A Woman’s Liberation 1994 4/5 Stars
Another Hain novella, this one narrated by an “asset” or in our words, slave. In this particular society, these assets are total slaves to their masters through legal status, through training, and through their utter dependence to the system itself. Our narrator, used and abused by her masters, in this particular society, all women, she finds herself liberated by order of fiat by her new master.
This presents a real problem. Like in much of the US after emancipation, and worse still during slavery, a legal document freeing someone from slavery doesn’t knit the relationship between that person and that society back together in anything resembling unity. That society doesn’t exist for that freed person at all. And in fact, their freedom is a deeply troubling problem for them to solve. So the violence that was implied and secret that kept them bonded in the first often becomes and became explicit and physical in its nature to correct the errors of freedom. This novella is prescient in that sense that it tracks along American history and society’s outward hatred of freed Blacks, but still so in the US’s discomfort with Black Americans today, as well as recent immigrants. This is an interesting novella that deals with the issues surrounding freedom and gender, the explicit importance of sexual freedom, and the complications of o simply upending the status quo, however unjust it may happen to be. Those who are interested in tearing down institutions (justly or not) have to reckon with the fallout.
Old Music and the Slave Women – 3/5 Stars
Another Hainish novella. Like the ones before this one deals a lot with ideas about slavery, sexual politics, gender, and various topics.
In this one, Old Music, a transliteration of his other name, a member of the Ekumenical something or other, has been captured by a regional government and imprisoned as a slave and held under suspicion of colluding with some kind of rebel force. He denies it, and he’s telling the truth, but they don’t care. His capture is a prize to have been won.
I will be honest, I didn’t get a lot out of this one. It felt fine and good. But I think it was lacking something that was going to hold me. Maybe my mind was drifting as I read, but otherwise, I don’t actually remember a lot of what happened here. Perhaps it blended too much with the previous entry and I needed some kind of break from Hain. Another possibility is that even x number of novellas into the Hainish works, I don’t quite have a foothold on what happens in this culture. I think moving forward, I will break from the novellas, and read one or more of the novels. Perhaps that will give me a better sense of it.
The Finder 4/5 stars
An Earthsea novella. And in its own ways, a mini-epic. Like Hain, I haven’t read almost any of the Earthsea books and this one suggests maybe I will in the future. I suppose what I like about this world so far is that the powers that people have just aren’t all that powerful. They are useful and they are interesting and there’s a world surrounding the them.
It reminded me a lot of the Witcher video games. In the Witcher, you play a singular character named Geralt, who is a hunter of rare creatures. You have some very limited magical skills, non-divine fighting prowess, and in general you’re very good at what you do, possibly the best, but not world-changingly great.
In this story, the main character had a lot of these same traits. His skills were impressive; he was possibly the best at what he did, but he wasn’t saving the world. Instead, this was simply the story of his life told within a much much larger world. I grew up playing RPGs and still read a medium amount of Fantasy novels and the impulse to make the main characters the “chosen one” is too tempting for some authors who might be better served just telling a good story and leaving it at that.
This did that one.