After The Siege by Cory Doctorow
This novella is available for free online
Read it online at: http://www.infinitematrix.net/stories/shorts/after-the-siege.html
Links the 9 MP3 podcast parts are under the author's name at: http://www.hardsf.org/0AudAuth.htm
Other info on the story is at: http://craphound.com/?p=1674
After The Siege won the Locus Best Novella award.
This story is sort of a variant on the Siege of Leningrad.† Doctorow's grandmother lived through the siege during WWII, and stories of those days inspired him to write this story.† However, this is a future version.† Before the siege, there are flying cars, robots and other advanced tech.† During the siege, there are also "zombies" - people infected with some biowar agent that makes them mad and bite other people to spread the infection.
This future siege takes place about 10 years after "the revolution".† This had to do with some tech, although the details weren't entirely clear to me.† The forces that attack and lay siege are supposed to claim the land of the revolution has not paid royalties and such.† I get the impression the tech had to do with nanotech or "replicator"-type devices, as there are references to "printing" clothes, food and other items.
The story is told from the perspective of Valentine, a girl around the beginning of her teens.† On the day of the attack that begins the siege, she is going to the movies with friends at a new, hi-tech theater.† On her way home, she is injured so that she requires hearing aids.
Her mother starts playing a part in the defense of the city.† Soon, things are not going well.† The city's technology is failing.† Her father must spend his days digging trenches.† Then Valentine must start working.† She sees more and more devastation.
The night she is told her father has died, she runs out into the dark city.† In an old corner of the city, she encounters a "wizard" who does not seem to be affected by the food and power shortages or other problems.† He "prints" up some items for her before sending her home.
The siege drags on.† She is bit by a zombie - which means she'll get sick and die within about a week.† She goes back to the "wizard" in hopes he can help.† She agrees to plant electronic spy-eyes around the frontlines for the "wizard".† In exchange, he is supposed to provide for her family.† The "wizard" turns out to be something unexpected.
As time wears on and things get worse, rations in the city continue to be cut and Valentine gets reassigned to disposing of corpses to prevent them from being eaten by zombies.† Then one morning, she wakes with her hearing aids not working...
Believe it or not, Doctorow says he wrote this story for inclusion in an anthology of optimistic SF.† Most of the story is not particularly cheerful, but the day she wakes up unable to hear is actually the turning point.
I suppose this story could appeal to those who like post-apocalyptic tales, or stories with this kind of intense human struggle to survive.† It doesn't end in doom and gloom, so you don't have to be one of those kinds of people to read it.† However, it probably isn't for everybody.
The plot hinges on matters involving hi-tech, but most of the story takes place under rather low-tech conditions.† On the whole, it may not be easily cubby-hole into a particular type of SF.† Regardless of these issues, it had elements that lead to it winning the Locus award.
The free MP3 version I listened to is part of Doctorow's podcast.† This, apparently, was the first work he presented in his podcast.† At least at that time, he recorded parts of the story at different places, partly while he was traveling and staying in friends' spare rooms and such.† As a result, I donít think this is his best effort.† During this audio version of After The Siege, there are numerous cases of stumbling over words and other unedited aspects.† While the price is right, it doesn't always flow smoothly.