I liked The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Persephone Parker – it was very Gothic and different. So when I found out on The Galaxy Express that Leanna Renee Hieber had also written a futuristic fantasy novella, and it won the 2009 Prism award, I said – “holy crap, I want to read that”. Earlier this year the author contacted me and offered me a copy to review so I jumped on the chance.
The Premise: This is the blurb: “Chief Counsel Ariadne Corinth has just found out her long-time lover, the powerfully gifted Chief Counsel Kristov Haydn, has died. Newly evolved psychically gifted humans have been sent by the Homeworld on a space mission aboard two distinct “Nests”. Relationships between the Light Nest and the Dark Nest have faltered and Ariadne is sure there’s something insidious behind it. In a matter of hours, Ariadne must find out what really happened to Kristov, unite her people to discover vast new powers the Homeworld denied them, or else submit to genocide.”
My Thoughts: The setting with two ‘nests’ in space, both full of people who are Psychically Augmented, one light – who believe in order and suppression of emotion, one dark and more dramatic, intrigued me.
In terms of setting, there were several details about the ships I enjoyed. I think the Light Nest made me think of the Enterprise with it’s clean lines and bright spaces, but I loved the first introduction to the Dark Nest: “A vast, stylized, silver-blue steel Notre Dame now floated through space, giving a new and literal meaning to “flying” buttresses.” I’m not sure why they looked like this, but it ‘s lovely to imagine.
The story hints that the nests were not so divided as they are now, that outside forces deliberately put a wedge between the sister spaceships. When the story begins, the difference in the nests have become so pronounced that there is hardly any interaction between the two at all. All the Nesters went to the same school and have past history, but the visits that used to happen between the two ships, have ceased except for Couriers who send messages back and forth for business purposes. There are low rumblings about the slow separation between ships that have been working together (searching for worlds that can support human life), but few question it. Nor do many question the intrusive watches on everyone -the monitoring of emotions and the information sent back to Earth.
Dark Nest won the Prism award, and I can’t find anything but glowing reviews of it online, but I had one problem with the story, and that was that by the time this story is told, I feel like I have to catch up to where the characters already are, and so things seem to happen too quickly and the ending came too soon. When Ariadne’s ex, Kristov, dies, at the beginning of the book, Ariadne is surprised to hear he was murdered, possibly through the order of the Homeworld because of his rebellious views. Much has already happened by the time that Kristov Hadyn dies, and the reader learns through Ariadne how far things have gone. The romance mostly happens off the page as well. Ariadne has a back story with the person she ends up with, and a flashback to their past is what we get in terms of romance. When they meet again, there is low conflict between them. I think Ariadne feels more stress in thinking of seeing him again than with actually seeing him. His personality is such a draw to her that all he does is give her his special look and they’re together again.. The conflict in this story instead lies with the two types of Nesters and their Homeworld (What exactly is the Homeworld’s plan for the Nesters? Is it true that they used brainwashing and lies to divide the two ships?) but that too seemed quickly resolved: the rebels have a plan. I thought the writing and the setting were well done, but if I could wish for something, it would be more in terms of not learning things after they were already established like the romance, the plans for the rebellion, and the insidious workings of the Homeworld; I’d rather read about them as they happened.
Overall: I liked the writing and I liked the setting, but I wish there was more. This is a novella so by it’s very definition it’s short, but I think I still wanted to experience events as they unfolded, rather than feeling like I was getting the wrap up of a longer and meatier story.