Another in de Bodard’s satisfying future Xuya sequence (chronology here). First up was ‘Shipmaker’ (Interzone #231 Nov/Dec 2010 – reviewed here), then ‘Shipbirth’ (Asimovs, Feb 2012 – reviewed here), and more recently ‘Ship’s Brother’ (Interzone #241, Jul/Aug 2012 – reviewed here).
The aforementioned stories having looking at the birth of spaceships powered by/linked to human minds, de Bodard takes us to the other end of the lifecycle, as warrior Nguyen Dong Huong, whose The Tortoise in the Lake is her fourth ship in her relatively short life, has the task of accompanying the Northerner vessel ‘The Two Sisters in Exile’ to its funeral.
Her visit to the Northerner planet is a suprise to her, as is the age of the ‘Two Sisters in Exile’, and the implication s of that longevity, and the response of the Northerners to its death. The story has literature and poetry and feelings at its core, rather than warp speed, photon torpedoes and the like, and along with Jay Lake’s short SF featuring humans facing human issues in future settings, one of the kinds of SF that I look forward to reading.