#BookReview: The Mausoleum’s Children by Aliette de Bodard

#BookReview: The Mausoleum’s Children by Aliette de Bodard"The Mausoleum's Children" by Aliette de Bodard in Uncanny Magazine Issue 52, May-June 2023 by Aliette de Bodard
Format: ebook
Source: supplied by publisher via Hugo Packet
Formats available: magazine, ebook
Genres: Dark Fantasy, science fiction, short stories
Series: Uncanny Magazine Issue 52
Pages: 20
Published by Uncanny Magazine on May 2, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

The May/June 2023 issue of Hugo Award-winning Uncanny Magazine .

Featuring new fiction by Aliette de Bodard, Kylie Lee Baker, Lindsey Godfrey Eccles, Fran Wilde, Ewen Ma, Theodora Ward, and K.S. Walker. Reprint fiction by Chimedum Ohaegbu. Essays by Caroline M. Yoachim, LaShawn M. Wanak, Hana Lee, and Sam J. Miller, poetry by Nnadi Samuel, Jennifer Mace, Tehnuka, and Angela Liu, interviews with Kylie Lee Baker and Ewen Ma by Caroline M. Yoachim, a cover by Antonio Caparo, and an editorial by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas.

Uncanny Magazine is a bimonthly science fiction and fantasy magazine first published in November 2014. Edited by 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, & 2022 Hugo award winners for best semiprozine, and 2018 Hugo award winners for Best Editor, Short Form, Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, Meg Elison, and Monte Lin, each issue of Uncanny includes new stories, poetry, articles, and interviews.

My Review:

Welcome back to my bounce through this year’s Hugo nominations. Today’s foray into my quest to read the nominees that I didn’t get to last year is back in the Best Short Story (under 7,500 words) nominees with Aliette de Bodard’s “The Mausoleum’s Children”.

I put this particular story towards the front of the list because of the author. I’ve very much enjoyed her Universe of Xuya series – which is nominated for Best Series, BTW – and hoped for something in that series – although I should have known better because that’s against the rules – or at least something like that series – which would have been allowed.

I didn’t get what I was hoping for, but I think it did help that I have dipped into Xuya, as this is a story about returning to a place of former trauma, which just so happens to be a crashed ships’ graveyard.

Those crashed ships were once the kind of ship minds – at least sorta/kinda – who are some of the marvelous characters in Xuya. So I had the feeling this story was walking through their graves – and that bits of those minds still lingered, battered and broken and lost in endless nightmares.

But they’re not really the story. Instead, the story follows one human – or maybe I should say one person – who escaped from that ships’ graveyard as a child. Thuận Lộc is now an adult, forever scarred by her experiences, never fitting in anywhere in the world outside the mausoleum and desperate enough to return and attempt to save the people with whom she belongs – even if that attempt might mean her death.

In other words, she’s been living her whole, entire, supposedly ‘free’ life with a heaping helping of survivor’s guilt and she’s come to the conclusion that the only way out is through. One way or another.

Escape Rating B-: There’s a lot to unpack in this story and perhaps the suitcase it’s packed in wasn’t quite big enough in the first place.

The obvious bit is wrapped around Thuận Lộc’s need to belong, her guilt about not bringing her peeps out with her, and her attempt to assuage just a piece of that trauma. But there’s also more than a bit about abuse and its victims, Stockholm Syndrome writ very, very large, and the rapaciousness of greed for power in all forms and the way that some people try to escape evil by getting on top of it or allowing themselves to be co-opted by it.

I was, honestly, hoping for better from this story than I got. It wasn’t bad, I did like the central character and did feel for her, but the ending only worked because I was equating the ships in the mausoleum to the living ships from Xuya and that wasn’t in the text at all, it’s just the connection my brain went to in order to grasp something.

The premise at the heart of the story, trauma and survivors’ guilt and Stockholm Syndrome and the dangers of getting sucked back in but needing to go to expiate one’s demons – well, that’s been done much, much better in Premee Mohamed’s The Butcher of the Forest – a story that seems even better in comparison with “The Mausoleum’s Children”.

Two down in the Short Story category, four to go in the weeks ahead.

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