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The Bantam: A Phantom Traveler Novella

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Ehli never expected much from her life. She’s an Iscillian, designed in a lab to serve as custodian for a Xendari merchant crew, with no future beyond the warranty of their starship. When she reads two previously overlooked lines in the ship’s operations manual that cast doubt on everything she thought she knew about her existence, the satisfaction she once found in her si Ehli never expected much from her life. She’s an Iscillian, designed in a lab to serve as custodian for a Xendari merchant crew, with no future beyond the warranty of their starship. When she reads two previously overlooked lines in the ship’s operations manual that cast doubt on everything she thought she knew about her existence, the satisfaction she once found in her simple life dissolves into an unsettling obsession with learning the truth. She is expected to report for duty, complete her assignments, and rest until her next shift. To put the needs of the ship and crew before her own. She knows better than to expect the oh-so-vertebrate Xendari to help her find the answers she craves, but every step she takes investigating her origins – and that of all Iscillian serving as bioaccessories across the galaxy – takes her further from the life she knew, and deeper into danger. But she can’t ignore what she’s learned. She must know what secrets have been kept from her, and she’s willing to risk everything to uncover them.


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Ehli never expected much from her life. She’s an Iscillian, designed in a lab to serve as custodian for a Xendari merchant crew, with no future beyond the warranty of their starship. When she reads two previously overlooked lines in the ship’s operations manual that cast doubt on everything she thought she knew about her existence, the satisfaction she once found in her si Ehli never expected much from her life. She’s an Iscillian, designed in a lab to serve as custodian for a Xendari merchant crew, with no future beyond the warranty of their starship. When she reads two previously overlooked lines in the ship’s operations manual that cast doubt on everything she thought she knew about her existence, the satisfaction she once found in her simple life dissolves into an unsettling obsession with learning the truth. She is expected to report for duty, complete her assignments, and rest until her next shift. To put the needs of the ship and crew before her own. She knows better than to expect the oh-so-vertebrate Xendari to help her find the answers she craves, but every step she takes investigating her origins – and that of all Iscillian serving as bioaccessories across the galaxy – takes her further from the life she knew, and deeper into danger. But she can’t ignore what she’s learned. She must know what secrets have been kept from her, and she’s willing to risk everything to uncover them.

31 review for The Bantam: A Phantom Traveler Novella

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jillian

    (Read the original on my blog: https://wordcauldron.blog) I really enjoyed this novella! I read it very quickly, which is unusual for me because I tend to be a slow reader, especially with sci fi. But, I couldn't put it down! Ehli is an Iscillian, all of whom are living beings designed and perfected in a lab for a very specific purpose: to be ship custodians. They are sold as kind of non-optional "add-ons" to the owners of these ships, and are integral to the functionality and safety of these vess (Read the original on my blog: https://wordcauldron.blog) I really enjoyed this novella! I read it very quickly, which is unusual for me because I tend to be a slow reader, especially with sci fi. But, I couldn't put it down! Ehli is an Iscillian, all of whom are living beings designed and perfected in a lab for a very specific purpose: to be ship custodians. They are sold as kind of non-optional "add-ons" to the owners of these ships, and are integral to the functionality and safety of these vessels. Ehli is not exactly happy, but neither is she particularly discontented with her monotonous duties in engineering and the predictable nature of her life, until, after running out of reading material with no way to acquire more, she resorts to reading a seemingly innocuous operating manual for the ship. As she nears the end of the manual, a set of lines changes her entire perspective in an instant. She may not be just the product of a lab. She may have a home world. Although she tries to dismiss these thoughts, they niggle at the back of her mind. Deep down, it seems that Ehli knew she has always been different from other Iscillians, even though that should be impossible due to her programming. Maybe this possibility of a home world is a missing link that could help her understand her place and purpose better. It could explain why Ehli felt the need to establish a secret real name for herself (Ehli), instead of the generic identifier (LE01) assigned to her by her creators. It could explain why Ehli always seems to paint using the same colors and style, as though memories of somewhere she has never been are trying to work their way out. It could explain why Ehli seems to be a cleverer and more prone to curiosity than other Iscillians, traits which always get her into trouble. It could explain why she seems both willing and able to, in some circumstances, to override the programming given to her in the lab. To try to find answers, she enlists the help of another Iscillian, LS01, on the ship who works in the science department. She learns that LS01 is a bit of a kindred spirit in several ways, including that she also has chosen a secret real name (Laness) and that she painted in the same color scheme as Laness, though her style was a little different. When Ehli tells Laness of her discovery, the two work together to form a plan for how to find out the truth. As a start, Laness takes DNA samples from them both to examine in the lab. Very shortly after, Ehli is summoned to the lab... where she comes upon a pile of goo that used to be Laness. Clearly, Laness was murdered. But, why? And, by whom (or what)? After being questioned by the authorities on the ship about any part she may have played in what transpired, Ehli is put on tight restrictions and her movements are heavily monitored. She does her duty faithfully, all the while mourning the loss of Laness, investigating out who killed Laness (even using clues that Laness left behind right before she died), and continuing to explore the mystery of what those two lines of text could mean in the operating manual. As to the latter problem, Ehli uses to her advantage an opportunity presented in a persistent request from Commander Chezni to perform some questionable upgrades to the ship. Although Ehli knows that these upgrades are still dangerous (her refusal in the past to do these upgrades because they are too dangerous resulted in the Commander retaliating by filing multiple unfavorable reports on Ehli), Ehli bribes the Commander by telling her she will approve the upgrades IF the supervisor helps her in return by using her contacts at their next stop to find out some information (I don't think it's ever stated outright, but it's implied that Ehli asks the Commander to find out more about Iscillians and where they may be located). In many ways, this story is a fascinating exploration of self-identity and how that is formed and altered, as well as the assumptions and expectations others have of us. For example, bribery is a concept completely foreign to Iscillians because they literally are not programmed to be capable of duplicity, yet Ehli manages it. And, even if the request seems odd to the Commander, she agrees to it (aside from fulfilling her goal of upgrading the drive in hopes of furthering her career) because it would simply never occur to her to be suspicious of Ehli's motives—it is inconceivable that an Iscillian could override their programming in such a way for gain, so Ehli's request is assumed to be to the benefit of the ship and crew. Eventually, Ehli approves the upgrades, which instantly results in disaster for the ship and its crew. The only survivors are Ehli (with strange effects) and a drone called BEETL, and they have somehow ended up in dimspace, with a broken gate drive and no way to get back to their own dimension. I cared about Ehli and empathized with her, her growth as a character felt natural, and I was interested in what happened to her. I am excited for the next installment to see if Ehli finds the answers she needs about her people and if she figures out how to get back to her own dimension. I am also intrigued with the aspects of her identity crisis, and how she will handle essentially being the captain of her very own ship instead of being a custodian of someone else's. I thought the descriptions of the components of Ehli's body (which I gathered is cephalopodic in nature) when she was eating or doing tasks, and of the colors that indicated her emotions, were interesting and fun. I also liked the overviews of the mechanical tasks she performed, as they didn't feel over-my-head or gratuitous. Theodore has a unique rhythm to her writing style, and this novella is a good starting place to grow accustomed to it, especially if you plan to read The Peridot Shift series.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    "The Bantam" was well-written and intriguing, but one caveat: it's not a complete story. It's just the setup for The Silent Fringe. I'm not sure the story finds a satisfying conclusion even there. But the journey's interesting so far. You have to judge if you want to start a rather open-ended commitment to a series. "The Bantam" was well-written and intriguing, but one caveat: it's not a complete story. It's just the setup for The Silent Fringe. I'm not sure the story finds a satisfying conclusion even there. But the journey's interesting so far. You have to judge if you want to start a rather open-ended commitment to a series.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra Rowland

    This is the first of Theodore's work that I have read, and I am looking forward to reading more!! This novella is beautifully written, with every detail intricately considered. I loved Ehli's paintings in particular--art and creative pursuits (and the humanities in general) have historically been underrepresented in science fiction, so I loved how much it enriched the setting. This is the first of Theodore's work that I have read, and I am looking forward to reading more!! This novella is beautifully written, with every detail intricately considered. I loved Ehli's paintings in particular--art and creative pursuits (and the humanities in general) have historically been underrepresented in science fiction, so I loved how much it enriched the setting.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mercedes

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Gilbert

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Mcgowan

  7. 5 out of 5

    bogo_lode

  8. 5 out of 5

    R.K. Syrus

  9. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

  10. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

  12. 4 out of 5

    Featherfire

  13. 5 out of 5

    R.J. Theodore

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  16. 4 out of 5

    Griffin Mekelburg

  17. 4 out of 5

    Raucous

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tony Wight

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emily Randolph-Epstein

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hobbs

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Chatsworth

  22. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Ostrick

  23. 5 out of 5

    ladymurmur

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jason Cornelius

  25. 4 out of 5

    William

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rekka

  27. 4 out of 5

    Timwarp

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joao Barreiros

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joon

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris Duckett

  31. 5 out of 5

    Kaelyn

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