February 6, 2018
The Burning Light, by Bradley P. Beaulieu
Disgraced government operative Colonel Chu is exiled to the flooded relic of New York City. Something called the Light has hit the streets like an epidemic, leavings its users strung out and disconnected from the mind-network humanity relies on. Chu has lost everything she cares about to the Light. She’ll end the threat or die trying. A former corporate pilot who controlled a thousand ships with her mind, Zola looks like just another Light-junkie living hand to mouth on the edge of society. She’s special though. As much as she needs the Light, the Light needs her too. But, Chu is getting close and Zola can’t hide forever.
The Burning Light, by Bradley P. Beaulieu has a lot of plusses on the balance sheet. The tale of Manhattan post-apocalypse is fleshed out in such a short story. The division of society we experience today continues in this futaure. Even the villain makes sense with a back story that makes her drive to eradicate Zola, and the Light believable. But, what the heck is the Light? Is it a drug? Is it some sort of AI gone rogue? Is it an ancient evil bent on enslaving humanity? Is it angelic grace from the TV show Supernatural? After reading, and ruminating on the story, I still have no idea what it was.
While the characters were written well, and they all passed the sniff test, they weren’t relatable. I wasn’t able to connect with any of them. I didn’t care if the light did whatever the light was trying to do. I didn’t care if Chu killed the junkies or Zola. The ending was a letdown. I’m not sure if the author intended the ending to be happy or sad, or what… I didn’t get it.
I’m glad that TOR is producing more novellas, and they seem to have a decent digital price point. I think The Burning Light shows just how difficult it is to create a deep story within the constraints of short fiction. Despite my complaints, I’d still recommend reading The Burning Light. I’d rate it at four stars, and I look forward to reading more novellas from TOR.
Bradley P. Beaulieu began writing his first fantasy novel in college, but life eventually intervened. As time went on, though, Brad realized that his love of writing and telling tales wasn’t going to just slink quietly into the night. The drive to write came back full force in the early 2000s, at which point Brad dedicated himself to the craft, writing and learning under the guidance of writers like Nancy Kress, Joe Haldeman, Tim Powers, Holly Black, and many more. Brad and his novels have garnered many accolades including two Hotties—the Debut of the Year and Best New Voice—on Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, a Gemmell Morningstar Award nomination for The Winds of Khalakovo.