Today’s reviews are Alec Austin’s “The Resurrectionists” and Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Your Mama’s Adventures in Parenting”.
“The Resurrectionists” by Alec Austin (Fireside Fiction Company, March 2017)
Alec Austin’s “The Resurrectionists” is a weird story.
Kade and Marya arrive at a deserted town in search of water and find a dead body—which apparently isn’t that unusual, as Marya is a necromancer and Kade has something called a necropotence engine in his chest, and the bodies of the dead are valuable as soldiers.
While Kade gets water, Marya talks to the corpse to determine what happened to the town, as necromancers can make the dead reveal all they’ve seen since they died. And what this corpse reveals is that this town’s dead weren’t shipped to the Front—so Kade starts digging. And then the Sidhe show up and there is—of course there is—a shootout.
The Sidhe are horrifying opponents with sliver-guns that seem to be alive somehow—they are able to chew, which is just creepy. And they’re riding serpents made from the vertebrae of giants. As one does.
There are so many tantalizing bits of worldbuilding here that I would like to read more in the setting, if only because what is in the story isn’t quite enough to make sense of everything—particularly the necropotence engine which, I think, runs on the energy of dead small animals (sometimes kittens, I do not like this; no kittens were harmed in the course of the story) and serves to help Kade resurrect himself once he takes too much damage.
And that, actually, is the crux of what I found frustrating about this story: it feels like a role-playing game setting, where there are all sorts of cool bits and bobs that almost make a coherent whole but not quite. Everything’s slant and while I can follow the through-line of this story’s plot, I can’t tell how it fits into its setting—I know there was a war, that there are Sidhe—Seelie and Unseelie—and that there’s tremendously effective necromantic magic, but I don’t know why.
The first time I read this story I was a bit tired and my notes are a combination of “this is really funny and I don’t know what’s happening” so I decided I needed to read it again—and then it made sense. “Your Mama’s Adventures in Parenting” doesn’t really have a plot, more a series of observations. The structure does most of the heavy lifting and as such, it doesn’t really need to have an explicit plot—but the story also moves from the profane (cleaning up poop) to the sacred (believing in your child) through the course of the story. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but it adds a degree of nuance and increasing stakes to what would otherwise just be a collection of vignettes.
I found this story to be thoroughly charming and I had a lot of fun trying to guess what the mundane reality was before the reveal. And, as I mentioned, it’s funny. It even has a fart joke in the first section and you really can’t go wrong with a fart joke.
My favorite thing about it, though, is the way the story shows the different sides of the mother and all the different roles parents have for their children—and that it showed a healthy relationship between the parent and child. It’s important to shine light on the way parents harm their children, but it’s also equally important to show parents who truly care and are doing their best.