(urth) Short Story 26: The HORARS of War

Gerry Quinn gerry at bindweed.com
Tue May 22 07:53:16 PDT 2012

From: Marc Aramini
> The HORARS of War

Interesting comments on whether 2910 is actually a HORAR with fake memories 
or not.  Personally I fall strongly on the side of him being a man.

The only strong suggestions of the opposite IMO are:

(1) Brenner’s story, but that can easily have been a cover story to keep 
Brenner quiet, or perhaps even a clever lie by Brenner to save his life

(2) The stainless steel bone – it is odd that it took 2910 a moment to 
remember the injury, but on the other hand he is badly injured and stressed, 
and we have already been told that over the last two years he has 
half-forgotten his human life.

I think the slight clumsiness here is because Wolfe wanted to get in the 
shock effect of the steel bone, and so there was no real alternative to 
having 2910 forget for a moment.

> The ability to come up with a justification for his humanity is probably 
> the
> biggest clincher, besides the Punch/Pinocchio references, that indicate we
> have a machine or puppet who wants to be a man.

Or it could simply be that the justification is true.

> "Both he and the specialist were bayonetted when the camp was overrun.”
> This does not match the details of Brennen’s death, and seems to be
> somewhat fabricated.

Brenner was knifed in the throat by 2910, but nobody knew apart from 2900 
who is also dead.  the previous sentence is "The airborne relief force [..] 
reports that he apparently died assisting the specialist in caring for the 
[HORARs]".  Since they were both presumably found in the field hospital, the 
assumption that they were bayonetted by the enemy seems perfectly 

> AMBIGUOUS STATEMENTS: “they had tried stalked eyes like a crab’s in the
> Everglades [where the pre-battle test was done], he remembered, but the
> stalks had become infected by a fungus…” This means 2910 was there at
> the very first test run of the HORARS, which could supposedly go either 
> way,
> but it is something of a mysterious aside.

He probably just remembered the facts, without having been there.

> RELIGIOUS ALLUSIONS:  when the flare goes out, 2910 says, “A star in the 
> east for
> men not born of women” equating the HORARS somehow with the mystical 
> nature
> of Christ, referring to the Star of Bethlehem the wise men followed to the 
> child who
> was both fully human and fully divine.

I think this is overthinking a cynical joke by 2910, who "regretted the 
blasphemy instantly".  (It just passes the HORARs by anyway.)

> CONCLUSION: In light of the Pinocchio reference and the Christ as fully 
> human
> but fully divine creed, I think we have to say that those distant human 
> memories
> were planted in 2910 …

I draw the opposite conclusion.  Also, note the following at the end (the 
news report of his death):

An American news magazine sometimes carries, just inside the front cover ... 
a column devoted to news of its own people.  Two weeks after a correspondent 
named Thomas filed the last article of a series [...] the following item 
appeared there:

"[..] the [death] of the young man whose stories, paradoxically, to conceal 
his number have been signed only with his name"

If he never existed as a human, this raises questions.  On the other hand, 
perhaps he was a Doubting Thomas!

Finally, have you considered including a category for GODAWFUL PUNS?  "The 
HORARs of War" must surely rank among Wolfe's worst - it may even BE the 

- Gerry Quinn

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