...I LOVED this book! I had read a few other books by Kilworth, and I really enjoyed his short story collection, The Songbirds of Pain, which I recommend. But, I bought this book and then read it in a single day. Yes, it is short, but it was very compelling.
Some elements of the book reminded me of a couple of other books. Larry Niven had in one of his books, a planet called We Made It, where people live on top of a tall mountain that is above a lot of poisonous mists. The environment of the two families is like that, they live on top of a tall mountain that sticks up above poisonous clouds. In some ways, the situation of Shadow was like a book by C. J. Cherryh called Wave Without A Shore, where the inhabitants of a particular planet don't acknowledge the presence of certain shunned people right in their midst.
I thought that the Shadow was a very unusual choice of main character and first person narrator: It is a neuter dwarf who is shunned and turned into a virtual ghost by its entire society/family group. And yet, Shadow is even loved in a way by people, its mother and its brother, who will never talk to it, never acknowledge it in any way. It has a very strange relationship with other human beings, very strange.
There were a lot of plot twists in this book that I didn't expect, very unusual developments that I didn't see coming and really enriched the plot/story, made it very compelling.
I would like to have seen some more interior exploration by Shadow of its genderless state, the fact that it is neuter. I guess it didn't know any better or Shadow has never known anything else, but the neuter aspect doesn't really come up that much, which surprised me a little bit. Maybe this is because it was written a few years ago.
Reading this book makes me wonder why some of the books I read are 300, 400, 500 pages, but are not as compelling as this 160 page book? I have a few others, like WASP, by Eric Frank Russell, which is about 140 apges, and is also very powerful, more powerful than much longer books being published today. I don't know the answer to this. It seems like a lot of older science fiction is very dense, and I mean dense in a good way, a lot really packed into a short book - everything that happens, everything on the page moves the book foward.
This book was published 15 years ago, and I may have been lucky in getting this British edition - it may never have come out in an american edition - but if you can find this book, I strongly recommend it: the tight, moving, twisty plot, the unusual setting, and the strange but great narrator, the Shadow, make this book a compelling, pleasurable read.
CLOUDROCK, by Garry Kilworth.