“Mother of Champions” by Sean McMullen

IZ222 coverI mentally graphed my reactions to this story in my head as I read, not unlike those audience-interest graphs that accompany some reviews in Total Film. “We Champions do not write, neither do we read, but we are very particular about time, numbers, family and memories. After all, we are perfect”: promising start! Interest grabbed by the promise of the construction of an alien consciousness; this continues through the jargon of the next few sentences — “I watch the scavengers”, “echospeaker arrived in her shelter engine”. Then: “Mike, how are you?”: nice shift in registers, although interest dips slightly with the following realisation that the narrator is an animal (in fact, a Cheetah) with a “machine collar”. “Substitute a pack of wolves for a coalition of cheetahs and I could believe what I just saw”: interest perks up again, although partly based on fond remembrance of Jurassic Park‘s raptors. Mike leaves, and the visitor (Ella) sets about framing him: interest dips, although if the narrator’s not going anywhere, neither can the story. “⟨I am not the scavenger you call Ella⟩”: nicely creepy, slight up-tick in interest. “You — you bred humanity as tools?”: Uh-oh. Cats-domesticate-humans is good for a joke, not so good for a story. “Thirteen thousand cheetahs, and one mass mind!”: I suppose if you’re going to go there, at least go gonzo! “⟨It amuses cats to control you for us — nothing can use a cat⟩”: and oh dear, down into the ravine of boredom we go. A certain commitment to the narrator’s arrogantly cruel demeanour is something, but can’t compensate.