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The First Since Ancient Persia: An Okay Scifi Thriller with a Messy Ending

The First Since Ancient Persia by John Brunner

So I finished the Lunar Chronicles, and it was quite a wild ride. It was four books and nearly three thousand pages of glorious, fantastical science fiction and now that the saga is over, it’s time to move on to other things. I am quite indecisive about what to read next and also feel like I need a pallet cleanser before the next boo. So I decided to resort to short stories. I cracked open the Eight Edition of the Year’s Best Scifi and read a short story. So here is my review of The First Since Ancient Persia by John Brunner.

The tale follows Elsa. She is an independent woman, backpacking all around the world. She drifts from place to place seeing the sights, taking short-term jobs, and meeting many cultures. And one day, she decides to hop off of the bus at a little poor Latin America town. Immediately she learns that this town is quite sexist. The moment they see her traveling alone, how she is dressed and learns that she is unmarried, they hate her. No one will serve her despite the amount of money she offers. And they will not provide any lodging. A young boy tells her of a medical base a mile away and she proceeds to the research medical center full of doctors. They are happy to help her and claim that they set up shop to help the locals, but the locals refuse their service. All seems to be fine and well until Elsa realizes more and more that what these doctors are saying does not add up.

The good? For most part, it was a fine story. It’s a very grounded scifi with a pinch of mystery. The revelations are intriguing enough. The detail and characters are likable as well.

The bad? The ending takes a bizarre left turn. Elsa appears to be fairly intelligent to this point. Then she makes a real dumb plan to get back at the doctors And I don’t mean a little dumb. I mean downright idiotic. My jaw dropped at how stupid she was at the end. It really retroactively damaged the rest of the story for me.

Overall, the first three-quarters are fun. But it falls apart horribly in the final act. It’s not the worst story ever. It has some good ideas and good parts. If you stumble across it, you may get something out of it. But I don’t recommend seeking it out.

2 ½ smoothies out of Five

Overall Rating: An Okay Scifi Thriller with a Messy Ending

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