click on the LINK to read the story online
This is not my first story by Rich Larson (whose novel Annex was also one of my recent happy discoveries), but as I’ve now come to expect from this writer it’s a very intriguing one: in this specific case we are shown a near-future in which an augmented chimpanzee works as a police detective alongside his human partner, and they are faced with a strange murder. A man has been shot on the subway by a woman who, as it becomes clear in the course of the investigation, was acting as an “echo”, someone who obeys the commands of a client telling them what to do and say – these clients live vicariously through their echoes, filtering those experiences through the hosts, but until the murder on the subway nothing so excessive was ever recorded.
As interesting as this angle is, especially when considering the attitude of some of these “echoes”, who seem to enjoy – crave – the loss of their individuality to the point that they are driven to extreme acts, like the woman on the subway, the main focus of the story is on Cu, the enhanced chimp and her memories of an earlier life in the lab where her cognitive abilities were augmented, often at the cost of suffering and what could easily be termed as torture. Cu, after the trial in which she was granted independent status and monetary reparations, is now her own person with a rewarding job, but she is also quite alone, the only one of her kind and as such the object of curiosity. Or worse.
Cu’s condition is a poignant one, always feeling like a stranger in a strange land no matter how she tries to blend into human society, always the object of a form of curiosity that never takes into account the possibility of her having feelings that can be hurt – there is a sentence about people on the street staring at her or taking pictures that stresses the total lack of respect she has to deal with day after day. And that plays perfectly in the development of the investigation and what Cu discovers as she works to solve the murder case.
A thought-provoking story, from an author worth of keeping on one’s radar, indeed.