The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter • 2007 • Post-Post-apocalyptic short story by Alastair Reynolds


Synopsis: Katherine is a 16yo teenager living in an England long past an apocalypse where men nearly lost against robots.
She delivers pig heads to an old witch. On her way she gets harassed by her dad‘s employer, a real asshole taking advantage of the girl.
She escapes and arriving at the hag, she has to explain herself.
In exchange, the old woman tells her own story, and that of an incident with a mysterious flying man when she was young.
With a passing gift, Katherine faces her way back.

Review: Reynolds is famous for his far reaching stories and doorstopper novels. I‘ve read a couple of his works, and his shorter works are always worthwhile reading, e.g. Permafrost, Murmuration, or In Babelsberg.

This one is no different, and it’s setting remembered me fondly of Miller’s excellent novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, or my all-time favorite game „Horizon Zero Dawn“: a setting in our world where an apocalypse led to a near extinction of humanity and long after, humans slowly degraded and lost technological know-how – in this case it is probably an equivalent of 17th century.

Reynold‘s narrative voice is pitch-perfect featuring a promising female heroine with difficult relations and an even more interesting future – the whole story could very well evolve to a whole novel, and I‘d like to read that one.
I admire, how the author managed to press a full cycle of Campbell‘s Hero‘s journey into just a few pages while not feeling artificial. The story‘s plot flows naturally towards a nice open ending where one‘s mind starts dreaming.

One critical part should be addressed, because some readers might react sensitive: Katherine has been assaulted sexually by the antagonist off-screen before; and on her way to the witch, she has to bear a confrontation in nearly the same way – gladly without the same outcome. Katherine shows strength and courage here. One could ask if rape was a necessary topic for the story. My take is that male domination doesn’t end, and a culture sinking back hundreds of years also looses social advancements. It’s a harsh setting for sure.

Recommended for fans of post-post apocalyptic settings, interested in interesting female characters.

Meta: isfdb. Available online at Clarkesworld. I’ve read it it in the anthology The Very Best of the Best.

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1 Response to The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter • 2007 • Post-Post-apocalyptic short story by Alastair Reynolds

  1. pdtillman says:

    Fine story, that I also rated at 4 stars. One of his best, I think. Thanks for the link — didn’t know it was online.

    Liked by 1 person

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