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Up Jim River

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Up Jim River

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Author: Michael Flynn
Publisher: Tor, 2010
Series: Spiral Arm: Book 2
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Space Opera
Galactic Empire
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There is a river on Dangchao Waypoint, a small world out beyond Die Bold. It is a longish river as such things go, with a multitude of bayous and rapids and waterfalls, and it runs through many a strange and hostile country. Going up it, you can lose everything.

Going up it, you can find anything. The Hound Bridget ban has vanished and her employer, the Kennel (the mysterious superspy agency of the League) has given up the search. But her daughter, the harper Mearana, has not. She enlists the scarred man, Donovan, to aid her in her search. With the reluctant assent and financial aid of the Kennel, they set forth. Bridget ban was following hints of an artifact that would "protect the League from the Confederacy for aye." Mearana is eager to follow that trail, but Donovan is reluctant, because whatever is at the end of it made a Hound disappear. What it would do to a harper and a drunk is far too easy to imagine.

Donovan's mind had been shattered by Those of Name, the rulers of the Confederacy, and no fewer than seven quarreling personalities now inhabit his skull. How can he hope to see her through safely? Together, they follow Bridget ban's trail to the raw worlds of the frontier, edging ever closer to the uncivilized and barbarian planets of the Wild.



This is her song, but she will not sing it, and so that task must fall to lesser lips.

There is a river on Dangchao Waypoint, a small world appertaining to Die Bold. It is a longish river as such things go, with a multitude of bayous and rapids and waterfalls, and it runs through many a strange and hostile country. Going up it, you can lose everything. Going up it, you can .nd anything.

A truism in the less- than- United League of the Periphery holds that every story begins on Jehovah or ends on Jehovah. This is one of those that begin there. It is a story of love and loss and .nding-- and other such curses.

What makes the saying a truism is that Jehovah's sun-- the Eye of Allah-- is a major nexus on Electric Avenue, that great network of super luminal highways that binds the stars together. More roads converge there than anywhere else in the South Central sector, and so the probabilities favor--or the Fates pronounce-- that sooner or later everyone passes through.

And when they do, they come to the Bar of Jehovah, for unless your pleasures run to such wildness as hymn - singing--and what can be so wild at that? - there is no other place on the planet so congenial. The hymn-singing is good and surprisingly affective, but many of those who wash up on Jehovah seek to anesthetize the memory of the past, and not to anticipate the glories of the future. For many of the patrons, there is no future, and there is not even the memory that there may once have been one.

In a Spiral Arm where "the strong take what they can and the weak suffer what they must," Jehovah is the pearl without price, she whose worth is measured in rubies; for she is too valuable a prize to be taken. "A hundred hands desire it," the saying runs, "and ninety- nine will keep the one from seizing it." And so it is a refuge of sorts for many, and a cash cow for the Elders. And if cash cows remind one of golden calves, that can be overlooked at round-up time.

And so colorful and cryptic Chettinad merchants rub shoulders with their rivals from the Greater Hanse; the crews of tramp freighters with Interstellar Cargo; with Gladiola seed ships, and League marshals and colonists and trekkers; with touristas, too: those starsliders who come in on the great Hadley liners for their quick blick and then off again! to stars worth longer visits.

And so also, with the detritus of the Spiral Arm: those who tramp from star to star, one step ahead of a creditor or a spouse or a League marshal; those whose lives and dreams have become to dream their lives away.

One of these is the scarred man. He has a name, or he has many names, but that one will do for now. It is no longer clear, even to him, which of his names are real, or if any of them are. He has sat so long in his niche that he is very nearly a .xture of the Bar, an ornament like the great gilt- worked chandelier mobile that casts an uncertain and ever- changing light upon a patronage equally changing and uncertain. He has become, for a small and self- selected group of connoisseurs, something of a tourist attraction himself. He has come because his past is too heavy to bear, and here he may slide down his load and rest. Recently, certain elements of that past have come to press upon him...

...But this is not his story; or it is not quite his story.

And lastly-- and these are most rare--come those who are not driven by their past, but drawn by their future. It might seem odd that the path to the future would pass through the Bar of Jehovah; but the path to heaven is said to wind through purgatory.

As, too, the path to hell.

Copyright © 2010 by Michael Flynn


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