BBC Radio 4, June 29 (and for 7 days after on iPlayer)
A father writes a final letter to his daughter…
After listening twice through to Matt Haig’s short story, the final contribution to this year’s Dangerous Visions series, I still can’t fully decide if it’s chock full of clichés, or simply using some very familiar tropes without really saying anything new about them.
The set-up is explained very quickly in the play: a human father is writing to his baby daughter, shortly before he is going to be forced to leave her (for reasons which become obvious long before they’re revealed). He takes the opportunity to explain everything that has brought them to the point they’re at – which is the cue for a rehearsal of some very familiar events (computers take over; mankind in a zoo as a dangerous predator; no apparent reason for the narrator specifically to be kept alive; the male used as a sperm producer as mankind is now an endangered species). The letter concludes with a declaration of love – begging the question why the father doesn’t simply spend more time with the little girl, or indeed her mother, rather than writing a letter which he knows will be destroyed.
Matt Haig’s novel The Humans is a wonderful look at current-day society through the eyes of an alien, and this story gives glimpses of the reverse of that – an alien society, albeit one created by humans, described in broad brush strokes by a man – but in the time available, he has too little time to avoid the clichés.
Verdict: A description of a slightly too by-the-numbers dystopia which would have benefitted from some sharp twist at the end. 6/10