Monday, September 7, 2015

Hic Sunt Monstra, by Brian Trent

Galaxy's Edge, September 2015
http://www.galaxysedge.com/n7.htm

A small human colony on an only somewhat-hospitable world is confronted every spring by the return of the colossi, large creatures that might be somewhat elephant-like in appearance. These colossi form out of the melting and refreezing ice.

They are ice-borne memories of a species the humans wiped out not long after their arrival, because they were competing for resources, eating the only human-edible plant life on the planet. (Or, perhaps, the only plant life; there are some problems of scale here.) Every year, when the ice colossi return, the humans re-enact the hunt in which they wiped out the real colossi. It's worth noting that this isn't just ritual; the ice colossi move around, behave like real colossi, and are very dangerous.

Meanwhile, the humans are hungry most of the time, due to the fact that the plants the colossi were competing for aren't recovering in numbers and distribution.

Maybe the humans have made an awful mistake.

We see the story from the viewpoint of a young boy and his friends, one of whom lost her father to a colossus attack, which helped fuel the extermination of the species. On a human level, this story works very, very well. I'm completely drawn in to Bill, Jillian, and their friends and neighbors.

But.

I mentioned a scale problem. This is a world large enough that any difference from Earth gravity doesn't get mentioned. It holds an atmosphere thick and almost-friendly enough that they only use rebreathers, not space suits. It defies reason that there are only two significant life forms on this world, and just one, very localized, population of each, so that when the humans have wiped out the colossi near their settlement, they've wiped out all the colossi.

A fun read, but I don't expect this to be anywhere near my 2016 Hugo ballot.