I’m a big fan of novellas. Right now, I don’t have a lot of time to spare for reading, so it’s very hard to get into novels. Most of the time, that’s ok since I really like short fiction. But sometimes I want something with a little more substance to it. And by substance, I mean story length, not quality.
Unfortunately, most magazines eschew the novella format as it eats up a lot of pages. That may sound like a weird (or stupid) reason to reject a story, but sometimes length comes into play and you have to pass on a longer piece. Thankfully, there are publishers like Subterranean Press, PS Publishing, and Night Shade Books (among others) who are publishing novellas as standalone books.
Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear is an excellent example of the type of novella that Subterranean Press is publishing. The story centers around the ancient wizard Bijou the Artificer and her nemesis Kaulas the Necromancer. The action starts when Brazen, a younger wizard, brings an infected feral child to Bijou. Bijou and her menagerie of creatures—animated constructs of bone and jewel—work to heal the child and learn its mysteries.
I was surprised both how quickly I got wrapped up in the story, and how much depth the story had. The characters really came to life for me; even Bijou’s constructs all had their own personalities. I can’t say too much about the story without giving up its secrets, but suffice to say, every time I read Elizabeth Bear, I grow more impressed by her. She really knows how to weave characters together.
I have to say I’m not a huge fan of Maurizio Manzieri’s cover art (in general I don’t like people on book covers and I realize I am an exception in this), but it does a good job of conveying the novella’s setting to the reader.
John Klima is the editor of Electric Velocipede, winner of the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Fanzine.