Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Review: Atha

Download the story from the Fully Booked website.

"Atha" is a Frankenstein's monster story in two ways. The titular character is a gigantic robot bird/dragon that takes on a life of its own. Its creators, have no recourse but to destroy it, and this forms the framework of the story. All this takes place in a gothic dystopian future that's evocative of an Industrial Revolution gone wild. No microprocessors, no nanobots, and no genetics here, folks; it's all driven by gears. Quite charming, really.

And that's why I want to throttle the author and scream in his ear: "Get the story going!"

The first third of the story is a rambling narrative, and you never really know where it's going. The author, through the narrator, indulges in a long description of the future city and the mad scientist who loves it so much. One begins to think that Atha is the name of the city. But no, its only somewhere in the middle that you get the glimpse of the monster, and much later that you realize that it's a creation of the scientist and his protege. The action only picks up in the last third with the climactic battle.

A short story that takes this long to develop loses a lot of its emotional core. You don't really care for the scientist, and you don't really care for the monster, either. This is a tragic failing because it is at least one of these elements that make a Frankenstein's monster story so appealing. The story could have been made much better with the proper pacing and the proper revelation of mystery; instead it diverts your attention far away.

So why spend so much time talking about the city? Atha the monster is really a metaphor for the decay that has set into the city, and by extension, a metaphor for the regression of society. The story attempts to come full circle by pondering the future of the city he lives in; however, it comes off a little too heavy-handed.

Reading through the story, I can't help but think of its anime influences. It's something that the author successfully manages to evoke quite well without sounding too derivative. That's why it's a real shame that the story doesn't quite develop smoothly.

1 comment:

  1. This is probably one area in which I disagree with you: I'll argue that, while it does deal with the degradation of society, my view is that "Atha" focuses on man's role in the core of such degradation. For that matter, I believe that the story tries to put forward the point that man has his own reasons for his participation in such an act. I don't know if that's really the case or if I'm just taking it one imaginary step further, but that's what I see from over here.