Saturday, May 6, 2017

Carnival Nine, by Caroline M. Yoachim

★★★★★ Poignant Tale, in a Fascinating Setting

(Clockwork Fantasy) Zee lives with her father in a windup world. Bored with her life, she decides to visit the carnival. She meets a boy, and things go from there. (7,257 words; Time: 24m)

Recommended By: RHorton+1 JStrahan+2 Nebula+2 Hugo+2 Locus+2

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 225, published on .

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

Pro: Obviously the story is a metaphor for the sacrifices parents make to care for disabled children. The winding signifies how some people have more energy than others, how some days are better than others, and how we all wind down as we get older. There’s something very elegant about abstracting all the messiness of aging and disability into a single, clean concept of having a mainspring. It lets us look at the core issues of need, responsibility, and love without distractions.

Zee gives up the best days of her youth to care for Mattan and (to a degree) for her father. She makes her choice, and, for the most part, she doesn’t regret it. She punishes herself for that one day she takes off to visit the carnival, and yet it was that effort that brought her family back together—something she never credits herself for accomplishing.

We understand Vale wanting to be freed of the burden, but we also understand him feeling guilty and then accepting the burden willingly.

We also understand Zee’s mother, even if we don’t approve. She had no time for anyone but herself, and she presumably died forgotten and unmourned.

The author does an excellent job of making us care for Zee, Mattan, and Vale. We’re sad to hear of Vale’s passing at the end, and when we learn that Zee and Mattan both got ten turns—just enough to watch the acrobats together—we suspect that it will be their last day together, and we’re glad they got to spend it doing something fun.

Con: The metaphor has a few holes in it, and those occasionally break suspension of disbelief. The windup people can replace other parts, so why can’t they replace the mainspring? They don’t have to eat, and they get wound up by magic every night, so why is caring for Mattan such a burden? He doesn’t really have to be anywhere, after all, so why does Zee carry him?

Beyond that, the story has no suspense or tension.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 225)
Caroline M. Yoachim Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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6 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Replies
    1. It's a strong clue that the characters were well-developed if you cry for them and they didn't have to actually die.

  2. Raised review from 4 to 5. Even eight months later, this story really resonates with me

  3. A very good story about family and community. Well worth reading.

    I agree with the rating.

  4. Very poignant and emotionally devastating. And it's only a short story. Gosh!