Rist is a young man of prosperous and high-ranking family in the frozen north. His family sells icebergs to ice merchants who guide them south to the Warm Lands and sell them there. Rist and his twin brother Rusk have traveled north to see the source of the icebergs; Rist decides to travel south with the ice merchants to see the Warm Lands and what they do with the ice.
He's a likable young man, with a lively curiosity, and as he sees lands, sights, and people he's never seen before, his mind opens wider, and he makes notes on everything he sees, and his thoughts about it, to take home to his father and brother. In the tradition of science fiction travelogues, it's a good one.
There's an adventure involved, including Rist running afoul of the priests in the Warm Lands city of God's Port, and we become caught up in his quest to avoid capture and return home. All is going well, in the "tell me a good story" sense, when, unfortunately, it just stops, with Rist out of the priests' territory, further south than ever, having discovered that there is another settlement beyond what he thought was the end of the world.
And that's where it stops. He and we don't even see the people, or get close to doing so. The story Just Stops.
As the opening section of a novel, this is great. As a complete novella nominated as a complete story, not so much. I don't think it's asking too much that a nominated piece actually fit its category in ways beyond arbitrary word count. This doesn't. It's not a novella; it's a novel fragment.
There's also the awkward fact that women are apparently just sex objects in this world. The only woman mentioned in Rist's homeland is Mel, his "birther." She is only referred to, not even seen. We see women in the Warm Lands, but none of them are named, none of them speak, and the only occupation mentioned is that of whore. It's annoying, though honestly, I could have excused it, if Andrews had delivered on an actual story.
Most of the way through, I had real hopes for this one. Sadly, not recommended.