In the classic mode of Big Idea impacting little people, “Last Contact,” by Stephen Baxter opens with two women in a garden talking about the end of the universe. The mother, Maureen, tends to go on a bit about her garden, but speaking as one who tends to go on a bit about her own garden, I can sympathize. The daughter, Caitlin, is the cosmologist, practicing her explanation about The Rip before she goes on BBC 4.
The Rip is caused by the dark energy accelerating far faster than anyone could have guessed. It will reach Earth on Oct 14, at 4 in the afternoon. (Bishop Ussher must be smiling.) I admire Maureen for tending her garden; it is, after all, better than anything else one could do. It’s a little creepy that she keeps talking about preparing the ground for winter, though. Caitlin also muddles through, confident that most people will take it well.
While I like the ideas and the characters, the story is mostly dialogue, which leaves me feeling like I’m reading a radio play. I’d love to hear it as an BBC radio production. Or just read aloud, but you’ll have to do that yourself; you’re not going to hear this one on Escape Pod.