Strange Horizons, February 11th, 2013
Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia
“The Long Road to the Deep North” by Lavie Tidhar is a re-imagining of Matsuo Basho’s 17th century work, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches. In Tidhar’s version, which is set in the far future, a man renames himself after the long dead poet and follows the spirit of his journey by leaving Earth and traveling through the far reaches of the Continuity. Where the ancient Basho traversed the hard-to-reach countryside of Endo Japan, the Basho of the Continuity visits the Church of Robot and then settled Mars, writing verse and prose to document his journey in further emulation of his long dead hero.
The plot relies heavily on the reader understanding the meta text tribute to the real life poet Basho. It is a character study that begins with a man nervous to leave Earth, and it follows him as he matures into his journey. Basho encounters no adversaries. He simply journeys. When I first read the story and had never heard of the real Basho, I got very little out of it, which I thought was very strange considering that I’ve read other stories by Tidhar that featured more traditional action components and which I rather enjoyed. As a tribute to Basho and a glimpse into Tidhar’s world of the Continuity, which other stories of his are set in, this is a beautifully crafted work. Unfortunately I think this story has a limited audience because of the meta text involved and its lack of action-driven plot.
Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best inspiration and motivation. You can find out more about her other writing projects and geeky obsessions by visiting her blog.