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 The Starship and the Temple Cat by Yoon Ha Lee
Fiction Friday: The Starship and The Temple Cat
Today’s short story is from BCS’s Science Fantasy issue. I’m discussing The Starship and The Temple Cat by Yoon Ha Lee. You can find it here. It’s a wonderful tale about a temple guardian protecting her home and realizing that some things have to be let go.So let’s begin.
The story focuses on a lone cat with the amusingly long name “Seventy-Eighth Temple Cat of the High Bells” who is the guardian of a temple where his fallen kin remain as protectors of a lost world. But when a spaceship arrives, the cat must protect the lost souls from destruction.It’s a short and simple story that has a sense of innocence to it. I’m familiar with the tales of how certain characters, usually animals, refuse to leave a certain place whether they’re waiting for someone or because it has sentimental value to them. This is kind of like those. Though simple, I really liked it. It has a sense of innocence about it and tugs at the heartstrings.This cat, whose guardians have long side vanished, meets an outside force that she must protect against before her last temple dies off. I love the concept and it’s a story I don’t see too often executed as wonderfully as this one. It feels like a folklore tale passed on from generations on an abandoned planet told to anyone who was left to preserve their history. Or perhaps just an alien legend told across the cosmos. Even though this was Sci-fi, there was a sense of wonder and mysticism to it.
The only character of note is the cat in question, named “Seventy-Eighth Temple Cat of the High Bells.” I do appreciate it when characters get unorthodox names, especially when they’re essentially titles. It gives it a nice cultural touch and because she’s a cat, I can’t see her having a human name. It’s always weird when animal characters give themselves human names.In any case, I liked this characters, guarding a temple and defending it from outsiders. She’s not evil, but she is a devout follower of her faith and culture on an abandoned world, even as the last of her kind.Not much else to add. She’s innocent and faithful to the end.
The story swaps between two POVs. The cat and the spaceship crew. I felt the swap made it a little hard to follow, especially since I felt the cat’s POV was the more interesting side. I felt the crew made sense, but I didn’t feel their POV made any sense. This could just be my bias against animal characters coming forth, but since the focus was on the cat, it should have been longer.The writing itself was fine and had a mystical feel to it. I felt like an ancient tale told for generations and I could easily imagine this as some planet’s folklore legend. Perhaps in 1000 years, this story will be considered as such (Seriously, how often do old works come back into the spotlight, especially obscure ones?), but I feel this is one of the more memorable stories I’ve read from this magazine. It’s no surprise that I constantly review works from this zine and this story is one example of such a great tale.So that’s that. It’s the futuristic folktale I want more of, even if the POV felt a little unnecessary. A good tale throughout.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.