Short Stories 366:179 — “Bug Hunt,” by Joanna Marsh

coverOkay, I love me a sci-fi story, and I love me a gritty sci-fi story about the doomed group of comrades who know they’re going up against something way, way tougher than them, and when you take all of that and add the Nothing Without Us layer on top? Oh, this was so good. Mech pilots ordered to take down Anna Hyde—a notoriously talented mech pilot who makes her own mech fight in ways barely imaginable to others—are given, well, standard out-of-date models to do the deed, and they basically gather for their briefing under a cloud of “we’re boned.”

These pilots, though, aren’t just in over their heads, they’re in under an Empire that listens to everything, ferrets out anything that shows a hint of traitorous thought, and they’re all on the margins in some way—be it wheelchair or neurotype—and they know full well that turning down this mission isn’t even an option. So, off they go to… well, not to die, but to put in a good showing at least? Under the leadership of the main voice of the tale, Mina, who is so delightfully realistic about their chances and enjoying her own apparent numbness-before-the-panic, the lens of the story caught me right off the bat, and I couldn’t wait to see where it went.

And where it goes was such a brilliant place, frankly. Where these soldiers-with-no-choices end up, and the decision they’re presented with? It made me grin. It’s a great example of the ways science fiction can talk about so many parts of contemporary society and do justice to the concepts, alongside characters we so rarely get to see piloting the giant tank-robot-guns. I don’t know if Marsh has more stories about these soldiers lined up, but I’d love to read more.

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