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Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water

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All Bee has ever known is darkness. She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet Colel-Cab with only fellow prisoner Chela for company. Chela says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. Bee has no reason to doubt her—until she hears the voice of anoth All Bee has ever known is darkness. She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet Colel-Cab with only fellow prisoner Chela for company. Chela says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. Bee has no reason to doubt her—until she hears the voice of another telepath, one who has answers, and can open her eyes to an entirely different truth.


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All Bee has ever known is darkness. She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet Colel-Cab with only fellow prisoner Chela for company. Chela says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. Bee has no reason to doubt her—until she hears the voice of anoth All Bee has ever known is darkness. She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet Colel-Cab with only fellow prisoner Chela for company. Chela says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. Bee has no reason to doubt her—until she hears the voice of another telepath, one who has answers, and can open her eyes to an entirely different truth.

30 review for Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nataliya

    “I barely remember Earth. I don’t remember our crime. I just know what Chela told me: we’re telepaths, and we’re murderers. Four thousand and thirty lives, wiped out in minutes. The guilt eats me alive, like this never-ending darkness.” My quest to read all the Nebula and Hugo nominees and winners this year finally introduced me to Vylar Kaftan. Somehow I have never heard of her, even though she already has won a Nebula for Best Novella in 2013, but then again, I tend to stay more current wit “I barely remember Earth. I don’t remember our crime. I just know what Chela told me: we’re telepaths, and we’re murderers. Four thousand and thirty lives, wiped out in minutes. The guilt eats me alive, like this never-ending darkness.” My quest to read all the Nebula and Hugo nominees and winners this year finally introduced me to Vylar Kaftan. Somehow I have never heard of her, even though she already has won a Nebula for Best Novella in 2013, but then again, I tend to stay more current with longer fiction. Anyway, the blurb and the first few pages not only got me all excited, but had a distinct vibe of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Walking to Aldebaran which I loved when I read it earlier this year. A couple of telepaths imprisoned in the neverending caverns and tunnels on a remote planet, struggling to survive among the bug horrors and dampness and dark, with our narrator Bee having lost her memories as a punishment for telepathic mass-murder, having no one except her grumpy partner Chela not just on her side but in her whole world. All while there’s a distinct sense of wrongness with the whole picture. And maybe, just maybe, a presence of someone else. “Mostly we’re lost in an underground maze. A labyrinth with no Minotaur, no golden thread. Just us, trying to survive.” Things take a different turn pretty quickly, however, sketching out a world that while different from what the beginning makes you assume, is still a very disturbing place to live in. And there’s a journey of self-acceptance and recovery from trauma underneath it all. And the twist is exactly what I hoped it *wouldn’t* be from about a third in, so that soured me a bit. It’s one of the stories where I really want to say - it’s not you, it’s me. Objectively, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s reasonably well-done, and the first part is engrossing in a disturbingly claustrophobic way, and it has just enough of that fascinating dreamlike quality that I tend to appreciate in my stories (see Silently and Very Fast, and This Is How You Lose the Time War, and Walking to Aldebaran even). But when put together, it left me quite cold. The premise had all of my attention, but the narrative voice failed to grab me, and Bee’s unreliability and confusion and self-centeredness failed to resonate with me in any way, which is not a good sign in a short novella where everything depends on the narrator. I kept wishing for the story from Jasmine’s viewpoint, or maybe Chela’s - but instead we got Bee. It just felt so uneven and focused on the parts that I cared about less than the parts happening off-page, and the sparse worldbuilding did not compensate for that. “I feel like a silhouette without a self.” 4 stars for the opening bit, 2 stars for the middle and conclusion. Altogether 2.5 stars and regret that the ending did not live up to the promise of the set-up. But I do plan to read more of her works to see if this was just an unfortunate miss for me. —————— My Hugo and Nebula Awards Reading Project 2020: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  2. 4 out of 5

    destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]

    DNF @ 63% I tried really hard to get into this because I loved the premise, but I strongly dislike the narrative voice and the characters. The whole setup is also kind of confusing, too; amnesia plotlines are tough for me anyways, and I don't think this one is written very well. Since it's so short, I kept telling myself I'd force myself to finish it, but it's been 2-3 weeks since I've read a single page so I might as well drop it. Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with this ARC DNF @ 63% I tried really hard to get into this because I loved the premise, but I strongly dislike the narrative voice and the characters. The whole setup is also kind of confusing, too; amnesia plotlines are tough for me anyways, and I don't think this one is written very well. Since it's so short, I kept telling myself I'd force myself to finish it, but it's been 2-3 weeks since I've read a single page so I might as well drop it. Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Acqua

    Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water is a mind-bending and very gay futuristic sci-fi novella whose main character is a queer latinx woman. At first, I thought this was going to be a cave horror story about an f/f/f love triangle, which I loved as a concept, but this book turned out to be something entirely different, which was... both the story's main strength and weakness. I love being surprised by things that are properly foreshadowed, but when the foreshadowing makes you feel like the main character Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water is a mind-bending and very gay futuristic sci-fi novella whose main character is a queer latinx woman. At first, I thought this was going to be a cave horror story about an f/f/f love triangle, which I loved as a concept, but this book turned out to be something entirely different, which was... both the story's main strength and weakness. I love being surprised by things that are properly foreshadowed, but when the foreshadowing makes you feel like the main character could say "and it was all just a dream!" at any moment, it's not really an enjoyable experience. That's not what happened, by the way, (view spoiler)[but almost. (hide spoiler)] Because Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water is dreamlike in an ephemeral way: it's not whimsical, it just feels like it could fall apart at any moment and become something else - because that's what dreams do. Also, this book reminded me why I dislike amnesia as a trope: I don't know the main character when I start the book, and when she doesn't know herself either, how am I really going to ever get to know her? (Especially in so little space.) However, I liked this book's message and the way it talked about trauma, recovery and inner strength. (I wish I could say more, because I thought that aspect was really well-written, but it would be full of spoilers.) Also, reading something that is really short but manages to surprise me twice anyway is always pleasant.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    An artist in darkness will fight back with light. When I first read an extract from this on Tor.com, I was very intrigued - telepaths imprisoned in never ending tunnels on an asteroid somewhere? Sign me up! And having read the whole thing - not exactly what I expected, but so much more than that. And beautifully written to boot. It is quite short, that's the only drawback, but somehow in that brevity there's still time for a realistic recovery, both physical and emotional. But the less I say the b An artist in darkness will fight back with light. When I first read an extract from this on Tor.com, I was very intrigued - telepaths imprisoned in never ending tunnels on an asteroid somewhere? Sign me up! And having read the whole thing - not exactly what I expected, but so much more than that. And beautifully written to boot. It is quite short, that's the only drawback, but somehow in that brevity there's still time for a realistic recovery, both physical and emotional. But the less I say the better, head into this unspoiled, and enjoy it for yourselves :)

  5. 5 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys! I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . This novella is about two telepaths trying to survive in a prison planet.  One, the protagonist Bee, is determined to escape even though her memory is faulty and she can't even remember why she was sentenced.  The other, Chela, is only focused on day-to-day survival and refuses to discuss much of the past.  The prison that they are in happens to be a cave system in Ahoy there me mateys! I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . This novella is about two telepaths trying to survive in a prison planet.  One, the protagonist Bee, is determined to escape even though her memory is faulty and she can't even remember why she was sentenced.  The other, Chela, is only focused on day-to-day survival and refuses to discuss much of the past.  The prison that they are in happens to be a cave system inhabited by bug swarms.  The two women rely on each other and their love to keep sane.  Bee suspects a secret behind the prison and is surprised to one day hear the voice of a new telepath. This was an uneven read for me.  I absolutely loved the entire beginning in the prison and the introduction of the third telepath.  But the book started to break down once Bee learns the truth.  I can't get into the rest of the plot because of major spoilers.  Let's just say that the book took several interesting and unexpected turns.  Which was awesome.  Unfortunately, the world-building wasn't strong enough to support them. Though I loved Bee, the other characters really felt two-dimensional.  The politics of the world were barely hashed out and slightly nonsensical.  Bee's journey of self-discovery was interesting but the format of the plot made it hard to follow at times.  There were deep themes involved but none seemed to be explored in any meaningful way.  The theme that had the most success was the investigation into love due to the variety of types that were covered and some of the unusual circumstances Bee found herself in. While I am ultimately glad to have read this one due to the interesting concepts and writing style, I think that overall this story would have been better served in a longer format. So lastly . . .Thank ye Tor.com! Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lo

    i blacked out after i had to read the sentence "my asshole clenches with shame" with my own two eyes on may 25th 2019. thanks, but no thanks i blacked out after i had to read the sentence "my asshole clenches with shame" with my own two eyes on may 25th 2019. thanks, but no thanks

  7. 4 out of 5

    Evelina | AvalinahsBooks

    Her Silhouette in Water is one of those books where the final moments either or make it, or break it. For me they absolutely made it. Up to the point of the resolution, I wasn't quite sure about it – but the ending completely changes everything and might even blow your mind. First of all, a lot of things have to be said about how the rep in this book! I can only judge from the outsider's perspective (lol I haven't even been to the US and we are a pretty homogenous society so things are differe Her Silhouette in Water is one of those books where the final moments either or make it, or break it. For me they absolutely made it. Up to the point of the resolution, I wasn't quite sure about it – but the ending completely changes everything and might even blow your mind. First of all, a lot of things have to be said about how the rep in this book! I can only judge from the outsider's perspective (lol I haven't even been to the US and we are a pretty homogenous society so things are different here) , but I thought the Latinx characters being in center stage was awesome. Then there's also the queer rep – the main character and two other women are all queer. In fact, they are the core characters and there's basically no one else. And two of them are married. So, queer Latinx characters! And even aside from that, a lot of the book is about PTSD, anxiety and emotional trauma. So yes, I loved the rep. But this book is about so much more. First of all, it's about persecution and censorship. About the government getting into your affairs and regulating who's safe and who is not. And who should be detained before they've really done anything. And the worst thing is, you don't even know who's telling the truth. Terrifying, no? But even more than that, the book is about love. It's about loving someone else, but more than that, it's about loving yourself and forgiving yourself. We allow ourselves to feel so much guilt about things we've done – and even things we may have never done! This is the core of the book, and this is what made it for me. So I won't expand – read it and find out for yourself :) Triggers: (view spoiler)[concise, but open sex scenes, cheating and emotional betrayal, guilt, violence and bodily harm, imprisonment, discrimination, political persecution, memory and identity loss.... AND HUGE BUGS. (hide spoiler)] I thank Tor.com for giving me a free copy of the book in exchange to my honest opinion. Receiving the book for free does not affect my opinion. Book Blog | Themed Bookstagram | Quick Update Bookstagram | Bookish Twitter

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lata

    What a lovely novella. When we first meet main character Bee, she's on a totally grim prison planet with Chela, who tells her that they've been confined here for their telepathic crimes. They spend their days climbing and evading bugs, and have a routine. Until, one day, Bee hears someone else in her head. This was a great story: I totally loved Bee, and her relationship with her wife. There are some really interesting longterm effects on Bee's body and brain from the method used to keep her in p What a lovely novella. When we first meet main character Bee, she's on a totally grim prison planet with Chela, who tells her that they've been confined here for their telepathic crimes. They spend their days climbing and evading bugs, and have a routine. Until, one day, Bee hears someone else in her head. This was a great story: I totally loved Bee, and her relationship with her wife. There are some really interesting longterm effects on Bee's body and brain from the method used to keep her in prison. And the story's ending left me wanting so much more about Bee and this world.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sahitya

    This was probably not my kind of book. I can’t be sure I understood everything except that one has to love and forgive oneself before trying to overcome life’s other obstacles.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mel (Epic Reading)

    Having read a number of stories very similar to this one, I predicted the end long before I had even read the first 50 pages. It is perhaps worth noting this is a short story at only just over 100 pages. Anytime there is only one person feeding a BS sounding story to a character with a memory loss problem I get skeptical. You just know something is definitely not right here. The story has overtones of Momento in which the “helper” is not telling the whole truth (or any truth). Overall this is re Having read a number of stories very similar to this one, I predicted the end long before I had even read the first 50 pages. It is perhaps worth noting this is a short story at only just over 100 pages. Anytime there is only one person feeding a BS sounding story to a character with a memory loss problem I get skeptical. You just know something is definitely not right here. The story has overtones of Momento in which the “helper” is not telling the whole truth (or any truth). Overall this is really well written. For a book only 100 pages long I appreciate that there is no info dumping. Vylar Kaftan has used his words wisely and conservatively. A good little study in twisting plot points and handling amnesia; but nothing special here in my opinion. Many well-read readers of mystery stories are likely to guess the outcome far in advance. Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    A really clever short novella that sees a powerful telepath and her companion trying to survive in endless dark caves on a prison planet. Bee can't even remember the horrible crime that saw her imprisoned, but her companion Chela assures her that just being a telepath is bad enough. But then Bee begins feeling telepathic contact from someone else. This was brilliant with a wonderful twist and I'd love to see the story followed up. A really clever short novella that sees a powerful telepath and her companion trying to survive in endless dark caves on a prison planet. Bee can't even remember the horrible crime that saw her imprisoned, but her companion Chela assures her that just being a telepath is bad enough. But then Bee begins feeling telepathic contact from someone else. This was brilliant with a wonderful twist and I'd love to see the story followed up.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kateblue

    I was confused by this story, but in the end it all came together. It's a story that shows the strength of the human spirit and the human mind--to persist and protect itself, to fight and try to win even against all odds. I liked it despite my initial confusion. Further, I think it could be the start of a great series. The only problem is, the worldbuilding is reminiscent of (view spoiler)[a kind of an Xmen-type setup, really. And there are so many of those. (hide spoiler)] I'm sorry the current I was confused by this story, but in the end it all came together. It's a story that shows the strength of the human spirit and the human mind--to persist and protect itself, to fight and try to win even against all odds. I liked it despite my initial confusion. Further, I think it could be the start of a great series. The only problem is, the worldbuilding is reminiscent of (view spoiler)[a kind of an Xmen-type setup, really. And there are so many of those. (hide spoiler)] I'm sorry the current rating is 3.44. It's better than that, I think. The writing is good. I will be watching for more by this author.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    Synopsis: Bee tries to escape a harsh environment together with Chela, her lover. They are the only human souls underground in a maze of rock chambers on a foreign planet. Large bugs compete with them for the 3D printed food that they chase every day. Bee finds out why she's here: it is a prison and she is a telepath who killed thousands of people. As Bee fights for recovering her memory, she sees through the deception, and as soon as someone reaches out for her, she tries to break free. It is he Synopsis: Bee tries to escape a harsh environment together with Chela, her lover. They are the only human souls underground in a maze of rock chambers on a foreign planet. Large bugs compete with them for the 3D printed food that they chase every day. Bee finds out why she's here: it is a prison and she is a telepath who killed thousands of people. As Bee fights for recovering her memory, she sees through the deception, and as soon as someone reaches out for her, she tries to break free. It is her former wife Jasmine who tries to rescue her. Layer upon layer, Bee finds her way out. Review: The surreal planet remembers me of Ellison's story I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, only that it's been far more visual, and immersive in the older story. I only waited for the deception's uncovering. After the rescue, the story built up a plot similar to PKD's Total Recall, where the protagonist can't differentiate between imagination and reality any more. It plotted that trope only halfway and I really was confused where the story would be running to. Bee's struggles, her emotions, and confusion were well drawn and I could sympathize with her trauma and recovery. Her romance stories with both Chela and Jasmine didn't reach me, though I found the question of infidelity interesting. While gripping and rich in action, the story didn't satisfy because it felt like in search for a full novel or a first chapter to a telepathic rebellion. It tried to reach to much and did its work only halfway.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Martina

    The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan is a futuristic sci-fi novella whose main character is a queer latin woman. I enjoyed very much the rep here: three of our main characters are queer women. Plus, this book deals a lot with important themes such as PTSD, anxiety and loneliness. One of the strenghts of this novella is definetely the writing style. I could feel on my own skin the sense of The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan is a futuristic sci-fi novella whose main character is a queer latin woman. I enjoyed very much the rep here: three of our main characters are queer women. Plus, this book deals a lot with important themes such as PTSD, anxiety and loneliness. One of the strenghts of this novella is definetely the writing style. I could feel on my own skin the sense of claustrophobia and darkness perceveid by Bee. It was something pretty strong. Also, I find the plot twist really interesting and quite unexpected.

  15. 5 out of 5

    SeaPiggy | Word Alchemy

    The best thing I can say about this book is about the back book blurb. The premise sounded intriguing, which is why I decided to read this novella. However, the disconnect between the blurb and the actual story is significant - to the point where I read the blurb again to understand where *my* disconnect was (only to find out there is a failure of promise / expectation to the reader). Sooo...for those interested in reading this book, I'll give a relatively spoiler-free version up-front so that o The best thing I can say about this book is about the back book blurb. The premise sounded intriguing, which is why I decided to read this novella. However, the disconnect between the blurb and the actual story is significant - to the point where I read the blurb again to understand where *my* disconnect was (only to find out there is a failure of promise / expectation to the reader). Sooo...for those interested in reading this book, I'll give a relatively spoiler-free version up-front so that one can make an informed decision about whether they want to read the novella knowing what it is *actually* about. Synopsis: I promise action, with some danger and mistrust sprinkled throughout, and an escape plan for Bee (who I promise is going to be bad-ass telepath, why else would she be in prison?). Story: Yeah...about that. I'm actually a nebulous, character-driven story that relies on overused tropes in an unimaginative way. In actuality, the execution of this story it is different than the expectation. I could have forgiven the broken promise of a plot-driven, action / mystery story for a swap of a character-driven one, if the story itself was well-written. Alas, the writing didn not stand-out as either original in concept or form: The plot was lacking, and the pacing lagged at certain parts. It frankly was a slog to get through despite being relatively short for a novella. Certain parts of the story were too long, while others weren't explained in enough detail. The world and its conflict were nebulous at best. Some of the concepts were super interesting - T-locks, telepath rebellion, and giving the gift of telepathy, but none of that emerged through except as background fodder. Tropes...when used effectively, can still make a story great, even wonderful to read, despite their nature. But the ones in this story were so overused, that it was boring, frankly speaking. I don't want to reveal the not-so-shocking spoilers, so I'll leave it at that. More importantly, I was unsympathetic towards Bee, the main protagonist, which is honestly shameful for a character-driven story, but that is probably the result of the story being too short, ill-paced, obscure, and tropish. I'm just happy that the story was short. It definitely not one of TOR's finest publications.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sana

    A claustrophobic sci-fi love story, 'telepaths on a prison planet'* aaand this quote: 'Prison without guards? Prison with no memories? Prison with only your lover as company? Bee is determined to escape—but how, when every moment is spent racing to survive?' LIKE FUCK, I WANT TO READ THIS BAD *Source A claustrophobic sci-fi love story, 'telepaths on a prison planet'* aaand this quote: 'Prison without guards? Prison with no memories? Prison with only your lover as company? Bee is determined to escape—but how, when every moment is spent racing to survive?' LIKE FUCK, I WANT TO READ THIS BAD *Source

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Wagner

    (2.5 stars) Though written with a powerful sense of compassion for the emotional struggles of its protagonist, Vylar Kaftan’s Tor.com novella Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water feels like it needed more time in the oven. It’s not the first time I’ve read a Tor.com novella that I wished were, if not a novel, just a bit more substantive than it is. I suspect it won’t be the last. The story’s an uneven mess. But it did end up as a Nebula finalist, once more validating the evergreen adage that Your Mile (2.5 stars) Though written with a powerful sense of compassion for the emotional struggles of its protagonist, Vylar Kaftan’s Tor.com novella Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water feels like it needed more time in the oven. It’s not the first time I’ve read a Tor.com novella that I wished were, if not a novel, just a bit more substantive than it is. I suspect it won’t be the last. The story’s an uneven mess. But it did end up as a Nebula finalist, once more validating the evergreen adage that Your Mileage May Vary. Bee (short for Bianca) is a telepath living in a future in which her kind are hated and oppressed. We meet her as she is imprisoned in a vast underground cave system on the remote world Colel-Cab, with a companion, Chela, also her lover. The two of them spend their days desperately trying to reach supply drops before they’re overrun by the voracious local insect population. Bee has no memory of her life before imprisonment, thanks to an implanted chip that suppresses her telepathy. But despite the chip, Bee begins receiving telepathic communications from outside the caves. Her pursuit of answers leads to recovering buried secrets of her past, (continued...)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Beth Cato

    I received a gratis advance copy of this novella through Netgalley Intense. Mind-bending. Kaftan's novella is an incredibly fast, breath-taking read that never lets up the pace even as the nature of the tale changes. It begins feeling like a claustrophobic thriller: two Latinx women, prisoners within a cave system on an alien world, scrambling to survive on infrequent care packs as they battle off horrendous bugs. Their intense love for each other helps them to get by. The women were sentenced he I received a gratis advance copy of this novella through Netgalley Intense. Mind-bending. Kaftan's novella is an incredibly fast, breath-taking read that never lets up the pace even as the nature of the tale changes. It begins feeling like a claustrophobic thriller: two Latinx women, prisoners within a cave system on an alien world, scrambling to survive on infrequent care packs as they battle off horrendous bugs. Their intense love for each other helps them to get by. The women were sentenced here because they are telepaths who committed a mass murder. Or did they? At heart, this is a psychological thriller that explores how the mind is the most effective prison at all. It delves into themes of PTSD and trauma through a distinctly sci-fi lens, to great effect. My only complaint, I think, is that the end felt a bit abrupt, and I was left wanting a bit more explanation and resolution. But wow, does that ending still have power.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sci-Fi & Scary

    A quick, easy read with a surprising ending.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I don’t have strong feelings about Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water, which is why I decided this should be a shorter review than normal. All Bee can remember is the darkness of the prison planet. She doesn’t remember anything of her life before. Luckily she’s not alone — she’s got Chela. Chela tells her that they were both psychics and that they used their powers to kill a bunch of people during a war. That they deserve to be here. Bee believes her, but then she starts hearing something… another ps I don’t have strong feelings about Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water, which is why I decided this should be a shorter review than normal. All Bee can remember is the darkness of the prison planet. She doesn’t remember anything of her life before. Luckily she’s not alone — she’s got Chela. Chela tells her that they were both psychics and that they used their powers to kill a bunch of people during a war. That they deserve to be here. Bee believes her, but then she starts hearing something… another psychic? And everything Bee thought she knew is turned upside down. The concept of Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water was really intriguing. Psychics trapped on a prison planet made up solely of caves is a really cool idea! Also, it’s got the sort of messy lesbian relationships that would appeal to fans of The Luminous Dead. Unfortunately, the execution never worked quite right for me. I think this novella would have benefited from stronger world building. The pacing felt off — like it slowed down a ton around the 60% mark. And Bee also felt way too passive for most of the story. All in all, it didn’t work quite right for me. I received an ARC with the expectation of a free and honest review. Review from The Illustrated Page.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Beard

    Thanks to Tor.com and NetGalley for providing a copy of Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan for review! Tor.com is cranking out the hits this year, and this one really caught my attention with the cover reveal. I was immediately attracted to the vibe of the artwork, and after reading the synopsis I had to add it to my reading list. It is a short read, but well worth your time! Fans of speculative fiction will find a lot to love in Sillhouette. The expectations for the narrative change Thanks to Tor.com and NetGalley for providing a copy of Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan for review! Tor.com is cranking out the hits this year, and this one really caught my attention with the cover reveal. I was immediately attracted to the vibe of the artwork, and after reading the synopsis I had to add it to my reading list. It is a short read, but well worth your time! Fans of speculative fiction will find a lot to love in Sillhouette. The expectations for the narrative change dramatically from one page to the next. So much so that it's difficult to talk about it without spoilers, even for the first few pages. It was amazing to me that this novella was able to capture such complex context shifts so seamlessly. Riddling out the truth in the story required some real thought on my part, which I enjoyed! For once I didn't see all the twists and turns coming. This is a great book to add to any LGBTQ reading list. I enjoyed the complexity of the primary relationship explored in Silhouette. Some additional points of representation include mental disorder in the form of PTSD, amnesia, and generalized trauma. There is also some attention to physical disability, and the othering of a subset of society. Throughout the first section of the book there are a lot of Spanish phrases, and though I don't speak Spanish I never felt confused by these moment. I also really enjoyed seeing the Spanish language in a Sci-Fi setting. I do hope that Kaftan will continue to write more stories in this world, I think there's a lot of opportunity for further exploration. I haven't read another book quite like this in a long time, but I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water goes on sale May 21st!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kelsea

    I haven’t read much speculative fiction, but when Tor.com publishes a novella, my curiosity is instantly piqued, no matter the genre. The blurb on this one sounded promising and -- let’s be honest -- the gorgeous cover and unique title drew me in as well. So I thought I’d give it a try! And whaddya know -- it’s wonderfully weird! It’s also intense, introspective, dream-like and diverse (sapphic latinx characters). I loved the pacing of the story (FAST) and the twists (NUMEROUS). It’s trippy in a I haven’t read much speculative fiction, but when Tor.com publishes a novella, my curiosity is instantly piqued, no matter the genre. The blurb on this one sounded promising and -- let’s be honest -- the gorgeous cover and unique title drew me in as well. So I thought I’d give it a try! And whaddya know -- it’s wonderfully weird! It’s also intense, introspective, dream-like and diverse (sapphic latinx characters). I loved the pacing of the story (FAST) and the twists (NUMEROUS). It’s trippy in a very good way and a lot deeper than I expected. I would love to talk more about the themes, but that discussion could become spoilery quite quickly, and I do think this is one of those books you’re better off diving into without knowing too much beforehand. As with pretty much any novella, you’re not going to get every detail of the world-building, but if you enjoy glimpses into a larger world that allow you to imagine what else might be going on behind the scenes, you’ll enjoy the way this story is written. I would recommend Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water if you’re looking for a quick mind-bender (it took me under an hour to read!) that’s full of twists and leaves you thinking. Advanced copy provided by Tor.com publishing through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

  23. 4 out of 5

    David

    The story opens with the point-of-view character, Bee, stranded in the caves of an asteroid with a woman named Chela. We find out they've been imprisoned because of the role they played in a telepath uprising. Soon it turns out that not everything is as it seems. The story's strength is in its examination of feelings of love and betrayal when one partner is found and another is lost, plus the insights it gives into PTSD. The story opens with the point-of-view character, Bee, stranded in the caves of an asteroid with a woman named Chela. We find out they've been imprisoned because of the role they played in a telepath uprising. Soon it turns out that not everything is as it seems. The story's strength is in its examination of feelings of love and betrayal when one partner is found and another is lost, plus the insights it gives into PTSD.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    This is a story about a telepath who is prisoner on an alien planet for some terrible crime she can't remember. Or can she? Quite a twisted story that flows like a dream while slowly revealing the truth. The love between the female protagonists really hit me, filled with all kind of sensations and without boundaries. Being a telepath can be an advantage, no doubt. I am not sure if I like the ending. It's a nice twist but feels a bit loose. Something should have followed to make the world-buildin This is a story about a telepath who is prisoner on an alien planet for some terrible crime she can't remember. Or can she? Quite a twisted story that flows like a dream while slowly revealing the truth. The love between the female protagonists really hit me, filled with all kind of sensations and without boundaries. Being a telepath can be an advantage, no doubt. I am not sure if I like the ending. It's a nice twist but feels a bit loose. Something should have followed to make the world-building stronger. 4 stars out of 5 for amazing storytelling.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Telepath Bee, imprisoned in an endless cave system due to crimes against humanity, has only a single person as a companion. The first half of this book, in the caves, was excellent. I liked Bee and completely got into her struggles to survive. And then the story did a complete turn, which I can't talk about because it would spoil it, and I never really got along for that ride. So if you want to read a book about a telepath trapped in caves, don't read this one. If you want a story of a telepath w Telepath Bee, imprisoned in an endless cave system due to crimes against humanity, has only a single person as a companion. The first half of this book, in the caves, was excellent. I liked Bee and completely got into her struggles to survive. And then the story did a complete turn, which I can't talk about because it would spoil it, and I never really got along for that ride. So if you want to read a book about a telepath trapped in caves, don't read this one. If you want a story of a telepath who has been hurt and beaten down and who fights to become herself again, this one's for you. It was good but there was just too big a gap between what I thought it was and what it really turned into for me to fully enjoy it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Lawson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was intrigued by the blurb. I was still intrigued when the book ended -- it felt like an extremely long blurb. I enjoyed the protagonist, sometimes, and I enjoyed the word building, sometimes. This was funny, on discovering she is a telepath as a child: For a long time I thought dolls were just better at hiding their feelings. The plot? I'm confused as hell. I thought it was just me, but I have heard a couple of other people in my group are also confused. My group is smart -- they do not confuse e I was intrigued by the blurb. I was still intrigued when the book ended -- it felt like an extremely long blurb. I enjoyed the protagonist, sometimes, and I enjoyed the word building, sometimes. This was funny, on discovering she is a telepath as a child: For a long time I thought dolls were just better at hiding their feelings. The plot? I'm confused as hell. I thought it was just me, but I have heard a couple of other people in my group are also confused. My group is smart -- they do not confuse easily. I have tried. She is in an off-world prison with another woman, her lover, for doing something terrible she can not remember. She is a telepath, her lover is the one who tells her she did something terrible. Occasionally she feels a presence reaching out to her. She thinks it may be salvation, but her lover convinces her it is a spy, it is evil, do NOT go towards the light. This goes on for ten years. The presence turns out to be her wife looking for her. When she realizes this, she goes off on the other woman and busts out of prison, but severely breaks herself in doing so. It turns out the prison was in her mind. She did nothing terrible. They are frightened of telepaths and lock them in their minds. So now they are after Bee and her wife, who is also a telepath. The two women go to the beach where they hope to recapture Bee's lost memories. They show up. Bee goes underwater, where she discovers she has power over her prison, the one in her mind, and the prison of her body. While she is underwater it looks like her wife is captured, but I'm not clear on that. For some unfathomable reason she has to break back into the prison and rescue the lover she left there. It's a good scene. She finds the woman she somehow left chained and battered. Who can't relate to this? And deep inside—so far I can barely sense it—is her desperate need to be cherished. If the prison is only in her mind, why is there another woman in there with her? If the other woman has spent ten years keeping Bee's legitimate wife, who Bee does not even remember during those ten years, from finding her, why in the hell would she need to go back and rescue her? If the woman is working with the enemy and the prison is only in Bee's mind, wouldn't the woman just wander off and have a cup of coffee when Bee escapes? So she rescues what's-her-name, and then: I rise from the sea, a goddess reborn. I turn the page, thinking something will happen that will tie everything together, help my poor frazzled mind make some sense of this. That's it. That's the last sentence. I did learn some Spanish while reading the book. All in all, it is a lovely, extremely long blurb.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    This novella was sent to me by the publisher, Tor.com, at no cost. It will be available from 21 May. Vylar Kaftan's novella opens with Bee scrambling through darkness, which is pretty much all she can remember doing.  The official blurb reads:  "All Bee has ever known is darkness. She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet Colel-Cab with only fellow prisoner Chela for company. Chela says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; This novella was sent to me by the publisher, Tor.com, at no cost. It will be available from 21 May. Vylar Kaftan's novella opens with Bee scrambling through darkness, which is pretty much all she can remember doing.  The official blurb reads:  "All Bee has ever known is darkness. She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet Colel-Cab with only fellow prisoner Chela for company. Chela says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. Bee has no reason to doubt her—until she hears the voice of another telepath, one who has answers, and can open her eyes to an entirely different truth." You can guess from the blurb that things are not as they seem, but you can't guess the twists and turns of the plot - well, I couldn't anyway.  The attitudes towards telepaths are a very interesting part of the story; as someone who grew up reading McCaffrey's Tower& the Hive series (every. single. one), I'm always fascinated by whether ESP stuff ends up being celebrated, abused, shunned, or whatever. So that was something I enjoyed here. Overall, though, I did not love this story, and I can't put my finger on why not - which is a deeply unsatisfying thing to say in this review, I know, and I'm sorry. I think it's partly around the pacing. For all that I am a big fan of fast-paced stories, I think this was a bit too fast; I didn't feel like I got to know Bee before things changed, and then they changed again, and I was left feeling a bit cold towards her fate. There was also a lack of world-building that meant I didn't quite get some of the actions of the characters other than Bee.  For all that, though, Kaftan has written a story with heart that confronts the issue of how humans react to difference. I did like Bee, and felt that her reactions - especially when feeling lost in the world - were beautifully realistic. 

  28. 5 out of 5

    Metaphorosis

    3 stars, Metaphorosis Reviews Summary: A woman and one companion are trapped in an endless labyrinth that seems to have no exit. Or are they? When the woman escapes, leaving her companion behind, has she found freedom? Review: I've been hearing the name Vylar Kaftan for years, it seems like, but never read of any of her work. So when I saw this novella available, I thought I'd pick it up. It's fine, if not particularly inspired.It's generally well written, though the prose is choppy in places. How 3 stars, Metaphorosis Reviews Summary: A woman and one companion are trapped in an endless labyrinth that seems to have no exit. Or are they? When the woman escapes, leaving her companion behind, has she found freedom? Review: I've been hearing the name Vylar Kaftan for years, it seems like, but never read of any of her work. So when I saw this novella available, I thought I'd pick it up. It's fine, if not particularly inspired.It's generally well written, though the prose is choppy in places. However, there's not that much to the story that's new. The basic concept - a psychic prison - is very familiar, and Kaftan doesn't do much with it that's innovative. The middle of the piece is long, slow, and repetitive, and likely this would have been better off as a short story. Instead, however, it reads like an excerpt or introduction to a longer piece. The strongest aspect of the piece is its characters, but ever there, the narrator feels very self-involved, without too much interest in others - while constantly bemoaning her effect on others. The end is pretty muddled. I can't say I'm sorry I read this; I'm glad to at last have a sense of Kaftan's skills. But there's nothing about this story that would make me search out another of Kaftan's books. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty-gritty: A short, well written tale with a dream-like quality that gives readers plenty to think about. This was such an odd little story, but I enjoyed it a lot. Vylar Kaftan has written a twisty, hallucinogenic tale about mental health and inner strength that didn’t go where I was expecting it to go—at all. I’m still not sure I under I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty-gritty: A short, well written tale with a dream-like quality that gives readers plenty to think about. This was such an odd little story, but I enjoyed it a lot. Vylar Kaftan has written a twisty, hallucinogenic tale about mental health and inner strength that didn’t go where I was expecting it to go—at all. I’m still not sure I understood everything that happens in this short novella, but I loved Kaftan’s atmospheric writing style and her exploration of how the minds of telepaths work. The main characters are queer Latinx women so if you’re looking for diverse rep in your reading, then look no further. The story opens as two women are trapped in an underground cave system. The narrator, a powerful telepath named Bee, describes climbing through the dangerous corridors of the cave with her only companion, a fellow telepath named Chela. Together they help each other survive as they scramble to find food stores left behind by their captors and try to avoid the swarms of dangerous insects that seem to be everywhere in the caves. We soon learn that Bee and Chela have been imprisoned on the planet Colel-Cab after causing the deaths of thousands of people. Chela insists that there is no way to escape the caves and that they should just make the best of things. At least they have each other, right? But Bee is determined to find a way out of the caves and off the planet. Unfortunately, she’s also lost her memories and can’t remember anything about the incident that brought her here, or any details about her past. She must rely on Chela to fill in the blanks, but Chela seems oddly reluctant to explain too much. One day Bee senses another presence close by, and suddenly a memory blooms in her mind—she can hear the voice of her wife, Jasmine. Convinced that Jasmine is trying to help her break out of prison, Bee decides she’ll do whatever it takes to find her freedom, even if it means leaving Chela behind. There’s a powerful mystery to all these events, and you’ll have to read to the end before you understand what’s going on, but that was half the fun, not understanding but trying to piece things together as the story progresses. We’re given some scant background details about this world, where telepaths live in danger of being captured and “T-locked”—having their minds locked so that they can’t endanger anyone. It’s sort of terrifying if you think about it, having a gift like telepathy but everyone is afraid of you and wants to stop you from using that ability. It’s also hard to know who to trust in this story. Bee seems like she’s an innocent, and both Chela and Jasmine might be lying to her. I even suspected at one point that Bee might be the unreliable narrator, but Kaftan’s story was hard to predict and I found that my theories were completely wrong at the end. Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water is short but powerful. The ending surprised and delighted me, and I love the way everything seemed to come together and finally make sense. I’d love to read something longer from this author, because I think her ideas are unique and a novel length story would give her even more room to develop those ideas. Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.This review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Terry Weyna

    Marion: Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water is a 2019 novella by Vylar Kaftan. The story opens with two characters, Bee, our narrator, and Chela, in jeopardy in a very unusual setting, and takes us places we did not expect. Bee is trapped in a unique and horrifying prison: a cave complex on a planet far from Earth. She has one companion, Chela, and they have banded together to brave the dangers of the caves: the risk of drowning, narrow tunnels that could trap and suffocate a prisoner, deep shafts and Marion: Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water is a 2019 novella by Vylar Kaftan. The story opens with two characters, Bee, our narrator, and Chela, in jeopardy in a very unusual setting, and takes us places we did not expect. Bee is trapped in a unique and horrifying prison: a cave complex on a planet far from Earth. She has one companion, Chela, and they have banded together to brave the dangers of the caves: the risk of drowning, narrow tunnels that could trap and suffocate a prisoner, deep shafts and large predatory insects. They have never seen another prisoner. The wardens leave boxes of goods with a guiding beacon for them to find. The boxes contain food and other necessary supplies, and sometimes a whimsical item like a postcard. It’s often a race to get to the boxes before the insects find them, and the boxes, their arbitrary placement and the strange items inside seem more like a sadistic game than any dedicated regimen designed to keep the prisoners alive. Between the box deliveries, they explore. Bee is convinced that the random drawings and shapes she finds on the walls are some kind of language, and, furthermore, that many parts of the cave complex are manufactured, not natural, but Chela scoffs at all of this, and Bee’s love for Chela is mainly what has kept her alive, for what Chela says has been nearly a year. Bee has no memory of when she came to the prison, or why, and only vague scraps of memory of her family. Chela tells her that she is a powerful telepath, who, while fighting for telepath rights, caused the deaths of thousands of people. Bee has believed this, but now, in the darkness, she starts to hear a voice in her head. And the voice is telling her something very different. Chela warns her not to listen, that it’s a trick, but the voice draws Bee back. When Bee impulsively makes a move to escape, the story changes dramatically. Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar KaftanMarion: I found the cave section which opens Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water to be convincing, compelling and scary. This would truly be a terrifying prison. Other settings, later in the story, are described well, but never quite came up to the same level of persuasion for me. Terry, what did you think about the opening? Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar KaftanTerry: The cave setting made me think of video games, somehow; it was very visual, despite the fact — or maybe because of the fact — that the caves are drenched in darkness, and Bee and Chela can only see what falls within the scope of their headlamps. The descriptions of always feeling damp and dodging bugs were enough to make me shudder. As Bee puts it, it’s life as a never-ending panic attack, and Kaftan makes us feel that. I thought this was the best part of the story. I did find myself feeling annoyed with Bee, who is mostly passive, leaving everything up to Chela, who is a better spelunker but who also emotionally dominates Bee in a way that made me uneasy right from the beginning. If you had a companion in a horrible place like this, the guilt of having killed four thousand people in a moment, and no memory of that happening, wouldn’t you be asking questions? Or if this person constantly told you there was no hope? I wouldn’t be able to love a person who withheld important information from me. Marion, were you troubled early on by this relationship the way I was? I’m trying to think about how to discuss my reaction without giving spoilers, but basically I found Chela’s evasiveness suspicious. I was especially concerned about her constant efforts to direct Bee away from the drawings and the anomalies of the cave system, and her insistence that escape is impossible. (Later in the novella, the reasons for that become clear). And it gets more complicated when Jasmine shows up. I’m not sure I completely understood Jasmine’s motivations — she’s a freedom-fighter, obviously — and I was not convinced of the depth of emotion between Bee and Jasmine. Jasmine is clearly trying to help her, but it also seems as if she is using Bee for her own purposes, just as Chela is (though obviously for different purposes). If Bee is the powerful telepath everyone says she is, that would only make sense, but it seems like Bee should be able to intuit that. Terry, what did you think of Bee’s struggle to come to grips with Chela, particularly in the second half of the book? Terry: Frankly, I wondered what took her so long! And I didn’t have the trouble with Jasmine that you did, though that may be a shallow reaction to Jasmine providing information that Chela chose to withhold. Marion: Yes, at least Jasmine gave Bee some answers! I thought Bee’s reaction to the revelations about Chela would be more complex. She seems to switch from love to hate like someone flipping a switch. I think a big part of betrayal is the sense of anger you have, but also that sense of grief over losing someone you loved, because they weren’t the person you thought they were. I didn’t see that grief portrayed here. Terry: I agree. Bee went suddenly from a passive little mouse to a full-fledged lioness. One can do this with a character, to be sure, but shouldn’t there also be some indication, no matter how subtle, that the lion exists? Kaftan doesn’t give us that. Marion: I do think part of that might be the fact that this is a novella and not a full-length novel, but it certainly could have been foreshadowed earlier in the story. Later in the story, Bee struggles with physical mobility issues because of things that were done to her in the prison. Those issues became a big part of the story, even with an exoskeleton that she wears. I thought Kaftan addressed those issues well and they were believable in context. What did you think of the world-building? Terry: The world-building was pretty good. I can feel the damp darkness of those caves, the cold of the river. And the medical facility and all Bee’s condition entails were well-drawn. But the last half of the story, once we’re out of the cave, doesn’t work as well as the claustrophobic darkness of the first half. I have a lot more trouble with the relationships than I do with the world. That said, the story seems like a bit of a throw-back to the fifties and sixties, when we read a lot more about telepathy. I can’t remember the last story I’ve read about this theme. Shades of Theodore Sturgeon! Terry: It does have an early New Wave/Ted Sturgeon vibe! I’ve noticed new writers are rediscovering those old elements and revisiting them, so I’m guessing we’ll be seeing more of that ongoing. Ultimately, I wasn’t much of a fan of Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water. Kaftan has a lot of potential, and I’ll want to read whatever she comes up with next, but this story strikes me as an interesting and well-written failure. It’s a 2-1/2 star book for me. Marion: It’s a 3-star book for me, mainly because of that cave world. Like you, I’ll be interested to see what Kaftan writes next. 3 stars rounded up from 2-1/2. Originally published at http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi.... Written with Marion Deeds.

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