“A Salvaging of Ghosts” by Aliette de Bodard
Reviewed by Eric Kimminau
“A Salvaging of Ghosts” by Aliette de Bodard is the very nifty story of Thuy, a salvage diver aboard the vessel The Azure Serpent diving for “gems,” the compressed remains of casualties from wrecked Mindships, ships with a living presence at the controls, stranded in the depths on some unknown, unnamed world. Thuy, like generations before her, lives aboard the Serpent searching for wrecks and diving for gems which are sold across the galaxy as an addictive, odorless, tasteless drug that gives feelings of intense euphoria when dissolved in drinks. Thuy is about to take what she knows could be her last dive on the ship where her daughter, Kim Anh, recently died. Her hope is that she will be able to retrieve at least one of the gems that were her daughter‘s, to place on the shrine to her memory. As the dive progresses, something goes awry and Thuy believes her time has come to an end when something life changing occurs. This was a truly unique story, well worth the read and meeting the BCS secondary world mandate.
“The Mountains His Crown” by Sarah Pinsker is the story of a farmer, Kae Bakari, and his family in some unnamed land. It is a political commentary on the whims of an emperor (and his children) on the common folk, demanding the farmers change their crops so that the land reflected his image and his image reflected the land. But the common folk can quietly plant the seeds of discontent and revolution, creating a blood-red stain upon the land and the emperors’ image. A stained glass image hidden as a tribute. I enjoyed the foreshadowed irony hidden from the view of the emperor sitting on his golden throne.
“Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” by Jason Sanford is the story of Master-Anchor Frere-Jones Roeder, a land Anchor, or protector, imbued with “grains,” a type of bio-technology embedded into everything, which allows intelligent communication and communion with the land and every living thing in it, permitting Frere to perform super-human feats, but who is also controlled by the grains. Anything containing grains can also be placed over the altar in her home, thereby synching it to the grains in her lands. The grains communicate their thoughts and wishes to the Anchors through memories, both those of the Anchor and of any that have touched the grains. “The grains speak only in memories, but memories only speak to the grains’ programmed goals. A good anchor never lets memory overwhelm what is right and what is wrong.” Now however, the grains are upset with Frere and she with the grains. They killed her lifemate Hoaquin and in return she freed their son from the grains’ grasp, at the cost of ostracizing her son from the lands she is Anchored to protect. But the grains and the other Master Anchors surrounding her lands are now conspiring to replace her because she (and her lifemate before her) intend to “spit at the grains memories,” to change the world by creating a world without grains. “But the grains saved the planet … How the land was nearly destroyed and overrun with people. I can taste the chemicals and hormones and technology. Trees cut down. People dying of blight. There were so many people. Too many for the land to support. Destroying everything they touched…” This story is a marvelous piece of work—if you can set aside the social commentary on an all-controlling social entity and the rebellion to eliminate it. It is unlike any story I have ever read and I give it my highest possible recommendation.
I enjoyed this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies very much.
Eric Kimminau is a BBS geek turned IT professional for a Fortune 10 global IT company.