Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Snow of Jinyang, by Zhang Ran

(Time Travel) In 979 AD, the city of Jinyang stands on the brink of destruction, but someone seems to be trying to help it with technologies from the future. (21,386 words)

Rating: 4, Recommended

, by (translated by Ken Liu and Carmen Yiling Yan), appeared in the June 2016 issue of Clarkesworld Magazine (Issue 117), published .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The different pieces of this story work together like the mechanism of a fine watch.

Wang Lu is totally devoted to succeeding, while Zhu Dagun is totally devoted to not failing. They are they axis about which the story turns. Because neither has any commitment to anything outside himself, both come to ruin in the end.

General Wanchao and Minister Feng both think they're working for the good of the people, and they're both rewarded by the conqueror.

Liu Jiye remains fixed in his loyalty to his emperor, and the conqueror respects that too.

But the conqueror doesn't reward selfishness, so he chops Zhu's head off. And Wang Lu disappears from history entirely.

There's a lot of tension while we wonder whether Zhu will attack Wang Lu or not, and whether Wang Lu will figure out Zhu isn't really a chemist. And more again when it looks as though Wang Lu will actually get to go home.

The little details in this story are an endless delight. Things like learning that "zepplin" means "stairway to heaven."

Con: We're not particularly sad or even shocked to see Zhu killed at the end. We are a bit sad that Wang Lu's plans failed, which gives the story a somewhat unsatisfying ending.

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