Short Stories 366:28 — “Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities,” by Lettie Prell

coverThis story, from The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, was as much thought exercise as story, and not a straightforward narrative per sé, but the idea behind it was really captivating: Cole, a man in a prison cell, is listening to one of the other prisoners, Marco, randomly talk about other justice systems, and something happens.

Cole seems to go on a series of visits to other realities, where—for a short amount of time—he is witness to, or a part of, the justice systems in these parallel worlds. He sees places where the victims set the punishment, or where crime is considered an illness, and treated as such, or places where the over-criminalization of nearly everything has made having criminality in one’s past (or one’s family’s past) a nearly nonchalant thing.

Through it all, Cole wonders if any of these would be better than what he himself is facing, and as the story winds down to conclude, it’s left more in the hands of the reader than anywhere else, with a particularly on point few lines of dialogue to drive home the sentiment of the piece. “Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities” isn’t subtle, but it doesn’t have to be to get its point across.

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