Short Reviews – The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn, Vonda McIntyre

The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn appeared in the February 1974 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

I got to this, and thought “Finally, something I can sink my teeth into!” It had anthropoid carnivorous bird aliens who had been living on a colony ship in search of a new homeworld.

Well, it ends up being more of an inter-generational love story and lament for how cultures can lose their way and ability to reach their potential as they instead seek comfort and safety. Still, it’s well written enough and has enough weirdness that I didn’t feel like it was wasting my time or its sci-fi elements on its premise.

The colony ship is a pretty cramped space for a race of birdfolk; they have a flight deck, but it’s barely large enough to get more than a good glide. The protagonist is an aging bird lady who still remembers their old world and longs to soar through air. She thinks the younger generations on the ship with her have been made craven by life on a spaceship, unable to fly and eating food they did not have to hunt. She ends up literally taking a young birdlad under her wing, telling him of the olden times, what it was like before the ship. Birdboy falls in loves to the chagrin of the much older birdwoman. He helps her get to the planet that’s being passed up because it’s ‘not quite right’ (the younger birdfolk are just being lazy and picky) so that she can fly one last time, and she helps him become a bird Man.

Once upon a time, I might have been all about a story like this one. It’s not the sort of thing I’m really in the mood for these days, but… BUT! If you’re going to tell this sort of story, you’d damn sure better tell it like Vonda McIntyre. Otherwise people will say “Wait a minute… this is just an old lady telling kids to get off her lawn until she decides to sleep with one of them!”

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