Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The River of Blood and Wine, by Kali Wallace

[Asimov's]
★★★★☆ Evocative and Moving

(Colony SF) Twenty-seven-year-old Sunan returns to the world of his birth to make his peace in the last days before the colony is evacuated. And to find something that must not be left behind. (7,804 words; Time: 26m)

Recommended By: 👍STomaino+2 (Q&A)


"The River of Blood and Wine," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 11-12|19, published on by .

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

Review: 2019.623 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The story does a nice job of letting us know something about Sunan’s relation to Xiva and the people on it without ever inflicting an infodump on us. We know off the bat that he’s at least partly responsible for the ruin of the colony, and it’s fun learning exactly what happened.

The story does an excellent job of showing how Sunan still suffers from childhood trauma. The more we learn about that trauma, the worse it gets and yet the more sense it all makes.

The big revelation is both shocking and poignant. The ending, with the three young people enjoying the sunset makes Xiva feel so real that the pain of their loss comes through powerfully. Sunan definitely did the right thing by reporting that the pitka were intelligent, but we clearly see that he paid a high price for it. On this visit, he’s not just laying his mother to rest; he’s mourning the loss of his whole world.

Somewhat unusually, this story features a star system with two planets: Keta, a colder world where most of the human population lives, and Xiva, the warmer one which the early colonists apparently shunned once they suspected it had intelligent life on it.

Con: This is pretty much the story of Sunan’s search for closure, so it’s appropriate that it’s all about him, but the lack of conflict with any other characters is a weakness. And his father is a cardboard villain.

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