Dan Grace, Winter, Unsung Stories, 2016.
In the last year, Unsung Stories has become fast one of my favourite SFF publishers as I have yet to find a story they have published and that I didn't like. And Winter, a fantasy novella set in the near future but steeped in the supernatural, is no exception.
They were four fleeing the city: Adam, Leila, May and Anil. Only three made it past the border between England and Scotland to a house lost in the snow and the woods owned by Adam's parents. There, they find two intruders, Mikhail and Ingold, who also fled the second English Revolution.
Winter is a very short novella: at 60 pages or so, I read it in one sitting. But it was also because I was hypnotized by the cadence of the story. It is a slow beat, as a winter landscape, poetic and evocative.
It is also very allusive: the reasons Adam, Leila and May fled are only slowly revealed and the wider events are glimpsed through snatches of a History essay titled The Second English Revolution.
The theme of the novella isn't that near future revolution, nor it is the fantasy world brought by the character of Mikhail. It is redemption. In this slow snowy world, full of wild winter creatures, Adam, Leila and May will have to come to terms with what came to pass and to choose what they are responsible for.
It isn't a novella for someone who is looking for an unabashed action story. Nothing much happens, the strands of the story are non linear and weave themselves slowly. But it is, paradoxically, in this inaction that action is put into question. Winter would be a wonderful companion to The Just Assassins by Camus, which precedes action, while Winter follows it.
Winter won't be for every SFF reader and it's one of these stories that happily blur the genres between fantasy, science-fiction and so-called literary. But if you are in the mood for something poetic and short about human nature, then it'll be the perfect read for you.
A free copy was received in exchange for an honest review on Amazon but with no obligation attached to review it on The Middle Shelf.
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