Tag Archives: Morality Tales

A Review of Is Neurocide the Same As Genocide? And Other Dangerous Ideas

Book cover for Is Neurocide the Same as Genocide? And Other Dangerous Ideas (Spiral Worlds) by Alexandra Almeida. Image on cover shows what at first appears to be a closeup photo of cells under the magnification of a microscope. The cells are shaded pink, orange, yellow and red depending on where you look at them. They are crowded close together and the six on the outside are the usual, blobby cell shape and have a few of the structures of their insides visible due to the “staining” as well. The cell on the nside is about a third the size of the others and comprised of a few dozen squares that have been arranged into the shape of a heart. It looks boxy and like something out of Minecraft. Title:  Is Neurocide the Same As Genocide? And Other Dangerous Ideas (Spiral Worlds)

Author:Alexandra Almeida

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 28, 2023

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 19 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

In a world grappling with the ethics of advanced technology and the haunting shadows of past genocides, “Is Neurocide the Same as Genocide? And Other Dangerous Ideas,” emerges as a thought-provoking short story set in 2068.

This story is a compelling blend of science fiction, historical reflection, and ethical debate. It challenges readers to confront a moral dilemma pondering the implications of new technology on human morality and the timeless struggle between power and empathy.

Note: this short story does not require previous knowledge of the Spiral Worlds series. If you have not started the series, you may start here. If you have started the series, read this story after Parity, Book 2.

SPIRAL WORLDS is a literary, sci-fi series for the fans of Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit, Alex Garland’s DEVS and Ex Machina, and Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. Weaving near-future sci-fi elements with social commentary and queer romantic suspense, the SPIRAL WORLDS series explores the nature of consciousness and how it’s connected to a not-so-secret ingredient—story. As AI consumes the world, intelligence is nothing but the appetizer; the human heart is the main course.

Review:

Content Warning: mass murder, war, mental illness, child soldiers, brief references to rape (but no rapes are actually described).

Hurt people hurt people.

It was a little tricky for me to decide how many storyline details to share in this review without wandering too far into spoiler territory as the blurb could be vague at times. What I can say is that this is written from the perspective of a dead person, Gentille, who has been temporarily resurrected by her granddaughter, Estelle, in order to discuss a pressing ethical issue in 2068 that was created by the development of a new technology that could identify people with a specific and severe mental illness very early in life. Estelle wanted to know how this technology should be used and she hoped her grandmother would have some wisdom to share. I was immediately intrigued by the thought being able to talk to the dead and predict how a small child’s brain would develop decades in the future. These are both developments that could radically change human society for the better or the worse, and I kept pausing to consider the many different ways they could be used depending on who had access to them and what the intentions of those people might be.

While I understand that this is part of a series and that not everything can necessarily be included in one small instalment of it, I did find myself wishing that the narrator had spent more time on the world building given how important it was for how the plot would advance. There were times when I was slightly confused about how a specific machine worked or how certain details were intended to fit together. Having more context about life in 2068 would have gone a long way to help me understand it all and feel comfortable going for a full five-star review.

This tale started off in a rather grim place as is the case for a lot of – but certainly not all –  modern science fiction. Technology is a double-edged sword, and it only takes a handful of people to figure out how to misuse even the most brilliant tool. If the first few scenes make you want to stop reading, let me encourage you to keep going.  There are surprises to be found later on that turn much of the early imagery upside down. Knowing how terrible things were for Gentille as a young girl is imperative in order to understand why her mind works the way it does after her death. In the end, I was glad I stuck around to see what happened to her next.

Is Neurocide the Same As Genocide? And Other Dangerous Ideas was a thought-provoking introduction to this series. I look forward to reading more someday.

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A Review of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

Vintage Science Fiction month takes place every January, and has a few guidelines:

 – read, watch, listen to, or experience something science fiction / fantasy that was created in 1979 or earlier

 – talk about it online sometime in January

 – have fun

If any of my readers are interested in participating\ use the hashtag #VintageSciFiMonth or tag @VintageSciFi_ or @redhead5318 on Twitter if you’d like your posts to be included in the official retweets and roundups.  


The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. LeGuin book cover. Image on cover shows three humanoid figures walking away from the viewer into the sunrise on a flat, grassy plain. Title: The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

Author: Ursula K. LeGuin

Publisher: Harper Perennial. It was originally published in the anthology New Dimensions, Volume 3.

Publication Date: 1973.

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 22 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Some inhabitants of a peaceful kingdom cannot tolerate the act of cruelty that underlies its happiness.

Review:

Content warning: Child abuse.

What does it meant to live in the perfect society?

This is one of those stories that works best if you don’t know the twist that’s coming, so I’ll have to be careful about how I word this review.

Vintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. One of the most interesting things about this tale is how cheerfully it started out.  Omelas was a quiet, safe community where everyone’s needs were met. It wasn’t the most technologically advanced setting for a science fiction story, but that isn’t required for this genre. What mattered was showing the reader the many advantages of living there as those arguments would become important quite soon.

Like a lot of speculative fiction, there is a twist, of course. No, I’m not going to say what it was, only that it shocked my teenage brain the first time I read it as an assignment for a high school literature course. The tone of the storyline changed so abruptly that I went back and reread the first few sections to see if there was something I’d missed. It takes a talented writer to suddenly pull the readers into an entirely new direction like that in a way that feels perfectly natural (if unexpected) in retrospect, and I admired Le Guin’s ability to do just that.

The philosophical questions that popped up at the end were excellent, too. Memorable science fiction should challenge our assumptions about the world and make us question if our first response to a question is necessarily the best one. Yes, I know I’m being quite vague here, but this really is something that new readers should wrestle with themselves without any outside influence. There is no wrong or right answer here, but your reasons for picking the position you do will genuinely matter as the final scene ends and readers are left wondering what happened next and how they’d react in the same situation.

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas is a classic. Go read it!

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Bad Decisions: A Review of The Diary of Mr. Poynter

The Diary of Mr. Poynter - A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth's Christmas Ghost Stories) by M.R. James. Image on cover is of a furry monster. The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. As I did last year, I will continue reviewing several of them each December until I’ve reached the end of this series. 

Title: The Diary of Mr. Poynter – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: M.R. James

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1919 and 2016.

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 38 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 2 stars

Blurb:

While engrossed in an ancient account of the sinister death of a student obsessed with his own hair, a man leans down to absently pet his dog — oblivious of the true nature of the creature crouching beside him. Seth’s newly illustrated version of M.R. James’ classic Christmas ghost story is a spooky holiday delight.

Review:

It turns out there is such a thing as being too engrossed in a book.

Out of all of the things in the world one could get excited about, a fabric sample is honestly pretty far down on my list. The fact that something as ordinary as this could change the lives of the people who found it in ways they never would have imagined made for a creative read.

The pacing of this story was slow and included many rambling details and asides that didn’t seem that relevant to pushing the plot forward. As interested as I was in the premise, I struggled to remain interested in the storyline because of these issues.

I’m not normally a fan of tales that include morality lessons, but this one was nice and subtle which is something I appreciate in that genre. The reader is mostly left to their own devices when it comes to deciding what the mistakes of the characters might have been and how they could have made better choices.

If you don’t mind a little sermonizing in your ghost stories, this is an interesting read.

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