Friday, December 19, 2014

Reviewish: Ansible 15717

Today is a Fire Episode of Reviewish. I've been a little overwhelmed with health, school, and general life stuff - as a result, I'm behind the eight ball, as it were. (Is that the right expression? What does that mean? I always pictured it as a moment similar to when Indiana Jones is threatened with imminent crushing by the boulder trap.) In that sense, I'll be posting up several reviews in quicker succession than I have previously.

Fire Review #1: Ansible 15717, Book Three of the Ansible Stories from Stant Litore.

As ever, Stant Litore's prose is a delight to read. Ansible 15717 (the character flung across space (and maybe time)), instead of being an Ansible seemingly assigned to a random world, is a woman courted by Starmind, targetted for a world they know at least something about. It's disturbing to consider that Ansible 15715 and 15716 might've been purposefully selected for the worlds to which they were sent, now that I think about it...

In that sense, it is a relief - one unsought, one I didn't even realize I might have wanted - to have a narrator with a slightly higher level of control than the first two Ansibles. She is a woman deeply tied to her botany, well equipped (as well as one can be) to become part of a plant-based species and world.

Litore finds and walks that sweet spot between science-fiction and fantasy, perhaps reminding me of one reason those two genres are situated together so often. The inhabitants of this new planet, his description of them and their world, painted lush pictures in my mind while I read. If I were any good at art, this review would be peppered with delicate drawings of humanoid-like (but not quite) plants, lush jungle settings, colorful and dangerous flora of all sorts.

This is a story that builds itself in the mind's eye and gently enfolds you in its leafy embrace.

Between flashbacks and her experiences on this new world, there is a wonderful balance of the delicate and the willful, strength and weakness, pain and love. She never becomes immune to her humanity, even while embracing her new alien life and body.

All the aspects of this particular work that might be pulled out and highlighted as progressive/inclusive/intersectional (or, if you don't enjoy that sort of thing, "PC") are melded seamlessly into the story. Is it a big deal that the narrator is, as one reviewer on Amazon summarized, an "agnostic lesbian Muslim scientist"? In ways, it is. There is a lot of meat to consider here about representation and much deeper societal issues - But in the course of telling the story, Litore makes them simply part of the story - it never comes across that he's inserted these things with an agenda, they are never over-emphasized.

The true beauty of this diversity lies in the fact that it makes the Ansible's story the story of another human being - whole and perfect, even in her flaws. Every aspect is part of the weave of the fabric, not an embellishment or an afterthought applique - they belong there from the beginning. This, for me, is an ideal way of storytelling, of integrating all the beautiful variety of humanity.

In short; Ansible 15717 is another solidly written short story and brings a new world of beauty and terror to the Ansible Stories. Stant Litore has set the bar high for himself, his work, and he's continued to deliver.  If you've ever enjoyed any of his work, I highly recommend this (and all of the Ansible stories, if you haven't read any of them specifically). If you've never read anything by Stant Litore, the Ansible Stories are a great way to start.

Though they are not directly related, and I believe you CAN read the Ansibles in any order, I might recommend picking them up in order anyway. It is difficult for me to judge, having read them in order and being unable to unknow what I know to make the comparison, but each story builds in a little tidbit of information about the mysterious Starmind and what the Ansibles are about. That said, you are probably just fine reading them in any order (just like The Zombie Bible!).

Oh, right, I promised fire:

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