Friday, September 7, 2018

Harry and Marlowe and the Secret of Ahomana, by Carrie Vaughn

★★★★★ Cool setting, fun characters, interesting conflicts

(Steampunk Adventure; Harry and Marlowe) In a storm, in an alternate 1890s South Pacific, their airship crashes on a Pacific Island occupied by surprisingly high-tech natives. (9,971 words; Time: 33m)

Recommended By: 👍RSR+2 👍STomaino+1 (Q&A)

"," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 100, published on .

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

Review: 2018.497 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: “Harry” in the story was the nickname of Maud of Wales (b. 1869), who had a reputation as something of a tomboy.

Harry and Marlowe are both great characters. They’re up for adventure, but they have consciences too. They want to escape the island, but they don’t like the idea of the British Navy looting it.

I’d have been satisfied with a simple escape plot, but I was proud of Harry when she realized she couldn’t bring herself to steal anything. It was gratifying that that earned the trust of Moea and led to them getting their freedom after all.

The way the story shows that they love each other is a good lesson in show-don’t-tell. For example, look at this scene when Marlowe first wakes up just after Harry has learned they’re prisoners:
“These islanders—Marlowe, I have so much to tell you. It’s all so strange, so impossible, I don’t know where to start.” 
“You’re all right? They haven’t hurt you?” 
Except for insisting that they couldn’t leave. “I’m well,” she said, so that he would be easy. He slipped back to sleep as gently as a feather falling.
It never uses the word "love" or anything like it, but we know it all the same.

For her part, Moea doesn't want the British Navy looting Ahomana either, but she doesn't want to be a jailer either. We sympathize with her dilemma, which makes this story remarkable in that it has conflict but no villain. Bravo!

Con: Moea is a bit too trusting. Harry did invade her room, even if she didn’t take anything.

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Carrie Vaughn Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. This is a wonderful steampunk story. Great depths in many ways too - romance, survival, duty and moral principles. I have never read a "Marlowe and Harry" story until now, and it read just fine on its own.

    The other outstanding feature of this story is that it shows steampunk outside of the British Empire, and for that matter outside of any European country.

    It very much deserves its 5-star rating any many recommendations.

  2. Typo - correction - It very much deserves its 5-star rating AND many recommendations.