I’ve been shoveling out from under a pile of work, and still assembling thoughts on the Nebula selections. Meanwhile, here’s a review of one of the Hugo Finalist (next on my agenda). This novella was recommended by Vox Day, and got an extra shove into the finalist position from the Rabid Puppies. It was published by Del Rey/Picador.

A man looks back on his childhood. The boy lives with his mother and father in a hillside home far above the town. The family is isolated, and the boy plays by himself. His mother tends a garden, and his father makes keys with magical properties for various clients. The boy begins to realize that his father kills things, and eventually thinks he has killed his mother. He flees to the town and is taken in by orphans. The town authorities investigate his story, but find no proof. There is a letter, apparently written by his mother, that says she is leaving. Trapped, the boy turns to a passing census taker for help.

This is not terribly gripping, but it is eerie and atmospheric, very artistic in effect. The story is pretty much all suggestion. There are events—the village people and the orphan children are definitely real—but we get this filtered through the narrator’s memories of childhood. In some cases the man is uncertain what really happened, which makes the reader start to wonder if he is a reliable narrator. In a few cases there are weird images that persist for a while, that may or may not be explained. I gather this is called “The New Weird.” I also gather that Miéville is known for his odd ideas, just dropped in passing. Watch for the census taker’s gun in this case. I’m not sure whether to take it as a symbol in the story or not. A comment on statistical methods, maybe?

Best read if you enjoy the author’s style. It gets a little extra for being artistic. Four stars.

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