This story centers around Andrea, a woman sentenced to indentured servitude after being shipped from her old home planet of Loki to the new Kalikuata, a cylindrical Orbital that’s basically a version of India in space. It begins with her disguised as a man and working as a rickshaw puller in order to pay off her handlers. Her rickshaw is designed to record the conversations of her illustrious passengers, and she is rewarded based on what is overheard.
When a simple assignment to carry a man from the spaceport to his estate goes awry, Andrea begins to realize that no matter where she ends up in the universe, she can’t continue to go on running from her problems.
Again I am impressed by the themes Buckell addresses in his story. Not only is Andrea a woman, she’s a woman of color. There’s a very telling line in this story, where Andrea accuses her handlers of using her based on her skin color. She’s dark skinned where they are white, she’s stuck doing the manual labor while they listen on high tech electronic devices in air conditioned rooms.
It’s the third world in space, and she’s found herself in a position where she has to decide whether to continue being used, or try and make a life for herself by standing up for herself. Nobody else is going to come and save this damsel in distress.
It’s a pro-woman, pro-people of color story, and the ending is very satisfying. You can still tell this is early days for Buckell, but the story is richer and more filled out than Fish Merchant. I can’t wait to share the rest of the anthology.