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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

SCI FICTION, February 23, 2005

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"Little Faces" by Vonda N. McIntyre

ImageThe latest in SCI FICTION from Vonda N. McIntyre, "Little Faces," sends us to a world of miraculous biologies, living space ships, and near immortals. Yalnis and her ship have decided to spawn a daughter. The ancient Seyyan wants to impose her conditions and memories upon Yalnis and her new daughter, resulting in grief for both of then. 

McIntyre's novellette is filled with biological substitutes for many of the old standards of space-based stories: the biological ships emit allergy-inducing membranes instead of power shields; they spit reaction causing silks, rather than firing lasers or photon torpedoes; gardens with wildlife instead of hydroponics tanks. The ships are almost analogous to bacteria that can carry people.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the little faces of the title. This is a world where the people are all female, who are adorned with companions, symbiotic male counterparts that carry the memories of the females who spawned them. The companions will defend their host female and are intimately necessary for the perpetuation of the race, necessary for conception and for the transfer of the memories of both mother and the lover from whom the mother accepted the companion. But while the companions can't be avoided in this world, like all the most successful science fiction stories, the strange biology depicted isn't the focus of the story.

This is ultimately a story about bringing down the arrogant and unrepentant for their crimes against the innocent. And possibly a comment on how the very long-lived will lose the flexibility to adapt to the world as it changes.

"Little Faces" is a good story, but not necessarily an easy one to read. This reader had to read the story more than once to get a real feel of its complexity and depth.