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Posted August 2, 2010
The Adventures of Alyx is a collection of four short stories and a novella. The first three short stories follow a small-time tough named Alyx on a series of typical fantasy adventures. Alyx is an engaging character who fights and battles with her wits against sea monsters and pirates. The third story, "The Barbarian," shows a bit of a turn, as Russ has Alyx do battle against a sort of Faustian figure. At this point, Alyx as a character seems to have sparked Russ' creative interest, as the stories now go beyond the standard fantasy fare.
The most ambitious of the items in this collection is the novella "Picnic on Paradise." Russ puts Alyx into a future where a "commercial war" is being fought, and her job is to transport a group to a port on a planet called Paradise. When they arrive at the location of the port, they find it has been destroyed. They then trek for two months across Paradise to find a safe haven. Through that journey, Alyx battles monsters and human attackers, feels love, and experiences loss, as Paradise dishes out as much hell as possible. While the story wanders a bit during this trek, it shows Russ growing in her abilities as a writer.
The final story, "The Second Inquisition," is a bit of a departure. The narrator is not named, and she does not act or seem like Alyx in many ways. However, we are clearly meant to see her as such, not only because of the story's inclusion in this volume, but also because the tag-line that ends all the stories takes on a variation in this story. The story here is an inter-textual sci-fi story that relies as much on H.G. Wells as it does on standard sci-fi conventions. Russ is also at her most feminist in this story--thus pointing toward her future writing--and her prose is crisp and quick moving. While "The Second Inquisition" is an odd end to this collection, it is the strongest entry in this uneven collection.