Posted by Sari
Category 22: An SF Novella: Aliette de Bodard: The Tea Master and the Detective, Sarah Gailey: River of Teeth
Novellas have been en vogue now for few years. They are easy to read on e-readers, and publishers such as tor.com and PS publishing have issued beautiful book editions of original novellas. But with the popularity there has been some developments that i find annoying. Specifically, an increasing numbers of novellas have cliff-hanger endings or are otherwise clearly part of a continuing saga. I have no problem with novellas situated in a same world or even with novellas with same characters. But if you can't fit your story into a novella, write a godamned novel - do not make audience to buy it piece by piece. Or worse yet, publish first as novellas and then collect the bits into a novel. With some extra material, so people buy them all.
First one of my picks, The Tea Master and the Detective is part of Aliette's vietnamise-inspired Xuya-universe, and is the second loose re-telling of the Study in Scarlett on my list. Here Watson, Shadow's Child, is a veteran mindship, discharged from the service and Holmes is Long Chau, an abrasive scholar in search of a body.
Like pretty much everybod, I loved The Tea Master and the Detective. The worldbuilding is great, the Holmes pastiche clever and not too front and center, and the story has narrative force and is just the length it needs to be. Brilliant.
The other Novella I picked for this category - there were many others - is Sarah Gailey's River of Teeth. It is a hilarious high-concept thing: A werstern in the Mississippi delta where cowboys ride hippos. If that sounds mad, please remember, that there was an actual scheme to introduce hippos to Louisana bayous as cattle in the 19th-century.
Winslow Houndstooth is a hippo wrangler, they and their crack team is hired to catch ferocious feral hippos. There is also a river boat with gamblers, a dam to keep hippo's from getting further out of countrol, gunslingers, gansters and climactic scene at the end. I liked a lots of things in this one. The story is mad, the main characters are all genders, the hippos themselves are both extremely adorable and vicious beasts, and the Gailey uses the tropes of western excellently. The only reason this was number two on my Hugo ballot instead of number one is, that it ends in a cliffhanger and thus in my opinion is not a real Novella.
Yogi Throat Comfort
When you have a sore throat and want something warm, tea is a traditional choice. The warmth makes it feel good, but I find that actual tea sort of dries the throat, even with honey. This infusion does not taste that good, but it does work on sore throat. It is made out of Licorice root, slippery elm bark, fennel and orange peel. Slippery elm is supposed to have all sorts of health benefits, believe that if you will, but this mixture does really help with irritation in the throat. Which is good because - as I said - the taste is funky. I think it is the licorice and fennell which throw the taste off so that it is a bit weird.