If you read the first Tales from The Longview, you should understand how these novellas work, but that doesn’t really prepare you for the intensity found in The Selling of Suzee Delight. As with the first, though I avoid direct spoilers, it’s hard to talk about this story without implying some of what goes on in it, so proceed with caution.
The first was a very personal story to introduce the world and hint at the ventures of The Longview. Kagen has a role to play in the second as well, as do Shay and Melie (all from episode one), but the focus of The Selling of Suzee Delight is so much broader than one person’s hatred of a system that makes commodities of people and crime of justice.
Don’t let that leave you with the feeling there isn’t a personal story, because there are several, but at the same time, in a very real way, Suzee Delight’s story becomes everyone’s story.
That might not sound very likely when Suzee is a trained courtesan and she’s on trial for the brutal murder of five political administrators. Kagen finds the way to make the specifics less important than the generals, not by obscuring them but by giving faces to every aspect of Suzee’s story that describes agency. More than just how her tale connects with the experience of everyone within the Longview universe, I can see parallels to both my experiences and things I have observed.
I know I’m not talking about the story as much as I usually do. I don’t want you to think that’s because the story was weakened by the strong, powerful message it conveys about taking and using your voice no matter how small to make the world into a better place. Every scene ties back to that theme, the pronouncement of agency, of using the agency you have to help those who never had a chance, and by implication, the dangers of sitting back and letting the status quo stand even when it’s twisted and rotten at the root.
That’s a big message to carry in such few words, but Holly Lisle manages through a dark, horrific story that could easily be horror in other hands but ends up being a force for good, an awakening and rejection of the system that made this come to a head. She does this through introducing the key characters then making us understand what drives them and where they will or will not go to make the right thing happen. Sometimes the choices are all bad, sometimes the situation doesn’t work out as hoped for, but each person in this tale takes a risk, takes a chance on no matter how slender a thread of hope, and succeeds beyond imagining in many cases, though often not in the way intended.
My only quibble was the time between pieces of Kagen’s story. It wasn’t that his pieces were placed poorly because they came when they needed to but more that at one point I started wondering how he was getting along because we’d been caught up in other stories for long enough to notice he’d been left behind. Shortly after I reached that point, Kagen returned to the page, though, so it’s a minor quibble all told.
The Selling of Suzee Delight is complex, tangled, and certainly not happy-go-lucky, but if you’re looking for a powerful, thought-provoking read wrapped around flesh and blood characters, The Selling of Suzee Delight is worth the chance. While sometimes a world grows on me so the next one is always my new favorite, in this case, episode 3 will have to do something wildly impressive to oust Suzee. Dark, yes, but also light in a way it can only be because of the darkness. Hope doesn’t rise when people accept life as unchangeable, and this Longview story has hope.
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