“Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa

I’ve begun my Hugo reading with the short story and graphic story categories. Most of the short stories are available online, so maybe I’ll start with them.

I plan to keep track of what I’ve read and what I think about the stuff I’ve read here on this blog. Feel free to comment, whether you agree or disagree.

The first one I read was “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa.

Category: Short story
Published in: Riding the Red Horse, an anthology of Military SF edited by Puppy comrades Vox Day and Tom Kratman
Slates: Rabid Puppies

In the story, an artificial intelligence serves the post-humans in a far-future war against ordinary humans. As the title suggests, it chooses to switch sides in the end. That’s it.

I think this is a quite awfully-written story with a heavy-handed delivery of plot points and a lot of infodumping. You can see the “surprise” conclusion of the story coming from miles away (or by reading the title, actually). A very boring read, overall.

The one thing that could have made the story at least slightly interesting if done well was the characterization of the AI and the post-humans. Sadly, that was crappy and formulaic as well. The protagonist doesn’t really feel like he belongs to the far-future, or the future at all, for that matter. The black-and-white pontificating (a term lifted from Secritcrush) has a definite vibe of the past in it.

A black-and-white approach to any war of conflict just feels silly and makes the whole world of the story unrealistic for me. Now that I was doing some googling, I noticed that Hugo-nominated Puppy-fanwriter Jeffro Johnson is praising this story because it offers a “concise description of real Christian religious experience”. That’s an interesting thought and maybe some people do enjoy over-simplified morality dramas in 2015, but I certainly don’t.

This is certainly going below no award.

Addendum

This post has been honored by:

Splendid!

I expanded on my reasoning in a comment in Jeffro Johnson’s blog, and I’ll paste the important parts here as well:

The vibe of the past I was writing about arises from the protagonist’s moralistic attitudes which bring to mind the papery characters of old fiction who don’t really resemble real people (or real consciousnesses in this case). Also, I think there was no futuristic sensawunda in the far-future fight scenes when compared with, say, Greg Bear’s Hardfought (that’s a far future war story I think is very good, even though military SF is not really my cup of cat crackers).

As far as I know, every single war in the history of mankind has been a terrible mess of shades of gray (even if Hollywood would like to make us think in terms of black and white). Depicting a far future war in the way Rzasa does makes it feel terribly unrealistic to me, but that’s my bias.

I edited my original post to delete the word sloppy. I still think it’s a sloppy piece of fiction, but now the sentence reads better.

On a second thought, let’s also try to give the Hugo finalists an unscientific numeral score on the range of 1-10 in order to make comparing them easier (if unscientific). “Turncoat” gets 2.

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8 thoughts on ““Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa

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