The Far Reaches Reviews: “How It Unfolds” by James S. A. Corey


Somewhat recently, Amazon got together six writers you’ve likely heard of and tasked them with writing science fiction stories. It’s called “The Far Reaches.” And, with how fun it was reviewing the similar series, “Creature Feature,” it seemed like a good idea to continue the trend.

So, we’ll be seeing which one is the best, and going over them in the order they are presented. Starting with…

“How It Unfolds” by James S. A. Corey

How Things Unfold” is beautiful, devastating, heartbreaking, hopeful, fascinating, imaginative, and yet so much more. It’s a short story that captures a human message while delivering a sci-fi concept that feels original. And all of that in such a short page count.

And the issue with reviewing this story is that each twist, each reveal, is so well-crafted that I cannot give too much information about them. Spoiling it would be a disservice to you. But trust that each section of the story exists for a reason. You may find yourself momentarily confused while reading; unsure of why a strange paragraph interrupted the story. Don’t worry. It’s one of those narratives that connects all the lines.

But again—I can’t tell you what happens. I can only tell you the premise and hint at what’s in store.

The basic idea of “How It Unfolds” is this: near-future humans invent a special light that can copy things and people. Then, they decide to fire copies of the same few people (with shelter and gear) to tons of worlds, hoping that humanity will spring up in those places. But the beam takes a very long time to get anywhere—and those same humans, in all their copies, will then be on their own, in each place, tasked with populating a new planet.

And that alone allows for so many fascinating questions. Including what it means to know that a version of yourself will live beyond yourself. It examines the foible of wishing for the past. It pontificates on the ephemeral nature of life. However, I called this a human story. And that’s because “How It Unfolds” is, ultimately, about love. Not in some schmaltzy way, but in its realistic portrayals of young love and regret.  

All of this together, and “How Things Unfold” is quite nearly perfect. The prose and pacing so readable that the odd dense science term didn’t make it feel slow. Sure, perhaps there are too many characters—and the story could stand to not have so many of their names spelled similarly—but it’s instantly one of the best short stories I’ve ever read.

That is, except for one thing. There’s a weirdly blasé reference to the main character’s first kiss being “unethical,” and it’s never clarified what that means. It could be something really quite upsetting, and it’s just offhand mentioned. It’s not pivotal to the plot—to the point removing it would change nothing about “How It Unfolds” events—and I just have no idea why it’s there. It’s weird.

Otherwise, though, “How It Unfolds” is absolutely worth reading. It’s such an experience. It recontextualizes itself repeatedly, each time making the scope larger—and yet more personal. By the end, I wanted to read more science fiction. It’s a phenomenal start to “The Far Reaches” collection, and I understand why it’s the first in the series. I am so excited to see what else it has in store.

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