Monday, June 16, 2014
Review: “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard
This story is available for free, here, now! Thank you, Ms. de Bodard! Also note, a ton of her other stories in this same universe are also available for free on her web page. I know what I'm reading come July 31!
Let me just say - I'm going to have a very difficult time with the Best Novelette ballot. This is the third nominee that I have absolutely loved.
Some spoilery thoughts and a lot of links are behind the cutlink.:
Oh, I loved this story so much. I was very quickly sucked right into the story, and was right there with the characters in the two different perspectives.
Even though I noted that there would be spoilers, I won't go into too much detail, because about half-way through the story there's an "OH my god, oh no they ****ing DIDN'T.... Oh my god yes they did." Which you need to experience for yourself if you haven't yet read the story. Why haven't you read the story? It's very short, and very good, and free - the link is right here! :)
I love the conflict between the cultures, as I always do in de Bodard's stories set in this universe. The motivations of the individuals, as well as of the cultures as a whole, are so completely believable. They are right in line with behaviors we've seen historically. I want to talk about all of her stories I've read so far in this universe! But I'll try to make myself stick to just this one story.
The horrible thing the Galactics are proudly saying they've done, which they feel is absolutely the right thing to do and their right to do, seems pretty horrific and unbelievable.
Many of you probably know that this is something that has been done historically by many of our "civilized" nations. In the United States, Native American children were taken from their families and placed in boarding schools where the experience was much like the stories of Catherine and her fellow "refugees". The same thing has happened in Canada. The same thing has happened in Australia. Attempts at ethnic cleansing by forcibly removing children from their families and trying to school, and often beat, the "native" out of them. Many native folk can tell you about their lost generations.
What you may not know is that it is still happening today. In the United States, it is still happening today. And possibly not just with Native children - children are being disproportionately taken from other groups as well. It's still happening today in Canada. It is still happening today in Australia. And this is just a quick google of the places I know have done this before - who else is doing this? And also, seriously - what the hell is wrong with people?
"The Waiting Stars" is both beautiful and horrifying. The ethnic cleansing of the children is bad enough - what they're really doing is just beyond horrifying to me. But really, it's very symbolic of what happens to every single child in our own stolen generations. Only they can't have the same kind of return to their family and former life that Catherine can. It's really interesting how de Bodard takes things a step farther - and the "civilized" Galactics truly believe that what they are doing is right, and is best for these stolen souls. Mind-boggling, because it is a truth. A truth that makes no sense, and yet is so pervasive.
This story is just so completely beautifully told. You really feel the different cultures (though the other stories I've read in this universe may be at play too), and you really feel the WRONGNESS of what is being done. I've glanced through comments on Goodreads and I see a lot of people posting variations on "I enjoyed the story, but it just left me with a big question of Why? Why would people do something like this? It doesn't make any sense at all." Exactly. WHY.
The end of "The Waiting Stars" - oh, oh, oh. If it could only be so, for all the others, in the story, and in the real world.
How does de Bodard work so much into such a short story?
Seriously. August 1. I'm going back to her web page and absorbing the rest of her shorts, and then I'm buying all of her books.
And meanwhile, I'm going to do some more research on our children who are being stolen even as I type.
Up or down ballot (note for myself): UP.
ETA: The attempted ethnic cleansing by beating a child's identity out of them is also one of the themes in Catherynne M. Valente's "Six-Gun Snow White." Interesting that we have multiple tales hitting this topic this year.