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Acadie by Erik Hutchinson

Published by Tor.com on September 5, 2017

Acadie is a novella. It is exactly the length it needs to be, written without padding. I wish more authors would do that, although I understand the economic incentive to pad and the resulting pressure from publishers to do so.

Duke is the reluctant president of the Colony, elected because he didn’t campaign and, in fact, was off-world during the election. His first crisis involves a probe which a mining ship has fired upon and disabled, much to Duke’s consternation. The probe, one of many dispatched by the Bureau of Colonisation, is likely searching for the Colony. How the probe got past the Colony’s satellites is a mystery but, more to the point, if it sent a message back to the Bureau before the mining ship cooked it, the Colony will need to find a new place to hang out. That mess falls into Duke’s lap.

After the development of Duke’s backstory (he was a lawyer for the Bureau before his messy resignation and escape to the Colony), we learn about the Colony and its inhabitants, including the reigning Queen of genetic manipulation, who fled Earth with her graduate students and hijacked a ship full of colonists to pursue her experiments in a place where she could avoid being arrested again. You get to be who you want to be on the Colony — elf, Klingon, the Roadrunner, whatever — thanks to the ability to rewrite genes.

The guts of the story involve the Colony’s reaction to its potential discovery and Duke’s role in the last line of defense. The story is interesting and quirky, with a background of cool technology and a foreground of an even cooler Mexican standoff that forces Duke (and the reader) to consider whether the assumptions that have controlled the story until that point are all wrong. Challenging assumptions is something that science fiction does well, and this story does that in a surprising way. I like Acadie because it doesn’t try to do too much, and what it does try to do, it does well.


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