List Page » Non-List Reviews » Details of Review » Updates



"She thought about Adriatico's belief in the soul. . . She figured it had to be a mechanism more primitive or more evolved than the heart or mind. A circuit all living things carried in their hands or torsos, waiting to be tripped. Waiting for something divine to activate it."




Friend or foe to mankind? Well, she's not a genie or a djinni, that's for sure. She serves no human; we serve her. If Goethe's Faust(1) had bargained with a Goddess instead of Mephistopheles for his soul, God would never have interfered in favor of her quarry. But what if Goddesses are actual creatures? What if they have been containedsubdued, if you willinto various prisons around the universe by our pre-history ancestors or even space-travelling aliens? And, finding one, what would it take to turn down the prize of immortality she offers? And all just for a ride in a spaceship to a lively, inquisitive planet?


The Ningyo by Miguel Ortega

A scientific team has landed on an unnamed, "desert ice planet" that is so tilted from its sun it experiences 6-month, Arctic-like blackovers where the team's station is located. "They were here to find reasons to exploit it, this bright, sharp, beautiful place"(p.29). They have all the expedition goodies like portable buildings, hovercrafts and sleds to get around, machines to deal with ice and severe weather, etc. They have been there long enough to establish a sturdy base but have not found anything of particular value, until now.

Did I mention that it's fookin' cold, very cold, and darkness is only 2 days awayeverybody pretty much takes hiatus to a warmer, circulating space freighterand thenwhen the storms comeit'll get even colder.

Our protagonist is Muir, an explorer herself, who pilots a winged Otter aboveground. She frequently wanders beyond her perimeters looking for something, anything. On this day, she skims across an artifact below the ice that is 18 meters tall and looking suggestively anthropomorphic. But, "it wasn't in the ice. It was of the ice"(p.13).


The almond curve of ice eyes watched her as she approached, early morning light dancing along blue-white irises. Muir wanted to curl up in the blank pupils. She could sleep for a thousand years in those eyes. She could slip along those pastel lashes and lie on those crystalline cheeks.

They couldn't take the mermaid from her.



A mermaid?

Well, Muir refines this vision to more specifically a Ningyo, a Japanese fish god that engenders misfortune. As the rest of the team becomes aware of this disturbing discovery, it manifests even stranger conceptualizations. One person sees a giant lotus flower, another, the crucifixion. The leader of the team sees Sekhmet, an Egyptian goddess of war. When winter evacuation comes, a skeleton team stays behind. Now the artifact itself is too big to excavate, but they find a detached handteam leader sees an ankhto power punch out of its ice coffin. They get it off the slope and back to camp and start chiseling away. Meanwhile, the storm hits. And, it gets cold; colder than the generators and heaters can keep up with. Human endurance cannot hold pace with this level of freezing. It feels as if this freezing is beyond even weather's capabilities. Soon, power drops them into darkness. At this moment, they strip away the last coating of ice on the mermaid's hand and find:

"My God," she whispered. "Do you see that?"

"What?" Adriatico asked.

Muir turned to her. "There's nothing in the ice."



Earlier,when the crew was "riding the adrenalin wave"(p.34), they kick around promotional ideas to sell the disinterred mermaid to their superiors. Research, or donate her to a museum. But more entrepreneurial, as a religious tourist attraction. They were on the right track, yet their thinking was hopelessly naive and shamefully capitalistic. Later, Muir begins the formulation for final outcome when she says, "maybe she was dumped here on purpose. . . Maybe she's a Trojan horse"(p.63). Closer, but the prized cigar is absorbed in futility when only 4 out of 28 make it off that frozen, planetary-sized grave. Now, the speculation becomes metaphysical when Muir decides what is the truth, or at least some way toward practical action. "I think she's the first Goddess. . . the Goddess of everything. The Goddess of Goddesses"(p.88).

So now she's riding in a freighter bound for Earth next to the survivors' spaceship. Once Muir made a ruinous decision that changed everything in her life. She ran over a little girl in her delivery truck. Sentenced for manslaughter, she was doing jail time on this miserable expedition. "I made a decision, is all. . . Make her die. . . So I could have my bonus"(p.96). Presently, true retribution is within her frostbitten fingers. and it will necessitate the ultimate sacrifice.


"And even then she couldn't tell if she was saving the world or not. But she knew that sometimes the cruellest thing wasn't to let the world die. It was to force the world to live. In all its tragedy and grief and failure, it had to live."




1) Personally, I prefer the earlier workings of this legendChristopher Marlowe's The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus of 1588where his soul is damned to hell and body parts strewn around the room.

text only © copyright 03/19/2017 by Larry Crawford

List Page » Non-List Reviews » Details of Review » Updates