BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A relatively famous artist named duLane, seeking a new challenge, journeys to the wildest world in the Upshot, only to find his very identity and art challenged and confronted.
PROS: Strong pair of main characters; clever worldbuilding; interesting prose style; very strongly evoked themes.
CONS: The denouement of the story doesn’t quite pay off the promise of the opening; infodumping sometimes stops the action in its tracks.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting novella that explores some thorny issues in an entertaining way.
Imagine a series of worlds interconnected by a network that mandates that to travel from world to world, you must give up your original body, your original flesh, and take on new flesh, a new random looking body at the destination. In such a world, where identity is of the mind and not the body, how would society change? How would relations change? And what taboos would still remain?
Now, imagine a world in this society that is the sink of experimentation, wildness, changeability and decadence. Where the nature of humanity and the flesh are put on display in an endless carnival and parade of augmented and changed bodies. Hawk-men and mimickers of Prometheus. Centaurs and Angels. Where people, rich and poor, strive to continually refine and reinvent themselves in an endless loop of body modification, using a repurposed form of the Upshot system as a way to decant into newer and better forms.
That is Rotten Row, the eponymous world in Chaz Brenchley’s novella.