Ymir (Orbit, July 12, 2022). Cover by Arcangel
Rich Larson has enjoyed a vanishingly rare career phenomenon. He’s vaulted into the top rank of modern science fiction almost solely on the strength of his short fiction.
This used to be more common. In fact, it used to be the way to do it — you published a few dozen short stories in genre magazines, maybe got a series going, attracted a few sly looks from publishers, and next thing you know you had a book deal and a real writing career. That doesn’t happen any more. At least, not the way it used to.
Except for Rich Larson, apparently. He burst onto the scene in 2012, and sold over 100 stories in the next six years — more than one per month. In 2016 Gardner Dozois called him “one of the best new writers to enter science fiction in more than a decade.” Since then he’s been focusing on longer work, and in July of this year he published his third novel Ymir. Publishers Weekly says “The nonstop action and violence keep the pages flying. Fans of finely crafted, high-intensity sci-fi stories will enjoy.”
Paul Di Filippo at Locus Online provides a more finely detailed review. Here’s an excerpt:
In my review of Larson’s first book, Annex, I made a couple of observations which hold true for Ymir as well:
“Larson crams a superabundance of action into just a few days of realtime for his characters. The pacing is nonstop, and just when you think a certain pattern has assumed permanence, he fruitfully upsets it…. [and he] has a cinematic eye for depicting the disturbing shadows and tumbled vistas of the wreckage of his world…”
Our hero this time around is a fellow named Yorick Metu. Raised poor and oppressed on the harsh planet Ymir, he has since escaped what seemed to be his inevitable fate, but not by an enviable route. As he grew older on Ymir he fell into the employment of the corporate overlords who eventually came to run the planet as a mining colony. As a character named Fen realizes: “She knows that Yorick is the worst sort of company man, the kind who betrayed his own blood during Subjugation.” Fleeing his homeworld, he became a hunter-killer, his special prey being the strange quasi-machine beings known as “grendels.” Yorick never intended to return to Ymir, but his boss and handler, a woman named Gausta, has him forcibly decanted there, out of his interstellar hibernation status, to deal with a grendel incursion. So now Yorick has to face not only a deadly xenotech predator, but all the ghosts of his past…
The planet Ymir — as we might assume from its status as the book’s title-bearer — will hold a large place in the action, and Larson evokes it magnificently. It’s basically a frozen hellworld, where life is confined to the Cut, a deep long crevasse roofed over with a projection-screen ceiling…
Larson manages to convey a sense of the largeness of his galactic milieu, especially through scenes involving the ancient grendels and a mysterious structure of the long-departed forerunner “Oldies” that is dubbed “the ansible.” He could easily bring us more adventures in this scenario, but maybe not necessarily featuring Yorick, who, by novel’s end, has traversed a full and life-changing arc.
Fans of M. John Harrison’s sophisticated space operas will encounter in Larson’s newest a worthy shelf-mate.
We covered Larson’s 2018 novel Annex, the opening volume in The Violet Wars, here.
Ymir was published by Orbit Books on July 12, 2022. It is 391 pages, priced at $17.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Arcangel.
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