“Nahiku West”

It’s a return to Linda Nagata’s Nanotech Succession.

Review: “Nahiku West”, Linda Nagata, 2012.

This story seems to take place around the time of the second novel, The Bohr Maker.

Protagonist and narrator Zeke Choy is a Commonwealth Policeman, drafted into that service since he’s a designer of “makers”, the nanotech devices that enable long extended life.

However, the Commonwealth doesn’t allow unlimited modifications to the human form. Some maker modifications are illegal, and the penalty for having them is death.

Humans in this world can record their minds as “ghosts” and send those recording into a constructed body not necessarily identical to the one previously inhabited by the mind. Choy seems to have altered his body when entering police academy. There are also “atriums” in these brains which allow interface with cybernetic devices.

The story opens with a micrometerorite punching a hole in a capsule traveling the tether between the two space settlements of Nahiku East and Nahiku West.

Normally, that should have killed Key Lu, but it doesn’t, and the reason why it doesn’t is that he had illegal modifications to his body. When ghosts are sent through “gates”, the receiver for their electronic personalities, they are scanned for illegal modifications as are their bodies when they enter a settlement.

Lu is executed early in the story for his crime, but that’s just the beginning.

Choy has a lover, Tishembra Indens. Tishembra’s friend Hera is very upset by Lu’s execution. Her own brother was found to possess illegal modifications and executed a while back. She threatens to denounce Tishembra for possessing illegal modifications. And Tishembra really does have illegal modifications, and Choy knows it.

Choy’s workaround to this personal and legal challenge is inventive, and Nagata has a genuine surprise at the end of her story.

However, Nagata, a writer that impresses me for not only her technical inventiveness and details but the emotion she can evoke in few words, didn’t really generate much feeling in me in this story.

The economics of Nagata’s universe are interesting. The Commonwealth can assess fines on settlements that violate its law, and the settlement’s citizens have to pay them. Tishembra came to Nahiku West and has debts. She is afraid that, if the Commonwealth assesses a fine against her, she’ll never be able to afford to leave. Some of Nahiku West’s residents actually hope some financial disaster occurs and the settlement is unincorporated and no longer has to pay its debts.

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