Sunday, September 3, 2023

On the Razor's Edge, by Jiang Bo


I've replaced the cover I originally included with  a generic cover, because I've been informed that it was indeed the wrong cover. That anthology apparently contains another story by Jiang Bo, but not this one. My apologies for the error.

Zhong Lixin is a Chinese astronaut, on China's Tiangong Space Station in 2028. He's working on his assigned projects, along with another astronaut, Duan Guozhu, when they hear what they've never heard before on the station--the emergency alarm. Soon they're working on repairs, fixable ones, fortunately, damage caused by micrometeors colliding with the station. They've been fortunate, and can continue their mission.

Then they get new, disturbing information. Some of that same micrometeor cluster hit the International Space Station, and have caused a fire on it.

"International" or not, the Chinese regard the ISS as an American space station, and when this accident occurs, the ISS crew consists of three Americans. But this is space, and they're all astronauts together. Yet, Zhong and Duan don't know of any way they can rescue the Americans.

Fortunately, despite existing tensions between the two governments, those on the ground take the same view about not leaving astronauts stranded whatever their nationality. Even better, someone on the ground has an idea. It's speculative, risky, involves doing things never tried before. Success is far from guaranteed.

What follows is a nailbiter, exciting, scary, and completely compelling.

A worthy finalist.

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

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