Saturday, January 9, 2016

Interim Errantry (Young Wizards 9.3, 9.5, 9.7), by Diane Duane

Errantry Press, October 2015

This is a collection of three shorter Young Wizards stories.

Not On My Patch is a Halloween novella. It's a fun holiday for the wizards, because it's one of the few occasions on which they can be relatively open with their magic--and this year, it's Tom and Carl's turn to host the "haunted house" that rotates among the local senior wizards. At the start of the story, Nita is reluctant to cut into the pumpkin that is supposed to be the Callahan family's jack o'lantern, but she finally does what any wizard would do: asks it. Jackie has an entirely different perspective on life and death than animal life, and is happy to be a jack o'lantern. Nita's wizard friends are a little amused when they realize she's named it, slightly concerned when she refers to Jackie as "he," and of course it's inevitable that Jackie will become a key factor in resisting a sneak attack by the Lone Power, who tries to make Halloween really scary again. This was a lot of fun.

How Lovely Are Thy Branches is a novelette featuring the young wizards' old friend Filif, the tree-like alien wizard who was a houseguest of the Callahans in a previous adventure. Thanksgiving is coming, and Nita is having a very hard time with this first Thanksgiving without her mother. She wishes they could skip right to Christmas--and Kit's sister Carmella pulls Nita into planning a holiday party and sleepover for a few days before Christmas. The guest list will include their offworld wizard friends, including Filif--who has been excited about Christmas ever since he learned Earth people had a holiday involving bringing trees inside and decorating them. This one, unfortunately, is a nice enough story, but very slight.

Lifeboats is a short novel, and the real meat of this collection. The planet of Teveral is about to become uninhabitable; its moon, Thesba, is starting to break up and will rain its fragments down on the planet. There's very little time to move the inhabitants and enough of their biosphere elsewhere to save them, and the job is complicated by the fact that not all the Teveralites are willing to go. It's a huge undertaking, and Nita, Kit, and Ronan are among the wizards drafted to help manage the worldgates that will transfer those willing to evacuate to their new homes. Nita and Kit are assigned to different areas, and Kit spends his off-shift time getting to know colleagues of species he hasn't encountered before, and the Teveralites' octopus-like pets, called sibiks. One of those sibiks gets lost from its owners, who are among the natives refusing to leave, and begs crackers from Kit. And as Kit gets to know this particular sibik, and realizes how much he wants to get back to his family, he also finds an important clue to why so many are refusing to leave. This might be the key to making this intervention more successful than anyone had hoped. This is the strongest of the three stories, and it's funny, heartbreaking, and moving by turns. And while I'm not sure about the other two, this one is published in this collection for the first time, and is Hugo-eligible for the 2016 awards at MidAmericonII.

The is is a very satisfying collection for fans of the Young Wizards. Recommended.

I bought this book.