Author: Quill Holland
Originally Published by ScorPress Publishing in 2021
Review by Miriam Atkinson
What Mattered Most is a dystopian science fiction short story by Quill Holland. Set in the future, the Earth’s surface has become a desert and the survival bunkers are failing. The story follows Chloe, a cyborg who must try to survive on the surface long enough for the world to turn green again…but nature has other ideas.
The first time I read What Mattered Most I had planned to read the story in stages but by the time I was halfway through I knew there was no way I’d be able to concentrate on anything else until I found out what happened to Chloe. So yes, this genuinely was a story that I couldn’t stop reading!
Despite being a cyborg, I actually found Chloe to be a very realistic and relatable character. Through flashbacks we see a still human Chloe who wishes for a good life and the chance to one day become a parent. She initially believes others will solve her problems for her but steps up and volunteers to help when an opportunity presents itself. I believe the majority of readers will be able to relate to at least some of these aspects of Chloe’s character.
Similarly, I really liked the fact that Chloe was not a “chosen one” or someone destined to be a hero. She is an ordinary person who goes on to do extraordinary things. Sometimes she wins and sometimes she loses. This balance is one of reasons why Chloe is a great three-dimensional character.
As a fan of both the genres of science fiction and dystopian fiction, I believe Holland does an excellent job of combining the two genres. For example, the story features a dystopian setting with sci-fi technology. There is a good blend of the genres with neither one overpowering the other. We are given enough information to understand and visualise the world in which Chloe is in and the technology, such as Chloe’s cybernetic augments and the talkative drone companions, are both entertaining and help to progress the plot.
Ultimately this is a story of survival – both physical and mental. The tense final scenes were well written and I anxiously read on to find out which path Holland had chosen to end his story.
I found What Mattered Most dramatic, with an instantly engaging narrative and a complex protagonist. This has honestly become one of my new favourite short stories.
An Advanced Reader Copy of ‘What Mattered Most’ and the images used in this review were kindly provided by Quill Holland. For more information about the author, check out Quill’s website.
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