This novelette is a dystopia SF piece published in Lightspeed magazine. It’s a Nebula finalist and ended up with 11 recommendations on the Nebula Recommended Reading List.

Bay survives by scavenging along the beach. A woman in a lifeboat washes up on the island and Bay takes her back to the cottage where she lives on the cliffs above the sea. Bay can tell the woman is a musician because of the calluses on her fingers. Gabby is a “rock star” who plays for audience on the ships where the wealthy live. She wakes cold and sick, and finds she’s not especially welcome at the cottage, as likely no one will pay for her return and she is a drain on Bay’s resources. During the second night, she take’s Bay’s guitar and leaves, hoping to walk to the nearest city. Bay wakes and finds the guitar gone. It belonged to her missing wife Deb, so she sets off after Gabby, finds her sick on the road. Bay has little respect for her, as she is part of the pampered rich and has no survival skills, while Gabby tries to insist that she’s not part of that culture. They walk on toward the city, find the bridge has fallen into the sea. This ends plans and dreams for both of them, so they turn back toward the cottage. Still, Gabby has a boat.

This is another story without a plot. The two women only find each other and walk along the beach, then along the road. The whole thing is about the conversation and what they say to each other. From this we learn about the gap between the rich and poor and how this has led to the fall of civilization as we know it. On the pro side, it’s well-written and absorbing. I’m thinking the theme might be the collapse of the music business as it was into a smaller, more personal market. On the con side, I was a little disturbed by Bay’s coldness—it seems like she’s be happy to have someone to talk to after all those years without Deb. Also, the perspective shifts are a little awkward, from Bay to Gabby to an apparent interview for Inside the Music where Gabby relates the experience. Does this mean she got back to civilization?

Three and a half stars.

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