Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Review: Stranded: A Host of Leeches by James Alan Gardner

Stranded is a short story collection about being stranded in space. The three stories are written by Anne Bishop, Anthony Francis, and James Alan Gardner. Though each story deals with the same subject matter, they are each unique. The book begins with James Alan Gardner's piece "A Host of Leeches".

"A Host of Leeches" is about a young girl, Alyssa, who finds herself stranded on a space station which is the retirement home for advanced, sentient, weaponry after she has come down with a highly contagious plague. There are no other people in the story, only the sentient robots.

One of my favorite parts is the description of the situation:
"Herds of intelligent battle-tanks roaming the grassy plains. Nuclear bombers and fighter jets basking in the sun. Gunboats in the rivers, artillery on the shore, and mole-machines underground. Lots of smart self-aware robots whose codenames include the world 'megadeath'."

On top of that, she is dragged into a power struggle between two of the robots: The General and the Lorelei. Each are highly advanced intelligences with quite different ways of doing things and Alyssa as the anomaly in the situation is requested by the General to take down the Lorelei. All because he cured her of the mystery plague. We find out later he was lying through his speakers.

What really happened was aliens had come to Earth and infected Alyssa, and many others, with themselves. They are communal cells, which behave something like algae. They infected the humans because on their world, that's what they do. They ride other low intelligence lifeforms for their own purposes. Except all it did was make the humans very sick. They finally removed themselves from Alyssa when they realized how close to death she had come. Giving her the cure the General claimed he had done. With the plague mystery solved, they are left with the small problem of what to do with the communal cells, but I'll let you read the story to find out what happens and why the leeches are an important component.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and it's a fairly quick read. Gardner does a fabulous job of giving an amazing situation enough touch points to keep you in the story. 4.5 out of 5.

Pick up the book from Belle Books HERE

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