Scattered Along the River of Heaven

Clarkesworld’s January issue has a beautiful, powerful piece by Aliette de Bodard that I strongly recommend: “Scattered Along the River of Heaven.”

This is a political story. It deals with many themes that I think about often: de-colonization, exile, revolutions, the importance of memory and history, whether the oppressed must turn into oppressors in the struggle for freedom, the luxury of privileged and powerful peoples to suddenly appear magnanimous only when they’ve lost.

But much of the power of this story comes from its quiet, restrained tone. The Chinese/Vietnamese-inspired poems and milieu work well here, and the three generations of women at the center of the story form a moving emotional core.

I suspect that every reader will read this and get a different “message” out of it, as should be the case with the best kind of fiction.

As for me, the character I admire the most is Mingxia. I believe that she made the hardest, rarest choice of all.