Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: An Election, by John Scalzi

An ElectionAn Election by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up either for free or at an extreme discount, and forgot I had, for a while. I'm glad I remembered in time to give it a read. It was a quick, thoroughly enjoyable read.

"An Election" is a short story about a city with alien inhabitants. The science fiction elements are presented as if we, the readers, are already familiar with them, and just as blandly as the fact that the man running for office has a husband. His sexuality is no obstacle at all; what almost proves his downfall is his lack of political connections and the fact that he's human in a sector dominated by aliens. David is hopelessly uninformed about his alien would-be constituents. His most visible election moment is when he literally gets between two squabbling candidates, to embarrassing effect.

The story works because it's short and sweet, and has some biting satire to impart. The relationship between David and James is cute, and follows the trope of the exasperated spouse trailing after the clueless one, rather than stereotyping them as gay men.

I did have an unsettled moment, as I realized I was rooting for the human to oust the one alien-controlled area of local government, thereby taking away their voices. I think I was supposed to feel comfortable with it because David was obviously listening to the alien residents and would give them that voice, as well, but the implications left me feeling colder toward the story than I would've if it had been clear there was another alien voice in power. David deserves the position more than the corrupt politician, the easily-manipulated alien who's running on a platform of eating people's pets, or the squabbling sisters, but does that really make him the best for the job? Maybe that's part of the point of the story, that we're often choosing the least worst option, ourselves.

If you don't have a Kindle, the story is available for free on John Scalzi's blog, Whatever. As there's another election coming up, the timing of my picking it up now seemed appropriate.

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