Jerry

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Jerry

Jerry’s book reviews

Profile picture for user vikingjs+books@mac.com
5
I enjoyed this story very much. Then after I read it and published the first draft of this review I discovered that this story has nailed both the Hugo and the Nebula. That's no small thing.

In Burn we get a glimpse of far-future humankind, with tech that borders on magic, but there's also a little mysticism. Or at least luck. That future is merely a backdrop, however; the actual conflicts, the personal and the political, are very human, and told from the point of view of Spur, someone we can understand. His acestors decided to abandon the tech and go back to a simpler life. While Spur knows that the "upside" exists and is filled with tech marvels, he also knows that that technology at some point must undermine the humanity of those who wield it.

Of course he knows that; he's been taught that his entire life.

Spur is given a chance to reach out to the universe. It is a guilty pleasure, an idle conceit as he recovers from injury, one he knows his friends will not approve of. He pokes at the universe, almost randomly. But then the universe answers back. The fuckin' universe answers back. Luck, it's just luck. The event that triggers this story (or the part of the story we see here), is one of near-fantastic luck. It would be difficult to swallow, except, well, luck is a real thing.

James Patrick Kelly does an admirable job of avoiding judgement; there is no absolute "right" and "wrong". While characters make judgements, the author does well to not color the debate with his own leanings. One person says "terrorist", another says "martyr." "Us" and "them" gets tangled. And there are subtle elements, as well. Spur is married, but the marriage is on the rocks. There are the usual reasons, but perhaps he was in love with someone else all along.

One quibble: if pukpuk had been capitalized like most organizations of humans are, I would have parsed the opening sequence (which is pretty hectic) more cleanly.

Like all human conflicts, not everything is wrapped up in a neat package at the end of this story. The immediate conflict is resolved in a satisfying way, and the final choice Spur makes rings true. There are still large questions outstanding, about the future of the planet and the clever indigenous species. But Spur has had a taste of what the upside has to offer, and in the end this story is about him, and the choice he must make.
06/03/2019
Adron J. Smitley - Intriguing Fantasy in an Immersive world
FEATURED AUTHOR - #1 best-selling fantasy author Adron J. Smitley loves and writes fantasy, as well runs an advice blog for writers on everything from plot, character, and story structure. Adron also authored the critically acclaimed 'Punching Babies: a how-to guide' a teaching manual for writers on how to best plot their stories through every essential stage of dramatic conflict. As our Author of the Day, Adron tells us all about Veilfall.