Kurt Pankau's Reviews > For Want of a Nail

For Want of a Nail by Mary Robinette Kowal
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Jan 13, 12


Rava is a wrangler for Cordelia, the ship AI that records her family as it travels for generations through space. While trying to fix something, she discovers a secret... and we'll leave it at that.

This story is a great example of what good short speculative fiction should do. Well-defined characters hover around a single conflict within an interesting premise. There's no space for character arcs, so the story is driven by narrative alone. The themes that develop as the plot unravels (which I won't go into because it would spoil some surprises) really resonate, especially the questions that are left unanswered.

Fans of Kowal's longer fiction will recognize the regency touches on her sci-fi story. The premise is sketched just thickly enough to be believable with delving too far into the weeds. I loved Ludoviko--a secondary character who foiled nicely against the protagonist and her AI. And for a 35 page story, it had some wonderful head-scratching moments.

Note: The Kindle edition has some absolutely inessential bonus features, including an entire rough draft and some random notes. There may be an audience for those, but I am not it. But the story stands well enough on its own. Definitely worth a read.
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