Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
OMG what a glorious, gloriously messed-up SF. :)
Bennett pulls off a great hat trick that follows some of the greatest SF stories ever written. He drills down on a single issue: Guns.
So... done, and perhaps overdone for years, right? Yes, of course! Because the problem is WORSE now than ever! Look at the Purge and dozens of others to show us where we're headed. It's the drill-down. Let's see our possible futures and see what kind of consequences are in store for us.
This one goes delightfully bloodthirsty and satirical as hell, adding a few extra dimensions like massive reliance on demographics and marketing ramped up to a perfect science and designing a whole society that relies on its deep fears to remain always vigilant against foreign invasion. (China has far outstripped the US by this point in technology and social engineering.)
The whole media industry has turned random shootings into a manufactured circus, turning certain zones into legal shootout zones where everyone goes armed and stays ready... and the "mad" shooter is carefully chosen, given a possible prize of 20 million dollars if he's the last one standing, 5 million to the cops if they get him first, and 1 million for any citizen stupid enough to enter the zone willingly. And it's all broadcasted in perfect technological wizardry, offering realtime stats, characterizations of the real people, and tons of AI tweaked additions to pump up the perfect ratings.
This is just the start, though. I love what it says about a society that had thrown off the shackles of random "desirable" traits to select for a more fearful populace, more gun-happy, and ever more distrustful.
Worse, we did it to ourselves. On purpose. By incentivizing it.
This novella is bloody and serious and soooo beautifully satirical. The MC inside this media circus is so dedicated to his job, so serious about doing it right, so vigilant, himself. :) He never sees what he's doing. What we all do to ourselves...
and the ending has one hell of a cool twist. :) Poetic justice? Yes. But since this is Bennett, we also have some SWEET over-the-top twists. I LOVE how it panned out.
Of course, it would have been scathingly deadly right after the end trip to the bathroom if it had ended right there. :) Not so over-the-top, but definitely damning to us all. :)
For next year, I'm definitely nominating this for Best Novella for Hugo. :)
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