Novella Review: Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Title: Elder Race

Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky

Series: N/A

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: Lynesse is the lowly Fourth Daughter of the queen, and always getting in the way. But a demon is terrorizing the land, and now she’s an adult (albeit barely) and although she still gets in the way, she understands that the only way to save her people is to invoke the pact between her family and the Elder sorcerer who has inhabited the local tower for as long as her people have lived here (though none in living memory has approached it). But Elder Nyr isn’t a sorcerer, and he is forbidden to help, for his knowledge of science tells him the threat cannot possibly be a demon… -Goodreads

The Review:

While a decent novella, this wasn’t my favorite work from Tchaikovsky by a long shot.

The main appeal was discovering what’s inside the structure on the cover and how it’s significant to the people of this world. That aspect was satisfying and actually a lot more reminiscent of his other works than I was expecting.

The best part of the story were the characters. The author played around with cultural communication barriers that added variety depending on which POV we were in. I liked that it wasn’t a blanket “technology will solve all of our problems” situation and certain discrepancies in language still existed. There were also a couple of… alternately composed humans (aquatic) that I wish had gotten more of a highlight. That’s the thing about Tchaikovsky’s works: he’s so creative that he just casually throws in ideas that could warrant entire books within themselves. He did the same thing in Children of Time. It’s so much fun to read, but occasionally you find yourself craving some elaboration on the minor stuff.

There was a technology that allowed the user to compartmentalize emotional reactions, where they could still tell they were having them, but didn’t have to feel them directly. This came at a cost, though, as you’d have to face the emotions eventually to avoid a mental breakdown. I loved this aspect and thought the way it was written into the story was brilliant. The “voice” of the character actively changed in the text depending on whether or not this technology was being used. And I thought it a clever way to give the character depth.

Even with great elements, what didn’t work for me was the pacing. A novella shouldn’t feel like it’s dragging with such a low page count. But I felt the good character moments and the plot reveals we’re just a little too staggered. All working towards and ending that was good, but not quite worth the lengthily build-up. I probably would’ve rated it a lot higher had it been a bit more concise. I think the culprit was a little too much introspection and reiteration of events. There were two POVs and we got internal accounts of everything from both sides. While seeing two such different viewpoints of the same situations was kind of the point of the book, I don’t think it needed to be time equally spent.

Recommendations: Elder Race is an interesting short story from an author shaping up to be a personal favorite, but if you’re new to his sci-fi works, this isn’t the best place to start (go with Children of Time… emphatically).

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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