Short Story Review: “The Empress in Her Glory” by Robert Reed

2 of 5 stars.

A wide array of scenarios exists in literature answering the question What would aliens think of humans if they came to Earth? Sometimes, they barely pay any mind to man, other times they wage war, enslave, co-exist, or feed on humans. This tale offers an inauspicious and particularly strong beginning to the relationship of humans and aliens:

If not taken at the right moment, any ripe prize falls from its tree and rots away, and nothing is gained. That was how They looked at the situation . . . And after four and a half billion years of slow, often irregular growth, the Earth was deemed ripe.

But the unnamed aliens choice in what to do with a planet they deem theirs is rather odd. They remain unseen and pick a single human out of billions to administer the planet, and not as any sort of puppet. And what exactly the aliens get out of the arrangement is never clarified. It merely serves as background for how Adrianne Hammer is, unbeknownst to the rest of humanity nor really herself, is elevated to the role of Empress. Before the elevation, she is an analyst in a small office of cubicles in nowhere Ohio, and a part-time blogger putting out 1 post per week.

Then things change, an anonymous [alien] tip leads her to blog about dam instability. And days later the Three Gorges Dam breaks killing millions in China. At first it seems that the Empress is a pawn for alien actions. And her blog posts definitely serve as her royal, albeit vague, decrees. However, all her blog posts come true in some form or another whether it’s sourced from aliens or her own interests. She really does hold the reins, which leads to quite the career shift as millions become aware of her blog . . .

It’s unfortunate that the aliens arrangement seems so random and at odds with them having any claim on the planet. Rather, they seem to have become the pawns for their chosen empress.

This tale appears in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 10 edited by Jonathan Strahan. I received this new anthology from Netgalley. I’ve previously read this author’s “Every Hill Ends With Sky”, and his excellent “Pernicious Romance”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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