Monday, October 10, 2011

Fiction Rave: Michael Swanwick and Sweden

I've been traveling in Sweden for the past three weeks, which is one of the reasons I have posted less frequently. I took my kindle with me as well as a bunch of short fiction. It was a particular treat to read Michael Swanwick's The Dala Horse while I was in Sweden because it's set there, and there are some subtle things in the story that are particularly Swedish and fun to pick out kind of like showing up at a football match and discovering a Where's Waldo hiding in the stands. I.e. you don't have to know anything about Sweden to enjoy the story, but if you're looking you might see a couple things that aren't entirely explained for the reader.

The Dala Horse is a traditional wood-carved horse found in Sweden, but my favorite little tidbit of Swedish-ness was the references to the protagonists grandmother. Swedish has different words for the grandmother on your mother's side as opposed to your grandmother on your fathers side (mormor vs. farmor) and the story uses this when the protagonist is sent to her grandmother's house. The words aren't directly explained, but probably sufficient exposition is given to get across the point or at least make an unaware reader think the two different grandmothers have different pet names. Other tidbits of Swedish culture include a troll as one of the main characters, spruce trees, and snow.

The story is a post-apocalyptic science-fiction story told from the point of view of someone who doesn't really understand a culture so it sometimes comes across more as magic and science fiction. Because she makes her quest to her grandmother's house on foot, through a forest, it has a touch of Little Red Riding Hood feel to it and begins to feel more like fantasy. Yet, the talking knapsack and map both imbued with an AI insures the future here. Much of the conflict involves these AI creatures who become more than just simple helpmates and move into the area of actively manipulating humans.


  1. You've sold me. I'm adding this one to my to-read list.

  2. Read it! Beautiful mix of folktale and science fiction. I think the fact that Linnea was such a young child added to that sense of wonder.

  3. @Loren, hope you enjoy.

    @Tessa, yes, Linnea's youth adds to the feeling of folktale and its sense of wonder.