This translated story from Russian (translation by Alex Shvartsman) is an unique and gripping story. The afterword tells of a slightly hidden message in support for Ukraine, which underlines the story’s theme of fighting against oppression.

A powerful alien entity is killing one random person every second. All attempts to overpower it has failed with the people behind it being killed, showing that the entity will deter from its randomness if it needs to. This has led to a defeatist complacency where people just try to not be noticed and hope for the best. Even at a rate of one human every second, there is still “only” a 0.3% risk of getting killed in a given year and it will take more than 200 years for it to wipe out every human on the planet. However, someone is working on an interesting theory on what is actually going on and how to stop it.

Despite the story being mostly people discussing their theories and planning, with only a small amount of “action”, I found this story to be quite effective and the less-than-subtle commentary on how joined forces can overcome a powerful enemy works to the benefit of the story.

Read in Asimov’s May/June 2024
Rating: 4