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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Strange Horizons, 1 August 2005

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"Cloud Dragon Skies" by N.K. Jemisin

"Cloud Dragon Skies" by N.K. Jemisin should be classified as science fiction due to the subject matter, but it has a definite fantasy folktale feel.  It is set on a future Earth that has been partially abandoned.  The sky has turned red and the clouds have become swirling, dragon-shaped whisps.  The people that remained on Earth eschewed technology in favor of returning to a more tribal lifestyle that might allow the planet to heal.  The main character, Nahautu, and her father allow a group of sky-people to stay on their land to study the sky.

I liked the juxtaposition of the sky-people and Nahautu and her father.  The sky-people want to fix the Earth's sky even though the change has not altered the planet's ability to sustain life.  Nahautu's father wants things left as they are, and Nahautu is ambivalent.  For her, the sky is as it is, and therefore unremarkable. 

The story is told almost like a folktale, which meshes nicely with the primitive Earth society.  The imagery is very good. I especially liked the description of the cloud dragons.   While I don't think Jemisin is saying anything new with the story, the combination of science fiction and folktale is refreshing and well done.  Definitely worth a look.