Monday, June 20, 2011

2011 Hugo Nominee: Novelette - "Eight Miles" by Sean McMullen (Analog, September 2010)

Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity to have everything you ever wanted…one moment, would you let it slip?

...Wait, this isn’t the Eminem movie, Eight Mile, but it is eerily similar. Instead of a struggling young man in Detroit who dreams of succeeding in rap battles, we get an obsessed scientist in the nineteenth century struggling to prove his theory of human evolution by taking a batwoman he bought from a circus to a high altitude in a hot air balloon. Plagiarize much, McMullen?

That’s actually not exactly the plot, as there are a few twists in this brief story. The story is narrated by balloonist Harold Parkes as he becomes obsessed with achieving higher and higher altitudes in helping mad scientist Lord Gainsley high enough that his oxygen deprived “werefox” “Angelica” will get her mental facilities back. There’s not a lot of action in the story, but it does manage to evoke a sense of high adventure, sweeping vistas, and old school science fiction in just a few pages. McMullen’s prose doesn’t have quite the vivid flare (or verbosity) of nineteenth-century prose, which always bothers me in Victoriana, and we really only get a sketch of the situation. But, this was a fun tale that captured my imagination.

Grade: B+

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