Short Story Review: “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” by Elizabeth Bear

4 of 5 stars.

Sometimes it takes a very alien world to tell a very human story. And sometimes when one thinks that the world doesn’t appreciate them, that both friends and strangers alike dismiss one’s accomplishments, it takes to a mirror to realize that the negativity is inside oneself. Elizabeth Bear tackles complex issues of the mind and heart in a most imaginative setting.

Humans have settled outposts on Venus–a very wet, ocean-covered Venus rife with unique fauna [think: James Cameron’s Avatar] and topography. The 2 main continents are larger, flatter Aphrodite and volcanic, jungled Ishtar. The human settlements opted for the easier Aphrodite where ruins of an ancient intelligent culture were found, always in the more inaccessible areas of the continent.

Dharthi ill-advisedly ventures alone into the thick jungles of Ishtar where so-called velociraptors and swamp tigers and worse prey on anything moving. Protected by her skin-suit and canny survival knowledge for Venus, Dharthi feels pushed to these extremes to be professionally appreciated at the university on Aphrodite. Her girlfriend, Kraken, gets ample academic glory for every little finding she makes and Dharthi just wants an ounce of that for once.

Her theory that the extinct civilization preferred the rougher terrains of Aphrodite because they emerged from the naturally rougher topographies of Ishtar, pushes her to find evidence of an ancient city of greater significance than the tiny abandoned ruins so far found. Connected by a neural link, Kraken follows Dharthi’s progress with both encouragement and respectful detachment as Dharthi finds more than she was looking for . . .

This tale appears in a couple “best of” anthologies. The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 10 edited by Jonathan Strahan, I received from Netgalley. The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, I received directly from Prime Books. I have consistently enjoyed many others of Bear’s stories:
     “The Hand is Quicker–“–4 stars
     “The Horrid Glory of Its Wings”–4 stars
     “Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle”–4 stars
     “One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King”–4 stars
     “Swell”–4 stars
     [w/ Sarah Monette]–“The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward–4 stars
[Check out my other reviews here.]


One response to “Short Story Review: “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” by Elizabeth Bear

  1. Pingback: Short Story Review: “Cryptic Coloration” by Elizabeth Bear | Jaffalogue

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