Book Review: Driftwood, Marie Brennan
Fantasy: Driftwood, Marie Brennan
Where do worlds go to die? The answer is Driftwood, a place where the apocalypse is ongoing. Some worlds come in fairly intact, gradually shrinking into oblivion. Others come in with as few as two survivors, a hopeless remnant bearing witness to a lost planet. Some species stay put, refusing to acknowledge the presence of other realities, maintaining a genetic purity that will end when their world finally disappears into “the Crush.” Others become Drifters, moving along the flotsam of dying worlds to continue surviving even as their original planets are lost in time. These Drifters are often a mixed breed with ancestors from different worlds.
And then there is Last.
Last is a one-blood, a survivor from a world long since destroyed. Some say he is immortal. He does not make that claim but acknowledges he has long outlived his expected years. Last is a guide, someone familiar with many of the worlds in Driftwood. He can be hired to help a person find what they are looking for. Some proclaim him to be a god. Others say he is a con man. Many are grateful for his help. A few wish him harm. When rumors of his death begin to circulate, a gathering forms to remember him.
Driftwood is a collection of stories about Last. One man desperately needs his help to save the life of his king. Another person wants to find a way to rescue a priceless object from an unreachable place. A scholar wishes to draw a map of Driftwood, fully aware that a map is almost meaningless in a place of constant change and destruction. A cultist seeks to make him a god. A person desires his memories of their world when it was younger. Last is able to help most of them, though the results are not always what the seeker expected.
Hence the dispute about his character. Last guides people through the worlds of Driftwood. He finds things, persons, places, whatever one is looking for. Sometimes, though, the cost is substantial, the results questionable, the outcome unsatisfying. Does that mean Last has manipulated the customer? Or has he tried his best to accomplish the impossible? Witnesses disagree, but the stories they tell are compelling.
I fell in love with the world building and characters of the Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan. If I did not know otherwise, I would never have assumed Driftwood was by the same author. The storytelling style is so very different from the breezy and intimate “memoirs” of Lady Trent. Instead of one narrator, there are several. Instead of one world, there are many. Brennan sets herself with the task of creating at least one new world (often more) and a new voice in every chapter. Characters from different species who are male, female, and non-binary. It is a monumental task and she masters it brilliantly.
The tissue that connects all of the stories is Last. By the end, we find that we know more about him. However, he remains an enigma in many ways, and the reader gets to fill in the gaps with their own interpretation.
Driftwood is a challenging book. The number of points of view, the shifting settings, the diverse characters, and the short-story collection feel to the book mean that the reader has to pay attention throughout. The reward, though, is a wildly creative and imaginative novel that showcases an author’s vast talent and hard work. Grab this book with both hands and hang on with white knuckles for an experience unlike any other book you are likely to read this or any other year.
Our great thanks to Tachyon Publications for allowing access to an ARC of Driftwood, given in exchange solely for our review. The opinions are, as always, those of Scintilla.Info.
Also by Marie Brennan —
Book Review: Driftwood, Marie Brennan