Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Plus or Minus

Novelette by James Patrick Kelly

The cover story for December's Asimov's is far from the best of the issue, but since the spaceship looks a bit like a Christmas tree and the stars are festive I guess it can stay.

This story is the disinterestedly-awaited return of Mariska, the bitchy teenage girl from Kelly's mediocre Going Deep (which blessedly failed to win a Nebula award). This time, she has signed on to a ship hauling cargo to and from the asteroid belt in another attempt to rebel from her clone/mother's plans. Four other "maintenance monkeys" crew the ship, none of whom are well developed and two of whom are nearly irrelevant to the story altogether. The senior member is Beep, whose stupid name goes unremarked through the entire novelette.

The first 3/4 is mostly long-winded irrelevant technical detail about the ship, and little bits of dialogue that don't end up mattering much. Mr. Kelly does a good job of drawing the setting but the Shining Legend just isn't as interesting as the earlier story's Moon and the details don't seem to matter much.

The Big Science Problem of the story finally comes in towards the end, and the characters eventually stumble upon the obvious solution that I'd expected from the moment the problem was presented. It is made out to be a tough decision but seems obvious, necessary, and not all that bad. The conclusion is where Kelly saves this story though. Just as I thought the ending was going to be too facile, it doesn't end up the way I expected. It was a pleasant surprise but I'm not sure it redeems the story overall.

A character-driven hard-SF Analog type story that isn't quite as angsty and sappy as Going Deep, but while I much preferred the conclusion of this tale, it didn't make up for the rest of it. While I can't recommend this, I would keep an eye out for the next Mariska story from James Patrick Kelly. That sounds weird when talking about such an experienced writer, but I think this chain of stories overall may be moving in a better direction. 2.5 dream circuses out of 5.

1 comment:

Jim Kelly said...

Yikes! Ummm ... working on more Mariska today as a matter of fact, so I'll take this as encouragement.

Of a sort.

Keep the reviews coming. No offense taken here.