Heidi's Reviews > For Want of a Nail

For Want of a Nail by Mary Robinette Kowal
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Jun 20, 2012

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Read on June 20, 2012

Originally reviewed here.

For Want of a Nail is science fiction, taking place in a world where reproduction is controlled, the useless are destroyed, and one family’s history is recorded in the coding of their AI, Cordelia. When Cordelia’s ability to continue to record without losing past memory is put in jeopardy, her wrangler attempts to fix what she hoped would be a minor problem without calling her own abilities into question. However, wrangler Rava soon learns that seemingly simple problems can be far more difficult than anticipated, and the solutions even more so.

Kowal’s short story is well deserving of the praise it has received at it is one of those that manages to pack rich worldbuilding and substantial emotion into a tiny page count. It confronts questions of utility, humanity, and emotions in the way that only the best science fiction can manage. I was particularly struck by the fear of aging, losing not only self-worth, but worth to one’s society and family. Fear of those horrible things that relate to aging is something every person can relate to, at least those of us old enough to recognize that it will someday come for us and those we love. I do have to admit, however, that For Want of a Nail was not my favorite of 2011′s Hugo nominees that I have read thus far, Ponies takes that ribbon at the moment.
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