“Russian Vine” is a short story by British sci-fi author Simon Ings that was published on SCIFICTION on June 6, 2001.
Onto the last review!
The Story: Colonization From The Alien’s Point Of View
Connie is one of the Puscha, an alien race descended from avians that has overrun the planet Earth and enforced itself onto the human race, turning the species into some hybrid of labor class and livestock through “human husbandry.” Despite his role as one of the dominant race, Connie finds himself drawn to a human woman named Rebecca, focusing in particular on how different their languages sound and what it says about their two races. However, this contact is not quite so diplomatic and ends in tragedy for the conflicted alien Connie.
The Cast: An Alien By Any Other Name…
Connie is interesting in that he seems to be there solely for the contrast to the human beings he’s encountered, comparing their women to the females of his race, comparing the sound of their language to the song-like dialects of his people, and so on. He doesn’t seem to be so much hostile or in contempt of humanity as he is strangely attracted to and befuddled by it.
In contrast is Rebecca, who sings beautifully and tells stories of what happens among her fellow humans–a very oral person, which makes sense given that the Puscha have tried to suppress all literacy amongst their subjected races. Yet for her companionship with Connie, it appears that she may not be the benevolent ally he thought he could rely on.
The Setting: Strangers In An All-Too Familiar Land
The story takes place first in Paris and then in the English countryside. For the most part, human dwellings and cities seem to have been left intact, and the now-colonized Earth appears to be the same except for one key difference: literacy and the written word have been actively suppressed, since languages and their differences lead to strife, which is what the Puscha have never wanted among themselves, let alone among their subjects. This has the side effect of producing a more oral culture among human beings, as stories are shared as they were in the days of the Greek poet Homer.
Final Verdict: Spoiling The Spoils Of Conquest
Much like how “You Go Where It Takes You” brought a mellow feeling to a horror story, this tale is all about a mellow observation of Earth after an alien invasion and conquest. It gives a sympathetic view to one of the colonists–or perhaps conquerors, if we were find out a little more about Connie–and also sets up for the ultimate human response to such conditions. It’s new and interesting, which is just what a good story evokes.
Rhapsodist’s Note: This is the last story to be reviewed from the Digital Domains anthology. Starting Thursday, I’ll be reviewing a Joe Haldeman novel, and next week, the famous science fiction novel Ender‘s Game by Orson Scott Card. Thanks for reading!
Bibliography: Ings, Simon. “Russian Vine.” Digital Domains: A Decade of Science Fiction & Fantasy. Edited by Ellen Datlow. Prime Books, 2010.