EDIT: Updated to include the link. Apologies.
Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review Say it Low, then Loud by Osahon Ize-Iyamu.
Fiction Friday: Say it Low, then Loud
It’s Friday, so it’s back to short stories. Let’s start off with a bang, shall we? Today’s short story is Say it Low, then Loud by Osahon Ize-Iyamu, shown in Clarkesworld Magazine. You can find it here. It’s a war story that gives an alternate take on the very idea of war and what humanity truly means. I truly enjoyed this story and definitely recommend it if you get the chance.
So, let’s begin.
The story revolves around Efosa, a soldier whose sense of humanity is waning through the constant war. He finds himself as an intellectual type, always thinking and seeing the world as numbers to play with. His nickname is Whisper, given to him by a commanding officer. The story revolves around him and his family back on his homeworld and the rough life of a soldier not revered but reviled. They commit genocidal acts and are hated because of it.
This is a stark contrast to most war stories where the characters in those books are portrayed as heroes fighting for a worthy cause. Whether the war is just or not, you have to root for the good guys who fight for peace. It’s not too common to see stories that are anti-war. Most military inspired fiction aren’t necessarily “pro-war” but “pro-military.” The writers see them as heroes, even if the war is not worth fighting for.
This story involves a war that no one approves and claims it’s a genocidal campaign. It’s an interesting idea that isn’t explored too often in fiction.
The main focus is Efosa and his family and his life as a soldier. Efosa does his best to find his humanity in a world where he is nothing more than an alias. And that’s the main theme here. What is humanity to a soldier? A name? A body? Is there even such a thing as humanity? Such questions don’t affect just soldiers, but us as well.
The end sequence is another thing. It’s nothing earth-shattering in terms of revelations, but Efosa hacks a drone to make chirping noises like a bird, then proceeds to laugh over it, enjoying how ridiculous it was. I had to mention this because this was the first instance where Efosa had a sense of humanity. That he could enjoy himself in spite of their heinous mission. I enjoyed this scene and gave a side to him that wouldn’t have been clear otherwise.
The story overall left a lasting impression on me because it shows that despite being a soldier, if one doesn’t have conscious emotions, then what kind of person are you? A human or a machine meant for killing. It’s very philosophical in its message and that’s what I got out of this story.
While there are a few other characters, the main focus is on Efosa himself, AKA Whisper. We go through the story, hearing about what he did and how he earned that nickname, but we also meet his family back home. Ede, Ghare, and Osama. This is where we see a bit of hostility to Efosa, and shows a more natural side to him despite all that’s been going on.
This was another big moment as we see not just Efosa trying to be normal, but the anger from Ede about what he’s done makes what would have been a heartwarming scene unsettling. This is a stark contrast to most soldiers in our society since Efosa and his crew have done bad things. It’s no surprise that Ede would have hostility towards Efosa.
It’s probably the most important scene since it spells out how badly these soldiers are to their people that even relatives hate them. Plus Efosa’s interactions between Ghare is also important since Ghare doesn’t understand why Ede is so hostile. It shows Efosa’s human side, in fact, this sequence shows it clearly.
While the book lacked any notable characters aside from Efosa, the ones that are there add to his history and the story overall.
The writing was very good, but the story had a lot of paragraphs and one moment of dialogue (Efosa meeting his relatives). A lot of the events were flashbacks to his life and I would have liked to have seen at least one moment prior to the story to give this a little touch rather than summarize what’s happened.
Other than that, it’s a well-written story. Some lines related to his nickname. I’ll give one example here.
“Whisper: Because your flying is soundless and your limitations are boundless and you are a valuable asset to winning a war assumed worth fighting for.”
The artistic display of these lyrical descriptions is a nice touch and these occur in spots throughout the story. It made me feel like Efosa was a “go with the flow” type character and adds to his calculative mentality. I loved the wordplay in those parts.
So that’s the story. It’s a wonderful, artistic and has a message worth pursuing. It’s a good story to start the year off and I feel it’s going to be a good one for short fiction. I hope we get more of these kinds of stories throughout the year and much more like it. This is one worth checking out.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
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