The Anomalous Archive, Part XIX: 'The Cyborg's Neighbor' by Catherine Bonham
[This review was originally posted on the Anomaly forum on May 18, 2011.]
"The Cyborg's Neighbor," 2nd of Issue 7 of The Cross and the Cosmos
The most remarkable thing about this first short story in the latest issue of The Cross and the Cosmos is the way it adapts the parable of the Good Samaritan to show the disparity between true inner holiness and what outwardly is viewed as being good. A very heavy-duty criminal is the most Christian character presented in the narrative, helping the despised outcast out of selfless love. The criminal is fascinating because, although he appears to be unapologetic in his illegal activities, he definitely possess firm moral principals that govern the way he lives, including the way he enacts his disturbing crimes. One of his collaborators in crime is not a career criminal, but rather a member of a very respected profession. This character is explicitly named as a hypocrite in the narrative (not the dialog), and he only ever shows concern for himself. However, the story is not prejudiced against respectable people. Another character does not only hold a respectable office, but is in fact perfectly law-abiding, and he is shown to be honorable and kind. Furthermore, a very poor and non-respectable character is shown to be bigoted and irresponsible. Thus, the story makes the statement that a person's moral character and responsibility both have nothing to do with his or her station or reputation. (I think of the benevolent criminal as an example of a "chaotic good" character from a roleplaying game.)
The poor, despised outcast that the story sets as the main character is, as the title indicates, a cyborg, which in this imaginary future is a person in a mechanical body. As the story progresses, many clues indicate that despite her mostly-artificial body, she is indeed still completely human. Her artificial body seems to have the same bodily functions as a natural body. She bleeds. However, some of the narrative, following her point of view, is presented in computer-like terms and notation. Although this doesn't make sense to me (I would think the mind would be the most human part of someone with a robotic body), it does serve to highlight the story's theme by challenging the reader to accept all people as human. This theme is similar to what is found in the novels The Personifid Project and The Personifid Invasion by R.E. Bartlett.
The plot of story is fairly structured, built around the encounters that the main character has with the different people, interspersed with her recollections. However, by the end, this structure unravels to become a long sequence of mostly expositional "telling" -- describing the fates of a few of the characters. It is apparently told in retrospect and has an emotional cast, but the whole conclusion would probably have been much more effective if scenes of dialog between the two most important characters were used to cover the same information. The writing and dialog are effective, but there are too many run-ons.
I like the very end of the story, because it adds yet another theme -- redemption. I won't spoil it, but it turns out that doing good by God makes you end up alright by man.