Soft Edges (Review)

Soft Edges (Review)

can’t say I’m a fan of author Elizabeth Bear. I reviewed her recently in Undertow. It was an interesting-enough book, but either it the whole thing was too esoteric for me or it was the middle of a series and I didn’t realize it or whatever – it was good enough to finish but not enough for me to totally enjoy (and this isn’t a critique about Ms. Bear – sometimes readers and writers don’t match). So, that’s my prequel.

Right now I’m plowing through a history of steamboats (does that whet your interest, dear reader?) and I had nothing left to review (oh, those heady days of backlog, alas). So I needed to review something. In a corner, I’ve a copy of The Year’s Best Science Fiction (Vol 1) which I’ve been picking through (btw, I think the year is 2019 but I’m not sure). The next in the series was a short story by Bear, Soft Edges.

The short story involves a woman working on a tidal reclamation project – apparently there is a mesh that can strain out plastic pollutants in seawater and make a mesh for dune creation, animal habitats and coastline protection. Very interesting. But it is more interesting when, in the course of her inspections following a minor hurricane, she finds a body. The coroner is called, but then come the homicide detectives. It turns out the girl on the beach was murdered – her hands were wired together.

The woman detective (Quinn) begins to question the discoverer (Carmen) for any leads on the case. But it turns out Carmen did six months in jail for a violent crime she was later absolved of. Those six months changed Carmen – she is now an idealist. She doesn’t believe in jails or incarceration. She wants nothing more than a total change of the system so murders and crimes don’t happen, that we are better people (individually and govermentally). She really doesn’t want to help Quinn, not in a bit.

And here is the dilemma, a trolley-like question of whether you help a system you abhor or allow a violent criminal to kill again. And, of course, it is made worse when, in backtracking her clues on pollutant fields and such, she finds where the girl was murdered, the images from a drone, and the license plate of the killer’s car. So yes, she does face a bit of a quandary.

I have to say that I really liked this story. It was interesting, moralistic without being preachy, just the right blend of everything to make it a nice and tidy short. I’ve nothing but praise so far for this collection – I just wish I had more time to review them all. But anyway, if you like scifi, you might wish to read more of Bear’s short stories, especially this one.