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Would you be surprised if I told you that visiting the ‘fiction’ section of the Tor.com site and seeing Seanan McGuire’s name caused me to stop there and then to read this story? No, I know you won’t… 😀 And as usual I found an intriguing, immersive tale whose only drawback was that it ended too soon.
The premise is a well-known one, the existence of parallel universes, but the story itself is a journey where witty remarks and horrifying glimpses coexist in perfect balance: the crew of the airship Her Majesty’s Stalwart Trumpet of Glory (or Stubby for brevity, one of the ships of the Cartography Corps) travels through these alternate realities to chart them while looking for artifacts to bring home. This particular crew has been assigned to the North American area, and as the story starts they are approaching this world’s version of New York, relieved to find a recognizable landmark in the famous Flatiron Building.
Captain Isabel Langford, the Stubby’s captain, lost all her sense of wonder for what awaits her and her crew in each new reality: having seen it all, she seems to have grown jaded by it and she more than looks forward to the time when she will be able to enjoy a more stable life. Not that the overall tone of the story is one of gloom, of course, because there is instead a definite veneer of sarcasm running through it, from the description of the ragtag crew and their rambunctious ways, to the glimpses of past encounters in other realities – like the one where the inhabitants of New York had to take shelter in the subway tunnels because the pigeons had turned “carnivorous and bloodthirsty”.
What awaits Langford and crew in this version of New York will be a surprise, indeed, and one that seems to give these explorers a newfound perspective in their work.
I enjoyed Any Way The Wind Blows, but I would have loved to see this premise expanded into a longer work: there is a great deal of potential in this story and in the small glimpses we are offered here and I hope that Seanan McGuire might decide one day to turn this into a full-fledged novel.