliens called vampires. Anat doesn’t remember her past or her parents and thereby feels very reliant on Oscar, her older brother. There’s no telling why they’re on Home, or how they’d survive there beyond the confines of their ship. Oscar isn’t forthcoming about the true nature of their situation.
The cleverest aspect of the tale is the game the siblings play to pass the time. Smash and Recovery is a bit like Capture the Flag but with the addition of a token to destroy [smash] along with the usual token to recover from the other team. Also, each of these tokens has a false version used in decoy causing the game to act as a loose metaphor for the tale of the two siblings.
This tale appears in a couple “best of” anthologies. The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 10 edited by Jonathan Strahan, I received from Netgalley. The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “The Cinderella Game”, “I Can See Right Through You”, and “Monster”.
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