Map of Blue Book Balloon

13 September 2022

#Review - Rosebud by Paul Cornell

Paul Cornell
Tordotcom, 26 April 2022
Available as: PB, 101pp, e
Source: Purchased copy
ISBN(PB): 9781250765406

I'm always pleased to see that Paul Cornell has a new book out, and I wish there were more of them.

Rosebud is a perfect story, in outward form an account of contact between the crew of a far-travelling spaceship and... well, that would be giving things away but maybe I can say that there are resonances with a certain well-known SF encounter with a black monolith? (And also passing references in the text to Rendezvous with Rama?)

But that's not really the point. 

The point is, I think, the variegated characters in the crew. They comprise, at the time the story takes place,  'by force of law, a balloon, a goth with a swagger stick, some sort of science aristocrat possibly, a ball of hands, and a swarm of insects.. The key here is the reference to law. This is, in effect, a convict ship, the possession of the benighted Company, for whom our heroes - instantiated digitally in a tiny (millimetres in size) ship - endlessly toil, retrieving resources for the dying planet Earth.

The stories of how the five assumed these forms slowly emerge, and of course those bizarre forms end up making perfect sense given the "crimes" for which they're serving time (some ugly flashbacks illustrate what Earth has become and why the Company may not be a fitting sponsor for humanity in the encounter that may be taking place).

It's a clever, thought provoking story that combines a deliberately jarring sensibility with a deep emotional richness both in the backgrounds of the five and in their unlikely friendship (larded though it is with bickering and HR-unfriendly insults). That's a lot to pack in to a bare 100 pages, but Cornell gives the reader more here than many authors do in full-length novels. I was torn between wanting more - why couldn't this be a LONGER book? - and knowing that it's perfect as it is.

Strongly recommended.

For more information about Rosebud, see the publisher's website here.

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