I’m quickly becoming a fan of Tor.com’s novella releases, which have added some quick, effective, and compelling near-future SF to my reading arsenal lately. The latest is S.B. Divya’s Runtime, a kinetic and enjoyable tale that uses its science fictional furniture to examine the tilted playing field of wealth and class in the United States.
Marmeg is an outsider looking to secure her financial future and make a name for herself in the Minerva Sierra Challenge, a cross-country race for mechsuit-wearing contestants that spans the mountains of northern California. She’s up against wealthier, better equipped competitors, but she’s also resourceful, confident, and more than handy with the makeshift cybernetic enhancements she’s salvaged from other people’s garbage. Her longshot attempt to win the race gets off to a good start, but then meets with unexpected challenges and difficult ethical decisions, propelling her toward an uncertain future.
Runtime is solid, core science fiction of the mundane SF variety that layers an entertaining, high-concept surface adventure over an insightful sociopolitical subtext about class, privilege, and opportunity. It’s a thoughtful, bracing, and satisfying read; I look forward to seeing more work from this author.