It's a well written story, if you are into stories about human misery; I gave up about a quarter of the way through.
It's said to be based on the 2 year siege of Leningrad by German forces during World War II. You will probably like this story more than I did if you are emotionally close to the event.
And except for a sprinkling of things like robots, printed cloths, & a wizard - all of them peripheral to story - it's really a non-genre story.
Story so far.An unnamed city doesn't care much about patents; there's a flourishing industry in generics based on patented designs from abroad. This has made the US & EU support the unnamed enemy of the city to lay siege upon it.
Story is told from the perspective of Valentine, a 13 year old girl from the city under siege. Her happy world is turning more & more hopeless with every page - her dad is killed in a bomb attack; her mom is out fighting on the front; she was initially made to do menial jobs in the city - & is now digging trenches at the front in return for minuscule quantity of bread; her well loved younger brother, Trover, is distraught at the creche he's forced to live in.
Last sentence where I gave up: "the chit could be redeemed for bread. If she left Trover in the creche they would feed him. If Mata didn't come home from the fighting again tonight, the bread would be hers, and the cabbage, too." She got this chit after a hard day's labor digging trenches, & has been so dehumanized she would rather not share the little food she's got with her mom & little brother!
Fact sheet.First published: The Infinite Matrix, January 2007.
Winner of Locus Award 2008 in novella category.
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Related: All stories of Cory Doctorow.