REVIEW: "War Lily" by Beth Dawkins

Review of Beth Dawkins, “War Lily”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2020): 140–142 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Contains spoilers.

Before dying in combat, Shelby was able to record an imprint of her mind on a device called the “war lily.” The war lily can be used a total of 4 times by her friends and family for a final goodbye. The first three go to her wife, Rosa, their young son, Henry, and Shelby’s dying mother. Years later, a grown-up Henry summons his mother one last time, hoping to make her stay more permanent.

Though it features an abundantly common trope in science fiction, I enjoyed reading this story. One thing science fiction does well is to literalize abstract concepts, and “War Lily” is a perfect example of that, demonstrating a person’s inability to let go. It deals with universal theme that I never get tired of reading about, especially when done well. Here, the prose was evocative enough to bring out the emotion without sipping into melodrama. It’s a simple, yet effective.

Unfortunately, I did not quite buy the ending. We don’t get to know the main character well enough to find her final choice justifiable. Many questions are left unanswered. What was the nature of the war she died in? Why did she fight? I did not see a strong reason for her not to accept the body offered by her son. Perhaps in her quest for brevity, the author left some important exposition out of the story.

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