Spellbinding, in a brutal way, but far longer than it needed to be. Jennings has some very interesting and important insights to share about the psych...moreSpellbinding, in a brutal way, but far longer than it needed to be. Jennings has some very interesting and important insights to share about the psychology of both oppressors and the oppressed, but after a while the horrific abuses heaped on the main character became just depressing. I'd have excused that in a factual account, but for a fictional story that's meant to entertain the reader as well as make them think, it just didn't work for me. The story ended on a welcome high note, but that ending could have come at least a hundred pages sooner. (less)
While an enjoyable read, I'm not sure "Winter" was worth the $6 I paid for it. The entire booklet, including a short story "The Adjoa Gambit," was les...moreWhile an enjoyable read, I'm not sure "Winter" was worth the $6 I paid for it. The entire booklet, including a short story "The Adjoa Gambit," was less than seventy pages long. Granted, the way the small press works, the reader does have to pay more for material than when she buys from a larger press. I'm more than willing to do so, provided the material I get is as good as larger press material. "The Adjoa Gambit," the short story included in "Winter," was excellent (as it should be, appearing previously in IGMS), but "Winter" itself felt like a much longer story compacted to novelette-length.
The title relates well enough to the concept of the story--a space mission returns to Earth after thousands of years time-dilation and finds the planet gripped in an ice age--and the one thing "Winter" and "The Adjoa Gambit" have in common is that they take place in cold places. "The Adjoa Gambit" occurs in a sort of concentration-camp for humans in the Antarctic after Earth has been conquered by an alien race.
Novy shines at characterization. Adjoa, the protagonist from the short story, is a genius kid without being annoying as genius kids can be. She has calm self-confidence in her abilities (namely, to gamble against alien invaders for very high stakes--and win) without being stuck-up, and it helps that the viewpoint character is skeptical of her while still respecting her as a smart kid. "The Adjoa Gambit's" conclusion is decided using brains rather than brawn, as in my favorite fiction. A-plus, five/five stars, depending on your grading system. I heartily recommend it.
"Winter" also has an interesting protagonist: Yutiko, a winged alien. Novy represents the alien as actually alien, rather than a human with wings. His body language and thinking are not human, but not beyond understanding, either. He also has an unbelievably sweet moment (these things matter to me, I'm a chick, let it lie) when he lets an injured human crewmate sleep leaning against him, assuring him it will be no discomfort--"It will be like raising a litter again." Awwww. I do love a family man.
And the suspense in "Winter" carries on right to the end--I found myself rapidly paging through it before class started, knowing I would be unable to study logic while Yutiko and crewmate Hodges' fates were up in the air. But when I say 'right to the end,' I do mean it--the entire story is wrapped up in about six pages, which is fast even given the short length of the novelette. Solutions to various problems come so quickly they feel like Deus Ex Machina even when they aren't.
I'm a busy person. I would enjoy, even prefer, novella and novelette length stories to full novels. But most of the problems with "Winter"--a high price tag considering the amount of material and rushed pacing--would evaporate if the story were longer. Rating for the whole work: B+, three and a half stars. Characterization was spot-on, which is important to me, though the fact that I loved the characters so much and wanted to see more of them made it even more bitterly disappointing that the story was so short.(less)