Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Snow Maiden, or The Case with the Holiday Blues (e-short story) by M.C.A. Hogarth

The Snow Maiden, or The Case with the Holiday Blues is a Christmas-y science fiction short story. It's self-published and 5,710 words long. It's another one of Hogarth's works starring Jahir and Vasiht'h.

Review:

This was more along the lines of what I was hoping for when I read The Case of the Poisoned House and Other Xenopsychiatric Studies. Whereas that collection was nice but ultimately unsatisfying, this felt like a full a complete offering. What can I say, vignettes just don't do it for me.

The word count is skimpy, but at least it's all devoted to a single story. In this case, Jahir and Vasiht'h have been hired to help Lieutenant Commander Nisia Baker, a Seersa who's in charge of the environmental control for an entire starbase. Unfortunately, she may be buckling under the pressure. She's having trouble staying motivated, and depression is setting in. Jahir and Vasiht'h are limited in what they can do for her, because, for security reasons, no one can know what her job is unless they have the proper clearance.

Jahir and Vasiht'h do almost none of the things they usually do when working with clients. Although they spend some time talking to Nisia in order to figure out what's bothering her, they don't use their dream therapy technique at all. Instead, they get creative. They manage to involve the entire starbase in Nisia's treatment and, at the same time, avoid revealing her job and responsibilities to anyone who's not supposed to know.

The way they did it seemed a little far-fetched – I'm not sure it'd be possible for something like that to work that quickly and effectively. Then again, who knows? People latch onto stuff that sounds good all the time. At any rate, it was a nice little holiday story – probably the closest thing to a Christmas story I'll read for a while, since I'm one of those people who burns out on Christmas quickly, due to it appearing everywhere earlier and earlier in the year.

While I still think Mindtouch is the best of the Jahir and Vasiht'h works I've read so far, this was still a good story. Also, unlike The Case of the Poisoned House (etc.), I think it could potentially work for newbies to Hogarth's Pelted Universe. It barely touches on information about the Pelted or Eldritch and, for the most part, doesn’t really need to.

Read-alikes:
  • Miracle and Other Christmas Stories (anthology) by Connie Willis - I haven't read this and am not actually sure how close it is in tone, or even genre, to Hogarth's story. I do know that Willis' works can often be humorous and a lot of fun, and she's written some good science fiction. Reviews seem to indicate that this is a decent collection of light Christmas stories.
  • Hogfather (book) by Terry Pratchett - Not the best read-alike, and it's fantasy, not sci-fi, but it does deal with a Christmas-y holiday.
  • Christmas on Ganymede and Other Stories edited by Martin Greenberg - I haven't read this, but it's a collection of Christmas (or at least Christmas-time) themed science fiction stories by the likes of Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, and more.
  • A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales edited by Brian M. Thomsen - Again, I haven't read this. I added it because it features Christmas-themed stories by various fantasy/sci-fi authors (Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, Anne McCaffrey, etc.).

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