Monday, April 27, 2009

Lois McMaster Bujold's "The Mountains of Mourning" (novella, free): Fighting infanticide

Cover image of the short novel titled The Mountains of Mourning by Lois McMaster BujoldThis is the first time I've picked up a story based on an author's suggestion. And what a story! Blew me away. Download link is also courtesy of author; thanks Lois.

This is a very realistic story too. Many of the arguments from both sides are familiar, though the solutions (severe legal penalty + education) have had only a marginal success in India - instead of infanticide, we now have selective abortions based on prenatal tests (which again are illegal in combination when intent can be proven, but ...)! Real underlying issues tend to be very deep rooted in India - the marriage customs; other affected societies will probably have something equally deep rooted.

It also makes a very light read, for something that address such a dark subject.

Story summary.

Harra Csurik has approached authorities for justice: her little baby daughter Raina has been murdered, & she suspects by her husband Lem Csurik. Because the baby was a mutant, something rather common & shameful on this world - though it often doesn't affect the individual's ability to be a useful member of society, at least not anymore. Her village authorities are more interested in brushing the thing under the carpet because it's such a common local custom; so she has appealed to higher ups.

Miles Vorkosigan, a 20 year old super-smart aristocrat, gets assigned to the case. He will investigate & be the judge.

Miles himself has a development deficiency because his mother was poisoned when carrying him - a condition others equate to being a mutant. This condition of his will have a role in the story.

What the investigation unfolds is something far more sinister than what the petitioner was suspecting...

Fact sheet.

First published: Analog, May 1989.
Rating: A.
Download full text in multiple formats, or purchase hardcopy, from WebScription.
Nebula Award 1989 winner in novella category.
Hugo Award 1990 winner in novella category.