Saturday 29 August 2020

Short Story Review: You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles

You Have Arrived at Your Destination You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story is part of Amazon's Forward Collection which according to its curator was devise as a collection of stories about pivotal technological moments. In this story Amor Towles as chosen the subject of designer babies.

***SPOILER ALERT ***Sam is a successfull, moneyed, mortgage free 45 year old who is visiting Vitek a fertility clinic with a difference, not only can you pick boy/girl, blue/brown eyes etc but you can influence the intelligence and temperament of you future child. His wife Annie has done a lot of the legwork and when he gets to the clinic he is presented with her three options. These are presented as three short video montages of what each child's live would be like.

The first projection, Daniel One has " from the day he was born, Daniel had a smile on his face"; Daniel Two "marches to the beat of his own drum" and for Daniel Three "everything came easy". These are shown to Sam in a 15 seat movie theatre by MT Owens of Vitek, who sees these as mini movies and talks about each life as if it were a three act play. Seeing these potential lives acted out makes Sam reflect on his own life and his marriage. He takes exception to MTs talk about classic "second-act setbacks" during which people come face to face with their own limitations and there being "no point in pushing our personalities uphill". This is made all the more personal and cutting when MT remarks that Annie is still in her second-act, but Sam is already in his third and has been there for 15 years already. This prompts Sam to leave the building.

He ends up in a down at heels bar on a bypassed side road off the highway, where things get a little tense as Sam gets very drunk in conversation with Beezer and the barkeep Nick. More about Sam's upbringing is revealed and about the history of Vitek which Beezer reckons is an offshot of the previous occupants of that building the defense contractor Raytheon "because genetics is the fuure of defense". Sam goes back to Vitek to retrieve his DNA "sample" and returns to his new friends in the bar.

This story flows along really well, Towles paints three different characters as the potential children, and wonderfully interspaces their screening with Sam's own reflections, his concerns about his own life, about Annie's, about his father's impact on his childhood. The character of MT is perfectly OTT salesman, and the seed of a conspiracy theory which is dropp in towards the end by Beezer leaves a bitter taste not just with Sam but leaves the reader with a sense of dread.
It is very well structured, well ended and well written. It is just the type of short story which makes a great movie. I loved it and couldn't fault it, hence the 5*

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