Posted by: Matt Y | 06/13/2015

Review: Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium is a story about honoring the last wish of a friend

Early Immersion – Story starts with establishing two characters who walk into kind of an alien mausoleum, with one character trying to talk the other out of it. As beginings go there’s not much of a narrative hook in the opening, but for a novelette it also has a lot of information to deliver so while not the most exciting opening to immerse readers with it sets the stage well.

Immersion is maintained – Story seems torn between building the world and history of the settlement and the personal tragedy and vendetta. Because of this I didn’t feel like I got a good sense of either. I know humans are there and the aliens beat them some time ago and laid down rules for the human settlers, I just didn’t understand why they stay there or why they haven’t received help. I get why the dying man would want to use his last act on those that killed his wife but the man also understood the cultural differences and that the aliens hold his wife in high esteem and have given her their highest honor. Yet he want to offend the aliens with his final act regardless of the potential consequences for the rest of the humans on the planet. I never felt immersed in what was going on enough for immersion to be broken.

There is a plot – None really. First half is stage setting amd the second half is a character trying to get permission to bury his friend. He gets it with little effort. There’s no struggle, or tension built towards a climatic moment.

There are characters – There are two main characters, of them one is mostly in the tale to spite the aliens in death, and the other is a friend and our narrator who things happen around but we don’t get much of a sense of who he is. The aliens are the antagonists and yet the story gives us more understanding of their customs, culture and motives. As such I had more empathy for them then the main characters which is a problem.

There is foreshadowing and it doesn’t suck – We know right from the beginning that the dying character is trying to stick it to the aliens, so sure, why not.

There are no gaping plot holes – I’m not sure why the humans stick around, or much less why if the aliens think that the humans going underground to mine is nearly a sacrilegious thing why they do they allow them to keep doing and profiting from it? If killing one main person considered winning a fight for the aliens, why don’t the humans just do that?

Pacing is appropriate – It’s a lot of constant info dumping.

The piece has an emotional payoff – Not really, even after everything that goes on we know the actions of the characters annoy the aliens but the book fades out before we find out the aftermath.

Ashes to Ashes is a strange story. By the end I thought the dying dude was kind of a dick to the aliens who gave his wife their greatest honor. While they might not’ve understood the cultural differences between the races at the time the main characters realize those differences now and are intentionally subverting them to piss the aliens off. The dying guy sort of forces the idea to do so on his friend guilt trip style knowing he doesn’t have to deal with the aftermath of his cultural insult.

One Puppy Metric of Judgement: Unworthy

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