Sixteen Questions for Kamala Chatterjee • 2016 • SF short story by Alastair Reynolds

★★★★

Summary: A physician found an anomaly hidden within the Sun. She explains her lifetime project of drilling deep to discover an alien artefact.

Review: The eponymous questions are mixed in two interviews – one defending her doctoral thesis, the second an actual interrogation when she was already famous. Thus, the story isn’t linear in time, adding a lot to the narrative structure’s complexity. The questions sometimes seemed to be artificial and not en point. The plot is based on several explorations of Hard SF: solar heliospheric oscillations to get a view into the Sun, material science to survive temperature, pressure, and gravity. A post-human part over the course of the centuries also finds its way into the story leading to a way out speculative form of Solar Dragons. Drilling down into the Sun is a way of bridging two points which made the story fit nicely into the anthology’s title „Bridging Infinity“ without reusing the often read space elevators. The eponymous main character developed interestingly, always living for her project but at the same time staying human and missing human elements – we discover how the project affected her, as well as humanity.

The story makes an interesting deviation from the author’s usual huge doorstoppers, as he had to concentrate on the topic in just a couple of pages.

Meta: isfdb. Published 2016 in Bridging Infinity.

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