I had really high hopes for "We Are All But Embers" by Gemma Noon (her first published story, by the way). This time around I picked my literary criticism subject based upon title appeal. Fire is a very strong concept. "Embers" is not only a bold word, it also has a certain smoothness to it. It can almost feel melancholy at times. When you place the pronoun "we" in front of it, you get a flash of emotion potent enough to draw me in.
"We Are All But Embers" fell a little short of my expectations. It read more like literary than science fiction, although it is most definitely the latter. The language, while splendid for the most part, dipped at times, which is a major problem for stories aiming for a literary feel. A few other problems hacked away at this story's validity.
The characters in this story are fairly well done. Little is learned about them, but what is learned is vibrant and attention-holding. The protagonist's struggle could have been portrayed a smidgen better, yet in a story of this type the effort is commendable.
This story's largest flaw is plot. Is there plot? Well, yes, I suppose there is. There isn't, however, a traditional plot. This story's plot has no tempo to speak of. The use of a distancing variety of 3rd-narrative separated me from what plot there is. This is a very common occurrence, and some probably enjoy this sort of story based upon the shear amount of examples, but I am not a fan.
As far as setting goes, this story gets a thumbs-up. Could it have been better? Yes. Was it good enough? Definitely. The setting puts a nice spin on the typical setting of the dystopian subgenre. It's a smallish spin with a smallish scope; it wouldn't work in some stories, but it worked here.
Obviously, I have some mixed feelings toward this story. It didn't deliver to the extent of my hopes. It did entertain me. In this case, the latter is more important. Please try this story out and tell me what you think of it.