Women Destroy Science Fiction! Anthology Review: The Lonely Sea in the Sky by Amal El-Mohtar (Narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir)

November 22, 2016 2016 Review Challenge, 4 Stars, Anthology, Audiobook, Book Review, Science Fiction, series 0 ★★★★

Women Destroy Science Fiction! Anthology Review: The Lonely Sea in the Sky by Amal El-Mohtar (Narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir) four-stars
The Lonely Sea in the Sky by Amal El-Mohtar
Series: Women Destroy Science Fiction! (Lightspeed #49)
Published by Skyboat Media on November 18, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Length: 15 hours, 11 minutes
Narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Cassandra de Cuir, Gabrielle de Cuir, John Allen Nelson, Molly Underwood, Stefan Rudnicki
Buy It Here!
The summer of 2013 was a rough one for women in science fiction. Every few weeks there was a new reminder that to a certain subset of the field, women are not welcome. There were multiple articles returning to the tired accusation that women aren’t writing “real” SF; disputes about the way the field is represented by vintage cheesecake art on the cover of a professional trade publication; the glib admonition that if women are to succeed, they should be more like Barbie, in her “quiet dignity.” For many readers, it was a very nasty surprise to discover this undercurrent running through the ocean of imaginative fiction we love.

And it just. Kept. Coming.

We got tired. We got angry. And then we came out the other side of exhaustion and anger deeply motivated to do something.

Thus the Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue of LIGHTSPEED MAGAZINE was conceived. We did a Kickstarter campaign in early 2014 to help make the issue into a double issue; we crushed our fundraising goal in about 7 hours and ended up funding at more than 1000% of our original funding goal, with more than 2800 backers. Because of that tremendous success, we unlocked two major stretch goals which resulted in the publication of companion volumes Women Destroy Fantasy! and Women Destroy Horror!, which are being published as issues of LIGHTSPEED’s sister publications, FANTASY and NIGHTMARE.

FROM THE EDITORS — Christie Yant, Rachel Swirsky, Wendy N. Wagner, Robyn Lupo, and Gabrielle de Cuir
Editorial, June 2014: Women Destroy Science Fiction!

ORIGINAL SHORT STORIES — edited by Christie Yant
Each to Each by Seanan McGuire – narrated by Cassandra Campbell
A Word Shaped Like Bones by Kris Millering – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir
Cuts Both Ways by Heather Clitheroe – narrated by Grover Gardner
Walking Awake by N.K. Jemisin – narrated by Bahni Turpin
The Case of the Passionless Bees by Rhonda Eikamp – narrated by Jonathan L. Howard
In the Image of Man by Gabriella Stalker – narrated by John Allen Nelson
The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick by Charlie Jane Anders – narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Dim Sun by Maria Dahvana Headley – narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
The Lonely Sea in the Sky by Amal El-Mohtar – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir with Cassandra Campbell, Cassandra de Cuir, John Allen Nelson, Stefan Rudnicki, and Molly Underwood
A Burglary, Addressed By a Young Lady by Elizabeth Porter Birdsall – narrated by Judy Young
Canth by K.C. Norton – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir

ILLUSTRATORS — art direction by Galen Dara
Li Grabbenstetter (“A Word Shaped Like Bones,” “Each to Each,” and “Love is the Plan the Plan is Death”)
Elizabeth Leggett (“Cuts Both Ways,” “Salvage,” and “Like Daughter”)
Hillary Pearlman (“Walking Awake”)
Christine Mitzuk (“The Case of the Passionless Bees”)
Galen Dara (cover artist)

The Lonely Sea in the Sky is…different but enjoyable. The story is narrated by multiple narrators with Gabrielle de Cuir providing the voice for the main character. I have to say, Gabrielle de Cuir is fast becoming my favorite narrator – the pure emotion is outstanding. Especially when she voices mentally and/or emotionally unstable characters.

The Lonely Sea in the Sky is written in an unusual format: it’s written as [medically required] diary entries by the main character interspersed with news articles and incident reports. The diary entries and incident reports give the reader the main plot and set up of the story while the news articles allow the reader to understand the import of the diary entries and incident reports.

The MC of The Lonely Sea in the Sky is a scientist who specializes in research and development of a diamond-like crystal structure discovered on Neptune. The “diamonds” are in liquid form on Neptune due to Neptune’s heat and pressure, forming a “diamond sea” but when removed from that atmosphere they harden into the Earth-like diamond. Research on the “diamonds” and their nature created an “instant” transportation system. The “diamonds” are somehow naturally “synced” with those on Neptune and when heated to their liquid form instantaneously disappear to reappear on Neptune. Further research allowed scientists to re-format the “diamonds” to have them reappear to the closest large mass of “diamonds” on Earth – creating the instantaneous transportation system.

There is a side effect – the diamonds seem to infect those who are in close contact with them for too long (Misner’s Syndrome). It makes the infected person perpetually cold and obsessed with the “diamonds.” Our MC is such a person. After being infected with Misner’s Syndrome the MC is removed from her research and placed in a location that is supposed to help cure or improve the infected. She is required to keep diary entries in which she discusses at great length the diamonds and being infected with Misner’s Syndrome.

The Lonely Sea in the Sky is strange but amazing at the same time. It’s a quiet mystery wrapped in a puzzle – close attention is needed to figure out the final mystery (which I found pretty cool). There’s not too much more I can say without destroying the mystery but suffice to say I enjoyed it!

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