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Annabel Scheme and the Adventure of the New Golden Gate by Robin Sloan (Books 2020, 20)

My 2020 reading reaches 20, which is pleasing. And with another novella, which is something of a theme.

I read Sloan’s Sourdough a couple of years back, and only thought it was OK, but I still get his newsletter, which is where I learned about this. It was originally serialised in a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper,1 and published via an interesting experiment with online writing, and a new software package for publishing books on the web.

That said, I read it on my Kindle.

It’s good. Lots of fun, even if you don’t know the Bay Area. A detective and her assistant try to stop multiple timelines being crashed together. But it starts with burritos. What’s not to like?

One unusual thing is that the assistant, who is also the narrator (a veritable Doyle, though not as useful) never has any quoted speech. You’ll get an exchange like this:

I wondered if Scheme had worked up any theories.

“Sure. Most likely explanation is, Stella Pajunas was never real to start with. Ectoplasmic projection. Mass hallucination, maybe.”

Scheme was theorizing that the ABCD—really, the whole Bay Area—had been managed for ten years by a mass hallucination?

“It would explain some things, wouldn’t it?

A piece of narration is answered by the other character. The implication is that the narrator said it. I don’t recall ever seeing this in fiction, but it is used in some interviews. It used to be the norm in the NME back when I read it. In interviews, I much prefer that technique to the purely transcriptional approach, which can look like a play script at times. As to using it in fiction, it works well enough here, in such a short work, but I think it would get wearing at greater length.

Anyway, you can read it for free, so you might as well.


  1. Or two, as it turns out. 

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