Best Friend in Greyworld by Glenn M. Diamond

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Post December 21, 2014, 08:52:07 PM

Best Friend in Greyworld by Glenn M. Diamond

Ramsey and Bear board the USS Alabama and sail out of communication range (Crimson Tide, 1995). Ripley and Jones snuggle into her stasis pod and flee the Nostromo (Alien, 1979). Casting a pet as character engages the viewer, particularly a family audience. As do Tony Scott and Ridley Scott, Glenn M. Diamond bookends his narrative with sentimental animal scenes. The story Mr. Diamond frames is familiar to Star Trek fans: survey team suffers radiation storm and loses contact with base.

Turn off your smartphones and prepare for your drug screen. It’s the clean and sober life for the common workers in Mr. Diamond’s world. No one smokes, or drinks, or even gobbles pizza and ice cream. Recreational sex and pharmaceuticals are frowned upon; the authorities award “taboo” perks to the talented few. The characters running the bazaars and black markets are invisible. “Best Friend in Greyworld” occurs one hundred thirty-three years in the future, but it projects the traditional morality of the nineteen-fifties.

So, how is Mr. Diamond’s world different from what we expect? He posits “Hyper Space Curvature,“ suggesting FTL travel. The protagonist, his dog, and a woman colleague constitute the survey team. Our heroes travel to “the second octant of the Milky Way” without mention of cryostasis. Logically, the scientific mission (geological survey) is escorted by a military crew. Here we might expect danger: pirates, adversaries, shipboard conflicts. No aliens out there. No weapons on board, either. On the Aldrin, however, the threat is that the elderly ship’s surgeon might break her hip or die of a stroke.

Here we find the enigma of the story. Mining companies are eagerly exploring asteroids and planetoids for commercial exploitation. Newly minted graduates languish on the waiting list to become pilots and surveyors; the company “always has a surplus of top candidates.” Yet, surveyors—“jumpers”—earn premium compensation. Those eligible for bonuses command perks comparable to “the perverse, deviant” luxuries enjoyed by entertainers.

Why would an employer pay to train and retain employees when there is a labor surplus? Frost, the female foil, says, “they could do this with AI rovers, but we cost a lot less.” Is she correct? Is cost the explanation? Why would the navy permit a septuagenarian doctor to serve on a starship, blocking the promotional ladder for generations of junior officers? In Mr. Diamond’s world, Earth is still the homeworld. We expect to search the solar system for raw materials. We expect competition for those resources. Was there a war? That might explain the leap in space travel technology.

In several paragraphs, the author uses three or four names (first names or surnames) for only two speakers. I needed to check the dramatis personae until I memorized the cast.

I don’t find Frost’s personality any stronger for having the Omniscient Narrator tell us her thoughts. In standard notation, her own thoughts are in italics. It confuses me when various characters speak in both italics AND caps simultaneously within quotes. I had to reread several passages to determine who was thinking or speaking.

Frost, after a remarkably chaste flirtation, accepts Hunter’s canine partner as a useful player (, thus setting the stage for a personal relationship between the human partners.

I like the idea of the Red Line; it’s a plausible plot device. “Greyworld” is a comfortable narrative that holds my interest; it’s suspenseful enough to demand my attention. Mr. Diamond writes a polished professional style that should carry him far.

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Post December 26, 2014, 08:51:18 PM

Re: Best Friend in Greyworld by Glenn M. Diamond

Thank you for this review, I am very grateful for this thoughtful evaluation and the time you spent reading the story and writing the review. I'll need to do a better job with the omniscient narration to prevent ambiguities in the dialog, and my apologies for having to re-read any paragraphs. Overall I'm extremely gratified you found the story compelling and recognized my desire to avoid unecessary sex, violence, etc.

In my opinion, the greatest challenge in science fiction is to develop novel concepts (in physics, cosmology, etc). It seems like everything has been done before -- endlessly, yet personal struggles and relationships are still worth exploring. If we can place interesting characters against the backdrop of fresh situations and conflicts, so much the better.

Again, thank you and Apehlion for providing a great opportunity for aspiring writers. Happy New Year's to all!
Cheers, Glenn M. Diamond
Glenn Diamond
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Post December 29, 2014, 10:31:16 PM

Re: Best Friend in Greyworld by Glenn M. Diamond

This is a very well-written story overall. Characterization and dialog are quite good. The plot is fairly simple, but there's nothing wrong with that.

The setting caught my attention.
“The surface is a near-perfect isometric projection of a textured polychromic fractalscape, with ridges and washes containing lines of highly saturated colors. It will appear the same at any distance, a hundred meters or a hundred kilometers. There are no mountains, valleys, lakes or rivers, only nominal variations in the surface texture.

This seems a bit improbable, but I can't exactly be sure how much. I have to assume it's not an overly large piece of real estate, and the rest of the planet isn't described. Breathable air (oxygen) comes from photosynthesis, so this is a life-bearing planet, and water vapor in the atmosphere implies oceans. Still, we have large dry areas right here at home; they just aren't this colorful.

“Cyrus here. We have a rapidly developing situation. During the briefing I mentioned gravitational anomalies, possibly from a black hole near this system. It might be more active than I thought. Our graviton flux detectors show modulations even though our engines are off. Something is buffeting the Aldrin, probably coupling through the torsion field generators. It’s increasing and could develop into a ... a quantum storm; something that has only been theorized.

This is the part that most fascinated me in this story. It's true speculative fiction, and as near as I know, an original idea in SF. It's also the final piece of the very well-constructed setup.

Also, in connection with any suspected black hole, the term "near" has to mean an astronomical distance to keep it from meaning "game over."

The conflicts and resolutions play out well here. The two protagonists antagonize each other to some degree, but resolve their differences satisfactorily at the end. Meanwhile, the true antagonist is embodied in the setting itself as an unstable complex of immediate environmental conditions and cosmic disruption. This all returns to normal just after the MCs make their way to shelter. Everything is nicely timed.

Now for the bad news. Out of everything else here, this was what strained my credulity the most:
This was a world where no day was like the one before or after it, the periods of sunlight and darkness twisting and curling according to a grand astronomical dance nuanced by parallaxes and eccentricities and perturbations and all manner of messy nonlinearities. The planet’s crust drifted as well, being loosely coupled to a rapidly spinning molten core.

To me, there's nothing here that can suffice to explain such rapid changes in the timing or duration of a day-night cycle. The implication is that Chroma and all the other bodies in the system sail about like pingpong balls, changing course and/or spin and/or axial tilt within hours. Sorry, but inertia just wouldn't allow that. I'm fairly sure that if a planet changed any aspect of its motion that quickly, it would become a debris cloud. The drifting of the crust was especially weak, since--at least from our experience--it's about equivalent to the speed that fingernails grow.

I can understand why this was done, of course: it puts one more obstacle between the characters and their survival, and it didn't do much damage to my enjoyment of the story.

A couple investment tips for Reese and Tara: start a company to make purely-mechanic wristwatches for the settlers of Chroma--and sell them puppies.

Fine job.

I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?

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