Thursday, May 30, 2024

Seeds of Mercury, by Wang Jinkang / 水星播种 (author), 王晋康, Alex Woodend (translator)

Published in Adventures in Space: New Short stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers
), Flame Tree Press, April 2023

Chen Yizhe is a successful businessman, with twenty billion yuan in assets, a beautiful wife, and a lovely son. Life is exactly how he wants it.

He gets a phone call from a Mr. He Jun, who is a lawyer representing the estate of Ms. Sha Wu, who has died and designated Chen Yizhe as her legatee. Chen Yizhe has dim memories from childhood of Ms. Sha Wu, a distant aunt of his, but has no idea why she would leave him her estate.

It turns out not to be the small and uncomplicated bequest he assumes. Ms. Sha Wu has been quietly working on a project to develop a new life form that will survive, and hopefully evolve, on Mercury.

Chen Yizhe embraces the project, furthers it with his own funds as well as Ms. Shu Wa's, and eventually goes public and finds another investor to help the project thrive.

The story flips back and forth between the fairly near future, and the distant future when Mercurian life has not only emerged from the molten metal lakes where it was seeded, and onto the harsh, cratered landscape, but developed technology and some understanding of the world and the solar system around them. Also, religion. They have records of a god figure, Shuwa, who created them and planted them on this world, also called Shuwa.

And this is where it starts to go wrong, for the Shuwa people, and for me as the reader. The ending could have been so different, almost was so different. It even has interesting characters, whom I cared about, which is important for me in a story. It could have ended well.

But that wasn't the story Wang Jinkang wanted to tell. The ending is a real downer for me. It's a good story; just not the one I wanted to read.

Make your own judgment on it.
This is a 2024 Hugo Awards Best Novella Finalist.

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