Friday, November 30, 2012

REVIEW: A Wind Out of Canaan

Title: A Wind Out of Canaan
Author: Sally Gwylan
Genre: alternate history, science fiction
Price: $2.99 Kindle
Publisher: Birds Nest Press
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

POD People receives a number of unsolicited review requests.  In fact, we average around 20 such requests a week.  Deciding which request you’ll accept is difficult, so when I saw Sally Gwylan’s note that parts of the story had been published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, I decided that was a signal that this would be a good story.  I was mostly right.

A Wind Out Of Canaan is set in the Great Depression, and starts by having Phillipa, a young girl who has become a hobo, struggling to get into a “jungle” or hobo camp.  This particular jungle is in an abandoned icehouse in Minnesota, and Phillipa is being held up by a blizzard – an unusually early one at that.  As the story progresses, Phillipa discovers that the foreigners – “Wobs” (short for “Wobblies” or members of the International Workers of the World, a radical trade union) running the camp aren’t from Europe.  Wherever they are from, they access home via a powerful energy portal.

This portal malfunctions, killing several hobos and burning down the icehouse.  The story is then one of survival as the remaining hobos have to find a new home.  Also, one of the surviving Wobs wants to go to Saint Paul, where he can link up with the rest of his group. 

I really wanted to like the story, and it is written well enough.  Sally Gwylan is a graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop, so she has some professional cred.  However, I’m not a fan of the story.

My first problem was that the “Wobs from space” (or wherever they are from – it’s not explained in the book) felt unnecessary.  The whole story felt to me as if Gwylan had taken a perfectly-good story about a girl in the Great Depression and bolted on some vague science fiction in order to make it fit a market.  This bolt-on made the story feel padded, because I kept waiting to find out more about the science fiction.

My second problem was with the ending.  I don’t want to give away too much of the ending, but there was no real conclusion to the story.  The book just ended, leaving pretty much everything unresolved.  In short, I can’t really recommend this story.


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