The Trouble With Heroes feels incomplete. Stepping outside of her customary genre has given Beverley the freedom to experiment more widely with a theme that often appears in her full length works. Unfortunately, she pulls her final punch. Set in one of earth’s future colonies on a host planet that appeared perfect for a utopian existence, humans who have known no other planet maintain a deceptively peaceful life. Early settlers discovered that some were born knowing how to harness the planet’s natural energy, giving them the honored career of a fixer.
Fixers spend their lives guarding against an invasion by poorly understood indigenous life forms who attack so rarely they seem almost mythical. The day to day responsibility of a fixer is to lay hands of healing on the population, repairing broken limbs and soothing unrest. Jenny feels the edges of the fixer energy. Dan, her childhood friend, is a fixer. He wants more from her than friendship, something he barely pursues while hinting at an ability to compel her compliance.
Early in the novella it was difficult for me to stay interested. An interesting tale of refugees lining the city walls warred with overly cute references to Monty Python films as historical artifacts. The Python bits fit neither the tone of the story nor the logic of the settlement’s timeline. Once past that DNF danger zone, The Trouble With Heroes opened up. Beverley plays with the subject of war, it’s culture and costs. From the streets named for the fallen to the populations discomfort with those who return, The Trouble With Heroes had a strong story to tell. In the end, this novella was too short.
The ending of Jenny’s story is neatly wrapped in an unearned bow. The resolution feels more like a prologue than a HFN. Jenny is inconsistent in her actions and desires without clear cause. The indigenous population of the settled planet is left unresolved. What the locusts are, if they will return, if the fixers have committed genocide – all of these points are left to the readers speculation. It isn’t done in a way that feels purposeful. While this is the strongest of the SF/F novellas I’ve read from Beverley, it didn’t really satisfy.