Reviews: Asimov's Science Fiction Sci-Fi Short Stories Science Fiction Reviews

Shorts: Unter

A young man gets caught up in a software that allows strangers to access his body in order to gain new experiences in the outside world. As the stakes continue to increase, he begins to wonder if he’s gotten himself into a bad situation. With strong writing and a solid story progression, Unter provides enough thrill to propel you forward.


Michael Cassutt
Asimov’s Science Fiction
July/August 2018


The main focus is on a service that allows people to vicariously experience life through a neural connection to a strangers body and mind. The experiences seem to be a bit mundane at times, but there are the obvious thrills and dangerous situations as one would expect from this kind of thing. The main characters gets himself caught up in increasingly difficult situations and eventually stands face-to-face with the protected servers that house the software. I do wish there were a little more to the story, only because it’s such an interesting idea and I feel like it could easily have been a novel.


We see a young man named Drake lending his body, and his life, to this almost alternate reality as he allows external users to control him and get life experiences without actually being there. He’s a guy figuring out what he wants from life, between a big corporate job and a possible connection with an independent company. It’s the allure of easy money that gets him to sign up, but one questions the smarts of someone who willingly has something implanted in his head so a stranger can control his body and his mind. It seems like pretty typical behavior for a guy who isn’t sure where he fits in.


The story takes place in St. Paul, MN, in a country where travel is heavily restricted by a large police force. There’s mention of checkpoints, a curfew, and a visa needed in order to travel to different states. It’s a pretty scary secured world, in my opinion, but it seems to just be the norm for this guy. The police do have non-lethal methods for taking people down, which they use on him, and that was quite the surprise in a world where a heavy law enforcement is constantly patrolling the streets. It very much reminds me of Ready Player One, but with real people instead of avatars in a virtual world.


Alternate Reality, Body Swap, Future, Police State, Artificial Intelligence

Photo by Sasha • Stories on Unsplash

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