Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week :: The Green by Lauren Beukes

With Amy taking over the current Battle of the Books, I've had some time to catch up on my short fiction reading, which means the Story Recommendation of the Week is back for at least a few weeks. The first of our new SROTWs goes to Lauren Beukes for "The Green," from the anthology Armored, edited by John Joseph Adams.

Armored is a Baen Books anthology involving future (well, mostly future) soldiers in powered battle armor. I'm not a big military SF reader, so I wasn't sure this would be my cup of tea -- I should have had more faith in J.J. Adams. This is a very strong anthology. While there is enough straight military SF in here to satisfy readers looking for that, Armored features a surprisingly broad range of different styles and approaches to the "armor" theme. More importantly, it contains a lot of terrific writing. I'm going to highlight two of the individual pieces here, beginning with "The Green."

"The Green" has a military feel, but without any organized enemy. Rather, the story's armed soldiers are explorers and miners, searching for commercially useful alien flora in the tropical region they call the "Green":
Green is the wrong word for it. You'd only make that mistake from the outside. When you're in the thick of it, it's black. The tangle of the canopy blocks out the sunlight. It's the murky gloom after twilight, before real dark sets in. Visibility is five meters, fifteen with headlights, although the light attracts moths, which get into the vents. Pollen spores swirl around you, big as your head. Sulfur candy floss. And everything is moist and sticky and fertile. Like the whole jungle is rutting around us.
One remarkable form of native life is a type of slime mold that can animate the dead. Our characters' base is haunted by several of these reanimated corpses, which the corporate employer charmingly designates OPP's ("Organically Preserved Personnel") but the soldiers call Pinocchios.

I love the voice of this piece. Lauren Beukes creates a miserable setting, but the story is still fun to read, thanks to our first-person narrator and her wise-guy 'tude.

South African writer Lauren Beukes made a big splash with her first novel Moxyland, and her second novel Zoo City won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. She also writes for film, TV, comics, and non-fiction magazines, all of which we hope won't keep her from writing plenty more of her distinctive fiction.

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