Sunday, December 20, 2009

"First Flight", by Mary Robinette Kowal

Sunday, December 20, 2009
Why, oh, why did I wait so long to read “First Flight”? It is not as if I needed to be convinced that Mary Robinette Kowal is a fabulous short story writer. “First Flight” is fantastic, charming, whimsical (sort of), and wonderful. This is a story which features time travel, only the farthest back anyone can be sent is to the day of their birth. Eleanor Louise Jackson is, according to the story, well over 100 years old and was born on the day of the Wright Brothers first flight. Not the second and more famous one, but the one that really proved it was possible.

Eleanor is sent back to covertly get footage for the future of that first, truly historic flight. The story has Louise interacting with the Wrights, as well as a younger boy from the era and how she talks and what she reveals is quite interesting. Even more fascinating is her conversations with the scientists from her time.

“Young lady,” Louise snapped at Dr. Connelly like one of her own children, “I’ve lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Collapse. I lived through race riots, saw us put men on the moon, the Spanish Flu, AIDS, the Titanic, Suffrage and the Internet. I’ve raised five children and buried two, got twenty-three grandchildren, eleven great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren with more on the way. And you have the nerve to say I don’t understand history?”
In the end, though, what makes “First Flight” such a charming delight is the ease of Kowal’s prose and the storytelling. This is just a delightful story and it is one readers will wish was longer. While it is questionable if there could be any more Jackson stories, Kowal’s handling of time travel and the sorts of stories that would inevitably come from this. It’s reminiscent of Kage Baker’s Company stories, only better. And no cyborgs. But that’s okay.


Tia Nevitt said...

I loved this story as well. It was utterly adorable and has me really looking forward to reading more of her stuff.

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