The Anomalous Archive, Part XX: 'Missions Trip' by John Theo Jr.
[This review was originally posted on the Anomaly forum on May 20, 2011.]
"Missions Trip," 3rd in Issue 7 of The Cross and the Cosmos
The implications of this story seem to be beyond me. I don't completely understand the significance of one of the details of the plot. A family of seals make an appearance, but the baby seal dies. This has to be analogous to the main story somehow, but it seems to be very negative. It may simply be expressing that to do God's will requires painful sacrifice, but if that was the only reason for the seals, I think the plot device is unclear and confusing.
There is a lot of well-developed backstory, some of which is explained through dialog (or perhaps more accurately monologue in this story), and some of which is simply told in the narrative. Much of this story's mere three pages is devoted to developing the background of the politics and history that affect the two characters, but all the backstory doesn't really seem to come off as too heavy. The story is in the backstory; without the backstory there would be no story at all.
The conception of the future is fairly believable. The technology is a logical extension of our current technological state. The story also avoids the mistake of having one important sci-fi gimmick and then having the rest of the future world look more or less like what we now know. The imaginary future is both similar enough to today's world and different enough to be believable. The one science fiction element that I find somewhat hard to swallow is the AI computer, an element of science fiction that always seems unconvincing to me. The details of this future world are rich. There even seems to be an obscure reference to The Chronicles of Narnia (specifically, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). If you can't find this Narnia reference, don't feel bad; I would not have known about it if I hadn't looked up a name in the story to deliberately find out what the author was alluding to.
"Missions Trip" probably counts as hard SF, a genre that probably is not well represented by Christian writers. This a very interesting piece with a good and relevant message, even if the theme conveyed by its plot device is confusing.