Hugo Review – Best Novella – The Man Who Bridged the Mist

As I previously mentioned, I’m attempting to consume as much of the 2012 Hugo Short Listed works in order to make an informed vote.

I  am now on to the category of Best Novella.

This is my review of The Man Who Bridged the Mist by Kij Johnson.

Note, this review is obviously subjective and most definitely biased, based on the topics and style of writing which interest and entertain me.

This review may contain SPOILERS.

Synopsis: Kit Meinem, engineer and architect, comes to the towns of Nearside and Farside to finish construction of a bridge over the magical and mysterious Mist. Once complete, this bridge will join the Empire, currently split by the Mist, and herald significant changes to the two towns, including the end of the need for the Ferryfolk.

Plot: Kit needs to build a bridge and get over it. No, I’m not kidding, that’s pretty much the entirety of the plot.

Characters: What’s lacking in plot is made up for in characterisation. We get significant insight and character development of Kit, who approaches initially as a somewhat aloof character trying not to alienate the townsfolk and ends up forming solid friendships and relationships with them. We also get snippets of characterisation from a number of townsfolk and people in Kit’s life, including Rasali Ferry of Farside, the lead Ferrywoman, who’s livelihood and meaning in life will be rendered obsolete if the bridge is completed.

Scope: In one way, this novella is very small in scope, focussing entirely on Kit and the building of the bridge, with no coverage of the Empire, the Mist, or any of the rest of the world. In another way, the novella is wide in scope, and examines the importance of human interaction and personalities in completing large projects and the significant changes in Kit’s life through the relationships he forms with the townsfolk and his lover.

Writing: Nothing specific to comment on, writing wise.

Pacing: The pacing is reasonable, with a steady build up (pun intended) towards the completion of the bridge. There are some appropriate interludes, cleverly done, based on emotions and events, which allow us to see even more of Kit’s character development.

Other Comments: I found the ending of the novella very anti-climactic and this left me rather dissatisfied with the story as a whole. I wanted to know more about the Empire, about the Mist and about the world, none of which was forthcoming.

Overall: I suspect that for the reader who likes character driven stories, this would have been a very enjoyable novella. However, as more of a plot driven reader, I didn’t enjoy it that much.

Three Novellas reviewed, Three to go. Next: The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary by Ken Liu.



Best Novella Background Material:

Short listed in the Best Novella category for the 2012 Hugos are:

Countdown, Mira Grant (Orbit)
The Ice Owl, Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
Kiss Me Twice, Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s)
The Man Who Bridged the Mist, Kij Johnson (Asimov’s)
The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary, Ken Liu (Panverse 3)
Silently and Very Fast, Catherynne M. Valente (WSFA)

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