Hugo Finalist: Blood Is Another Word for Hunger • 2019 • Weird short story by Rivers Solomon

★★★★☆

Synopsis:  Missus’ husband Albert dies at front of the Civil War. Her fifteen year old slave girl Sully murders all five family members, but she doesn’t enjoy her freedom. The extraordinary bloody deed weakens the borders to the etherworld and revenant Ziza enters this world by childbirth through Sully. Soon, Sully gave birth to four additional revenants to balance the murdered ones.

They figure out that they will run out of stock and get overrun by the Sheriff, sooner or later. Ziza’s solution is to produce an army to take over the town.

Review: The story sounds bloody and it is. But it isn’t horrific, given the life positive smiles of Ziza and her caring for Sully. Also, the murders stay on the surrealistic and symbolic side. I’d count it as a flavour of the South, balancing the unspoken horrors of slavery. Sully’s and Ziza’s characterizations were wonderful, the other characters stayed in the background. The prose was powerful, and fluent, and the tension arc kept going until the happy end – which was a surprise for me, considering its bloody start.

The story doesn’t really recall the atmosphere of the South, but digs into the important questions of redemption and slavery. It kept me thinking.

Some plot holes and the unfulfilled potential of exploring the setting reduced one star, but I really recommend reading it. Kudos to the wonderful illustration by Xia Gordon.

Meta: isfdb. It is available online at Tor and I’ve read it as part of the Hugo and Nebula Award finalists.

 

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