The Drake Equation

The Hugo nomination deadline is almost upon us, so I finally went over to Sci Fiction and read Ian R. MacLeod's "New Light on the Drake Equation," a novella long enough to have been published across four weeks in May 2001, the first anniversary of that magazine.

As one might expect from my previous raving about MacLeod, I rather liked the story. I think it's too long and slow in places (particularly in part 1), and I saw more or less where it was going fairly early on, but it managed to do some things I hadn't expected, and some parts are gorgeous. It tugs the heartstrings of its intended audience (sf readers) a bit too obviously; the protagonist is a lifelong sf fan who's dedicated his life to SETI, and who once loved a beautiful woman who was also into sf, and it all feels just a little bit too pointedly aimed at certain kinds of readers. On the other hand, it's beautifully done nonetheless, poignant and sweet and sad, with lovely characterization and interactions. And there's a certain irony (intentional, I'm pretty sure, though not explicitly stated) in a character spending his life looking for alien life at the same time as humans are changing themselves in alien ways all around him; which ties in nicely with what I think is the central metaphor, about being alone in the world/universe. Good stuff. Recommended. And free!

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