Writer’s (Tragic Wonders, 2013, etc.) novella reimagines Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as a cautionary sci-fi tale.
In this 21st century recasting of the classic story, E. Ben Ezer fills the role of the iconic Ebenezer Scrooge. He’s a callous businessman in the not-too-distant future, who, in his quest for wealth, has replaced almost his entire staff with a sophisticated autonomous computer network. Ezer’s greed extends far beyond mere wealth, however; he’s looking to transcend his current position and become something of a godlike figure. While working late one night, Ezer confronts the image of his former business partner emanating from his computer screen. Unfazed, Ezer decides to try out his company’s experimental virtual reality suit, and the apparition soon leads him through his past, present and future. Writer’s version of Dickens’ tale doesn’t stray too far from the original’s framework; versions of all of Dickens’ characters are present, and the moral remains fundamentally the same, although expanded to encompass concerns regarding artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Writer’s Carol is noticeably darker, though: His version of Ebenezer goes beyond a mere greedy curmudgeon to a man who’s capable of consciously corrupting the worldwide economy. Furthermore, the apparition (or “the entity,” as Writer refers to it) shows Ezer a distressing future in which his creations have systematically destroyed all of humanity. Aside from this tonal shift, the most significant change is the story’s resolution, which far exceeds a simple change of heart. Writer’s interpretation is an intriguing retelling, as it does much more than merely change the classic tale’s setting and style. Unfortunately, its brevity and its adherence to the original’s classic structure inhibit Writer from fully exploring his notions, and the prose often falls flat. Vivid images sometimes appear, as when Ezer imagines the flickers of computer screens casting “agonized shadows around the room [that] continued their accusatory dance”; more often, however, the narration feels stilted and overwrought (“Through the Word the Great Physician cleared out from his heart and mind, futile thoughts, errant goals and abusive attitudes”). The result is a sometimes strange mixture of paranoid sci-fi and traditional religious morality.
A unique, if uneven, version of a holiday fixture.