Speculative Fiction Reviews
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Walking Hibernation, by Joanne Merriam - Strange Horizons, 4 October 2004

Walking Hibernation, by Joanne Merriam

Walking Hibernation is an interesting, if not completely successful, look at an alternative reality where the myths of our world--dragons, werecreatures, vampires, and so on--are not only real but fully recognised by the people living there. The story takes place during a trip to see the polar bears of Hudson Bay, where the tour guide turns out to be a were-bear.

There are some great moments in the story, such as the description of the protagonist's travels, and the everyday use of mythology. In this acceptance of the supernatural as part of normal life, Walking Hibernation echoes Robin McKinley's novel Sunshine, but unlike the McKinley novel there is little illustration of how the real presence of the supernatural might affect this world; in fact, the world in this story seems to be exactly the same as the one we know.

The story also suffers from a somewhat awkward style in places and an unclearness about the motivation of the supernatural creatures in the story, in this case, the were-bears. I was never sure whether the were-bears were rational people who could change form, or whether they were murderous beasts who only wanted to kill. At times they seem to be both of these. Much of the above might have been cleared up in a longer piece--this story is only just over 2,000 words long.

In terms of the story itself, we are presented with a protagonist who resents that she has lost the freedom that she enjoyed before giving birth to her son. The events of the story force her to confront this and choose her future. Despite this, the choice that she makes in the end seemed to be abrupt and not altogether justified by what had come before.

Although I've made quite a few criticisms of Walking Hibernation, Merriam has produced a fascinating and ambitious tale that I would strongly recommend reading. I hope that Merriam will explore this world she has created more fully. There is a lot that she could do with it.

--Patrick Samphire, 5 October 2004

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