Review of “Wind Will Rove” by Sarah Pinsker


This novelette is a finalist for the 2017 Nebula Award. It’s science fiction and was published in Asimov’s September/October 2017 issue. This review contains spoilers.

Rosie Clay is a resident on a generation ship who teaches history and plays traditional fiddle in a weekly OldTime gathering. Rosie is third generation and never saw Earth, but she tries hard to maintain the history the ship has left. A few years out, a disgruntled programmer erased the databases of art, literature and history the ship carried, leaving the residents with nothing but memory to use in recreating them. Now the younger generations are starting to question why they’re required to learn and maintain this history when it is in no way useful to their own way of life. One group totally withdraws to form an artistic enclave and produce only new works. Is there any reason to save the past?

This isn’t just a question that people on a generation ship are asking. When should people expend resources trying to preserve the past and when should it all go in the trashcan? It’s a conflict between conservatives who want to preserve tradition and progressives who want to create a totally new future, all of it framed in music within this story. When Rosie accidentally creates a new song, she decides to document it carefully, creating a middle path. In the current political climate, this is a radical statement.

The music and efforts to recreate the past become the major players in the work. The story rambles, with Rosie’s narration moving from memories of her Grandmother Windy to music to events on the ship to encounters with students in her classroom. The author’s love of music comes through clearly, and anyone who has played in this kind of traditional group will share in her experience.

Not so good points: Because the narration centers so heavily around the music, generally the world building and the characters are poorly developed. We hear a lot about Windy and how she became a legend to the ship’s musicians, but know almost nothing about Rosie’s current family, the organization of the ship, the technology that runs it, etc. The conflict here is weak, too. The programmer’s act and the effort at recreation are both in the past, and at the point of the story, there’s nothing for Rosie to fight against except a minor rebellion in her classroom.

Three and a half stars.


In Memoriam: Mattie K.

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We had a death in the family yesterday. Please spare a thought to help lift her over the Rainbow Bridge and into heaven. RIP sweet Mattie.

Review of Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones


This novel was published in 2016, so it’s not eligible for awards next year, but I was impressed enough that I’m going to review it anyway and encourage people to pick up a copy. It made the Locus Recommended Reading List but was passed over for SFF award nominations. Jones is a Native American of the Blackfeet tribe. This is published by William Morrow/HarperCollins and would likely be considered dark fantasy.

Grandpa tells fantastic stories about being a werewolf and running under the moon. The boy listens, rapt. He lives with his grandpa, his Aunt Libby and his Uncle Darren. His mother is dead. When grandpa dies half wolf and half man, Darren steals a backhoe to bury him. Then they have to pack up and move again. Darren normally works as a trucker and Libby at low wage night jobs of some kind. They’re always on the move, from Texas to North Carolina to Georgia to Florida, afraid to stay in one place too long, because violence, suspicion and a taste for blood will catch up with them if they do. The boy wants to be a werewolf, to be part of the tradition, but his mother never changed. Will it happen for him?

This is very much a book about the human condition, the underbelly of indigent migrant workers that exists on the fringes of society. Jones builds the picture slowly, and we start to understand how the boy idolizes Darren, with all his faults, as the only father-figure in his life, and Libby as his mother’s twin. He finds a girl he likes, but loses her when they have to move again. It’s all about the characters and the family, very different for a werewolf tale.

On the negative side, there’s not much plot here, but then, it’s not that kind of story. I also thought some of the events and lore were a bit too exaggerated and tongue-in cheek. Still, that gives it a kind of honky-tonk charm.

Four and a half stars.

Review of ‘‘When Your Child Strays From God’’ by Sam J. Miller

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This is one of the Nebula nominees. This story was published in Clarkesworld (7/15).

The pastor’s wife is looking for her son Timmy, who didn’t come home last night. She has been concerned about his rebellion, as he has appeared on Facebook with That Whore Susan. She searches Timmy’s room and finds different things that convince her that Timmy has strayed from God. She finds drugs, which she tries out. These cause hallucinations, but she soldiers through, deciding to visit That Whore Susan. Susan tells her that she and Timmy broke up six months ago, and accuses her of standing by while Timmy’s father abuses him. The wife gets a tip from a hallucination to check with Timmy’s friend Brent, where she finally locates Timmy and has to confront the facts about gayness, family and relationships.

This story is written in a humorous, tongue-in-cheek tone and makes gentle fun of the religious right with their fundamentalist values and how these can drive their children away. The pastor’s wife does reach enlightenment, which makes this a sweet story. However, I’m not sure it’s speculative fiction. There’s nothing here about science or fantasy, except the hallucinations.

This narrative has high diversity as it addresses gayness and the difficulties children have in coming out to conservative parents. Because of the humor, it has low drama and conflict, even when discussing things like drugs, abuse, gayness and coming out. The message is excellent and clearly stated. I gather that Miller is sure he’s addressing a liberal audience, though. I can see where this would be seriously offensive to conservative fundamentalists.

Three and a half stars.

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