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Monday, August 01, 2011

cover of Connie Willis' 'D.A.'

This fun novelette (even shorter than a novella!) takes us into the world of Theodora Baumgarten, a student at Winfrey High School where just about everyone (except her) wants to get into the fiercely competitive IASA Space Academy. The story is told from Theodora's perspective, with her wry commentary on everything that goes on; she'd wanted to do remote learning but her mother was a "nostalgia freak", and her dad went along with the idea because he wants her to be independent, and what better place to do that than in a crowd? Shortly after the story begins, there is a mandatory assembly called, and the rumor is that one of the students has been selected to for Space Academy. No one is more surprised than Theodora that it is her name the visiting admiral announces-- particularly since she didn't apply, and really doesn't want to go into space. But things happen very quickly, no one will listen to her protests that she didn't apply and doesn't want to go (mostly because none of them understand why you wouldn't want to go or be selected for something so prestigious), and she is whisked away to Space Academy where she is sent aboard the RAH (a spaceship named for Robert A. Heinlein) and launched into space before she can clear up the mistake. Fortunately, she's got a good friend on the outside, Kimkim, who can hack into just about anything; they manage to re-establish communication and work together on figuring out just what has happened.

When Theodora fights her initial space-sickness (her roommate is so gung-ho about space that she has already practiced in zero-G) to go talk to the registrar about the mistake, she is reassured that they will clear it up quickly as soon as the materials arrive in a couple of weeks, so she bides her time. But then they show her actual registration materials that she knows she never submitted. On the outside, Kimkim is helping investigate, and soon figures out that there are a number of Space Academy cadets over the years who fit the pattern with what has happened to Theodora, all of them with the initials 'D.A.' on their records.

This is a fun, clever story-- and the idea behind it makes a lot of sense. If an organization is so popular and desirable that they can select the cream of the crop, the people who want so badly to go into space that they will take whatever classes and do whatever training they have to just for the chance to get in, it seems pretty plausible that such an organization could quickly become unbalanced-- which is where Theodora and the D.A. experiment comes in. The details of this world and Theodora's sense of humor make it an enjoyable read.

This is a fun little story, but too short. It would be fun to spend more time in this world and see what trouble Theodora and Kimkim get up to. Like Inside Job, which I also read recently, this book has been out for a while but I didn't have access to it anywhere, so I finally purchased and read the digital edition.

Author:Connie Willis
Date published:2007
Genre:Science Fiction
Number of pages:83
Notes:read an electronic edition


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