A Long Walk to Water is the simplified and fictionalized story of Salva Dut, one of the "Lost Boys" of the Sudanese civil war of the 1980's. His story of survival is interwoven with the story of Nya, a young girl in a Southern Sudanese village without a reliable water source in 2008.
A Long Walk to Water is one of the five potential options that rising 7th graders in our community can select for summer reading. As a book to introduce the South Sudanese civil war and the co-existing inter-tribal rivalries to middle grade readers, even younger middle grade readers, it works well enough. As a book for adults, A Long Walk to Water leaves out too much to be compelling.
Aboard the Interstellar Arc, Hermes, Orion has spent the last twenty-five years being entertained and educated by Dan, the artificial intelligence that runs the ship and ensures the continued viability of its cargo, only needing human hands occasionally.
As I reached the top of the ladder, zero-g gently lifted my body. I drifted into the space – a tremendous, hollow sphere around which the Living Ring rotated. Rows of plantings and heat lamps wrapped in 360 degree arcs as if I were in a sea of green. Dan’s many appendages tended to the crops, probably using Fish’s remains to fertilize them.
Dan is transporting one thousand people to another star system, some 350 years away from Earth, which has an eighty-three percent chance of being able to harbour human life. Each person on board is suspended in a chamber full of fluid, connected to life-sustaining tubes for oxygen and nourishment from birth to seventy, at which point they are recycled.
When I reached the pregnant inhabitant, I turned my back to her chamber. It never seemed right to me to watch them give birth. The tubes attached to her would lift her legs and spread them so that the spindly apparatus descending from the ceiling could draw out her offspring. When I finally turned around, that metallic arm was lifting a bloody infant up through the opened ceiling. I made sure her readings were satisfactory while I waited for it to disappear. Everything went perfectly, as usual. The red-stained fluid in the chamber was flushed and replaced straight-away, clean as ever.
At any given time, there are 999 people aboard the Hermes living and dying without ever waking up, their ages staggered so as to insure a range of abilities when they reach their destination. One person, a monitor, is allowed to wake for roughly twenty-five years, returning to their slumber once they hit fifty, never to wake again before recycling.
“In twenty-three hours you will be fifty-years-old. As you know, I was programmed by my maker to ensure that there is always an able-bodied human on watch-”
“I know that!” I snapped, somewhat unintentionally. Last time he told me it was thirty-seven hours. There was less than one day until my eyes would never open again. It was going by too fast.
Orion, the sixth monitor, isn’t ready to hand over his post just yet. He wants to know another person, he wants to set foot on a planet, he wants to live.
And time is running out.
“You only have nineteen hours remaining-”
“Stop!” I bellowed, so loud that if the Life-Chambers weren’t filled with liquid I might’ve woken half of the inhabitants outside my quarters. I leaned my head against the cold metal wall beneath the viewport and stopped myself right before my clenched fist slammed into it. “Just stop.”
The rest of this review can be found HERE!
Wow... Just wow.
A number of people I know had mentioned this author as someone I needed to read, and now I understand why. It takes a very talented writer to put such depth of emotion into a short story, especially when the characters are an A.I. and a man with no real life experience.
On a long journey, the ship Hermes must always have one thousand inhabitants... Nine hundred ninety nice in a type of hibernation, and one conscious to care for them and to be a set of hands for the ship's artificial intelligence. But can life, once lived in even the smallest way, be given up again for duty?
This is one of those stories that will stay in my mind for a long time.