Jason Chapman’s “Brief Candle” is a clever, winning tale of an unpreposessing sanitation robot onboard an imperiled ship. In an AI-fueled homage to Flowers for Algernon (down to the name of the protagonist), the robot finds himself taking on much more responsibility than, literally, he could have ever imagined. It’s a breezily entertaining story, with a quick, crisp narrative that revels in the meticulously imagined details that it unfolds.
Some of the humor was a bit too cute and obvious to work for me, and by the same token, the efficacy of the ending may depend on your willingness to have your heartstrings tugged; I felt a little resistant to the overt emotional appeal, but possibly I’m just being curmudgeonly. After all, I do tend to smile whenever I think of this story – it’s hard to be a grump about something so warm and fun.
Jason K. Chapman