Review: “Wine” by Yoon Ha Lee

3 of 5 stars.

This off-world tale of shady deals and shadier morals witnesses the destruction of a civilization. It’s a creatively rendered lose-lose world and situation.

The isolationist off-world human civilization of Nasteng, a moon, has been found out despite the best efforts of The Counsel of Five who’ve retreated into their underground fastness to avoid the destruction up above. The moon’s secret product, a life-rejuvenating wine, is coveted far and wide leading to a full-scale attack on every domed city–fire rains down. Sadly, the blunt of the attack is on the hard-scrabble common-folk who do not get to partake in the wine, either.

The Falcon Councilor takes decisive action by using her beacons to elicit near-supernatural help but at a steep price–in gold and a year’s harvest of everything, wine included. Her low-born lover is the highly ranked General Loi Ruharn–a female-to-male transgender that has turned his back on his humble roots and family until his sister contacts him after the disappearance of her grandchildren. The general becomes alarmed both at the tactics employed, or lack thereof, by the hired mercenaries, and the widespread disappearance of children across the planet . . .

This tale would benefit by receiving full-novel treatment as the history of the planet and the richness of the culture are worth exploring more fully. An awful lot is synthesized at the conclusion of the story in just a few paragraphs.

“Wine” appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015 edited by Rich Norton and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Clarkesworld, January 2014.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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