Dispatches from the Cradle: The Hermit – Forty-Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts • 2016 • Clifi short story by Ken Liu


Synopsis: Around the year 2650, the Earth is in a sorry state: all glaciers have melted, drowning shore cities under 100 meters rising sea levels. Temperature isn’t bearable in equator regions any more, corals are at home in the underwater ruins of Boston city. Most people live in space or on submersible bubble rafts on Earth. Terraforming Mars is on its way and will be finished before getting Earth back into shape.

A reporter goes for an interview with a famous and rich travelogue blogger Asa, stemming from Venus who returned to Earth and now lives as a hermit in the sea around Boston.

Review: Does the sea level rise of 100meters shock you? In East Antarctica, there is ice worth 60 meters sea level alone; add to that the 6m West Antarctica, Greenland and the Arctis, and there you have it. It will take a couple of hundred years to convert to water, but some of it is already on its way. Just invest the 5o minutes of Goodall’s presentation to understood some good parts of it.

The author drew a fascinating and detailed setting of future Earth and its history. The material is enormously dense and could have been unfolded in a whole novel of its own. There is zero room for a plot in it, and we are left to enjoy the view and description like looking at a great picture. Asa’s character and history would deserve a more thorough elaboration.

The story brings up the question if its really good to change Earth back to its former state or leave the people happily adapted to the current state.

The story was originally published in an anthology “Drowned World”, and appeared in two annual Best of compilations.

It isn’t one of Liu’s best stories, but as a wondrous picture where I let my imagination wander, this can work out pretty well. Anyone needing a plot will be disappointed.

Meta: isfdb. I’ve read it in the collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories.

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