Monday, December 01, 2008

The Del Rey Book: "Ardent Clouds"

"Ardent Clouds" from Lucy Sussex is the second story in The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time I've experienced Sussex's fiction.

This is a story which Abigail Nussbaum said "manages to be dull when talking about people who chase volcano eruptions". I only half agree with that sentiment. If one goes into the story looking for high adventure and actual volcano chasing, then yes, it is a disappointing story and I can see where Nussbaum is coming from. Not to say that she did expect high adventure, and the first three paragraphs do introduce the narrator as a volcano chaser who states right off "That's how I make my living, travellings from eruption to eruption, filming the biggest, most explosive, most uncontrollable things on earth" (pg 54). So, there is an expectation of excitement which "Ardent Clouds" never quite delivers.

With that said, I found "Ardent Clouds" to be a satisfying read. The story features Bet Murray, a documentary filmmaker with a love for volcanoes and a passion on getting the best and impossible shots when the volcanoes explode.

The story is much less about mountains which go boom and far more about Bet Murray, the person behind the occupation. Through Bet the reader sees the competitiveness and rivalries that can exist, the friendships that can develop, and the danger (of course).

In the context of what the story actually is, and not what one might think it should be, "Ardent Clouds" is a quietly beautiful story and one with some heartbreak.

Besides Nussbaum's valid criticism, the only other criticism I can see leveled at "Ardent Clouds" is that despite being included in a book titled The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, I'm not quite sure this story is really a genre story. It's a good story. From reading it, I want to read more from Sussex, but I'm not sure it really fits even a very liberal SFF definition.

Doesn't matter a lick to me, though. I'll take it.

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