Fire in the Bone by Ray Nayler presents a complicated settler narrative, weaving a story of human colonization of a fertile world and a history of robot betrayals against humans. We see a future world where humans have prevailed, featuring enormous farms run by large estates. Our lead character dreams of traveling the universe on the giant spaceships that cast shadows above the planet, but it’s not possible. Nayler has pumped the story full of insightful dialogue, asking us to imagine how a space traveler must feel being trapped on a ship, exploring planet to planet, never finding home. The conversation of human versus robot plays an important part as well, asking what the definition of life is and arguing that robots are merely facsimile’s of life, going through the motions in lieu of real choices and feelings.
I was most impressed by the history Nayler created for the world. He shows us the history through stained glass windows within an abandoned church, which I found brilliant. The scenes depict a past robot uprising across multiple windows, and they’ve created a full religion from the events. There’s a crucifixion, a final battle, and the ascension of the robot who sacrificed himself to a human status. I’m always impressed when an author is able to create a full belief system, more so when it’s in such a short story.
The final events reveal a MASSIVE plot twist that was unexpected, yet welcome. It’s a story you’ll want to read multiple times, knowing what you know at the end. Overall, Fire in the Bone features strong writing, a complex story and a twist that will make you say “what?!”
FIRE IN THE BONE
By Ray Nayler
Published January 2019