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Conservation of Shadows Paperback – April 16, 2013
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The language in all the stories is amazingly poetic and innovative. Occasionally I had a little trouble understanding some of the very far-reaching ideas and scenarios but for some reason I didn't care because the cadence of the writing just pulled me in. I felt, at times, as if I were dreaming awake while reading. The author is not afraid to confront unrecognizable futures, the actual strangeness of a mathematically poetic universe, as well as the nightmare realm of magic and sorcery. A lot of war themes abound, not necessarily my favorite thing to read. But well-placed in the hands of a talented author, any theme can soar and sing. Thus, I am giving this book five stars because, well, it's simply amazing writing. I hope this author publishes more.
The most interesting five stories are:
"Swanwatch" invites us to observe the crew of a space station whose duties require monitoring starships that enter their solar system to dive into its sun. Each member of the crew has a past and works toward some end. Not that they know these things about each other.
In "Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain" a woman guards an ancient weapon that can remove pieces of the past. Large pieces. The dialogue between the two main characters is reminiscent of the book-long bar discussion in The January Dancer.
"Iseul's Lexicon" explores the magical power of language in the context of a civil war and a supernatural assault by the unseen Genial Ones. The use of words takes on additional dimensions and has effects according to discernable rules and patterns. The story stretches readers' imaginations about actions, intentions, and articulation.
"The Unstrung Zither" is superficially about the interrogation of five captured terrorists. On a deeper level it is a different kind of story that progresses toward a harmonious conclusion rather than a logical one.
"The Book of Locked Doors" turns around a book that captures the skills, memories, and personalities of the dead. The protagonist is able to draw on them to aid in her clandestine war against powerful alien invaders. She is reluctant to draw upon its pages.
A closing thought from Aliette de Bodard's introduction to the collection: "Lee's stories present, over and over, this fundamental tension between image and truth; between myth and reality; between actual behaviour and model." However you choose to describe Yoon Ha Lee's writing, it takes readers in directions unlooked for. They are worth reading.
Good writing but frustrating, I hope that some of these are expanded to include story arches that entertain for hours.