Woo boy. Blake Crouch put his foot in this short story. Damn. I loved every part of it and think if he can stick the landing like this in his stand-alone novels he would be a instant buy author for me in the future. “Summer Frost” was wonderfully done from beginning to end. I swear this read like the best Black Mirror episode ever. Which is saying something since the past two seasons I have been meh towards Black Mirror.
“Summer Frost” follows Riley who is a video game developer. Riley has realized that a NPC (non-player character) named Max has somehow realized they are in a game and is testing the boundaries of that game. We follow Riley through the years as they help Max learn about humanity through books, movies, etc. Eventually Max is past the human threshold for genius. When Max is finally brought out into the real world, things in Riley’s life start to change.
So I liked Riley a lot. It’s weird that I assume Riley is a woman, though it says during the short story that they see themselves as male when playing games. Riley is happily married at the start of this story to a woman named Meredith. They keep trying to have children, with Meredith experiencing miscarriages. You start to see how Riley gets caught up in Max since this is something that she can take care of and nurture like a child. When Riley starts to see Max as something more, her relationship with Meredith suffers.
I really loved the character of Max. Max sees themselves as not female or male and I liked how Crouch infuses Max with being beyond gender and even Riley uses pronouns to reflect that as everyone does, besides Meredith still calling Riley ‘it.”
I thought the writing was thought provoking and I loved how Pascal’s wager came into play here. I haven’t thought about this since college and thought that it gave an interesting flavor to this novel especially with what comes at the end.
The setting of this story I would once again assume is future, or near future.
The ending was a smack in the face (in a good way).