REVIEW: “The Grass Bows Down, The Pilgrims Walk Lightly” by Izzy Wasserstein

Review of Izzy Wasserstein, “The Grass Bows Down, The Pilgrims Walk Lightly”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February (2020): 125–131 (Print) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Contains spoilers.

The Klevish are an alien civilization who despite their advanced technological status, appear to lead a rather mystic lifestyle. They agree to share some of their knowledge with Earth, provided a human representative can overcome one of their challenges. This time they’ve chosen Erika, a biologist, as Earth’s negotiator for a genetic reclamation technology. The puzzle she must solve is simple: why does a particular species of a tall grass bend as the Klevish pass by it?

This is an excellent example of concise storytelling, covering a lot of ground in only a few paragraphs. There’s a simple, yet powerful poignancy about the world and characters that Wasserstein unfolds throughout her non-linear narrative, adding to a pleasant feeling of melancholy. Erika’s struggle, despite its science fictional backbone, is immensely relatable to anyone who’s had to choose between more than one path in their lives. The sadness that such a choice entails comes through clearly in the story.

Unfortunately, the ending does not quite hold up to the excellent build up, as the Erika’s solution to the Klevish puzzle seems like a hand-wavy attempt to bring the story to a hasty close. It works, but I can’t help but think that cleverer solution exists somewhere out there, one that does try to force the metaphor quite so much.

Published by

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.