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The Ones Who Look

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  108 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Ethical Empire built the gate to heaven, and their employees hold the keys. By offering custom-built afterlives through full-brain uploads, they answered the needs of a society pushed to the brink by climate change and cascading antibiotic failure. But for Zoe, who works daily to assess the sins of users and decide who's worthy of salvation, heaven is not so simple. Despit ...more
ebook, 32 pages
Published July 1st 2020 by Tor Books
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“We found out what people wanted from the angels in the beta testing stage. They didn’t want an omnipotent being who can tell them exactly how to get into Heaven. Humans won’t just do what they’re told to, but they want guidance all the same. It’s why we developed two angels, offering variable input. Every action needs to seem like a conversation. A choice.”

a variant on the opt-in afterlife theme focusing on the bean-counters and office workers making that afterlife spin. or not. this is one of
Peter Tillman
This is a fresh look at a future digital afterlife, and two employees of Ethical Empire, the gatekeepers, who become lovers. Each enrolled client is given two Guardian Angels at his 0r her side. But there's trouble in paradise....

I was very impressed by this story by a new-to-me author. I recommend it highly: 4.5/5 stars, rounded up. As with many shorts, I think you are best going into it cold. I loved the art!

Free copy online at
More of Esther Goh's art:
Wow. This is such an interesting premise. Marketizing the afterlife is a scary concept, a shit-fest waiting to happen. I wish there was more of this, I would certainly read a full-length novel!

Well written and engaging short. I will explore more of Katharine Duckett's work.

4 stars
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love a story that makes you think, that shows you things in a different light, from a new perspective, that opens your mind and expands your horizons. This brilliant little short story does all of that. I’m off now in search of more writings from Katharine Duckett.
Kam Yung Soh
Jul 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-and-fantasy
In the future, Heaven is a digital uploaded copy of a person. And the company that decides who gets into Heaven is Ethical Empire, who employs people to look at people's lives and to give or subtract points.

The story concerns one such person who looks into the lives of others and gets involved in a romantic relationship with one of the engineers behind Heaven. But as the relationship develops and company secrets (under NDAs) get quietly shared between them, a disquieting revelation is made about
Prabhjot Kaur
It was an interesting premise that shows how we humans always want to conquer death any which way. The lengths we go to console ourselves that there is an afterlife but in reality, no body knows what there is and what there isn't. A very engaging beginning but just before the end, I found myself getting bored.

That ending was really good though.

3.5 stars
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Frankly? Underdeveloped a bit.
“That logic would never hold up in arbitration, and you know it,” said Rocky, the more severe of her two Recording Angels... (c)
I’d like to know my family was going to be together in Heaven before I go to my grave. Is that really so much to ask?” (c)
There was a reason almost everyone working below the exec level in arbitration was a woman or nonbinary person. You couldn’t pay men in tech to put up with other people’s shit the way Zoe did. (c)
... it was easi
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
More. I want more. I want a full-length novel building this world, and what happens to the characters in it.
This short story is a bit odd: it deals with Heaven & Hell and judgment, but it also is 100% human. The sci-fi aspect of it (which I am not going into because of spoilers — you can read the story for yourself here and see for yourself: is something I could see humanity actually doing, right or wrong, once we have the capability for it.

I thought this was a well-crafted story, but too open-ended for my personal tastes. I didn't get any hint of what happene

I really liked the premise of this short story, but by the end the logic had disintegrated, or at least I couldn't keep up with it and didn't understand what was going on anymore. The premise is this: In the semi-immediate future, a global antibiotics failure has resulted in countless deaths that would otherwise have been avoidable and a tech company specialised in "uploading" the deceased to a virtual heaven has become the ruling superpower in society - however, something's amiss, and only
Uma    | Books.Bags.Burgers
OMG I want a full length novel ahhh!
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex Livingston
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great cyberpunk nouveau story which takes the “mind as software” thing to a very believable conclusion. Information on the tech (and on the characters) comes slowly, dropped at just the right moments. I found myself tearing through this to answer my questions “so, what exactly happens when they die?” — “what’s going on with her family?” Etc. I, for one, now want two AI angels buzzing in my ear all the time.
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, short-story
This doesn't quite belong in the horror category, but it has some elements of that. Another great Tor short!
You can read this one for free online, and it's worth a read, great thought-piece, it's similar to the Amazon Prime show Upload, asking the questions of what would a digital "Heaven" be like? What would we do to get there, and what other aspects would you need to know?
Cally Jean
Sep 17, 2020 rated it liked it
This had a lot of good ideas, but not enough time to develop them. It's your typical sci-fi story about finding cracks in a seemingly perfect world and then mumbling about philosophy for a bit. Fine, but nothing special. The story is open-ended, which is fine for some people but I prefer stories with concrete conclusions.
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked this. I normally don't like an open ending, but this was good. The only thing was that we were just dropped into the universe, and it made comprehension a little difficult because this world is so different than our current world, and the world building was a little vague.
Zoe's Human
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lt
What if heaven and hell were individualized programs that you could earn your way into? And what if those programs were in the hands of a corporation? A fascinating scifi short depicting the possibilities of an afterlife that one uploads into.
Jourden DeWitt
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such a freaky sci fi concept every time—the manufactured afterlife. A world where everything you do is watched and recorded to see if your consciousness will be uploaded to “Heaven” or not and the angel on your shoulder teaches you how to game the system, not how to do what is right.
Andrea D. McCarthage
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
A bit too basic in its execution, and the prose is nothing special. This is a well-trodden path to take, and unfortunately this story fails to stand out. A quick read, certainly entertaining enough, but hardly worthy of a second thought after you're done.
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tor-short, 2020, dystopia
Tell me what death will look like.
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fun, thought provoking story on the ability of fallible humans to successfully design a suitable heaven.
Jul 05, 2020 rated it liked it
On a tangent....imagine if all our choices were judged apart from context and/or intention...terrifying...
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent short story, one of the best I have read this year. An early contender for this year’s Hugos?
rated it it was ok
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Katharine Duckett is the author of Miranda in Milan, a Shakespearean fantasy novella debut that NPR calls "intriguing, adept, inventive, and sexy." Her short fiction has appeared in Uncanny, Apex, PseudoPod, and Interzone, as well as various anthologies including Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction and Wilde Stories 2015: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction. She is the guest fiction editor ...more

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