These Prisoning Hills

Tor.com. May 2022. 144p. ISBN 9781250804488. $14.99. SF
Rowe’s (Telling the Map) novella set in the “prisoning hills” of Appalachia combines a post-apocalyptic setting with a civil war directed by self-determined, AI-controlled war machines. These beings ruthlessly dominated humanity by trying to wipe out all opposition with bullets, lasers, and mind control. Marcia remembers the war and has kept her head down during the following uneasy peace, but she has been conscripted to go back to the battlegrounds to see what might have been left behind—and do her best to make sure it doesn’t come back. The dual-timeline story allows readers to experience Marcia’s memories of an unwinnable war alongside her reluctant mission to face the demons she hoped she left behind. She will discover that well-built war machines never die and that it is up to her to save everyone.
VERDICT A succinct but surprisingly intuitive character study. Fans of the movie Pacific Rim or Faith Hunter’s “Junkyard Cats” series will particularly enjoy.
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