Three reviews this week:
January 2015; 16,000 words + 1,800 words. Finally got around to reading this novelette, and it’s as incredible as everyone’s described it to be. It’s both poignant and intimate as well as vast and indifferent; Hao covers so much over the course of one story. The interview with Hao is also a great read—so often I find in genre stories that people fight back and rebel against their status, but Lao Dao doesn’t do that in this story. Through his focus on just his own family, we actually see so much more of the segregation and inequality in Beijing. The physics and economics in the worldbuilding feel real and vivid; the descriptions of Beijing conjured up my own memories of the city, down to the smells. Really great read.
“The Oiran’s Song” by Isabel Yap (Uncanny Magazine)
September 2015; 9,900 words. Haunting and lyrical; the atmosphere of the story is both beautiful and tragic: the snow-covered mountains, blood against fire, war and cruelty; everything combines together to form a heavy yet delicately rendered narrative. I wasn’t expecting the ending at all, but with the broader context of war, it feels apt and does a wonderful job of tying the story together.
“Skullpocket” by Nathan Ballingrud (io9 reprint)
October 2014/October 2015; 12,000 words. The worldbuilding in this story was fascinating. Ballingrud weaves together the story of a ghoul about to die, the history of the Skullpocket game and festival, and the Maggot religion. Each is grotesque in its own way, but at the same time, “Skullpocket” has a poignant atmosphere overall, one that reflects on loss and grief in a world where expressing that grief is forbidden. I went in not knowing what to expect out of the story, only to leave with such a deep impression of the quiet ending.