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From: Michael Andre-Driussi <mantis@siriusfiction.com>
Subject: (urth) Alien Stones, spoilers
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001 08:44:04 

For some strange reason I see this story in a very clear light right now.

Please forgive me if I belabor the obvious.

"Alien Stones" is quite dense.  It is a braid of a few different
stories/types of stories.  In the past I've become bogged down in one or
the other.

The primary story is a "Star Trek" (and I mean that in a loving way) sort
of sf adventure about first contact.  The empathy specialist goes on the
landing party.  Trying to get attention from the hiding aliens, he breaks
some alien machinery.  Then he is abducted.  The captain and the empath's
wife go on a search mission.  The captain starts to figure it all out, and
repairs a broken machine, at which point the weird zombie form of the
empath shows up to say that first contact is over, both sides have to
retreat to think it all over.  The point of this story: the aliens are
machine-based (evolved from radar arrays), and the empath, having no sense
of non-biological forms, broke a machine (that is, unwittingly attacked an
alien); to which the aliens responded in kind (by killing him).  When the
captain used his engineering skills to heal the break (repair the machine),
again the aliens responded in kind by sending a repaired empath.  The
biological bias of sending an empath has been revealed, and the rift has
been mended by the engineer, healer of machines.

There is also a PKD type of story about training starship cadets through
virtual reality to become real ("virtuous"? well, competant) starship
captains.  Yes, like the Lewis Carroll "red king dreaming of a butterfly or
visa versa," but in the PKD development.  Who is real, the captain or the
cadet?  What does "is" mean in this context? <g>  Which highlights a number
of things, including the fact that biologicals use computers (machines)
that blur things in this way (life/non-life), and perhaps the machine
aliens have a biological analog (bios that they use as tools).  The virtual
reality, while not a "heaven," is still something that has aspects of
angels/ghosts to it (the cadet offers advice), as well as "life is but a
dream," sure.

There is also a strange romance of the captain and Helen, a tale of
passion, obsession, and possible treachery.  This story is jelled by the
passages from the Bible (although the passages may also apply to the other
"stories" within the story as well).  The implication seems to be that the
captain knowingly sent the empath to his death so that he could marry the
widow, the coveted woman.


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