John Varley, ‘In the Bowl’ (1975)

In a human-colonised solar system, Kiku travels from Mars to Venus in the hope of finding blast jewels – naturally-occurring objects which can be caused to explode, leaving gems behind as debris. His guide is Ember, a young Jill-of-all-trades with a pet otter. I enjoyed this: there’s a drily humorous note to the narration; the precocious Ember is an engaging character; and the closing twist is nicely dark.

Rating: ***½

This is one of a series of posts on the anthology Not the Only Planet.

1 Comment

  1. Hugo van den Berg

    2nd February 2020 at 11:36 am

    The title refers to an atmospheric effect that has been attested in planetary science – it is real, so to speak.

    The problems of heat management, air pressure and temperature are ignored by assuming that magic alien technology can provide magic suits – but the basic physics does not really hold up.

    The biggest problem is that the air is very thick and the wind speeds very high. Standing on Venus, you are literally battered by a ton of bricks every second you are there. So explosive jewels that are sensitive to the slightest touch would never ever appear on the surface.

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