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Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Nanoreviews: The Red-Stained Wings, Trapped in the R.A.W., How Long 'Til Black Future Month?
Bear, Elizabeth. The Red-Stained Wings [Tor, 2019]
The Red-Stained Wings is the second volume in Elizabeth Bear's Lotus Kingdoms trilogy, a different part of the same world as her acclaimed Eternal Sky sequence. Not to lean too heavily on this old statement, but The Red-Stained Wings comes across as more of a middle volume than anything Bear has written before. It's very good, of course, and beautifully written as we've come to expect from Elizabeth Bear - but it's a siege novel. The story of The Red-Stained Wings is a simmering rage waiting to explode, but the explosion doesn't much happen here.
The real story and the glory of the novel lies in its characterization. The Dead Man is as richly drawn as any character can be, and his life and romance inside the besieged palace is some of the best writing Bear has done (which is saying something). The Gage is mostly absent from this novel, though serves to introduce a character likely to be a major player in the forthcoming third volume. As beautiful as the writing is, and as enjoyable as the reading experience was, The Red-Stained Wings was more a chapter in a larger novel than a truly complete entry in its own right.
Boyes, Kate. Trapped in the R.A.W. [Aqueduct Press, 2019]
Some novels are a bit more interest in the concept than in the execution, and unfortunately Trapped in the R.A.W. is one of those novels. The idea is that there is an alien invasion and a young woman barricades herself into a university library while the aliens kill every human they find. The story is told through journal entries as the woman documents what is going on from her limited vantage point. It's a great concept, but it mostly doesn't work for me because the story is being told from too much of a distance.
Jemisin, N.K. How Long Til Black Future Month [Orbit, 2018]
With the massive popularity of her novels, it is easy to forget that Jemisin was publishing short stories for a number of years before The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was in a glimmer in the reading public's eye. How Long Til Black Future Month serves as a reminder that she's been writing and publishing short fiction all this time and her stories have been consistently excellent. Two of her stories have been a finalist for the Hugo Award, both are included here. Where How Long Til Black Future Month is a raging success is that collection showcases the wide range of her talent - from tightly urban environment to deeply rural communities. According to the publisher, Jemisin's fiction offers "thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption that sharply examine modern society" and that's just about right. This is just about as good as it gets from a short fiction collection.
POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 3x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.