The Expert System’s Brother, Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor.com 978-1-25019755-9, $14.99, 176pp, tp) July 2018.
It’s amazing how much world building Adrian Tchaikovsky packs into so few words in The Expert System’s Brother. In other hands, this story of a young man, Handry, who is forced out of a world that literally no longer recognizes him, could be the work of a trilogy, yet, here, it is the perfect length.
Because of one act of testosterone-fueled exuberance, Handry is marked with the Severance, a potion of sorts that renders him invisible to his small village. That would be OK, maybe, but he can also no longer tolerate the food his community hunts and gathers. Eventually, with the help of the “ghost” that is in Handry’s sister, he is forced to make his own way in the world – and, as you’d expect, he figures out how the only place he’s ever known is designed and what has gotten garbled along the way.
While Handry’s tale takes the shape of an archetypal coming-of-age structure, what makes it compelling reading is the world Tchaikovsky has built. Each small village is run by Sheriffs and Doctors and Architects – the ghosts – who download into new hosts each time their old hosts succumb to age. The imperfections in the system have been magnified and calcified by the passage of time. The mystery of how the system works and what the Severance does is the engine of this story – and it’s one that purrs right along thanks to Tchaikovsky’s skill.
Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.
This review and more like it in the August 2018 issue of Locus.
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