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 Widdam by Vandana Singh.
Fiction Friday: Widdam
Another long piece this time. Today’s short story is Widdam by Vandana Singh, as featured in Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. You can find it here. This story is a post-apocalyptic world in which heat and toxic air engulf the landscape and large mechs roam the world. It’s also a multi-POV story, which is rare to see in shorter works and I’d imagine it’s not easy to pull off. Let’s check it out, then.
The world is suffering from the aftermath of The Dictator, a man who nearly destroyed the world. Powerful mechs called Saurs roamed the world and it’s so hot that winter no longer exists. Three major characters, Dinesh, Val and Jan, all try to make ends meet as they do their best to uncover what erupted this chaotic world in the first place.
The story revolves around these connected, yet unrelated heroes who aim to reverse the dry poisoning of their world. Yet one man Carl Johansson knows the truth about these strange machines.
The story is multi-POV, which as far as short works go, isn’t easy. As a result, you get a concise, yet disjointed story that feels like three interlinked tales told into one. I love the atmosphere and the world building, but as far as structure, this could have been made into an anthology or even take any of the three and make stories out of them.
By the end, I saw the connection between all three of them. Dinesh is suffering in his hometown, Val is actively trying to reverse this poisoning and Jan is getting to the bottom of this by seeking the man who started it all. Yet at first, it’s not clear who they are or how they’re relevant to the story. By the end I understood, but the point is I felt this would have been better as separate stories.
The story itself is good and has a lot of potential for further exploration. The aftermath of a destroyed world and people trying to rebuild it could have made for a longer piece. That’s what this felt like. Even if it’s novelette length, I felt it was too short for that. I hope the author expands on this plotline because I think the concept and world is a good idea.
I’ll talk about the main POV characters. The first is Dinesh of India. He’s a computer geek living in one of the hardest hit parts of the world. Pollution is toxic and Dinesh is at a loss for what to do. He’s in coordination with Catlover, a username by someone in an unknown part of the world. He’s doing his hardest to survive a tarnished life when the saurs are corrupting the world.
Next, we have Val, a researcher in New Mexico who is searching for anything that will revive the world and bring a sense of hope to those affected. She visits her old home where she meets a saur who has gone rogue, and by that, I mean it’s gained some sentience and is looking for purpose. It believes Val is a saint, but she crowns this saur as the new saint and aims to bring water back to the world.
The last one is Jan. He’s also searching for someone, the man who started all of this in the first place. His father, Carl Johannson. His search explains what went wrong with these machines and how the world ended up the way it was.
I mentioned all of them briefly because while they all played such big roles, their connections weren’t obvious at first. They all felt like they could have had their own stories and at times it felt disjointed trying to piece everything together. While the characters were sound, none of them really stood out all that much.
Each of them could have been a story in an anthology and that would have been a better way to connect them. I think Val had the most impact out of all since she actually took the effort to stop whatever The Dictator started. It seems like a strange feeling to see characters so sound, yet aren’t overly impactful to the story.
My main gripe is the paragraph layout. It’s abundant with large walls of text which seem to go on for a while. Trying to read it on my Kindle, I often lost my place while reading and I had to figure out where I left off. A minor complaint, but it could have been split up a little more.
Aside from that, as I’ve mentioned, the story is too short for a project this ambitious. The writing is solid, the world building is nice and the gravity of the situation is reasonable. I just wish to see more of this world and the potential impact of climate and pollution. It seems like the author has something here.
So that’s the story. It’s got a huge amount of potential, but it feels like a story that’s begging for more. I’d love to see more in this universe, expand each of the characters and provide more history on the past events and the rise of the saurs, but it wasn’t a winner for me.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
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