Hannu Rajaniemi’s new short story collection, Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction, is one of the books you ought to be looking out for this year. Rajaniemi’s novels are known for their complex storylines, interesting characters, and vastly detailed worlds.
It’s really difficult to explain all of the great things that occur in Hannu Rajaniemi’s stories. Instead, I’m going to highlight a few specific stories I really enjoyed and then tell you what I wish had happened.
The Server and the Dragon
This was one of the first stories in the collection that really grabbed me. It’s reminiscent of Rajaniemi’s novels. It follows a computer server made to comply with other’s wishes. The server is lonely and develops a world, only to meet a (seemingly) companionable dragon. The dragon convinces the server to go along with it’s plans and, then, reveals a darker side.
This story is part scifi part fairytale in space. It’s elegant and does a great job of humanizing a computer. The story is great at packing a punch in a fairly small space. Like with lots of Rajaniemi’s other works, the broader universe isn’t really expanded upon. Though this can be confusing, it’s also a bit refreshing. You can tell it’s well thought out and internally consistent, and that Rajaniemi knows you’ll follow without hand-holding.
Tyche and the Ants
A young girl was sent away for her own protection. She’s being cared for by a computer that sees to all of her needs, has a fairly constant idea of where she is, and possesses a bit of a domineering streak. Tyche, the girl, only really gets respite in the mysterious creatures that live outside her home. Whether they are benevolent or malicious, you can’t really say. It’s a story of trust, parenting, and self-determination.
Elegy for a Young Elk
This was one of the stories I really wish there had been a full novel for. It captures a lot of the charming and intriguing character building that Rajaniemi is fantastic at. Elegy talks about the relationship between lovers, parents, and self. It deals with depression and substance abuse, all in a fantastic speculative setting.
In addition to the great stories, the collection features a number of recurring themes like individualism, parenting, and the relationship between man and computer. I only wish there had been a theme unifying the stories together.