By Daniel Dern: Whether you want to call it, as Jane Yolen does it in her introduction to this book, a multi-generational “mosaic” novel, or, per the listing on publisher Mythic Delirium’s site, “A book of linked stories,” Barbara Krasnoff’s The History of Soul 2065 is, simply, a remarkable book, combining elements of both fantasy (ghosts, spirits, magic time/space portals, demons) and science fiction (cyberspace/virtual reality, and other elements in a multi-generational story that (a) I heartily recommend, and (b) I’m ready to nominate (or add my nom for) this year’s Nebula Awards.
(Disclaimer: I know Barbara Krasnoff professionally and socially, from the technology journalism and sf con-attending world(s).)
The stories mostly focus, or are from the points-of-view, of two Jewish girls starting in just-before-World-War-I Russia and Germany, and their families, friends and descendants, through World War II and the Holocaust, to our present day, and beyond, to the latter half of this century. This includes a lot in New York, notably during Prohibition and the Depression.
The 216-page book consists of twenty stories, including “Sabbath Wine” (2016 Nebula Award Finalist for Best Short Story), plus Yolen’s introduction, and summary family trees of the main characters). Five of the stories are original to this volume; the others have appeared in various publications between 2000 and 2017, although, as Krasnoff notes in the copyright information list at the end of the book, “they were slightly revised so that they could take their proper place in the histories of Chana’s and Sophia’s families.”
Each story is intense — both in the prose and the content. (And I found that I wanted to take a break after each story, rather than plowing through the book in a few long sessions.)
Each story can stand on its own. But they also fit together. So the further you get into the book, the more you the reader begin to see things the characters may not themselves know.
If you aren’t ready to buy/borrow the book yet, you can read sample stories from Krasnoff’s book online for free (and then go get the book):
- “An Awfully Big Adventure”
- “Sabbath Wine” (includes audio reading at the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings)
- “The Ladder-Back Chair”
- “Sophia’s Legacy”
And if you need more convincing to try the free samples, here’s some related File770 coverage:
- Two’s Crowds at the KGB Bar
- Pixel Scroll 9/27/19 (see Item #2)
- “Power Couples in the World of Speculative Fiction: Jim Freund and Barbara Krasnoff”
One final note/suggestion: If you are a SFWA member and planning to do any (more) Nebula nominations — which close in February 15, 2020 — now is the time to read the freebies and get the book. (My apologies for not getting this done sooner; my Mount To-Be-Done is a twin peak to my Mount To-Be-Read.)