cover image Rosebud


Paul Cornell. Tordotcom, $14.99 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-250-76539-0

Cornell (the Witches of Lychford series) ponders the inevitability of change in this unrewarding far-future novella set in the C Ring of Saturn. Long after Earth and Mars have been devastated by global warming, five sentient digital beings spend 300 years crewing Rosebud, a spaceship programmed by the mysterious Company to bring peace and prosperity to the humans of the solar system. When Rosebud calls the AIs together to analyze a mysterious black sphere floating nearby, the beings decide to earn glory for the Company by being the first to acquire alien technology. To explore the sphere, each shifts into a different body: Haunt, into Christopher Lee’s Dracula; Diana, the luscious woman of her dreams; Quin, a giant wasp; Huge, the artist Bob Ross; and foulmouthed Bob, a vicious tiger. The sphere admits them, but their bizarre experiences exploring it yield strange déjà vu intimations, contradictory memories between crew members, and startling revelations about extraterrestrial life, the Company, and humanity itself. The slippery narrative makes it difficult to parse Cornell’s shifting themes, and though the sheer strangeness of the crew’s excursion into inchoate probabilities may entice some readers, many will long for something to hold on to. This unsettling glimpse of AI-dominated existence raises more questions than it answers. (Apr.)