Lake of Souls by Anne Leckie

21/06/2024
Lake of Souls by Anne Leckie

Lake of Souls collects the short fiction of multi-award winning science fiction and fantasy author Ann Leckie. The collection is divided into three sections. The first group of stories are just general speculative fiction tales, the second group are from Leckie’s Imperial Radch Universe (also sometimes known as the Ancillary Universe due to the award winning trilogy from this setting) and the third group are from the universe of Leckie’s stand alone fantasy novel The Raven Tower.

The first group of eight stories is a diverse bunch. From the title story, which is about a young alien looking for its place in the world and first contact, to Another Word for World another great Leckie-esque story about communication and translation. But these is also a kind of strange zombie story (Bury the Dead) and super short but effective stories here including the terrifying Footprints and the laugh out loud The Sad History of the Tearless Onion.

Of the group of three Imperial Radch stories only the first, Night’s Slow Poison feels like it requires any knowledge of that universe. The best of these three is the second She Commands Me and I Obey set on a world where a ball game has both fatal and political consequences. The third, The Creation and Destruction of the World, is the most tangential and feels more like a folk tale than anything else.

The set of seven stories set in the world of The Raven Tower are the most cohesive and enjoyable. The Raven Tower established a world populated by gods whose power increased and decreased depending on the level of their observance by people. Gods made deals with worshippers to increase their power, but these deals were always laden with tricks for the unwary. The key thing is that gods must tell the truth and if they are caught lying their power diminishes. Interestingly the short stories these a most reminiscent of are Isaac Asimov’s robot stories in which he tested and stretched his three laws of robotics. Similarly, Leckie takes her rules and sees how far she can twist them in different circumstances (for example in The Snake’s Wife the question is can a prediction based around someone marrying the daughter of another king be fulfilled by trying to turn one of his sons into a woman?).

Lake of Souls contains stories published between 2006 and 2015. It shows a writer who is comfortable not only in the long form but also the short form of speculative fiction. Not all of these stories is successful, and it is likely that different tales and sub-collections of stories will appeal to different readers. But for lovers of short speculative fiction, and particularly for Leckie fans, this is a collection worth exploring.

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Lake of Souls by Anne Leckie

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Lake of Souls by Anne Leckie

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