Sunday, February 6, 2011
Novelette by Yoon Ha Lee
Text and Audio from Clarkesworld, read by Kate Baker.
This is superficially a space opera or military SF story, but it bears almost no deeper resemblance to such things.
Cadet Fai Guen, a.k.a. Lisse of Rhaion is from a world conquered by a galactic empire with hugely excessive force, wiping out roughly 1/3 of her planet's population. She has joined up with them, and then deserted to steal a powerful ship known as a kite.
With a ghost as her co pilot, she effectively rampages through the empire, planning on eventually being killed, but taking as many Imperial bases as she can with her. But when someone catches up with her, the confrontation doesn't go exactly as she'd planned, and several huge secrets are revealed. Nothing really works the way she thought it does, and we're left wondering how Lisse will deal with these new resolutions.
Tons to think about regarding the nature of revenge and war in general, the value of human life, collateral damage, and the old theme of shifting morality until you become identical to those you oppose.
Lee has a delightful and weird poetry to her descriptions in this story. Some are more literal, like the paper folding comparisons, but starfighters as kites, who open like flowers and similar descriptions impart a wonderful, natural strangeness not normally found in space opera. In fact, a lot of the description and prose in general reminds me of the language you see in fantasy, which makes it all the more interesting when it's in a space ship.
Deeper by far than most stories about war in space, with more interesting world-building, better description, better writing in general, and significantly deeper, more complex ideas.
4.5 out of 5, but only one candle.