The Otissito Review

Category: Novella

Total 2 Posts

Short Fiction Review: "The Churn: An Expanse Novella" by James S.A. Corey

The ChurnTitle: The Churn: An Expanse Novella
Author: James S.A. Corey
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: April 29, 2014
Length: 77 pages

Obtained: I bought my copy from Amazon.

The Plot: A young man is trying to prove himself to a gang boss in order to make a life out of the meaningless, terrible pit that is the city he lives in. The world is falling apart as humanity expands into the stars and those left behind on Earth find themselves wallowing in misery on governmental assistance, or they try to survive on the streets.

This young man is Amos Burton, the loyal, hard-working, right hand of James Holden on the crew of the Rocinante. This story gives us a glimpse back into the boy he used to be and what kind of life he had before joining Holden’s crew. This young Amos has to kill, claw, and beat his way through life, not sure if the next day is a guarantee or not.

The Commentary: There is so much about The Churn that I want to gush about because I loved it so much, but the problem is, all of it will spoil the story in some fashion. The story isn’t long to begin with so I don’t want to risk ruining it for people. Instead, what I’ll say is that James S.A. Corey has put together a supporting story to the already established universe of The Expanse that really stand on its own. There could be a good argument made that it should have been a full-length book. I certainly would have devoured it in one sitting.

Needs More: Length. I loved everything about this novella and I just did not want it to end. I wish it could have been 150 pages instead of a mere 77 in length. Why, oh why can it not be longer?

Needs Less: There really isn’t anything I want less in this one. Everything was so tight and efficient when it comes to the writing that there wasn’t anything to find fault with.

Worth It? Yes. If you have read any of the other books in The Expanse, then you absolutely need to read this one. It provides some wonderful back story to a main character that you will not want to be without.

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Goodreads

Short Fiction Review: "Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome" by John Scalzi

UnlockedTitle: Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome
Author: John Scalzi
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: May 7, 2014
Length: 32 pages

Obtained: I bought a copy via Amazon.

The Plot: There is not a traditional plot to speak of with Unlocked. It’s an oral history, telling a story through interviews and statements made by the people who were affected in some fashion by the virus eventually known as Haden’s Syndrome. Some of these speakers are governmental officials, some are doctors, and others are the victims themselves in one fashion or another. The “plot” as it were progresses as the statements progress from ones detailing the initial outbreak through current practices for dealing with the syndrome along with every step in between.

The Commentary: John Scalzi is known for his addition of comedy to the stories he tells and the fun adventures his characters take you on when reading his books. With Unlocked, he is treading into a more serious, intensive world where people have been locked inside of their bodies, unable to speak or move, but with minds that are still aware of their surroundings and are still very much alive.

The novella’s format is not a traditional one, rather it’s a collection of statements or interviews made by various individuals involved in fighting the Haden’s Syndrome virus in some way. I have enjoyed this particular format ever since I read Max Brooks’ World War Z a couple of years ago, and to be honest, I wish it was used a little more often by authors who want to tell unique stories in a unique way. There is a distinct type of tone that using the oral history format bring out in a story and if done well, like in Unlocked and World War Z, it can really bring the story to life.

Going into Unlocked I wasn’t expecting to be presented with a world that is once again dealing with drastic and overwhelming human rights issues. I did not know from my limited knowledge about this world Scalzi has created that the rights of the handicapped, or the rights of the non-handicapped, etc were going to be a prevalent theme. I’m glad they are though because it added an immense amount of depth to the work. It also set the stage for Lock In later this year to deal more specifically with the issues. This approach really make Unlocked seem like a realistic possibility. It’s not just about fighting off a strange virus doing strange things to humanity. It’s a little bit about humanity itself.

Needs More: Clarification about who is currently speaking to the reader. The first time a character speaks their full title is revealed and each subsequent time the section only lists their name. The trouble is that with such short sections it is possible to get confused as to which official is speaking to you as the reader. In World War Z (a book of similar format) this problem didn’t arise because the interview sections were much longer and it was very clear when you were changing between individuals.

Worth It? Yes. The author has stated that reading Unlocked is not necessary in order to enjoy the forthcoming Lock In later this year, which is nice. However, I’m always a fan of more back story when it comes to the books I read, and at only 32 pages, this one takes a very small time commitment. I think it will have served me well when the full-length book set in the same world is sitting in front of me.

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Goodreads