Monday, August 1, 2011

Fiction Rave: Geoffrey A. Landis' Sultan

The last couple weeks I have read all of the short fiction nominees for the Hugos so I'd be prepared to vote. One thing I discovered is that I either love or hate novellas, and it usually comes down to the ending.

Geoffrey A. Landis delivers the goods with "The Sultan of the Clouds" (Asimov has made a PDF available for free). I initially doubted I'd enjoy the story. I was hoping for a fantasy, partially because my reading tastes seem to run contrary to the genre in which I'm writing, and because the title made me think fantasy as well. Instead, it opened on Mars and I wasn't looking forward to what seemed like it would be a hard science story.

However, although I think it would qualify as hard science, it had a number of steampunk touches and a sense of wonder that was reminiscent of some of the worlds that Dan Simmons created in his Hyperion series. My favorite touch was the idea of kayaking in floating vehicles through Venus's clouds.

This is thought-provoking fiction at its best. Worlds of wonder mixed with an unusual social arrangement (braided marriages) and a mystery lying at the heart of the story. Highly recommended.


  1. You have interested me in this. I don't really care for the hard science either. I'll see if I can find the PDF.

    Thank you.

  2. In a strange coincidence, I just read this story in "Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year," ed. by Jonathan Strahan. I'm not sure I feel the same as you do; it left me a bit cold (as a lot of hard science does). I think the sticking point with me was that Leah seemed to understand that she was being courted *by a child*, and yet was going along with it. Having said that, it's certainly thought-provoking, and the world Landis created is unlike any other I've read. And there are pirates! And, yes, the mystery at the heart was clever.

  3. @Kwee, I hope you enjoy.

    @Rebecca, I can understand the part that left you cold. There was also a weirdness in the relationship between Leah and David that felt strange. I think I was willing to forgive for the shiny ;)

  4. Interesting story! Not sure what I think about it. I think I need to ponder a little more. Gorgeous imagery though hrm.

  5. @Tessa, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts post-ponder. If I had to hazard a guess, I think it would be the combination of imagery, world-building, and ending that made this story stand out for me. Alas, I've been disappointed with a number of other novellas lately because of ending and that may also result in me liking this because it did reach what I felt was a valid conclusion.