Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Emergency Skin, by N.K. Jemisin

Amazon Original Stories, September 2019

A soldier is sent from his home planet to Tellus, or as we usually call it, Earth, to obtain some vital samples. The Founders will reward him richly for this, with a real skin, a beautiful skin. Having a skin which is real and biological, rather than engineered for harsh environments is a mark of high status. And on this mission, he has, inside his head, an AI that is the consensus opinion of the Founders, the rulers of his world, and perhaps the very ones who left Earth.

As they approach Tellus, they find that the orbital junk that had been left behind is gone. The atmosphere is clean. The planet appears to be completely healthy, unlike what the AI claims it expected. The soldier is puzzled.

Then he discovers that humans are living happily on this supposedly ruined planet.

Is the AI lying? Is the AI deceived? 

It's not long before the soldier discovers facts that can't be explained away, and starts to ask questions the AI won't answer, and threatens to punish him for. We also start to learn some really interesting things about the Founders.

This is an interesting story, and an interesting world I'd like to see more of. Recommended.

I received this story as part of the Hugo Voters packet, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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