The Last Machine in the Solar System
Matthew Isaac Sobin
(ARC Copy- Short Story)
Expected Publication date: April 11th, 2017
Goodreads: See here
Plot at a Glance:
Taking place 3 billion years in the future, Earth is dead and gone, and the sun is a grey and shrunken dwarf star. All that remains of humanity is Jonathan – the last machine. Created to survive the destruction of the Earth, Jonathan witnessed its end. This is his story, and the story of his creator, Nikolai, set in the final days of the human race.
This is one of those cases where when I started reading, I had to wonder what exactly I’d gotten myself into.
I can’t lie, I went into this expecting something totally different. Make no mistake potentially interested readers: This is hard sci-fi, and it’s not for everybody. It’s not my favorite genre to delve into, but I’d actually been yearning for a momentary divergence from all the YA novels I’ve been reading lately so maybe this was a blessing in disguise? Either way, clocking in at around 80 pages, it provided at least a short-lived distraction.
The story follows Jonathan, an android, and humanity’s last surviving machine as he waxes poetical about humanity’s final days and place in the universe.
Thematically, Sobin explores the what ifs associated with the inevitable destruction of the life-bringing celestial body we all depend on: the Sun.
What happens when it finally gives out on us? What happens when it reaches out and swallows the Earth? Can humanity disentangle itself from the star that’s been our homie for our entire existence before it’s too late?
Talk about a bad break up!
I’m woefully ignorant when it comes to the topics of science and space, so while I can’t speak to Sobin’s accuracy, I can say Sobin does a good job of making things compelling enough to want to see the story through. Some of his paragraphs are extremely long though and could probably be pared down before final publication to attract readers that would otherwise be turned off by them.
That reminds me: there are sketches included throughout the story of Johnathan and his creator, Nikolai, that I think were meant to serve as short breathers from all the science-ing. While interesting in a cursory way, they just didn’t add much to the story.
Also, there’s a bit much telling of Jonathan’s story, rather than showing it. This is an easy trap for a first time author to fall into, which only becomes compounded when telling the story through a non-human narrator. Too often the emotional impact is forsaken in favor of a more straightforward (and alien) narrative of events, which definitely happened here.
Despite these issues, the concepts presented in this story were intriguing to ponder as I read, which I think helped. For a debut effort, I think Sobin did a great job. I’m tempted to rate this 2.5 stars, but I’m rounding up because I really do think fans of hard sci-fi (which I am not) will love this. I can’t say I endorse the $9.99 cost for an 80 page story on Amazon though.