“The Mermaid Astronaut”

Last week’s subject of discussion over at LibraryThing’s Deep Ones.

Review: “The Mermaid Astronaut”, Yoon Ha Lee, 2020.

It’s not Lee’s fault this is not a weird story. The Deep Ones cast its net wide and sometimes it brings in unexpected fare. 

This is a science fiction story crossed with a fairy tale. And, as I’ve said before, I’ve never developed, at any point in my, life a love for fairy tales.

And it’s not particularly remarkable. 

Protagonist Essarala is a mermaid on a planet visited by alien traders (none seem human). She wants to visit the stars but doesn’t want to leave her younger sister Kiovasa. 

But her sister urges her to go after a banquet the traders hold. To aid her, her sister urges Essarala to visit a witch. 

The witch offers to help, her only price is that, when she returns, Essarala has to do what the witch asks. Essarala agrees. She’s given a knife to slit her tail and legs emerge. 

She goes to the stars, learns the tasks of being a crew member, and becomes sort of a family member to the crew.

(Spoilers ahead)

Eventually, though, she wants to return home – especially after she learns about relativity and how much Kiovasa will have aged compared to her. Even though mermaids are long lived, Kiovasa might be dead. 

She isn’t when Essarala retuns, but she is old. Essarala visits the witch and is told the price. She must replace the witch whom, we learn, travelled the stars herself once and thus knew about relativity. Essarala does. 

There is much lyrical and emotional language and scientific discussion, but, ultimately, it feels mostly like a fairy tale with the regrowth of Essarala’s tail not explained.

2 thoughts on ““The Mermaid Astronaut”

  1. Bookstooge July 3, 2022 / 6:27 am

    I am really surprised this made it through the filter of weirdness. Was there any explanation given for why they allowed this through?

    • marzaat July 3, 2022 / 11:42 am

      A fair number of the nominations haven’t been read by their nominators or the rest of the group. They get nominated, the group votes on them, and the highest vote getters get discussed.

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