Sunday, September 13, 2015

Goodnight Stars - Annie Bellet

I started reading Elizabeth Bear's Karen Memory last weekend. Unfortunately I left the book at the hospital on Tuesday when my girlfriend had an appointment there. It is waiting for me at the desk. When we go back there on Monday, I can pick it up. I didn't think I had enough reading time to finish another full novel for this weekend's review so I had to resort to reading something shorter. I decided to have a go at Goodnight Stars by Annie Bellet. It was originally included in an anthology edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey called The End is Now (2014). It is part of a triptych of (post) apocalyptic fiction. Bellet has stories in all three anthologies and, as far as I can tell, they are set in the same world. Goodnight Stars is readable as a standalone though.

Goodnight Stars was nominated for the Hugo this year as part of both the Sad and Rabid Puppy slate. When the shortlist was announced and the success of the Puppy slates became apparent, she decided to withdraw the story and stay out of the fray. That was both a wise and probably very difficult decision. As far as I can tell all the novels she has written are selfpublished. A few of her stories were published by paying markets but a Hugo nomination, or even better, a win, would have put her on the map. It would also have been a bit of recognition for this form of publishing. The Hugos haven't paid that much attention to self-published works yet. The price of being a punching bag in what is basically an extension of the American culture wars was obviously too high and so Bellet had to be content with one of George R.R. Martin's Alfies instead. Personally I consider that a good trade. Especially since her withdrawal allowed Thomas Olde Heuvelt a place on the shortlist. He would go on to win the category and further frustrate the Puppies' attempt to sweep the awards.

In Goodnight Stars we meet Lucy Goodwin. Her mother is an engineer working on a project on the Moon when something strikes it. The Moon is shattered and meteors rain down on the Earth, causing widespread destruction and disruptions in communication. With a group of friends she sets out to reach the relative safety of her father's farm in Montana. A long and dangerous trip.

To be perfectly honest I don't think this story is Hugo Award material. I enjoyed reading it but it doesn't do anything to make it stand out from the mass of high quality short fiction that is being written at the moment. Scientifically I have my doubts about whether the Moon breaking up would be survivable. If only a fraction of the mass of the Moon was to hit Earth it would probably cause a mass extinction event in which humans would be one of the first victims. Bellet's style is not remarkable either. The prose is serviceable but doesn't stand out, she has a very straightforward way of telling her story.

What the story does have going for it, is that it is emotionally powerful. The main character is someone we can relate to. A girl cast into a situation where she has nobody to fall back on. It gives her a new perspective on what's important in life and makes her appreciate her mother's choices more. There is a lot of anger in her, she doesn't feel like her mother understands the choices she wants to make in life. The disaster that strikes them brings them closer together by putting them forever beyond each other's reach. The character development in this story is definitely the strongest part of it.

Bellet may not have chosen to be on the Puppy slates but when you look at it from their perspective, it does make sense to include it. It is a very plot oriented story, with a comfortably familiar topic for science fiction readers. Bellet keeps the pace up and doesn't need any literary acrobatics to tell her tale. It is a story that can be enjoyed at face value. Personally, I don't think that is the most challenging or rewarding kind of reading but if that is what you are looking for in fiction this author delivers. Her Hugo nomination was a very unfortunate way to catch the spotlight but her writing is sure to win her fans. Goodnight Stars will not be the last we have heard of Annie Bellet.

Book Details
Title: Goodnight Stars
Author: Annie Bellet
Pages: 36
Year: 2014
Language: English
Format: E-book
First published: 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment