Monday, October 31, 2016

A Fine Balance, by Charlotte Ashley

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(High Fantasy) The stakes on Yildirim and Ramadami's duels have risen to where they threaten the economies of Onsen and Dushiq. (6,624 words; Time: 22m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended
Recommended By: RHorton:5

"A Fine Balance," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 11-12|16, published on by .

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

When the story made mention of a mosque, my disbelief was shattered and didn't recover. I simply couldn't suspend disbelief for the concept that a Muslim society would stake its economic livelihood on the outcomes of random duels between female fighters. Nor that two of them (one a novice) could take down most of a squad of heavily armed men. (And why did the winning side decide to abandon the rules and resort to force?)

For a short story, it introduces a lot of difficult names and vocabulary.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 11-12|16)
Charlotte Ashley Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB

2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I absolutely loved this story for its energy -- and, for the really neat idea of an economy based on showfighting. There are some parallels and observations I find very poignant -- the sense that people are most willing to invest in spectacle and conflict, especially the kind that can show up right in their face, and at any moment, and yet is perfectly safe (as far as they're concerned). I think the story did a fantastic job of bringing an intriguing conceit to life.

    No less than that, the willingness of factions to undercut the economic system because they can, and because that will give them power (and free them from needing to work within the system's confines), is a familiar observation -- and one I felt was executed well here, particularly for how clear and vivid the dynamic is.

    I can't say the reference to mosques bothered me any (this is clearly an invented society; whether or not it imagines traces of real societies is far beyond the scope of the speculative thread), or that I found the names difficult.

    The ending was, I agree, unrealistically cheery. I find that pretty forgivable in a story -- and I think this one did the work establishing that the individual show-warriors do have both power and social cachet; this is a setting where I think coming-together-to-defend-the-underlying-system makes pretty good sense.

  2. I guess the closest parallel in real life would be the green and blue teams in Constantinople.