Monster • 2020 • Thriller novelette by Naomi Kritzer

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

First sentence: No one at the Guiyang airport speaks English. 

Synopsis: Cecily is a gene editing professor who searches her best friend Andrew from high school. He’s hiding in a remote province of China (“like the Oklohama of China”) where he’s testing his bioengineering on other people. 

FBI and CIA hope that Cecily will find him and get the serum’s formula. 

Review: I haven’t read much by Kritzer. Her awards winning “Cat Pictures Please” was only ok for me (review), but I liked the other contestant for this year’s short story award “Little Free Library” (review).

Andrew of course is the monster as an unethical, murderous researcher. But there are other monsters in the story which are exposed in the retrospections to their high school years in the 1980s : Cecily herself, because she doesn’t use bookmarks when reading paperbacks and even dog-ears pages. Bullying boys because Cecily is nerdy, just like Andrew (I just wondered why it’s only boys).

The story didn’t convince me. Maybe there was too much exposition, maybe Andrew’s coming-of-monster isn’t motivated enough. Or it might be the nerd references eagerly trying to win over genre fans. 

I didn’t mark the story as Near Future SF, because CRISPR and other elements are readily available and who knows what in those backyard labs is happening.

The inevitable ending was too predictable, I’d have preferred to see an open ending.

Meta: isfdb. Available online at Clarkesworld. Finalist for the Hugo Award.

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7 Responses to Monster • 2020 • Thriller novelette by Naomi Kritzer

  1. pdtillman says:

    I liked this one even more than you did, and I’ve read ± all of her short fiction (plus all of her CAT stuff). Anyway, this one was an easy 5 stars for me:
    Not at all typical of her other work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pdtillman says:

    Good Halloween story? I’m not a horror guy, but this was a solid piece of work. And always good to see a good writer try something new!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jina Bazzar says:

    Well, at least that first sentence is catchy.

    Liked by 1 person

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