"The Cold Equations" Review
First of all, the short story can be found in an anthology called The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume One, 1929-1964. It’s honestly my favorite anthology, not just of science fiction, but of literature in general. I seriously suggest you pick up a copy - it’s great.
“The Cold Equations” is one of the stories in the anthology and it is so powerful. I won’t spoil the ending here, but I’ll talk about the basic plot. The story is set in the future (it is science fiction, after all) and the entire story unfolds on a small cargo ship. A pilot flies the vessel solo (in order to use as little fuel as possible) to a distant planet where a group of people have taken ill. The pilot is in charge of delivering an antidote to cure them.
He discovers, in the very first line, that he is not alone on the vessel. An 18-year-old girl is a stowaway - who snuck on board so she could see her brother, who is on the distant planet. The problem is simple: there isn’t enough fuel on board to carry her extra weight. If she stays on board, the vessel will run out of fuel in infinite space. She will die along with the pilot, and furthermore, it will doom the sick people on the planet who won’t get the antidote as a result.
“The Cold Equations” is a really moving and emotional story. It’s very short (about twenty or so pages), but in that time it teaches about the power of family, death, and love. It also demonstrates the coldness of science - that no matter what, 2 plus 2 equals 4, even if a human life needs 2 plus 2 to equal 3.
I highly recommend you get your hands on this story. It’s a bit depressing, but at the same time, incredibly powerful. I wish I could say more, but I don’t want to risk spoiling it for you.
Hope you get to read and enjoy it.