Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea: Stories

by Sarah Pinsker

Paperback, 2019




Small Beer Press (2019), 288 pages


A wide-ranging debut collection from a writer whose musicality and humor shine through even when plumbing the darkest depths of space.


(52 ratings; 4.2)

User reviews

LibraryThing member TempleCat
Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea - what a genius title! It captures the theme of every story in this collection, all written by Sarah Pinsker. Actually, only a third of the thirteen stories have anything to do with water: "And We Were Left Darkling”, in which wished-for babies appear
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on rocks near the sea shore; “Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea”, in which a castaway from a shipwreck is very reluctantly rescued; "No Lonely Seafarer", with sirens (yep, the mythological variety) harassing a town which makes its living from the sea; and “The Narwhale”. That last story actually has nothing to do with the sea except that a car who plays a major role in the plot has been decked-out with a fiberglass body of a whale, the tail curling up over the back end and a ten-foot unicorn horn deployed above the windshield. Really, water and the sea only play incidental roles in those four stories.

The genius in the title lies in the metaphor. "Everything" changes the lens from the local and specific to the general, practically inviting a metaphorical reading. "Sooner or Later" adds in the notion of time and inevitability. "Falls into the Sea" is deliciously ambiguous: it can be interpreted somewhat optimistically as a return to the origin, or in the more common manner as the demise of something, its loss. Both are true in each of the stories. They all deal with loss of things dear to the characters, from lovers lost (the title story) to livelihoods ("No Lonely Seafarer") to privacy (a nice critique on social media in "Talking with Dead People") to memory ("Remembery Day") and more - AI and robotics, Golems, time, multiple dimensions, musical instruments, creativity and remorse.

However, the optimistic note also plays in each of the stories. Returning to an origin, to a place of comfort, to a family or community, to a resolution, frames a recovery from the loss in each of the stories. This collection explores the dynamics of many kinds of loss and recovery, happening to all kinds of people living in circumstances ranging from the normal and contemporaneous (a rock band on the road who gets an important piece of equipment stolen - "Our Lady of the Open Road") to the just plain weird (a detective in a murder investigation where she, the victim, and all the suspects are the same person, just each from different dimensions - "And Then There Were (N-One)")

In my view, the optimism wins out and the stories, even though they deal with loss, are also somehow comforting. I’m looking forward to the day when my initial impressions have dissipated with time and I can reread these stories, savoring each fully again!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member paradoxosalpha
This collection of Sarah Pinsker's stories includes several with a minimum of near-future speculation, set in the likely advances of technology and the unraveling of our civilization. There are a few outright fantasies riffing on established mythemes: golem, sirens, costumed superheroine. There is
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one story set on an interstellar generation ship, and one is a locked-room murder mystery at an inter-dimensional hotel conference.

Pinsker is a musician, and this attribute is key to several of her protagonists, particularly in the longer stories. The murder mystery "And Then There Were (N-One)" has the author's identity reflected into the prohibitive majority of its many characters, and thus may serve as an allegory of her writing process. The emotional richness of her stories must be a projective result of introspection. In the generation ship story "Wind Will Rove," music serves as an emblem of the complex relationship between cultural continuity and creativity.

The focus on the moral dilemmas of characters in transformed worlds was central to many of these stories. "Remembery Day" is one I could easily imagine being written by James Morrow. Although there is a recurrent sense of whimsy, all of these stories are within reach of a deep vein of sadness. I was especially impressed with the piece "In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind," for the way that it managed to evoke a positive emotional tone at the end of a tale of sorrow compounded through reminiscence.

On the whole, this is an admirable assortment of stories. I think they will speak powerfully to any intelligent reader, not just genre fans.
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LibraryThing member renbedell
A collection of short stories with a science fiction focus. The stories are mainly near-future stories speculating on social aspects connected with technology. Only 1 story is new, while the rest have been released previously in magazines and other areas. Every story is good and many are amazing.
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None of the stories are bad. Most of them had me wanting more. I would say this is the best short story collection I have read so far. I highly recommend if you are a fan of short fiction.
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LibraryThing member jnwelch
This short story collection, Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea is by a Nebula award winner, and certainly has its fans. I got it as an ER book. For me, it was okay but not great. It does have some offbeat and intriguing premises. In the first one, a farmer loses his arm in a threshing
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accident, and the prosthetic replacement thinks its a road in Colorado, bringing odd visions to his life. The last story involves a convention of "Sarah Pinsker"s (the author) drawn from many alternate universes. Their lives have taken different turns, and one leads to murder. "Wind Will Rove" has many lovely moments as a multigenerational space crew tries to preserve Earth music and stories via oral history (the database was damaged) as the ship makes its long trip to a new home. The book features a lot of diversity in its characters, and has some nice surprises. I just didn't get Ray Bradbury-esque liftoff from it. At the same time, I won't be surprised if it garners some awards.
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LibraryThing member Stevil2001
The whole point of me reading all the Hugo finalists every year was to expose myself to what's happening in contemporary sf. It's given me some good novelists to follow, but when it comes to short sf, my favorite discovery has been Sarah Pinsker, whose "And Then There Were (N-One)" captivated me,
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and which I reckon deserved to win Best Novella in 2018. This collection brings together thirteen of her short stories, a small sampling of her prolific oeuvre (as of 2018, she had published 45 short works).

Pinsker's writing tends to the literary, which is to my taste. A lot of these are subtle stories, where the sf element isn't the focus as much as the characters. "Talking with Dead People," for example, is about a woman who makes interactive replicas of houses where famous murders happened, and the only sf element is the AI that makes interactivity possible. Or "In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind" is about a marriage, and the sf element is super-slight (and also a spoiler, so I won't say it). And in "The Narwhal," the sf element is buried at the end and not particularly clear. Except for "Narwhal," though, this approached worked for me. Especially "In Joy": the sf element is small, sure, and you could probably take it out and have a story almost as moving, but it adds something, an immensity to the themes and ideas of the story.

Other stories are more blatantly sf. "And We Were Left Darkling" is a beautifully creepy story about alien babies coming to Earth. "Wind Will Rove" is a story about a generation ship and the role of cultural memory. (I thought this was just okay when it was a finalist for Best Novelette, and ranked it fourth, but on rereading, I think I did it a disservice. It has more to say than some of the stories I ranked over it.) This is the third time I've read "And Then There Were (N-One)," and it's still brilliant: a postmodern murder mystery set at a convention of alternate reality duplicates of Sarah Pinsker, a clever meditation on identity and self.

Lots of stories here deal with music and/or climate change. The aforementioned "Wind Will Rove" is one that deals with both, but so do the title story and "Our Lady of the Open Road." "Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea" is about two women in a world where rising sea levels have taken their toll; one is a musician on the cruise ships the wealthy use to avoid consequences. It's a great story of friendship and adversity. "Our Lady" is about one of the last live bands in a world where holographic recordings and plague have made concerts a relic of the past; again, it's a great, well-observed story about holding on to what's meaningful, and learning to let go of what's not. I'm a little skeptical about stories about music (they sometimes get very self-indulgent, I think), but Pinsker excels with this as her topic, and almost makes me want to buy her forthcoming novel about a band. Almost.

They aren't all hits, of course. Some I found a little too abstruse, or there wasn't enough story-- I didn't really get the opening story, "A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide," while "The Low Hum of Her" (a girl and her robot grandmother) and "The Sewell Home for the Temporally Displaced" (what the title says) seemed like they had promising premises, but didn't really deliver on them. But on the whole, this is a great book. Pinsker is a master of the short sf form, and if she publishes more collections, you can bet I will buy them.
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LibraryThing member bell7
Sarah Pinsker’s short story collection, including award-nominated and an award-winner, shows a real talent for writing, character, and questions.

Each story is set in a world almost like our own, but with a bit of a twist or darkness to it. In the first story, for example, a young man gets into a
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terrible accident and gets a brain implant and a bionic arm that thinks its a road, causing a difficult dual consciousness. My favorites, “Wind Will Rove,” includes a main character meditating on the importance of memory and history versus creativity and doing something new. Can music ever be something completely different, for example, or can it only build on the past and remake the old? What is the importance of collective memory? How practical is history, art and literature when you might need to know a whole new skill set for your present reality? And then there was the award-winning story “Our Lady of the Open Road.” This novelette is one my musician brother would especially enjoy, as it focuses on a band that’s gone underground - almost literally, as holographic performances have basically pushed live performances out. The collection has several intriguing, inventive stories that remind me how much I enjoy short fiction.
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LibraryThing member sarahlu82
I love short stories, although I typically don’t enjoy an entire book of short stories by the same author since the stories all start to feel the same after a while. This book was a delightful exception; I adored it all the way through. The setting of each story closely resembled our world but
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with one thing off or different - the result was something you could intimately connect with but not settle into comfortably, in a good way. Each of the stories was bittersweet, I actually found myself with that heavy feeling behind your eyes and in your throat that’s just on this side of tearing up during every one of them. I can’t wait to read everything else by this author.
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LibraryThing member ansate
I really liked these. I keep wanting to compare her to Ray Bradbury, which is about the highest praise I can give short stories. I liked every story in the collection and I can't wait to read more from her.
LibraryThing member ladycato
I received this galley through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Sarah Pinsker is among my favorite writers, and I was thrilled to read her new collection from Small Beer Press a few months in advance of release. When I say she's among my favorites, that also means I'd read most of the stories in this
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book before; four were new to me, but one sees its first publication in this book.

All of these stories are worth re-reading. Actually, they are worth studying on a technical level to understand why stories work. Pinsker doesn't write about big drama. She writes about people being people in sometimes extraordinary circumstances. There's a sense of subtlety to her works. In "A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide," a man loses his arm, and along with his prosthetic he gains an awareness of being a road in remote Colorado. "Remembery Day" addresses PTSD and the effects of war on the next generation, without ever becoming preachy. In "And Then There were (n-one)," one of my very favorite novellas, period, she brings a brilliant spin to Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" by envisioning a cross-dimensional conference of hundreds of Sarah Pinskers on an isolated island in a storm--and one of them is murdered.

Because of this collection, I started my document to track my favorite 2019 releases to nominate for awards in 2020. Yes, this collection is that good.
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LibraryThing member tdashoff
The stories in this collection deal with relationships - between people and other people, people and things, and people and history.

The Narwhal describes a cross-country trip in a car that resembles a whale; the owner wants to visit a town in the middle of nowhere where her mother apparently
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stopped years ago, for no apparent reason.

In Wind Will Rove, the protagonist, a teacher on a generation ship, tries to keep a particular folk song alive in the face of indifference from her students, who are more concerned with their current life and its prospects than with the past.

The Nebula Award-winning Our Lady of the Open Road describes the life of a group of musicians, struggling to keep alive the experience of live music when anyone can download an immersive experience of any concert they want.

Th stories in this volume have appeared in various science fiction magazines, but if you don't subscribe or read the annual Nebula Award collections, this is an excellent place to experience the range and depth of Pinsker's work. Small Beer Press is to be commended for making the work of such a talented writer available.
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LibraryThing member fred_mouse
It is a rare collection where I love every story -- this is very close to being that rare collection. A few of these stories I've read before, but even the two I knew already I'd read were still a joy to read. The stories are a glorious mish-mash of ideas and settings, but every single one is full
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of rich detail and glorious characters. As a collection, it works beautifully.

Normally, I try and pull out a few notable stories from a collection. But I loved them all, so I'm just going to work through them in order.

A stretch of highway two lanes wide and And we were left darkling were quirky, and cute, and short, although a bit dark future-ish. Remembery Day was heart breaking, about the way that society treats veterans, and who lets them.

The titular story is fourth, and manages to be cosy, and domestic, and post-apocalyptic. I'm very fond of post-apocalyptic stories, and this one is all too credible. This segues into two stories (The Low Hum of Her; Talking with dead people) that appear to be about what makes someone human, with the first a positive story (content warning: although I can find no specific references, this story very much reads as a Jewish family escaping Europe in WWII) and the second very creepy.

The Sewell Home for the temporally displaced is another quirky one, with just a touch of time travel, and very very short. In joy, leaving the abyss behind is quite a bit longer, and best read with some tissues to hand.

No lonely place is an interesting take on sirens, gender, and sexuality. Wind will rove is one of the rereads - about the utility of history, with some commentary on preserving it at the cost of the present. A real love for music shines through this story.

Our Lady of the open road might be my least favourite of these stories, but that isn't saying much. It is just a bit bleak about what it means to be punk, and stay true to that. And it does a very good job of instilling despair. Fortunately, it is followed up by The Narwhal which is a combination of road trip and something much less mundane.

The final story is And then there were (N-one). This might be the first Pinsker story I read -- certainly the most memorable of the ones that I have. Another long one, it does interesting things with story, alternative realities, and the many possible lives of Sarah Pinsker.
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LibraryThing member msf59
This is an impressive collection of stories, many set in the near-future or an alternate universe, but also grounded in real human dilemmas, including loss and isolation. The last story, "And Then There Were None", possibly the best in the collection, is a tribute to Agatha Christie, about a
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conference of hundreds of Sarah Pinskers, (the author) on a remote island in a storm--and one of them is murdered. The writing here is strong and deft and I am definitely looking forward to read more of Pinsker.

I received this from Early Reviewers. I appreciate the copy.
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LibraryThing member mykl-s
Sarah Pinsker gives us fantasy and science fiction that is textured and layered, with many things happening at once.
“Wind Will Rove,” includes a tenth-grade history teacher who is an old-time fiddle player and a traveler on a ship which will take generations to reach its destination. She deals
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with ship politics, with attempts to re-create memories and information that were lost when the ship’s databases were hacked, as well as dealing with personal and professional relations.
A few of the entries might have withstood a bit more editing, but for the most part, the works are complex and well plotted.
I found I’d seen the first and the last stories in the book, but was happy to read them again.
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LibraryThing member lpmejia
Sarah Pinsker's debut collection of short stories, Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea, cements her reputation as one of the up-and-coming stars of science fiction and fantasy. Standouts include "Wind Will Rove," about a passenger on a generation ship far from Earth, "Our Lady of the Open
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Road," and, my personal favorite, "And Then There Were (N-One)," a tongue-in-cheek murder mystery starring the alternate-universe versions of the author. Inventive and extraordinary, Pinsker writes the best kind of science fiction--stories that delight while simultaneously asking deeper questions about what it means to be human. A definite recommended read for anyone who enjoys short stories and/or genre fiction.
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LibraryThing member SChant
Some of the stories are more surreal, New Weird rather than straight SF&F - the style reminds me a bit of Kelly Link in places.

a stretch of highway two lanes wide - very strange. A young man after a farming accident gets a prosthetic arm. 3/5

and we were left darkling - another strangely surreal
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one about dream children. 4/5

remembry day - affecting tale of war veterans, memory and loss. 4/5

sooner or later everything falls into the sea - inconclusive post-apocalyptic story about two women who survived. 3/5

The low hum of her - a child's eye view of loss and hope. 3/5

talking with dead people - the shallowness of a friendship that can't comprehend the other person's life. 4/5

the sewell home for the temporally displaced - very short vignette of people living in many timestreams at once. Delightful 4/5

in joy, knowing the abyss behind - beautiful, bittersweet examination of a long, loving relationship revealing its secrets at the end of life. 5/5

no lonely seafarer - a hermaphrodite child hears the song of the Sirens. 3/5

wind will rove - a musician on a generation ship is confronted by the kids in her history class as to why they have to learn old stuff about an Earth they have never known, and begins to use fragments and versions of a partially known folk song to build a new history incorporating the life of the ship. Interesting idea but didn't really work for me. 3/5

our lady of the open road - elderly punk band tours the run-down US hinterland in an old van, playing warehouses and decrepit bars, scrounging food and sleeping in the van. Should be dispiriting but is somehow hopeful. 4/5

The narwhal - a road trip leads to a strange discovery. 3/5

and then there were (n-one) - murder at a multidimensional conference of all the Sarah Pinskers - whodunnit? How can we tell when they're all Sarah Pinsker? Entertaining. 3/5
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LibraryThing member JudyGibson
I especially liked the last story, And Then There Were (N-1), a mystery about a convention of the same person from different parallel universes.

What I didn't like was the feel of the cover of the book with a slimy-ish plastic coating, ick.
LibraryThing member booklove2
I knew this collection would be good stuff. I adore a lovely short story collection, especially a speculative sci-fi short story collection. A speculative fiction collection can go on so many tangents! And this one does so, very well. All of the stories here are excellent. Most punkish, musically
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inclined. The only problem is that so many of these stories could be full novels that I would like to read. Sadly, one of the stories with the most interesting ideas is only three pages. Maybe one day it could be a novel? My favorite story is probably the most ballsy - a multiverse story featuring a convention of Sarah Pinskers... and a murder of a Sarah Pinsker. No idea why she decided to use her own name for that, but I love it. Another favorite is 'The Narwhal' which has only been published within this book. I already have Pinsker's next collection in my stack and I'm looking forward to it. They are doing things that are quite my jam over at Small Beer Press.
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288 p.; 8.4 inches


1618731556 / 9781618731555
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