Strange Horizons, October 1st & 8th, 2012

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Strange Horizons, October 1st & 8th, 2012

“In the Library of Souls” Parts 1 & 2, by Jennifer Mason-Black

Reviewed by Louis West

How much does religion embody what people need to believe to come to grips with the world versus how it actually reflects how the universe works? In Carreth’s universe, each person’s soul records its life on the pages of a plain, cream-colored leather bound book, and all these books are protected within the walls of the Cor, a massive, ageless tower. When a person dies, the book changes color. It’s then removed from the shelves, read from, then burned during the death rites to permit the soul’s release. Since being orphaned at age 10, Carreth has been a caretaker of the books. This story traces her coming-of-age experiences through the death of Mother Maiden, a massive flood that damages many of the books, and the drowning death of several of her fellow caretakers.

Unfortunately, this story didn’t work for me. The pace was slow, the tension minimal, my sense of Carreth’s world very restricted—some villages, hills, a huge dam that breaks during a time when the rains seem never to cease. Also, Carreth lacks any extended family. In a civilization composed of villages, I would think family would be dominant. But it only takes the death of Carreth’s mother to orphan her.

Louis West critiques for plus Spacecrafts. He also does volunteer work for the Massachusetts-based ReaderCon. His education and work experience was in biophysics and medical genetics before migrating to international finance. Yet he retains a strong interest in astronomy and sub-atomic physics. He enjoys hard SF, urban fantasy, supernatural and fantasy, and writes in a bio-punk style, focusing on the personal and social impacts of new technologies.