Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Novella by Judith Berman
Ari's parents have been killed by space pirates in a very creative future setting. She joins their crew hoping for revenge, but first has to prove herself useful. An ancient space station that responds to her commands gives her some interesting options here, if only she can pull herself together psychologically enough to survive. Space-Opera/Horror/Coming-of-Age.
This novella is actually an excerpt from Berman's novel-in-progress Invisible House. But don't let that put you off. It had me worried a bit too, and it did take a little while to piece together all the background information, but everything you need is there. And more importantly, there is an excellent ending to this excerpt. A lot of novel excerpts end on a "to be continued... buy my book!", but this concludes very nicely. Only the immediate situation is resolved, and there is clearly more story in store for our heroine, but I feel confidently optimistic about her future. Ari develops impressively over the course of this segment and the ending surprised me by being better than my at-the-time ideal way to end the story disregarding continuing it as a novel.
Additionally, this story evokes some real fear and manages to paint the pirates both as terrible monsters, and as realistic, round characters. At novel length I can imagine myself cheering for the captain who had one of his crew turned into a still living, sentient chair. Ari is a great protagonist with much more depth than usual to the revenge motive, and heck, I'd even read a story about the poor repairman who was stranded on the station before this excerpt starts. I'll definitely be reading the book when it comes out whatever direction it takes, my only worry is that I might like this segment better than the novel considered as a whole. 5 out of 5.
P.S. The pirates speak in a grammatically bizarre creole dialect that some people find really annoying. I was a bit frustrated at first, but you can learn to parse it fine after a while, and it is definitely worth the effort. Much like Juliette Wade's Cold Words, the non-standard speech is justified by the story, and, although it may be frustrating to the reader, doesn't provide that much of an obstacle, and succeeds in enhancing one's enjoyment of the story. Don't let early frustration prevent you from continuing on.