Thursday, January 28, 2016

2015 Short Fiction Round-Up: Novellas

You may have seen my previous post about 2015 novelettes. Now, time for the novellas! Only three this time, because there just aren't that many novellas published in a year. But these ones were, and they're well worth checking out. No links, because I got these through the SFWA forum or private channels. If you're interested in reading them, you'll just have to find out how to get them yourself!



"A Day in Deep Freeze" by Lisa Shapter (Aqueduct Press): In 1963 New England, apparently devoted husband and corporate accountant Emran Green struggles to maintain sanity in the wake of an experience that transformed his life. As a teenager, Emran went "Under," joining over a hundred other men and boys in a factory dedicated to producing an experimental drug. The drug changed them, allowing them to form weak erotic and telepathic bonds with one another in general, and an extremely strong bond with one other man in particular. Over the course of a typical day in Emran's life, the truth of his life Under and what became of his pair-bonded Beloved is slowly revealed. This is perhaps the strangest story that will show up on any of these lists. (Strange is good.) Shapter brings Emran to the brink of madness, but never quite over the edge, which is all the more horrible. One can imagine a never-ending series of days trapped in a loveless marriage (the question of whether or not Emran should "bond" his wife is touched upon), haunted by literal ghosts, aching for the deep connection of the bond yet yearning for what 1960s America calls a "normal" existence. A very effective slow-burn dark SF story.

"Gypsy" by Carter Scholz (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction): On a future crapsack Earth that's all too believable, visionary Roger Fry makes plans to escape the planet on a barely habitable sleeper ship, to seed a planet near Alpha Centauri that may not even exist. It's the longest of shots, but the crew is desperate, their backstories related as each of them wakes up to tend to the maintenance that such an undertaking requires (a fatal fungus that attacks the hibernating bodies is just one of their problems). This is a rare "dark hard SF" story, which shows the crew as both heroic and doomed, and doesn't sacrifice the human element on the altar of scientific meticulousness -- we get both! There's a bit of Chaucer (or if you need a skiffy example, Hyperion) in this sequential storytelling, and like most of my recommendations, it's political as all hell. It all leads up to a brilliant twist ending, which I interpreted as a hallucination, but can also be taken straight. Perhaps the best thing I've read in F&SF this year, and it's been a good year for that magazine.

"Sleeping Dogs" by Adam-Troy Castro (Analog): I'm a huge fan of Castro's AISource Infection stories and novels, both the ones with and without Andrea Cort. This one follows a retired assassin by the name of Draiken who has spent years in retirement on a paradisaical ocean world, learning to live a quieter kind of life. When an old nemesis comes looking for him, Draiken reacts the way he's been trained to react, seeing enemies at every turn. But what if nobody is actually looking for him? Though this novella lacks the bizarre alien races that populate most of his other in-universe stories, it's still a tight little thriller of a tale, with an ending that shows old patterns never really die, they just sleep. Excellent world-building, also, and I'm not usually a person who cares much about world-building.

Next week (or probably a little more), short stories! (And that will be it, since novel-reading isn't so much my bag. I think I've read one novel this year that was released in 2015 and it wasn't quite SF.)

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