Robert Reed. Katabasis. (Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov/Dec 2012)

One advantage of the first couple of stories in this issue not being quite to my taste was the consequent added pleasure, not that any was really needed, of having a very lengthy Robert Reed story next up. A proper SF story by Robert Reed. A ‘Great Ship’ story by Robert Reed. A ‘Great Ship’ story by Robert Reed featuring Quee Lee and Perri!

It’s probably 17 years since I read my first story in the ‘Great Ship’ sequence – ‘The Remoras’, collected in Dozois 12th Annual Collection way back in 1995 (review here). And over the years Reed had produced several stories and novels (‘Marrow’) in the series.

This story shows off handsomely the opportunity the story sequence gives Reed to write stories against an epic backdrop. The unfathomably large galaxy-travelling construct that houses hundred of billions of mostly immortal beings of all races is a pretty good backdrop for opening up the writer’s imagination. Here Quee Lee and Perri have major roles, but the two intriguing characters are the non-human Katabasis, and the once-human Varid. The four are part of a group of adventurers taking on an epic journey in an extremely inhospitable high-gravity region of the Great Ship, which offers physical and mental hardships.

The journey progresses with flashbacks of an equally epic journey by Katabasis, she named after the Greek for a journey from a high place to a deep level of hell. The story engages the reader in the epic challenges, and the depths to which the soul is searched during the journey.

My only regret is that whilst stories featuring the likes of Mighty Amos Malone and Freelance Fudpuckulater Fotherington Fartingbrass appear regularly in F&SF, stories featuring Quee Lee and Perri are much rarer events!

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