“The Things” Write Up by Olivia Elmers

The entirety of Peter Watts’ “The Things” is brilliantly done, but the best part is inarguably the main character itself.  One of the hardest parts of creating a character is making the end result interesting and possible to empathize with.  This is easier with character types people are already used to, such as heroic protagonists who share a reader’s values, and it’s especially difficult to accomplish with characters with completely alien mindsets and histories.  And yet, even though the protagonist of “The Things” is a literal alien who doesn’t believe in individuality or stasis, Watts manages to make the reader understand how its mind works and even empathize with it to an extent despite how divorced (hopefully) it is from the way someone reading it thinks.  The first person perspective is the main factor behind that, but also helping it along are the nonlinear chronology which shows the progression of the main character’s understanding of the world it’s stranded itself in rather than the progression of the physical story, how the story is told nearly entirely through the alien’s thoughts with barely any intrusions from the outside world, and the way Earth is glimpsed only through the alien’s point of view—in seeing the alien trying to understand how Earth works, it’s possible for a reader to understand the alien in turn.

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