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earlier burfling | later burfling

Hugo Nominees - "Flow"

Title: "Flow"
Author: Arlan Andrews, Sr.
Published in: Analog, Nov 2014
Slates: Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies

Synopsis: Rist, our narrator, is riding an iceberg from The Tharn's Lands (which are glaciers and peat bogs) down the New River to the Warm Lands (where the berg will be sold). The berg arrives in God's Port, and Rist learns all sorts of interesting things about the city, the Warm Lands, the Warm Lander gods, and the WarmLander priests. He also discovers that the WarmLanders have something called "biter-web" (a seemingly magical material made by the Old Gods, found in old mineshafts, and used to catch the icebergs being delivered to God's Port), and steals a spool of it to take back home. The priests start searching for him (and the biter-web), so Rist steals a sailboat and escapes from the city. Unfortunately, Rist has no idea how to sail upwind (or upriver), so he has to sail downriver (away from The Tharn's Lands). He barely escapes to shore as the boat goes over a waterfall, and discovers that he is standing at the top of a huge cliff. The novella ends as Rist starts climbing down the cliff - a literal cliffhanger.

My reaction: This is yet another incomplete Analog story. (Of the four Analog nominees, only "The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale" could stand on its own.) The worldbuilding is pretty interesting, and Andrews is clearly leaving us clues - but the clues don't even begin to pay off before the work is over. The business about how the "wen" (women) of the Warm Lands actually have boobies (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) is irritating. I cannot for the life of me figure out how anyone is supposed to be able to navigate an iceberg down a river. (If a hunk of ice is big enough to be called an iceberg, it's going to need much deeper water than any river known to Man!) I also don't understand how the ice-dwelllers (living in a land of perpetual overcast) are supposed to be darker-skinned than the WarmLanders (living in what appears to be tropic sunshine) - but maybe that's one of the things Andrews will explain in a later chapter. However, this work doesn't have that later chapter.

"Flow" cannot stand on its own, and key parts of the plot don't make any sense at all. No cliffhanger here; this one goes below No Award.


Originally posted at http://edschweppe.dreamwidth.org/196408.html - comment wherever you please.

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