Questing Beast by Ilona Andrews
Published by Ilona Andrews on May 16, 2010
Genres: Humor, Science Fiction
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On a world far far away, where cute things eat computers and the sky is emerald green, a small team of scientists struggles to save the planet and their own careers by mixing genetic engineering and Arthurian legend. Too bad they had forgotten the first rule of planet exploration: Nature always has the last laugh.
“Questing Beast” is a free vignette that (according to the Andrews website) is located in the same universe as A Mere Formality. “Questing Beast” is also one of the very few Science Fiction stories written by Ilona Andrews.
I’m not really sure how I feel about “Questing Beast.” It’s…pretty cool in that it mixes advanced Sci-Fi with classical literature from Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, BUT it…didn’t feel complete to me.
I am (was) a student of classical literature but I don’t know if everyone who picks up this story will have my background or are familiar with the Questing Beast. So, definition (cause I do so love definitions, lol):
The Questing Beast, or the Beast Glatisant (Barking Beast), is a monster from Arthurian legend. It is the subject of quests undertaken by famous knights such as King Pellinore, Sir Palamedes, and Sir Percival. The creature’s name comes not entirely from its function (as the object of quests) but from the monstrous barking noise it makes. In French and in Middle English, glatisant means barking or baying, while in Middle English, the verb questen means to bark as well as to hunt. This double meaning of the English word makes the Questing Beast’s name a pun; it is the barking beast for which knights hunt.
The strange creature has the head and neck of a snake, the body of a leopard, the haunches of a lion and the feet of a hart. Its name comes from the great noise it emits from its belly, a barking “lyke unto the questyng of thirty coupyl houndes, but all the whyle the beest dranke there was no noyse in the bestes bealy.” ‘Glatisant’ is related to the French word glapissant, ‘yelping’ or ‘barking’, especially of small dogs or foxes.
The story is fine…if a little confusing. There is a lot of tech combined with aliens and the combo needed more length to feel more of a cohesive whole (to me). “Questing Beast” is a short short that has puns on top of puns that require a bit of working knowledge of both Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (or maybe White’s The Once and Future King) AND Science Fiction and Fantasy. Not sure how many pure SFF readers out there are packing that kind of interest catalog.
As a fan of all things Ilona Andrews, this is a story that I think should be read by all fans. As a student of Literature, it makes me feel closer to them [the Andrews] that they created this work that combines two of my bookish loves. As a recommender of books, I would say that you should probably not worry about tracking this down if you are not already an Ilona Andrews fan.