Vita awakens blind, her onboard AI assuring her there’s no problem with visual feed. Stranded in a ship so damaged it can’t tell where it hurts, can Vita face her own wounds and find her way home? 

This is one of those stories that pretends to be about one thing, but makes little secret that it’s actually about another. It’s not even more Gravity than The Martian, given the action takes place almost entirely in Vita’s head as she teases the situation out of CERA and reminisces about the sequence of events that drove her into space in the first place. 

Regulars to x+1 will be entirely unsurprised that I loved this journey into emotional trauma (because while I like an epic disaster narrative, I like feelings better).

I’ve come to acknowledge that I like a first person present narrative in a short story (less so in a novel; yes, I’m fickle) and here it cements the sense that Vita has no context and no guarantees of survival. It also underpins the impression that the dreams and memories are as real – or not – as the present; Vita flits from one context to the other.

We get reference to a well-named McGuffin almost immediately: chronometrics are offline. I’ve no idea what it means, but Vita’s panicked response confirms it’s bad. I started making assumptions as the narrative plunges backwards into Vita’s memories of a golden moment with her girlfriend Kendra. Unfortunately, we quickly learn that certain functions of the spacecraft – and Vita’s relationship with Kendra – are not salvageable. 

From here on out its a question of painful details, home truths from past and present. Some are spelled out, some are implied, some superimpose the language of love, others are softened by the relentless specificity of science. It’s a great mix of all the feelings with all the ruthless reality as things become unambiguous and Vita confronts her situation.

I do love a story that gives me feelings and sharp edges. 

****

Iron Ladies, Iron Tigers by Sunny Moraine can be read online at Clarkesworld.

Bite-sized Books is a weekly celebration of short-form fiction and you’re invited to join in! Share your recent review(s) of a short story, novella, novelette or anthology – add a link in the comments so we can share the love.