Saturday, December 22, 2012

Burn, by James Patrick Kelly

I have read Burn before, but didn't know that when I started and have not reviewed it, so now I will.  I can see that I didn't understand it fully as I only gave it 2 stars that first time.  It's a four star.  It got a Nebula award and Hugo nomination for best novella of 2006, and well deserved.

How do you keep them down on the farm once they see the city lights?  That's the starting premise behind the story, but Kelly's stories never stay simple.  Even though our protagonist Spur is a farmer living a simple life on Walden, named for Thoreau's simple paradise.  Its simplicity is enforced by compact--the rest of humanity has gone in for radical progress on the Thousand Worlds, and is quite far along.  Spur discovers all this quite by accident, being exposed to "upsider" technology while being healed of burns suffered fighting a forest fire.  Walden has its own conflict with the "pukpuks", people left over from the first colonization.

The story builds gradually from its accidental seed, and is still building when it comes to an end.  There is obviously room for sequels, but it doesn't seem like that was the intent.  The hints at larger things are just an extension of the story, shedding light on Spur's development as he struggles to choose between his old life and a possible new one.  It's a dandy of a story, and though I had marked it as "a good read" I don't recall it at all, so the reread was worthwhile.  Go read it and enjoy.

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