28 February 2011

Post 338: Pump Six and Other Stories

"The People of Sand and Slag" in Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi. ISBN: 9781441892201 (audiobook).

In this setting, the environment is now toxic to non-modified people and animals. Said people and animals have been genetically altered not only to survive the toxins (slag), but also to be able to eat anything (namely sand). The story follows three hands for hire who discover a non-modified dog. The moral question raised by the story is "Do you allow such a creature to continue living?"

This is an animal that has no way of surviving on its own, despite the fact it seemed to be doing so before it was found. The implications are that it was either very lucky or someone had been taking care of it. Even under the care of the three it still manages to get poisoned, sick, and hurt. They have absolutely no idea how to care for its injuries because they all heal rapidly and can even regrow limbs (there was a disturbing scene involving this feature, by the way). With this knowledge in mind, would it be responsible or even humane to sustain the life of this creature?

I could argue both sides and neither would be wrong per se. I do lean more towards killing the dog, not because I'm a cold hearted bitch, but because it feels like The Right Thing To Do given the setting that was presented by Bacigalupi (whose name I'm finally getting good at spelling).This is a world in which non-modified animals are considered ugly because they don't have hands. It is a world in which people implant knife blades and luminescence into their skin. It is a world in which nothing grows on its own and where nothing can take care of itself without the modifications. If you don't have them, you starve or die from poison. Non-modified animals are kept in zoos, but even those aren't really necessary as bioengineers can simply recreate the animals from DNA samples. It is both cheaper and easier to do this than to maintain a menagerie of animals in this world.

There is no place for the dog. It has no natural food supplies, mates, or relevant survival skills. It would be like keeping a species alive on life support even though it's brain dead and has no chance of making even a partial recovery. This would be a terrible loss, but if that is the world we end up creating, then it is a loss we have forced upon ourselves and every other living creature on the planet.

An excellent review from another Goodreads user can be found here.
LibsNote: Copy borrowed from my library.
Also, if you are curious about steampunk and/or this particular volume you can actually read the first story for free over at Google Books. I freakin' love previews.

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