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Ice Songby Kirsten Imani Kasai
Synopses & Reviews
Song of the Sigue
They touched the sigue coast at dusk,
just as the ice was cracking. Standing on the slippery top deck as the massive ice- drilling submarine churned toward shore, Sorykah Minuit inhaled, taking the cold ocean air deep into her lungs. It felt so good to be outside after weeks below sea, working cheek by jowl with sixty filthy, sweat- stained miners and their collective, tactile reek. The air sang down her throat and pierced her lungs, but she welcomed the discomfort. It helped to clear her head of melancholy and milk- fog. For a moment it seemed that the cold would solidify around her and crack apart her carefully wrought shell, releasing her from the prison of her secrecy-but it did not.
The helmsman sounded the docking horn. A long, low peal vibrated the metal deck beneath her feet. Frigid brine sluiced over the Nimbus's hull as it rose, its imposing bulk breasting the waves like the body of a sleek black orca. Afternoon light the color of apricots glistened atop the water; heat splayed against an icy sky. Soon, the color would fade and night emerge, liquid indigo turning the snow to charcoal. Southern sunsets lingered for hours. Siguelanders said the sun bled to death each night; this dazzling show repeated the story of Sun's grisly murder by his lover Moon, who stabbed him while he slept, jealous of his affection for a mortal woman.
The noise of the ocean penned in by the icy harbor was terrific. Ice groaned, squeaked, and bellowed. Water droplets froze in midair and fell toward the wooden pier, bouncing upon its snowy crust like scattered, shining stones. Nearer the surface, one long sheet of ice groaned deep within its white skin, a sound like a woman birthing, or so it seemed to Sorykah, still sentimental from the memory of her own children's birth but a lunar skein behind. The Sigue was the Land of Ice Song, a surreal pole formed from ice that sang, juddered, and moaned. Ice plates ground against one another with subarctic cricket legs, keening shards and frosts that played the most primitive and abstract melodies yet had shaped the culture of this tiny nation. Musicians and singers attempted to capture the eerie, haunting songs but could not repeat the melancholic strains. Sound technicians embedded microphones deep within the ice plates in an effort to record the music, chart the notes, pitch, and timing of the songs, but the recordings replayed a mishmash of disconnected sounds, discordant and chaotic. The melody was lost in translation and the mocking ice refused capture by human whim. Hearing it now- angry, plaintive, sorrowful-Sorykah remembered why she had volunteered for this frigid, outlandish post, for the Sigue song replicated her own bitter tune. Perhaps the ice could sing to drive out the ghosts within her, banish the image of that deceitful Trader as he climbed from her bed, the smug, careless grin he'd offered as he wiped himself clean and slid into his trousers.
Sorykah licked the salt from her lips as she watched the harbormaster signal from the dock, his bright orange flags lost among
Environmental degradation and genetic mutation run amok; humans have become distorted into animals and animal bodies mask a wild humanity. Alluring, intense, and gorgeously rendered, "Ice Song" is a remarkable debut by a fiercely original new writer.
A stunning debut fantasy about love and the ties of blood.--Armchair Interviews
Kasai's debut is a boldly adventurous tale depicting a richly detailed world. The aspect of Traders shifting gender brings Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness to mind, while the activities on Chen's island are more reminiscent of Laurell K. Hamilton's Meredith Gentry novels.--Booklist
When Sorykah's twin babies are stolen, she leaves her job as engineer aboard an ice-drilling submarine in the frozen land of the Sigue to search for her children, for they, like her, are members of the gender-shifting Traders, a rare subspecies of humans that can shift from male to female and back again. Kasai's first novel creates a frozen world inhabited by permutations of humans and animals, from the eight-limbed octameroons to dog-faced humans and wolves who can become men. Despite the bleak images of a world
About the Author
KIRSTEN IMANI KASAI, a native Coloradoan, has lived in places as diverse as Newark, New Jersey; East Hampton, New York; Bradford and Penzance, England (sadly devoid of singing pirates); and a windowless cubby beneath the stairs in a San Francisco flat crowded with ten roommates, four iguanas, three cats, two German exchange students, and a bald illegal Irishwoman, none of whom possessed a front door key. Before having children, she moved to a new city every six months, indulging her taste for novelty. She currently resides in southern California with her husband and two children.
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