We Are Satellites – Sarah Pinsker

We Are Satellites

We Are Satellites

Summary

Young David pushes his mothers to let him accept a free Pilot - a new, surgically installed device that all his classmates have to help them multi-task - but finds it doesn't work for him quite as expected. As he struggles - and joins the military - one mother gets her own Pilot, one mother refuses, and his Pilot-ineligible sister becomes an anti-Pilot activist.

Review

I believe Sarah Pinsker came to my attention via a story nominated for an award, but, oddly, I can seem to pinpoint which. At any rate, her name developed a slight familiarity and vaguely positive tinge. When I saw this book, I thought I’d give it a try, and I’m glad I did.

The title is somewhat misleading. There’s only a passing mention of satellites, and even as a metaphor, it’s pretty distant from the narrative and relationships, despite what the provided Reader’s Guide would have you think. This is a very near-future story entirely set in a mid-sized town on Earth, and with a limited set of characters – so near-future that it’s really only mildly speculative, though it handles that mild SF element well.

At heart, it’s a story about family – two mothers, a son, and a daughter – and how they react to the new technology of the ‘Pilot’, a device that can help people multi-task, but doesn’t work for all. While the story is largely a quiet, small-scale one, Pinsker’s characters are the stars here. The perspectives alternate among them, and each is fully formed, credible and engaging. It’s a pleasure to see them interact, which is good, because that’s essentially what the story is about; the Pilot is mainly a plot device.

While Pinsker’s characters and prose are very strong, and the personal implications of the Pilot are well considered (the social ones much less deeply), I had trouble buying some of the technology. For example, a key plot point is the fact that the Pilots have a blue light – but there’s never really any reason why they should or would. Second, the fact that essentially the whole country converts to an embedded device from a single manufacturer, that over decades has no competition, was difficult to buy.

Overall, though, this is a pleasant, engaging, mild-SF story of family and devotion, somewhat along the lines of Connie Willis. It may not strain your imagination, but you’ll enjoy reading it.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

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