Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Descent of Monsters, by JY Yang

[Tor Novella]
★★★☆☆ Average

(Silkpunk; Tensorate) Sariman investigates the suspicious deaths of everyone at a Tensorate research lab, who seem to have been killed by a monster they made themselves. (26,786 words; Time: 1h:29m)

Although this story is third in the Tensorate series, it’ll work to read this one first and then look at those two if you liked this one

"," by (edited by Carl Engle-Laird), published on by .

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

Pro: The story is primarily about Sariman’s search for the truth about what happened to the people at Rewar Teng and about how that intersects with Rider’s search for their twin. In the end, Sariman finds both, but at the cost of her life.

Con: One obvious drawback is that the revelation that Tau has been influencing reality means the only accomplishment that actually belongs to Sariman herself is the mistake that leads to her dying. (She observes as much.) That gives the whole story a feeling of futility.

The biggest problem with the story, though, is that it’s mostly told as flashbacks in the form of letters/reports/diary entries. This destroys any tension it might have had, since we always know the character survived the episode we’re reading about (all but the last one). The format lends itself to infodumps, and the first few chapters are about as interesting as any bureaucratic report.

The protagonist comes across so poorly that it’s hard to root for her. Although sworn to justice, she has a pirate lover and provides a safe house for her. She welcomes a sadistic torturer in hopes of learning something from the captives. And she enjoys a privileged life but disrespects the adoptive parents who gave it to her. When she does walk away from her job, it’s not because of her high principles but simply because she’s mad at the Tensorate for not making her more of an insider.

It’s also hard to be excited about Rider’s search for their twin. Rider doesn’t remember the person at all,  so there’s no direct emotional connection, and given the huge span of time, the search looks so hopeless that Rider’s passion for it makes them seem obsessed and deluded.

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