Review: Overtaken by Karl Bunker

There is a tendency among science fiction writers to want to be edgy. Not so much in the edgelord meaning of the word, but with the concept of the cutting edge. Once of the reasons people write science fiction is an interest in the future and so trying to find some new way to look at that is fun and often it works. A new concept in science or a new piece of technology can spawn hundreds of stories that couldn’t have been told before and often they are superb. But sometimes in the desire to push forward we as writers ignore what is most important, focusing on new ideas and forgetting the humanity of the story. “Overtaken” by Karl Bunker is a story that explores that concept both in its theme and its writing.

Not that Karl Bunker wrote a simple story. In fact, this is a fairly ambitious story that tells two well fleshed out stories with a word count that many writers find difficult to tell one story in. The first of those stories is of the AI of a ship that was sent out from earth almost four hundred years ago that is running its ship while the crew is in stasis being overtaken by a tiny ship run by a “human” AI. The ship's AI tells a story to the other which makes up the center of the story.

It is a simple story, one that has been told before and isn’t particularly embellished and isn’t all that original. The ship had a manufacturing problem in the past. Someone could only solve one that by going into the reactor and in the process receiving a lethal dose of radiation. This doesn’t lead to some massive burst of inventiveness or brilliant solution, it leads to a moment of quiet and simple heroics. The type of thing that real people do in our world.

It need not be new, or original. It need not be told in a style that has never been thought of before or using some new and inventive look on technology it is a human moment and even though from fairly early in the telling of this short story it is clear what the outcome will be it is still effecting.

That leads to the second, and more original of the two plots. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it fits in perfectly with the theme of the rest of the story and tells you significant amounts of the history of this universe without having to tell you much of anything.

At only about 2500 words “Overtaken’ by Karl Bunker doesn’t have a lot of time to break new ground so instead it does something that should be far more impressive and tells a good story. It creates characters you care about and shows two events that are impressively important to the reader since they are small, human moments. This story is worth reading.

You can read “Overtaken” by Karl Bunker in the September 2011 Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine, or listen to it in episode 324 of StarShipSofa and you can find Karl Bunker at his website