“Memorials”, by Aliette de Bodard

Asimovs SF, January 2014

It’s a shame this story has such a non-descript title, because there is quite a bit going on in here, it probably would have helped if I had read more of her previous stories as I gather many of them take place in the same universe.  As it is we get one corner of a particular planet, where the general populace is called the Rong but they seem to be second class citizens to another group known as the Galactics, who don’t figure much into the plot.  There was some sort of civil war and the Rong ended up exiled to this planet, but this is all backstory to the main character Cam, a young woman who performs shady business deals on behalf of three old women, known as “aunts” but more similar to Macbeth’s three wtiches.  There is a mausoleum called the Memorial, where the uploaded souls of the dead, known as the Perpetuate, live on, able to interact with those still living.  All the characters are women and all have Vietnamese names, and the relationships between them don’t necessarily match what they call one another, so it can be a bit confusing, coupled with so much backstory,  it took me a couple of reads to sort out the main plot, and I’m still not clear on several details.  There’s quite a bit going on here, maybe a few extra pages would have helped explain things better (to me at least), but de Bodard has a deep, varied and richly detailed setting on which to tell a story which perhaps doesn’t quite measure up to it, but is still engaging and potentially thought provoking.  Sort of reminds me of Ian McDonald.  So why call the story “Memorials”?  Other than just the building, she may be looking at how people regard or honor their dead ancestors, and the ways in which that can change once the dead can live forever in a virtual environment.   There’s probably more to explore there than the space the story is given, but I’d definitely like to read more of her stuff and sample more of this universe.

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