Hartwell’s Year’s Best SF 01 – 1/14 >>
James Patrick Kelly’s Think Like a Dinosaur conjures up comparison to The Cold Equation, though falls far from doing either a good repeat performance nor injecting any good ideas of his own. The core premise is far-fetched to the nth degree and basically amounts to killing people to conform to some dinosaur-like alien tradition of harmony that is basically pointless. There’s no reason for killing the originals once copies are sent to the stars, apart from giving lip-service to the aliens, the moral dilemma is merely window-dressing for murder.
What’s worse, the story is well written and easily goes for the emotional jugular, bypassing critical thinking on the way and offering its manipulative and ultimately hollow plot twist. As flawed as the inspiration was, at least the moral dilemma felt real and not like some far-fetched problem with an easy solution (ditch the aliens and discover the transmission tech ourselves).
Think Like a Dinosaur makes you think there’s a deeper point, that it goes for a moral equivalent to “to survive you have to rely on your reptile brain, become something inhuman“. There’s a bit of it there, but Kelly’s entire story concept just doesn’t work. There’s no reason why multiple copies of one person shouldn’t run around, nor why the humans should rely on the dino’s tech in the first place. Which makes the murder that the main character commits even more pointless than he himself believes.