Tor.com, November 2010
“The Perdido Street Project” by Eileen Gunn
“Dreadnought’ by Cherie Priest
“Out of the Dark” by David Weber
“Internal Devices” by Eileen Gunn
“Sacrifice of the First Sheason” by Peter Orullian
Reviewed by Jo-Anne Odell
“The Perdido Street Project” by Eileen Gunn describes a train trip in a steampunk world. A man arrives in a station that’s been damaged. He’s an architect, interested in gaining the contract to renovate it, but learns there are risks related to the project.
This story consists of two well-written, descriptive scenes, and it does an exemplary job with image and atmosphere. I think it would be a strong opening to a longer story, though I’m not sure how it could be expected to stand on its own.
In “Dreadnought” by Cherie Priest, Vinita Lynch, also known as Nurse Mercy, searches the laundry for Private Morton’s pocket watch. She works in Virginia, during the Civil War, for the Confederacy. Two visitors arrive with unwanted news.
I found it readable, but it didn’t draw me in because it lacks cohesion. The beginning and end of the story are related to one another, but have little to do with the middle.
In “Out of the Dark” by David Weber, Garsul and the rest of his squad watch from their spaceships, reporting to their superiors as the medieval French and English armies face off against one another.
This is a war drama wrapped in an SF shell. It treads a long and cluttered path to make a simple, obvious point.
“Internal Devices,” also by Eileen Gunn, introduces George Dower, a fellow trying to make an honest living from his clockwork repair shop in London. He discovers that both his establishment and his property have been usurped by villains from his past. They’ve made a deal with a fellow from the future. It doesn’t work out as they’d hoped.
After reading this one, I found I preferred the “The Perdido Street Project,” even though this one has a plot and the other doesn’t. “Internal Devices” provides a parade of characters and dialects supporting a plot far too simple to require them.
In “Sacrifice of the First Sheason” by Peter Orullian, Palamon is awakened by his fellow sheason, Manoa. Palamon and Manoa are guardians, providing a link between the Founders who created their world, and the people who populate it. Manoa escorts Palamon to a woman and newborn in trouble, while Manoa attends to another matter. Palamon finds he’s unable to save either. Later, when Palamon finds Manoa’s body at the Tabernacle, he knows something is wrong. He finds a sickness within his own order, one that might destroy their entire world. He doesn’t have the power to stop it. When his mentor changes that, he finds himself with new responsibilities. As the others leave, Palamon is faced with difficult choices.
This story feels contrived, not well thought out. In the opening, Manoa is too busy to help a dying mother and newborn, but able to delay his pressing business while he goes to find Palamon and escort him back. If the point of this scene is to show how clever, caring and devoted these sheason are, it doesn’t work for me. They strike me as inept. I wonder if this story was rushed out to feed the marketing process for Mr. Orullian’s upcoming series of novels.
This is my first foray into Tor’s website. My initial impression, for this issue, anyway, is that Tor’s editors like description and aren’t overly concerned with plot development. If your taste is similar, this may be a good choice.