Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Nebula Award Nominee: "Dark Heaven"

"Dark Heaven"
Gregory Benford
Nominated for the Nebula Award: Novella

Originally published in Mike Resnisck's Alien Crimes anthology and reprinted in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection, "Dark Heaven" is Gregory Benford's deep South detective story. A body was discovered. An apparent drowning victim, except for some strange puncture wounds that have no obvious cause. Detective McKenna follows the case from the discovery of the body all the way through to resolution, a case which features illegal immigrants, dingy bars, and aliens - all wrapped together in an authentic package.

This was my first chance (I think) to read Gregory Benford and though the solid (yet somewhat weary) eyes of McKenna, "Dark Heaven" is a very grounded story. It's about the investigation. The aliens, though they play an important role late in the story, are discussed as if semi-commonplace. They don't fit into the lives of most of the hardscrabble people McKenna has to deal with. They're almost besides the point.

That's what I liked about "Dark Heaven. Benford's prose is to the point. It conveys information without being flashy and kicks the story along without getting bogged down with jargon or aliens. "Dark Heaven" is science fiction, don't get me wrong, but it is science fiction about an investigation - about a possible murder. The story is key here and that's what makes it work.

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