Review – Flight & Anchor

Flight & Anchor: A Firebreak Story

by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Publication Date: 13 Jun 2023

Full disclosure: I read this from a free review copy off Netgalley.

Synopsis: In short (and I do mean short, because the book itself is roughly novella length at 139 pages double spaced), this is a story set in the world of another of the author’s works, Firebreak, about a city gripped by a war between two corporate entities, with a team of bio-engineered super soldiers at the heart of the conflict. This story features two of those—06, a girl, and 22, a boy—as preteens trying to escape the corporate facility that grabbed them as very young war orphans and turned them into killing machines.
They escape and, rather than making their way out of the city as originally planned, hole up in an abandoned container and scavenge for food in the harsh city winter. The whole time, the nameless facility Director remotely monitors their location and vital signs and tries to hide her failure in letting them escape.

Review: I suppose I just have to say this one wasn’t for me. It seems built knowing these children as characters, without giving any real reason to WANT to; since I haven’t read Firebreak, and thus don’t have any grasp on what they do or their significance, my interest just slides off them like glass. This could also be due to the fact that this very brief story spends SO MUCH TIME on mundane details of survival (with a nearly two page listing of the random detritus they scavenge in their abandoned lot, that then plays absolutely no part in their story).

There are also clear allusions to events that happen years after the story—clearly referring to Firebreak—that are frustratingly pointless to this actual narrative, and so simply stand out as enormous flashing “Hey, remember this part?” signs. I don’t, actually.

I was also bemused by how the book spent 13 pages, fully 10% of its length, in the largely uneventful and pointless interaction between a barista, Cass, and these two nameless children, which again had no bearing on the characters’ further actions or development. In terms of Chekhov’s gun, there were like four shotguns (Offscreen characters, suspicions, potential friends, potential foes) in that scene, and none of them ever fired. It was essentially 13 pages of “Then they got some cast off coats and stale donuts.” Which they later did AGAIN after digging through the garbage.

That scene did successfully shake my affinity for “they” as a singular pronoun, since it featured Cass as “they” interacting with two unnamed people acting as a unit whom Cass immediately identified as “boy” and “girl” because I guess that’s what a non-binary person does on first meeting preteens? Anyway, it was tortuous and difficult to get through, and served so little purpose in so many pages that I very nearly stopped reading once I realized it just hadn’t mattered.

However, when something actually interesting and important happened—the intriguing nanobot array that filled the so necessary “snarky sub character” slot showing up, the roughly two pages of action at the end, etc.—it was fun. The writing itself in the use of language and pacing are really quite good, so that was a pleasant part of the experience.

Overall, I’d give this three of five stars, for deft sentences and glimpses of an intriguing world, with marks off for not a whole lot happening that makes sense to this non-Firebreak reader.

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