Contextualizing the contemporary Western situation with some simple but effective bits of far-future imagination, Liu keeps things relevant by understanding the idea that problems will always exist, and thus what matters is our approach—our attitude—toward them.
Pro: (…) The ending is heartwarming because, after all that time, Mia finally has the right words–and they’re noble, inspiring words.At the large-scale level, it’s a great description of human evolution and transformation into a galaxy-spanning civilization–if civilization is even the right word for something so grand.
Con: There’s little action and no tension in the story, which mostly consists of a recitation of events that transpired.
While this story doesn’t seem to be as free from a sort of historical dualism (which leads to a tincture of human self-loathing which is mostly balanced by an explicit appreciation of our “wondrous” quality) as it is from the human vs. nature dualism that it explicitly disavows and does seem like yet another climate change story at first, it does move on to bigger and better things which do involve mega-engineering and a bit of “gosh wow” and is a good execution of the tried-and-true and fitting “time lapse” structure.
What did you think of “Seven Birthdays”? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments!
Tolmie has a careful, controlled, poised style that is the epitome of elegance – a kind of literary dressage, or dancing, in fact. Her poetical investigations into human rituals, creativity and modes of belief make her fiction some of the most interesting new work around at the moment.
This is a long and intricate story that unfolds like a dance, a very fascinating portal fantasy that looks very different from what I’m used to. It features a woman taken from a world that sounds very much like our own and put into a place that is basically one huge house. One enormous building with floors connected by a very special stairway. And it’s a great reversal of what normally happens in portal fantasies, where the main character is some sort of Chosen One. Here the woman is the lowest of the low, without the currency that would make her even able to leave the stairs she finds herself on. What follows is a rough education and the slow reveal of this society. […]
It’s a great and moving story that’s enchanting and magical and elegantly layered. An excellent read!