Thursday, August 31, 2023

D.I.Y., by John Wiswell

Tor Books, ISBN 009781250870209, August 2022

The opening of this story does not bring us to a happy world. Climate change has had a major impact, most strongly felt in the heat and the shortage of potable water.

The tech that's involved here, though, includes magic. The companies expected to address the problem are the great magic academies, among them Ozymandias Academy, where once upon a time, a young man named Noah hoped to become a student. When he's finally accepted, though, it's without any financial aid, and his mother, struggling just to support the two of them, has no money. Noah, being a bright young man, puts the blame where it belongs, and in some ways, that sets up later events.

Noah meets up with a podcaster, who goes by MX_POTLUCK, or, to friends, simply "Manny." Both shut out of any serious magical training, they do their own research and experimentation, including coax water out of the air into glasses. The amounts are small, but it's a start. They proceed to build on their start, especially as Ozymandia Academy gets more control of the limited water supply, and gets more restrictive, and more elitist, in its distribution of water.

But both Noah and Manny have serious health problems, and when they make a real breakthrough, it coincides with Manny having a major health crisis.

I'll just say that these are two tough, clever, young men with integrity. This is a more hopeful story than "Rabbit Test," and I enjoyed it. Sadly, while I think it deserves its nomination, I think "Rabbit Test," which I will never voluntarily reread, really is the better work.

I received this story as part of the 2023 Hugo Voters Packet.

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