The Hugo voter packet was released a couple of days ago, which means that all the Hugo-nominated short stories are now available also for those readers who haven’t purchased The Baen Big Book of Monsters anthology. The book includes “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond alongside classic and contemporary tales by writers as varied as Howards Lovecraft and Waldrop.
Diamond is also the guy behind the Elitist Book Reviews blog, so he’s actually on the Hugo ballot twice this year. “A Single Samurai” is the only short story candidate that was not backed up by Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies slate, and it only got onto the ballot because of Annie Bellet’s withdrawal.
Category: Short story
Published in: The Baen Big Book of Monsters, an anthology of monster SF edited by Hank Davis
Slates: Sad Puppies
“A Single Samurai”, unsurprisingly, tells the story of a lone samurai. He is traveling on the back of a mountain-sized kaiju monster that is demolishing everything in its way, and he intends to kill it.
I love this idea, and it’s a shame Diamond only mentions it and never gives the reader any insight into what it’s like to be on a moving mountain (if we don’t count one earthquake). The milieu feels like any standard fantasy environment, really.
On the surface level, the story is competently written, even though there’s little action and much backstory. The little action there is — a fight against monstrous cat monsters — is not relevant for the protagonist’s mission in any way, so the dramatics of the story are a bit off.
The plot moves forward slowly and ends suddenly when the samurai manages to fall into a cave and find the kaiju’s brain by accident. That was an unbelievable and contrived way of getting the samurai where the author wants him to be. The ending is also rather weird and involves the samurai committing suicide next to the kaiju brain, because, magically, that is the only way to stop the monster.
There was some promise in the story, but I would have preferred some more internal logic and making something interesting out of the whole kaiju setting.
Lastly, I’ll have to give Baen kudos for putting the whole anthology in the voter packet. There are some other stories I expect I’ll be reading later on when the Hugo project is done.