ljgoldstein (ljgoldstein) wrote in theinferior4,

Novelette: "And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead"

“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander is the only novelette on the Hugo ballot that was not also on the Rabid Puppies’ slate.  To get that far, against all the Puppies voting in lockstep, means that it’s probably a very popular story.  I liked it as well, but I had some reservations.  Which puts me in a minority, so you should definitely read it and make up your own mind.  Hey, I don’t claim to be infallible here.

Rhye and her partner Rack are hired to rescue a mobster’s son who has been trapped by a security program in cyberspace.  But when Rack returns briefly the mobster becomes impatient and shoots him.  Now Rhye has to go back, both to rescue the son and to find Rack’s consciousness, still in cyberspace.

I liked the relationship between Rhye, who’s impulsive, foul-mouthed, and cynical, and Rack, the brains of the outfit.  The writing is sharp, even startling in places:  “He drops it into her palm, looking like a cat that’s just robbed a canary store at gunpoint.”  There’s a scene where Rhye pays the ferryman guarding cyberspace with empty brass shells, a haunting image that’s just about perfect.

But I don’t usually enjoy this level of violence, and the story seems to want to remind you of how tough it is at every turn, to the point where it’s almost trying too hard: “‘The only things you can rely on are these babies.’  She pats her guns, solid and safe in their holsters.”  The setting is relentlessly grim, the kind of dystopia that gives other dystopias nightmares.

“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” seems perfect for Puppy tastes: it’s fast paced, full of shiny ideas and kick-ass characters, and there are plenty of gunfights.  Unfortunately, the protagonist is a woman, which probably disqualified it.  Despite this, the Sad Puppies did put in on their slate, for which they deserve a good deal of credit.
Tags: and you shall know her by the trail of d, brooke bolander, hugo awards, novelette
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