Driftwood, by Marie Brennan (Tachyon)
Consider a universe in which dying worlds slowly accrete together, colliding and compressing into a super-condensed Core. The aggregate is known as Driftwood, with the outer rings being less reduced in size, the inner ones mere fractions of their former selves. Each world operates according to its own rules; some have magic, others don’t; some have more than one sun, and so forth. No matter what the geography or culture, one constant remains: the desperate need to preserve memory and identity against the final, irreversible collapse.
This present volume comprises short fiction, some previously published, others original, loosely framed but eminently readable as stand-alone pieces. Overlapping worlds, occasional familiar place names, a historical timeline, and a charismatic recurring character enhance the cohesiveness of the collection. For me, though, the unifying factor was the shared experience, across cultures and personalities, of inevitable loss through change.
In “The Second Coming,” Yeats wrote, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” But in the world of Driftwood, things fall into a center from which nothing emerges, not even the memory of what was once vital and precious. Yet despite the sadness, in the skillful storyteller hands of Marie Brennan, the stories move through compassion to hope, with many memorable moments along the way.