Title: Thicker Than Blood
Author: Avery Vanderlyle
Pages: 27 pages
Characters: Ayana, Yan, David, James
Sub-Genre: Bisexual, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Rating: 4.5 Kisses
When the Nanotech Plague began killing off the large population of America using the tiny, implanted robots, the so-called “normals” took it upon themselves to wipe out the rest to prevent the spread. Now, fourteen years later, performer Ayana is in a dangerous position. Her nanotechnology implants are impossible to hide, having been tattooed onto her skin. Worse, the nanobots in her brother James are malfunctioning and slowly killing him. The pair of them, along with Ayana’s lover Yan, are slowly making their way across the fractured country, hoping to find a sanctuary and a cure.
David was only five when his parents died in the Plague. It wasn’t until he was grown that he realized that he’d been born with his own ‘bots, passed down from mother to child. Now, his second generation nanobots may be James’ salvation, if only Ayana and Yan can convince him that the nanobots aren’t a curse or a disease, but the key to rebuilding their ruined society.
Thicker Than Blood by Avery Vanderlyle is a short story packed with vivid world-building, strong characters, and a compelling story line. As a fan of science fiction, I found the device of nanobots, micrsocopic computer chips whose original intent were to enhance abilities in the human host, unique and original. At the same time, there were so many parallels to diseases and issues in the world today, that this book was enjoyable for me on two levels: as a great story and as a social commentary.
As with most short stories, there were certain elements where I needed to suspend belief, accepting the actions rather than requiring full explanation and development in order to enjoy the story. In this case, David’s attraction to Ayana was highly believable and their interactions authentic. Once the story took a turn and we learned Ayana’s real reason for seducing young David, the authenticity of David’s motivations became questionable. That was the only aspect of this book which prevented me from giving it 5 kisses.
At the heart of this story is discrimination based on one’s status. In this case, anyone who had “bots” was seen as inferior and even dangerous, forcing that subsection of the community underground, constantly living in fear of being discovered and persecuted. As David connects with Ayana and her brother James, we experience the dropping of his guard, as if he’s finally found a place where he can be accepted for himself exactly as he is. In this sense, it reflects the circumstances of so many subjugated groups in our own society.
The “bots” also parallel our current day concerns about transmission of infectious diseases. Rather than requiring medication to heal, Ms. Vanderlyle has given a wonderful twist to the methods for healing a person dying as a result of failing bots within their body. The direct ingestion of bodily fluid containing healthy bots is the potential cure for those dying. It’s as if the construct of disease and infection has been turned upside down, the “bug” becoming the cure rather than the malady.
Finally, Ayana fiercely believes there is a new horizon about to be realized, one where humans with bots inside them will become the new generation of human evolution. I can only hope Ms. Vanderlyle chooses to write a sequel to this intriguing story. I certainly want to see how her world develops, what the challenges are, and what lies in store for David as he explores his new-found connection with James.
For lovers of science fiction, Thicker Than Blood is a recommended read, reminiscent of movies such as The Matrix and AI.
Reviewed by Doug