Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Nanoreviews: The Flowers of Vashnoi, That Ain't Witchcraft, Atmosphaera Incognita

Bujold, Lois McMaster. The Flowers of Vashnoi [Subterranean]

With no expectation of another full length Vorkosigan novel anywhere on the horizon, the publication of The Flowers of Vashnoi was a welcome addition to the canon. It's a somewhat unexpected story as the novella focuses on Ekaterin instead of Miles, Cordelia, or even Ivan. Through Ekaterin, Bujold tells the story of the Vashnoi region which is still irradiated from the long ago nuclear bombardment of the district. That's not what the novella is about, of course. This is the story of some of the people who still live in that district, scratching out an existence away from "civilization". It's about survivors, autonomy, doing right, and the responsibilities of power.

It is, as might be expected from Lois McMaster Bujold, a story told with grace and skill and a unmatched smoothness. I've seen an inclination of others to describe The Flowers of Vashnoi as "minor Bujold", but that fails to acknowledge that a "minor" work from Bujold would be a major work from nearly any other writer. Compared to the absolute best of Bujold, perhaps this is "minor Bujold, but it is simply an excellent story told well.
Score: 8/10

McGuire, Seanan. That Ain't Witchcraft [DAW]

With the eighth novel in the Hugo Award finalist Incryptid series, Seanan McGuire brings the three novel story arc of Antimony Price to a close. Still dealing with the fallout from Verity announcing to the world (and mostly to the Covenant) that the Prices are alive and standing in opposition to the Covenant’s goals, Antimony is likewise dealing with the ramifications of having to make a deal at the Crossroads to save her life and those of her friends – the ramification being that one day the Crossroads will come to collect. This is that novel.

McGuire pulls off the impressive task of having a huge world changing event late in the novel that is also somehow not the most significant thing that happened in That Ain’t Witchcraft in terms of impact to the Price family, and even that world changing event might be presumed of a smaller scale than it really is. This isn’t the space to go into the spoilers of what and why, but what McGuire pulled off is far more impressive than it might seem on the surface. Also impressive is that eight novels into a series I am in a continual state of delight at how fresh McGuire has been able to keep the series. The shifting viewpoint characters may have something to do with that. As such, I will be sad to say goodbye (for now) to Antimony Price and excited to see what Seanan McGuire has in store for us with Sarah Zellaby as the new viewpoint character in next year’s Imaginary Numbers.
Score: 7/10

Stephenson, Neal. Atmosphaera Incognita [Subterranean]

I am not a Neal Stephenson aficianado by any stretch of the imagination, only having read Seveneves previously and that is it, so I cannot speak to how Atmosphaera Incognita compares to his other work except that it is shorter. At its core, Atmosphaera Incognita is about building a space tower. That sentence doesn't sound nearly impressive enough to describe the scope of that project. This isn't a science text, but much of the story is built around the engineering of the tower - the challenge of the whole thing and the soaring success of accomplishment. It works.
Score: 7/10

Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 3x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.