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Hugo Nominees - "A Single Samurai"

Title: "A Single Samurai"
Author: Steven Diamond
Published in: The Baen Big Book of Monsters (Baen)
Slates: Sad Puppies only
Trigger warning: multiple suicides

Synopsis: The samurai of the title, unlike "regular" samurai, has a piece of his soul embedded in his katana and wakizashi. He is faced with a giant monster - a kaiju - which is literally the size of a mountain and is smashing its way through the land. As he climbs the kaiju, he is ambushed by cat-like creatures, which he handily defeats due to his samurai skills and his ensouled blade. After several days of travel up the kaiju, and a flashback to his father's committing hari-kari to save his lord's honor, our samurai reaches the kaiju's brain. Stabbing the brain with his katana does not seem to affect the kaiju at all, so our samurai stabs himself with his wakizashi. Since the samurai's soul is now linked to the kaiju's soul through the blades, the samurai's suicide takes the kaiju with him.

My reactions: Unlike almost all the other short fiction nominees, this was not on Vox Day's Rabid Puppies slate. It made the ballot after Annie Bellet withdrew her acceptance of the nomination of "Goodnight Stars". I like the idea of a monster of truly mountainous size, and the text started out well enough - but then I hit this line, and it completely threw me out of the story:
I had been climbing this monster for days, and with each of those passing days, more of the creature was revealed.
I've spent a fair amount of time hiking through the woods and in the mountains; as long as you're in decent physical shape, and you don't have to scale sheer cliffs with ropes and pitons, you can easily cover a mile or more an hour even without a trail. Unless this monster was tens of miles long, the samurai should have been able to scale it in a single morning. And if the monster was in fact tens of miles long, and it's rumbling through Japan for multiple days, it's going to run out of island before the samurai runs out of monster. None of the Japanese islands are that long.

That simple scaling problem completely threw me out of the flow of the story. Without it, I probably would not have wondered what the point of the cat-like creatures was, and I might have even been inclined not to wonder why the samurai made no attempt to communicate with the kaiju once he'd stuck it with the katana.

However, any story where I get thrown out of the flow by an author's error, and don't get sucked back in before the story ends, is pretty much by definition not good. This one goes below No Award.


Originally posted at http://edschweppe.dreamwidth.org/192865.html - comment wherever you please.

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