[this is Tansy posting. Will remember to use my own login next time]
Can’t let Mondy have all the fun! You all missed me, right? Here we go, reading for 2011. Wheee!
This is the first of the Twelfth Planet Doubles in which the paired short stories are actually intended to be read together – Peek and Campisi, two Australian spec fic writers known for their experimental approach to short fiction, have collaborated on a shared story of floating cities, cut-throat politics, war, cancer and loss. When a city crashes to Dirt, there are stark ramifications both in the relative safety of the other cities above and the very vulnerable Dirt below.
Campisi’s “Above” tells the story of a diplomat sent from Dirt to prevent a war from the point of view of his uncomfortable host, while Peek’s “Below” has the rather more action-packed storyline of a native of Dirt dealing with the threat from the sky. Both stories reflect each other in multiple ways: the protagonists are broken men, dealing with dead/dying wives, and apparently unsuited to play host to diplomats. Both are surprised by what they learn of the ‘other’ world. Both are men with very little to lose, and a disassociation from their own culture. Above/Below does not provide nearly as many answers to the narrative questions raised with in the text as a reader might like, but both stories are cleverly and at times beautifully written, and the whole is worth far more than the sum of its parts.