The Nebula Awards will be announced May 20, 2018. The awards are given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This post is the first in a series of reviews of the nominees for this year’s Nebula award for best novella. The Nebula defines a work as a novella if it is between 17,500 and 40,000 words. These are short books.
And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker is a sci-fi/mystery genre mashup with a terrific premise: when hundreds of versions of “Sarah Pinsker” from alternate universes get together on a remote island for a SarahCon, there is a murder. Who done it?
Fans of mysteries should like this story. Apparently inspired by a classic Agatha Christie novel,the narrative is fast-moving. There are multiple clues scattered throughout such that the reveal feels earned. The outcome cannot be predicted immediately, however, due to clever false leads and red herrings.
The science fiction aspects are equally wonderful, involving trippy alternate universe thought-experiments and pondering real implications, moral and philosophical, of an infinite alternate-worlds multiverse.
Where Pinsker truly excels, however, is by marrying the (excellent) genre conventions and tropes with fantastic characterization and genuine, expressive human emotion. What I initially thought was going to be a lighthearted mystery romp involving goofy physics turned out to be a quiet contemplation of regret, missed opportunity, unrealized expectations, curiosity at the nature of existence, the consequences of seemingly minor life-events, ambition, and love.
I hadn’t heard of Sarah Pinsker until I read Wind Will Rove for my review of the novelettes nominated for Nebulas. That story is my favorite for that award, so when I noticed that she also had a different story — — nominated in the novella category, I was intrigued. And I was not disappointed. I look forward to reading even more of her thoughtful yet exceedingly readable work in the future.