The second tale in the anthology is “The Old Man and the Martian Sea,” written by award-winning British science fiction author Alastair Reynolds. It’s about a human girl named Yukimi, who runs away from her home in Shalbatana City on a partially terraformed Mars with rising seas. She meets an old man named Corax, who lives alone in a giant obsolete terraforming machine. Here are the opening lines:
“The Old Man and the Martian Sea” has some neat technological and historical elements (Yukimi's diary; an abandoned human settlement submerged by a rising lake) but the overarching “Why doesn’t my older sister love me anymore?” psychological aspect didn’t appeal to me. I was more attracted to the fate of the old man.IN the belly of the airship, alone except for freight pods and dirtsmeared machines, Yukimi dug into her satchel and pulled out her companion. She had been given it on her thirteenth birthday, by her older sister. It had been just before Shirin left Mars, so the companion had been a farewell present as well as a birthday gift.
It wasn't the smartest companion in the world. It had all the usual recording functions, and enough wit to arrange and categorize Yukimi's entries, but when it spoke back to her she never had the impression that there was a living mind trapped inside the floral-patterned -- and now slightly dog-eared -- hardback covers....
The ending of the story, which was too abrupt, seemed like it was fished out of a 1950’s juvenile novel, where growing pains and family dysfunction are resolved with a few lines of goofy dialogue and a final embrace.
It’s been a long time since I've read The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway, but it’s possible there are some clever similarities between Reynolds’s story and Hemingway’s novel.