Stephen Gaskell. Aquestria. (Interzone #226, Jan/Feb 2010)

A woman on one side of a civil war between interplanetary settlers, grieving for the murder of her husband at the death of their enemies, decides to help to survive a mutilated victim of those enemies. Except that he isn’t one of the enemy – he is very much part of the planet on which they have settled. The central conceit is not entirely convincing – the planet has a massive, subterranean tree which grows identical replicas of the races who settle on the planet over the millennia, and how those settlers treat that replica determines how the planet responds to the settlers. It’s also a big one that is sprung on the reader right at the end, and not explaining anything that has been proferred as something needing explaing : more than that – especially after the reader has been told that victim can write the language of the enemy. And with a human/alien planet interface, you would really not want to refer to the replica as an ‘avatar’ as that just highlights a nod to the central issue of the film of that name.

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