Wednesday, June 30, 2010

2010 Hugo nominee, novelette: "It Takes Two" by Nicola Griffith (Eclipse Three)

This is another story that it’ll be hard to discuss without spoilers, as a lot of the narrative depends on a late twist.

Cody is a successful young businesswoman working on a big deal. She also happens to have an erotic fantasy based around a female stripper that she made the mistake of revealing to some of her colleagues during a drunken night in Texas. To close out the deal, she has to survive a night of carousing with a bunch of men at a strip club in Texas. From there, the story takes a few interesting turns, including the eventual twist that puts this story in the realm of speculative fiction (though it remains very grounded throughout). The basic question that her story asks is “what is love?” Where does a scientific understanding of love leave us? How much free will do we have in love? As one cynical character states near the end of the story, “Love’s just biochemical craziness designed to make us take a leap in the dark.”

It’s an interesting question, I guess, though it seems to trip up the characters a lot more than it would me. And, the story does seem to stack the deck in a lot of different ways to increase the conflicts raised by the question. For instance, I liked the prose in general, but there are a few descriptive passages that feel like generic erotica (i.e., the sex has to be super-awesome and mind blowing). I’m not sure this sort of idealized fantasy sexuality has any place in a story that wants to examine human relationships in a serious way. There are a lot of character motivations that remain obscure as well.

This was an enjoyable read, but I don’t think it’s nearly as interesting as it could have been.

Grade: B

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