Monday, June 15, 2020

Nine Words for Loneliness in the Language of the Uma'u, by M.L. Clark

★★★★☆ A moving tale from an alien perspective.

(Space Opera; The Partnership) Awenato is the only Uma’u on the space station after terrorists kill the rest of the diplomats from his world, including his lifemate. He wants revenge, but first he has to figure out how to just get by. (20,871 words; Time: 1h:09m)

This is the third story in the Partnership series that I’m aware of, but it involves different characters and a different setting from the other two, so I think there’s no need to read the other stories before this one.

"," by (edited by Neil Clarke), appeared in issue 165, published on .

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

Review: 2020.311 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: This story succeeds on several levels. We feel Awenato’s terrible loss and his deep desire to believe there really is another world where he’ll find his lost love. But it’s also a great account of his feelings of isolation on the Partnership station where he’s the only one of his kind, he struggles with the language, and he has trouble wrapping his mind around some of the key principles of the Partnership.

It’s very easy to anthropomorphize Awenato, but the truth is that he’s a carnivore, and he doesn’t really think the way we do. The story drops hints of that throughout, as well as hinting that he and the Uma’u may have some special abilities due to their extreme proximity to “the Makers.” At the end, perhaps he really will find a way to pursue the terrorists through the dream world.

This is a very rare story told in true second person. Most stories told in second person are really third-person stories where the “you” is really the protagonist, but in this case, Awenato is telling his story to Wene’ss, not to us.

Con: There seems to be little or no visible evidence that any of the Uma’u have special powers. We only suspect it because Awenato’s connection with his dead partner is so strong. So it’s hard to see why so many people at the station are worried about it. And his threat to Elloo Ellu was clearly empty; it’s hard to imagine anyone taking it seriously.

Although it’s cute that the Uma’u are a lot like house cats, the story takes it a little too far when it makes him purr, and it goes way too far when he thinks how “curiosity killed the cat.”

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M.L. Clark Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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