Monday, June 13, 2011

The Cold Step Beyond

Novelette by Ian R. MacLeod

Bess of the Warrior Church stands in a clearing every day, waiting for the monster she has been sent to kill. Her order are responsible for sealing holes in the universe and killing monsters and spacetime anomalies thus created. Bored of practicing her quantum physics inspired swordsmanship while waiting, she befriends Elli, a girl who likes to watch Bess practice. Bess' encounters with Elli change her entire perception of her purpose and the novelette ends with Bess much more aware of her own past, and not sure what she'll do with her future. A sort of already-adult coming-of-age tale, with a post-human-ish swordswoman.

I enjoyed the revelation of the whole situation toward the end. I had mostly guessed halfway through, but I was just wrong enough to make the whole resolution deliciously neat. The Cold Step Beyond refers both to a difficult sword technique, Bess' step beyond her original understanding of things, and a spoilery third meaning. Bess' church order reminds me pleasantly of a medieval knightly interpretation of the organization from Charles Stross' Palimpsest. And that's a good comparison to force me to make.

4 chitin-covered warrior women out of 5.

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