You can read Dislocation Space by Garth Nix for free at Tor.com!
A Soviet political prisoner is ordered to use her unique talents to explore a strange scientific phenomenon. It could be a trap…or a way out.Brief Summery from Tor.com
This is a story i was drawn into almost immediately, which is can go two ways: either it lives up to my expectations or it doesn’t. This one was a bit of a mixed bag if I’m being honest. There are things that bother me about the story on a structural level but the story and character of Aleksandra is so compelling that I was willing to ignore it the majority of the time.
I like how this story opens up with a classic spy-thriller feel to it. None of the characters are given names and there is this third-person narrative voice that feels like its presenting a bunch of facts about the “mission” to come. In this case, there’s a female protagonist (GASP!). We can pretend all we want but usually this type of writing features a male protagonist with a female on-the-side, so it was nice to switch things up.
It’s interesting to have a story that revolves around a contortionist. Maybe I’m unaware of a larger market but that’s not usually what gets focused on in any genre, let alone ones about Soviet spies. It’s a take on warfare I wouldn’t have thought of and yet it also seems logical once Nix has pointed it out to me. Moreover, the descriptions of Aleksandra using her talent to wiggle through tunnels in amazing! There’s so much attention to detail. Definitely not the kind of thing to read if dislocated shoulders make you squeamish.
This is a story that takes a little while to find its pacing–at least that’s what it felt like for me. This is usually a fine thing: introduce the world, the main characters, the overall feel of the story. But as soon as it is in a shortened form it becomes a problem. Novels have hundreds of pages to tell their story but short fiction does not (as the name would suggest), so it was a bit disappointing to have it take so long to set up the conflict in any great detail.
To make is worse, it made the ending feel a little rushed for me. Maybe this was because I wanted to know what happened next, or what was going on with the Original. Maybe I wanted to know whether I was in a spy thriller or science fiction since this story does a bit of a 180 in the middle. But I think there had to be a quicker way of orienting the reader in the story that would have left some breathing room.
Though it might seem like I’m being a bit hard on this story, it definitely had me hooked by the middle. Sure, there are things I wished I could know more about but that’s just the nature of short fiction–the author can’t tell you all the things. And even if the pacing did lose me a little around the first quarter mark, it was only because I had been intrigued by the story from the first paragraph and wanted to know what was going on so badly.