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Driftwood, by Marie Brennan

Review copy provided by the publisher. Also the author has been a friend of mine for Quite Some Time Now.

This is what used to be called a fix-up: where an author has published multiple stories in a setting, with one or more characters in continuity, and they go and write material that goes between the stories and make a book out of it. Driftwood is a really fertile setting for the fix-up that bears its name, because it features a potentially infinite number of worlds colliding, annihilating in slow-motion and leaving scraps of people and customs as they go. A Driftwood story could feature nearly any ideas, brought in from another wave of worlds.

The continuity in this book is provided by the character Last, undying, wandering from world to world. The other characters aren’t quite sure what to make of Last–Last is not always sure what to make of himself–but sometimes having a guide is enough, even if you’re not sure what he’s doing until the end of the section–or after. The nature of Driftwood gives a chance for others to serve as foils for Last in different directions–almost in a Doctor Who style, where part of the Doctor’s differences are due to his Companions at the time. But Driftwood steers clear of our history, its cults and cultures its own, its fate its own–and Last is shaping his own fate too.

I had a good time with this even though I’d read some of the stories already. Having them in a different context illuminates them differently–and, of course, you may not have read any of them at all. It works perfectly well as an introduction to this setting, no preparation required. Just dive in…perhaps a tiny bit carefully. There are kind people here, but it’s not a place of sweetness and light.

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