One of the year's most anticipated collections is even better than advertised.
A phrase I like to overuse when talking about books is that reading a particular novel or story "feels like coming home". Another is that the work is like an "old friend", perhaps one I didn't know that I lost until I found it again. For me, reading the short stories of Sarah Pinsker is exactly like going somewhere I've never been before and knowing immediately that it is exactly where I needed to be.
The thirteen stories collected in Sooner Or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea have twice been a finalists for Hugo Awards and six times for a Nebula Award, with "Our Lady of the Open Road" winning a Nebula for Best Short Story. One story not collected here is a 2019 finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Suffice it to say that Pinsker is accomplished and well recognized for her fiction.
In any given year, one of Sarah Pinker's stories will be among my favorites published that year and this collection is packed full of those favorites. The award nominated stories are the obvious ones because those are the stories which bubbled up more in the genre's public consciousness, and every one of those are worth the attention and the time.
There is a sense of travel, of journey, in the stories of Sarah Pinsker. So much so that it permeates the collection, even into the stories where that feeling does not belong. "Wind Will Rove" is of the quiet moments of music and memory on a generation ship. A somewhat absurd journey is at the heart of "The Narwhal", original to this collection."Our Lady of the Open Road" is travel and music. "In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind" confronts of the journey of memory and of secrets left behind over the course of a lifetime.
I'm reaching a little and pushing the idea of journey as a real through line of this collection. I could just as easily latch on to music as a common story beat in many of Pinsker's stories and reference Pinsker's real life music career and that would be equally valid. Neither would fully capture what truly works for me with these stories, and I'm not sure there is a single or even a combined idea that will. It gets back to what I wrote about in the first paragraph, which is the idea of meeting one of Pinsker's stories and feeling that it is a friend I didn't know that I hadn't met yet. They are beautiful and personal and simply excellent, though there is nothing simple about them.
Baseline Assessment: 8/10
Bonuses: +1 for the sheer excellence of the best stories, +1 for the idea that the murder weapon in "And Then There Were (N-One)" was Sarah Pinsker's actual Nebula Award.
Penalties: -1 because not every story can reach that same immensely high mark of the best.
Nerd Coefficient: 9/10, "very high quality/standout in its category". See more about our scoring system here.
Pinsker, Sarah. Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea [Small Beer Press, 2019]
Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 3x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.