(click on the link to read the story online)
Some years ago I read a novel from Karin Lowachee – Warchild – whose main focus was on post-traumatic syndrome: in that case it was the story of a young boy captured by pirates, abused and bound by force to their way of life. It came therefore as no surprise that this story concerned the difficult return to normality after the ravages of PTSD, but in this case the subject is an android. Mark, that’s the name it was identified with, is the sole survivor of his platoon – all of them androids built by the military to fight in an unspecified war in space – and despite the re-programming he underwent he’s still in shock and does not speak. A human veteran, Tawn, whose spinal injury forced him in a wheelchair, accepts to act as… well, tutor for Mark and to help him move forward toward a more integrated existence, despite the protests of his neighbors – somehow afraid for their children’s safety – and his mother, terrified beyond reason that Mark might one day hurt or kill her son.
Mark does not speak, although he’s able to, and he seems to remain in a semi-catatonic state for most of the time, only showing some reactions when thunderstorms move over the area: that’s when his repressed memories flare up and Tawn finds him curled up on the floor, a tearless keening issuing from him. It’s a long, difficult road for both of them, and one that might lead nowhere, but Tawn keeps insisting, probably for the unexpressed reason that it takes a broken person to reach out to another one, and the author manages to convey the slowly building rapport between man and android even beyond the need for words. There is no conclusion as it is, no ‘happy ending’, but the glimmer of hope that Mark might find his way again is there, and it’s enough.
A Good Home is a poignant, if restrained, story: Karin Lowachee knows how to deal with hurt people without recurring to easy sentimentality or forced pathos, and this story confirms it quite well. Well worth reading.