Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Widows in the World

Novelette by Gavin J. Grant
Free Online from Strange Horizons (part 1, part 2)

Frequently seeming weird for weirdness sake, part two is really making up for part one in this novelette. I'm not opposed to strangeness in fiction, in fact I generally like more of it, but for most of it's length, the rambling weirdness doesn't seem to be going anywhere, although there is, just barely, a comprehensible enough plot to keep me reading.

In the end, the positives about evenly make up for the negatives, but I'm not sure serialization was the best idea here, given the unevenness of the story and it's reliance on the second half. Either way, it was over-long.

I won't go into plot detail, as I can't summarize all the crazy details of the world in a reasonable length, and the plot is both so convoluted and so simplistically short that either I give it all away, or ramble for pages talking around the central issues (as the story does). All these things amount to my standard criticisms of surreal post-singularity stories, which often seem strangely alike. But there is some good humor here regarding the Husband and the dog and I actually laughed a few times during the more nonsensical bits, which counts for quite a bit.

But what really redeems the story is the ending, which throws a lot of the earlier nonsense into a more reasonable light, a promise the author seems to make early on which I'd given up believing in by that point. But there is a plot, and it is kind of sad, kind of funny. In the end, the story delivers a surprising emotional punch and fond reminiscence of childhood memories of your grandparents. The theme is that nostalgia is often better than perfectly accurate memories, and while I do enjoy the theme, and it was hinted before, it is so divorced from much of the story as to not have a strong enough impact.

I like the ending, and the prose amused me in places, but overall this story was longer than it needed to be. I'd dock points for that, but I read it quite fast, without putting it down, so although the wordcount is high, the reading time is lower than average for this sort of story. If you're going to read it, just keep reading without trying to figure out too much.

Oh, and using the term "haggis" for living chimera creatures is just awesome.
3 marauding haggises out of 5.

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