Monday, December 7, 2015

Riding With the Duke, by Jack McDevitt

Published in Future Visions:Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft, edited by Elizabeth Bear, Melchior Media, November 2015

Walter Peacock loved physics with a passion, but didn't go beyond his master's because  he concluded he just wasn't smart enough. Then he spent some time more less drifting, bringing in money to live on by driving a cab.

And then he meets Diana Carter.

She's smart, she's attractive, and she is, unaccountably in Walter's mind, interested in him. They start dating, and on his birthday, she gives him a gift--a Quark-box, the latest techie toy. It connects to your tv and lets you substitute yourself for one of the actors in whatever you're watching. Over the next few dates, they watch movies and tv shows, substituting themselves for various leads and iconic character actors. Walter especially enjoys taking on the comic roles--Robin Williams in some of his comedies, Seinfeld in Seinfeld. How much more successful could he be if he could master humor in real life!

And Diana has another idea for him. He's got that master's degree in physics, and his old high school is in dire need of a new physics teacher, after the sudden withdrawal of the current one due to illness. She pushes him to apply, and to his surprise he gets hired. He's not a natural in the classroom, but he knows the material, and genuinely loves it. Diana pushes him to try some different roles in their movie dates. Heroic, rather than comedic roles.

I really enjoyed this story, but all through it I expected that we would find out that Diana isn't just an attractive woman who likes the smart and likable, if unconfident, Walter. It seemed she might have an agenda. Not a malicious or harmful one, but an agenda. The feeling persisted past the end of the story, even though we learn nothing to substantiate it.

Worth a read, and I'd be interested in anyone else's thoughts on this one.

This book was available free on Amazon when I downloaded it.