Eugen Bacon, Broken Paradise, Luna Press, 2023.
Broken Paradise is, like many Eugen Bacon's stories, difficult to categorise. And this intriguing fantasy novella is also as usual with Bacon's stories, beautifully written.
Samaki is the daughter of the Goddess Mother, and the goddess of water herself. She feels apart in her family. Her mother seems to prefer her three brothers. So when she realises the three of them want to get rid of her she flees her paradise to a planet full of water and splits herself into four distinct persons, each with their own name, personality and power. But balance is a precarious thing.
CW: incestuous assault (early on, not detailed at all).
Broken Paradise is a tale in two parts: first you follow Samaki, but after her flight, you follow two of the persons she split into, Namulongo and Maé. It can wrongfoot the reader because as you begin rooting for Samaki, suddenly she isn't here anymore in a way--although she still is in another--and you're introduced to Namulongo and Maé.
Nonetheless, those two are wonderful characters, and Maé in particular, an older woman with a sarcastic sense of humour who takes care of the younger Namulongo. Their bickering and their way of facing together the obstacles ahead of them are a delight.
As in a myth, there are triads, quatuors, aspects of a god which are and aren't them. But unlike many myths, the characters aren't simply archetypes. Bacon questions identity through wants, goals, aspirations, and absence.
The worldbuilding is gorgeous. From the paradise of the first part to the almost organic submarine Maé and Namulongo live in, Bacon shows remarkable inventiveness. They also showcase the importance of the beauty of the world, an awe for it seeping in through many pages.
Broken Paradise explores the theme of family relationships, and in particular those between mother and daughter. As the child comes into her own and tries to find herself, she's up against others. Who she is, who she becomes, her relationship to her mother, all depend on how she'll react to the experiences she'll face.
The quest for dominance, grief, but also hope in what lives and exists are some of the themes of the novella and are beautifully served by Bacon's lyrical writing. She plays skillfully with her prose, alternating point of views, languages, cadences in her sentences.
Broken Paradise is another fine example of Eugen Bacon's remarkable prose, filled with inventiveness, escaping any category or little box, that sings an hymn to the world and reflects upon mother and daughter relationships, even the most strenuous ones.
Disclaimer: a free copy was received but with no obligation attached to review it.
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All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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