My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Aliette de Bodard’s website describes this story as “A dark and creepy answer to ‘The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas.'” Since I re-read LeGuin’s story (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…) earlier today, as well as another story by de Bodard (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…) (which I loved), it seemed like an auspicious time to go ahead and read this one.
Unfortunately, ‘Lullaby…’ did not fare well by comparison. I think I would’ve liked it better without any mention of the LeGuin story. While it features a similar situation, rather than exploring a variety of complex ethical questions, it presents a comparatively simplistic dark-occult revenge story.
In a post-apocalyptic scenario, one house, containing hundreds of survivors, is protected by the magic of a sorcerer who apparently gains his power through human sacrifice. His victims are the weak and the ill – apparently always young girls. The tale is told through the eyes of the ghost of one of these girls, who is roused by the impending fate of her successor.
The sorcerer is unambiguously portrayed as a hypocrite acting out of self-interest, and no mention at all is made of the choices of those who shelter in the house’s safety (the parallel to what was the main focus of LeGuin’s piece). There are no ‘ones who walk away’ mentioned.
In summary: decent occult horror; not an ‘answer’ to ‘Omelas.’