Starfall/ACRA/REPOST: Metal Fire #8, False Maria 02

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Sun Sep 10 22:10:59 PDT 2006


The second part of "False Maria" unfolds, basically, in three parts.
The first is an office scene, in which the prefunctorarily mysterious
Mr. Poe (and, through him, the obligatorily evil Mr. Hamilton) makes
unreasonable demands of a computer programming department.  (Perhaps a
little bit of autobiography is sneaking into Mr. Alambre's

It's not really an exciting scene, it's not where the action is, but it
is important in that it appears to be setting things up for further
along in the story.  And, thankfully, Wil keeps the dialogue crisp and
fast-moving, while throwing in a couple of really delightful stylistic
turns-of-phrase.  In the first paragraph alone, we get "dilbert-esque"
(though, if you ask me, "esque" words are better when not hyphenated--
AHHHH! oh no!  Arthur!  Put down that ninja bear!) and "molasses
response time", the latter of which I am more infatuated with (because,
to me, you know, "dilbertesque" means about the same thing as
"garfieldesque", that is, bland and unfunny).

Whoa.  I'm having one of those nights where my train of thought can't
be contained.  Which is perfect, actually, as it's completely in synch
with out-of-control robotic pro/antagonist Kimberly Roberts, who
occupies our attention (along with hacker Eddy) in the second and third
parts of this issue.  These two parts are really one long scene,
separated by a necessary shift in POV.

It's a very intense scene.  Some things work about it-- the pacing, for
one.  It starts off slow, building supsense and mystery, as Eddy
becomes gradually aware of his situation and his captor.  Kimberly does
not respond to him at first, and finally gets him a glass of water--
her behaviour in this section is puzzling to both Eddy and the reader,
picquing our interest.

The scene also has a slightly sleazy/cyberpunk aroma to it.  Eddy
"couldn't help his eyes from drifting to her chest", the narrator tells
us, even though Eddy guesstimates her age at fourteen.  This is not to
say that Eddy is pedophilic (though there's no way to tell yet at this
point in the game), but rather the story poses an uncomfortable
question: what is sexy, and what is wrong?  What's the line dividing
the two of them?

Her youthful curves may be sexually appealing, but her actual youth is
repuslive (if Eddy couldn't help his eyes from drifting, he was at
least trying).  Eddy is tied to a chair, which can be very exciting,
but he's tied to a chair and beaten, which is not.  Kimberly is a
robot, which (especially in this world of hackers and programmers and
nanites) is exciting, but that robot is also very dangerous when

By setting up a sexy, dangerous, and mechanized atmosphere in these
first two issues (and I'd say that Kimberly's introduction in the last
issue certainly qualifies as sexy), Wil is making us complicit in these
dichotomies and their moral extensions.  Kimberly-as-robot may be sexy,
but the reality of it-- the fact that her brain is gone, scattered to
dozens of files-- is troubling.  The world of Eddy the hacker might be
exciting, it's a little guy swiping secrets from The Man, but the
reality of it-- the fact that he was in Kimberly's brain, violating her
in a manner probably on par with rape-- is troubling.

If Wil comes back to the nanites-- the really cool technology that Val
and a lot of modern sci-fi revolves around-- I suspect that its reality
will also be troubling, if not gruesome.  I'm reminded of another
canuck, David Cronenberg, whose early "body transformation horror"
films revolved around a terror not just outside your door, but inside
your body, pulsing and moving and mutating.  I think if those nanites
get into anybody, they'll eat them alive, they'll eat their brains and

After Eddy is beaten nearly to death, the issue shifts into the third
act, if you will-- getting us inside Kimberly's head.  This works, to
the degree that any POV-shift works.  I'm not too fond of them, myself,
but that's more a personal preference than any criticism.  I suppose my
general rule is always, stay in the room: don't cut away.  And Wil
does, technically, stay in the room.

And, with Eddy unconscious and nearly-dead, it's not like his POV is a
viable one.  So the shift is necessary, and the prose itself does move.
 So, there's no real reason for me to gripe: just something that
bothers me, is all.

Another thing that does bother me is when Wil uses capital letters for
shouting.  It hurts my eyes, and, what's more, it draws my eye to that
portion of the text prematurely, which kind of ruins the small joy of a
slow and careful read.

But, in general?  This certainly lives up to the promise set up in the
first part, and I'm looking forward to the third.


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