Naomi Novik. Seven Years from Home. (Year’s Best Science Fiction 28th Annual Collection)

Truth be told, with Dozois’ 29th imminent, I’d been minded to pop #28 onto the shelves despite not being completely read. This would have been a first, and having popped the slimmer-than-previous volume into my briefcase, read a couple of stories, and am mightily pleased at having done so.

The story was originally published in Warriors, a Tor book co-edited by GRR Martin and G Dozois, which has to be one of the most substantial pairings in anthologising, pedigree-wise. Once retired I shall endeavour to track down the Warriors series and make my way through them.

This story is more sfnal that I thought the volume would have, and it’s cleverly handled in terms of structure and the gradual reveal, with a strong female character, but not the stereotypical fantasy warrior-femme, clad in a skimpy rabbit skin bikini, with gleaming thighs, and a huge bosom threatening to spill out at any moment. The narrator lets the reader into some of the consequences of her actions, prior to relating those actions, telling of her travelling to a far world, and how her visit, to start with, a one of scientific observation, quickly turns into a situation into which she cannot remain an impartial observer.

The conflict into which she is pitched sees a primarily forest-dwelling race living off (or rather, with) the flora and fauna, a complex symbiotic relationship, which they use, to chilling effect, in repulsing the advances of the neighbouring race, who essentially plan to concrete over everything.

Well worth a read!

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