“Hexagrammaton,” by Hanuš Seiner. Translated from Czech by Julie Nováková.
Novelette. Published in Tor.Com, May 2017.
This one grabbed me from the start; it wasn’t until I started writing this post that I realized it was by Hanuš Seiner, whose “Terra Nullius” I’d found so intriguing a few months ago.
(And hey, sorry for the unannounced hiatus, everybody! Things have been cuh-razy. I’m back, scouring the web for stories that catch my eye and look fun to talk about!)
Maria Haskins recommends this story highly:
I’m not sure I can even properly describe the premise of this unique and captivating story. Aliens have visited the solar system. They have infected? blessed? some humans with a virus that rewrites their genetic code into…something else. The aliens have left, but the infected humans are stuck, halfway to their ultimate metamorphosis. Now, a woman might have found something that will change everything. Mathematics, genetic reprogramming, fear, loneliness, a longing to explore the universe… All I can say is: read it. It’s a trippy, disorienting story that is well worth savouring.
Charles Payseur calls this “a strange story full of hauntingly lovely possibilities.” In his review, he discusses the themes of ciphers and translations:
I love the layers of the story. There are sections told in a journal that parallel those told by the main character, a man who in the journals was part of the Vaían movement and in the other was not. And the story really to me becomes about movement and possibilities. It’s about codes and ciphers, with reality itself being no more than a code that, with the right key, can be translated into something else. So the journal portion of the story translates into the story of the man taking this traveler to the ships, becomes something else entirely. The idea that reality can be translated in that way is fascinating and it creates the possibilities by which the story can find a way for humans to push out into the stars. It just lingers on this idea that with a code so complex as reality, each translation loses the code that came before, erases it in the act of translation, and so you have to commit to it fully in order to create this new text.
It’s a beautiful story that changes with each reading, with each new interpretation, and it’s an amazing experience.
Rocket Stack Rank does not recommend. While it feels “there are lots of really interesting ideas in here,” overall “The whole story is a confused mess. (…) What really happened here? It’s way too long to be this confused.”
What did you think? Read the story, and come discuss with us in the comments!