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Hugo Nominees - "Pale Realms of Shade"

Title: "Pale Realms of Shade"
Author: John C. Wright
Published in: The Book of Feasts and Seasons (Castalia House)
Slates: Rabid Puppies only
Trigger warnings: assisted suicide (arguably)

Synopsis: Matthias Flint is a private eye who was killed on the last day of the Korean War but keeps coming back as a ghost. We first see him coming back to his widow, Lorelei, who wants him to tell the judge handling his probate estate that he didn't commit suicide. Then we see him talking to his former detective-agency partner, who banishes him with a blackthorn flower. Next, Matthias spends time talking to a priest (who sort-of hears Matthias' confession); then he ends up talking with the "Fixer" (Lucifer), and finally with an archangel. The discussion with the (unnamed) archangel concludes with Matthias taking the first steps on what is presumably an extremely long journey towards salvation.

My reaction: Huh? The story starts out implying that Matthias has been doing a lot of ghost detecting, but we never see him taking any cases. Instead, we get lots of talking, interspersed with Matthias traveling through the sea of time. In effect, this story is about Matthias figuring out how he might find redemption. But I never found myself invested in Matthias, so I didn't care that he'd found his path; instead, I found myself annoyed that after meeting with priests, devils and archangels, we still didn't see any resolution.

Wright also can't seem to decide whether he's going for the classic hard-boiled detective style of writing, or whether he'll stay in the elaborate and ornate style of his other nominated stories. Swapping back and forth without apparent rhyme or reason just doesn't work for me.

More editing failures as well ("Coptic" jars instead of canopic ones; "the whole span of time" only reaching back to pre-Columbus America), along with a completely gratuitous shot at Islam.

Harry Dresden (of the Dresden Files) is a far better private-eye-for-the-supernatural, and Spider Robinson's Joe Quigley was a lot more fun as a private-eye-for-the-just-plain-weird. There's no fun to be had here, though. Below No Award.


Originally posted at http://edschweppe.dreamwidth.org/197799.html - comment wherever you please.

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