Short Story Review: “Mutability” by Ray Nayler

4 of 5 stars.

Aiming for immortality has long been been the speculation of lore and literature. But as humankind moves toward greater longevity, other problems are sure to arise and social and cultural changes will adjust for the differences.

This moving tale takes place 4 centuries into the future when humans have achieved extreme longevity. Paper books are a thing of the past. Children are very rare and curiously mature. The sense of urgency that occupied 21st Century life tapered off as lives extended. However, memories do not last as long as lifetimes any longer. Childhoods are forgotten. And past loves. Schooling, careers and initial motives are all lost to the decades unspooling.

Sebastien goes everyday to the same cafe and has been doing so for 60+ years. It’s always a little bit different, but a little bit the same. He comes to study and understand the past in the remnants of literature he’s able to unearth. One day a new woman steps in out of the rain–Sophia. Sophia recognizes Sebastien from a photo she’s carried around for a century, though she was never sure of her motive in doing so. The photo shows Sophia and Sebastien, together and happy, in clothes 400 years out of style . . .

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, which I received directly from Prime Books.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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