Katabasis • novella by Robert Reed

Meta: ISFDB. First published November 2012 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Nominated for the Hugo 2012. I’ve read it in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirtieth Annual Collection

This novella is set in the Great Ship Series which is some handful of stories published since 1994. The eponymous Great Ship is a hollow planet travelling through the galaxy, inhabited by different races of biologically immortals. This BigDumbObject remembers me of Clarke’s Hard SF Rendezvous with Rama or even more of John Varley’s Science Fantasy Titan.

Known from previous stories are Quee Lee and Perri, but the main protagonists and better developed characters are the non-human guide Katabasis, and one human Varid. They are taking on a journeyin a high-gravity region of the Great Ship, causing daily broken bones which heal nearly instantenous. But the mental hardships are worse which leads to reflections on the perils of immortality. The story is told with flashbacks of Katabasis‘ history which reveals some very human traits in this alien creature. She develops a relationship to Varid who shows opposite traits making him more inhuman. Excellent characteristic, a touching narration but a somewhat boring, lengthy story.

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