Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Island and Its Boy, by Bo Balder

★★★★☆ Cool Characters in a Frosty Location

(Alternate Reality Fantasy) Inu’s people need to leave their island home before it heads south. There’s a new island for them, but Inu wonders what would happen if he stayed with the old one. (6,817 words; Time: 22m)

"The Island and Its Boy," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 11-12|18, published on by .

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

Review: 2018.601 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The story is clearly meant to be set in an alternate version of our world, and Inu’s people are an alternate humanity based on the Innuit people of our world. Mentions of things like birth pouches and nest brothers don’t much change our impression of these folks as more or less like the igloo-builders we’re familiar with.

Of course the moving, telepathic islands are a much bigger difference!
He and the Island were in it together.
Inu enjoys the privilege of being a “sister-brother” (i.e. a boy who has a female twin), but he’s got the extra ability of being able to communicate with the island—the only male known to be able to do so. It's rather nice that he never uses this ability for his personal advantage, but he's a very nice guy.

I love the way he gradually builds a set of allies for his mission, gently wooing Okiu, knowing she won’t get many offers, but eventually falling in love with her for herself. And how his nest brothers don’t take his plans to stay behind seriously until he gets punished for it, but then they’re with him 100%.

By the time they’re all together alone on the island, they’re a team, and it looks like they'll make a success of it.

Con: : You’d think someone else would have done this before and they’d have a system for coping with it. No one ever offers a reason to fear going south, other than that it was against their ways. There was also mention of trade, so they must have known something about the rest of the world.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 11-12|18)
Bo Balder Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

Follow RSR on Twitter, Facebook, RSS, or E-mail.

3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I had a lot of trouble with the stakes here. Inu is 100% invested in staying on the island despite everybody telling him "no," but... I never really care about him staying on the island. The focus on starting his own tribe (with one woman, who, it seems, is going to be pretty subservient to him, and whose options are him or death?) is weird to me, especially since it seems more a tribe of convenience/purpose than one he takes any joy in. And if your whole entire culture is willing to start over somewhere else rather than stay on the island... I dunno, that just seems like a really big Schelling Fence to try and rip up.

    Towards the end, it's nice seeing the trope of "blind unfeeling believers" being subverted somewhat, by the parents tacitly accepting Inu's plan. But again it just doesn't make any sense to me - Inu's mother knew ages ahead what Inu wants and plans; and then she complains to him "why didn't you talk to me"?

    This story was so very much about the stakes, and those stakes just didn't work for me.

  2. Considering how many pretty grim stories this issue had, I was just so glad they had a happy one. I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

    1. I like happy endings too, particularly when the characters earn them.

      I make a point of never comparing stories with one another unless they're obviously meant to be related. So I'd compare a sequel or a pastiche with the original, but I don't compare unrelated stories by the same author or other stories in the same issue.

      We've talked about doing separate per-issue reviews (as we do for anthologies) but we're just never got around to it.

      However, I definitely agree that after a string of downer stories, it's really nice to read something cheerful.