Cover Image: Driftwood


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Member Reviews

Fascinating and unique. The genre rarely sees a book this novel and new, and this was like a breath of fresh air. This reminds me that I need to give this another read, honestly. 

-- This review is several years past the release date due to the many issues of 2020, but a huge thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an early copy of the book.
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DNF 58%
I am one of those that did not enjoy this. I did not like how the writing was or the set up of this book. Wich in turn made it hard to continue and i had to DNF it because i was just so incredible bored and uinterested.
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A string of seemingly interconnected stories that share/define the legend of Last. But who or what is Last?

You know, we never really find out.

As far as I can tell it’s just a number of suppositions and rumors surrounding Last—whose name we never really even find out. As the characters change between stories, there’s no development, except for Last, of course, whose nature changes wildly depending on who you ask. I do like the idea of Driftwood as a place; a place that only exists so long as there are dying worlds to make up it, something that constantly changes as realms die and are replaced. Unfortunately that’s really the only thing about these stories I enjoyed

After DNFing this a couple of times back when it released, I waited on it a bit until I could pick it up as an audiobook—which helped not at all. It didn’t help that I found the narrator’s tone dry, lecturing and the subject matter as bland and boring as before. I ended up reading and skimming my way through it, as it never succeeded in making me care enough to dig deeper. Definitely wouldn't recommend it, unless maybe you're very familiar with the author's work and/or enjoy that kinda thing. Not my cup of tea, however.
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This high-concept fantasy explores Driftwood, where eventually each place will succumb to the Crush, no matter how hard survivors work to hold on to their families, cultures, and homes. Only one person can navigate this mutable landscape, and his mythos continues to grow. Who is Last? Or, who was he? Those who've gathered to remember him can't agree. High-concept fantasy lovers will enjoy this well-written tale; those looking for something a little more linear will appreciate the skill employed here, but might not be drawn in.
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Un mondo originale e un'idea intrigante, che fanno da sfondo a una resa forse un po' confusa della trama.
Lo stile gradevole, come solito dell'autrice, fa scorrere il romanzo nonostante questa pecca.
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A set of loosely connected stories the main thread is that each world is dying and a man named Last appears in each.  This is fine world-building, innovative concepts, and an emotion ride.
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Driftwood is a novella, sort of, but also a set of short stories set in the world of Driftwood, where realities go to die. It’s a world where stepping from one street to the next can induce a change in the weather, the laws of physics, and the very air people need to breathe. And everyone there knows their worlds are vanishing… and either accept it or not, as they can. Last is the main character, sort of — mostly glimpsed through others — and is a lone survivor from a long-gone world. He’s a guide, helping others half for a living and half for curiosity, and sometimes out of kindness as well.

He also isn’t dying, despite the loss of his world, despite having outlived the normal lifespan of his people a dozen times over.

It’s a fascinating setup, and Last is a pretty cool idea; the stories told about him by other characters in this book highlight a lonely man, who is making the best job he can of unasked for immortality. The sadness of it takes a while to shine through, but there’s one particular story which illustrates it beautifully, without lingering too long.

Overall, I found it a really enjoyable novella/collection — and the illustrations help! It’s possible to imagine an infinity of worlds and stories within Driftwood, but the last bit of this book closes it off beautifully. I still have questions, but the more important answer is the one Last finds, smiling at the end of the world.
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I began this book ages ago, reading a chapter at a time. Its structure makes it possible, as it has no proper plot, just stories about one man, Last, and how he has helped--or failed to help--various peoples who have to violently come to terms with dying of their worlds. Nothing else connects the stories, so there's no need to remember what happened in the previous chapter.

This book's strength is in its wordlbuilding, the highly unique and strange worlds that have drifted together to form a new, ever-shrinking place. Characters remain vague, even Last who features in every story. I kept reading, hoping to finally find out the truth about him, but in the end I just gave up. I didn't even skim to the end to see if it concludes in a meaningful fashion. I prefer to think that he remains ever a mystery for me and the characters of the book alike.

If you're a fan of bizarre worlds and fascinating details, this is a book for you.
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I really enjoyed reading this book. The character development was subtle in a myriad of ways, and the plot moves along quickly enough to keep interest. I could have used a little more expansion around the ending of the book, but on the whole found the experience very enjoyable.
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It is a very well written book, with excellent world-building. However, I was not in the mood for this kind of read and was glad that it was not too long. I had a hard time focussing on my reading and was often lost with all the characters.
I am sure this book will please every fantasy reader.
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It is a place in space that consists of several others. One street cold, one street is warm, one part belongs to that people's world, other this people's. And in the centre, there is Crush. The eye of the death. Worlds slowly or fastly go into the Crush to, well, be crushed. 

"And saw Driftwood. 

The immensity of it knocked the breath from his lungs. Towers, plazas, haphazard housing blocks held up only by their neighbors. Water, glittering unexpectedly here and there among the structures. Clouds and fog and an irregular stretch of air filled with lightning. Lights of a hundred different colors, some coming from things that must be suns and moons and stars, others from no apparent source, because the celestial bodies from which they emanated were visible only from the ground to which they belonged."

It is a scary, harsh, magical and foreign place. (I am bad at names and lazy, so I won't push myself to write their names here and I will come to this topic again soon.) 


He is the last of his kind, a master of Driftwood since he is the oldest living one who roams the place. Nobody knows how old he is. Some consider him to be the god of Driftwood, others know that he is not. Like many other, he is a drifter who lost his world but a knowing one and others come to him when they need an answer. Or hope (this part I liked best). He is a translator, a guide, researcher, whatever you need atthat moment. 


The main topic of the book, the reason for these tales, are told that people gathered in a place to bring or mourn Last since there is a rumour that he walked into the Crush. 

In my mind, the world created was amazing at first. It was creative; it had mystery, friendship, sacrifice, misunderstanding, struggle to survive, different religious beliefs, amazing powers, hate, love... (Inserting unrelated and spoilish thought: After finishing The Alchemist, another being becoming the wind part was rather meaningful. Sometimes books pull one another.) But along the way, the world became too complex for me. Weird names mixed with each other, space people lost their individuality and everything became a mush. 

So when I was saying this book is hard to review, I was talking about this. The idea was great, at first telling was great too but as I should integrate with the world more and more in every passing page, with every Last tale, I felt more at lost. I lost the track. In that regard, I was a drifter too. If that was the purpose of Brennan, I sincerely celebrate her, because she achieved it. 

But then, the world pulled me in again with its mystery, but at the same time, I was bored because of the cult thing. 

While I was reading it, romanticism was felt. I heard Brennan's storytelling. I imagined the scenes; I experienced the emotions... 

But I felt like if this was a book which never stepped inside of Last's mind, never interacted with him directly, just told about him in stories with more established characters, this book would be THE ONE for me. He would become a legend in an epic, his existence would be more profound and I would dream about him and this place several days after finishing the book. Just like the Drifters. 

I won't say "Driftwood was a disappointment for me" because it was not, and many people like this book as it is. But I will say this: It had a bigger potential. 

So, I will leave the decision to you with this one. If you are curious, read it. If not, then don't. 

"Weather usually didn’t pass beyond its home world. Rivers sometimes ended at the border, sometimes flowed on through to flood a neighboring ghetto. Sound usually went, but not always... "
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Marie Brennan has been an author that I have wanted to read for ages, but I never got around to picking up her books (though I did read a short story by her). When I saw that one of her books was on NetGalley I immediately requested it and luckily I was approved, so here we are now. I have mixed feelings towards Driftwood, there are some things about it that I enjoyed and some that bothered me.

The story of Driftwood is told through several short stories that are centred around the main character Last. This is something that I didn’t expect, as I thought this would be a “regular” novel. Last has lived longer than anyone can remember and he has seen many people come and go. Throughout the book we get to see some of those encounters. Thee narrative isn’t linear in Driftwood, the short stories are more like vignettes that are connected to each other by a small thread. That did end up making the whole book feel disjointed, especially since some of the stories were more developed than the others. The format that this book was written in does allow the author to present many different cultures and worlds, which was interesting to read about.

The only character that we got to know more about was Last, and even with him I still felt like I didn’t get to know him that well. Still, I did find him to be an interesting character and I enjoyed seeing the way he was portrayed in the different stories. The other characters that appeared in the short stories were alright, but as they only appeared briefly they didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. That is the downside when it comes to these vignettes.

Overall, Driftwood was an interesting book. The concept behind it was fascinating, but the execution was lacking in some aspects for me. I would definitely recommend this book, as it was a very enjoyable read.
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I’ve been a fan of Marie Brennan’s work for a few years now. I’m always impressed with the quality of her writing and her ability to create rich characters. And, in those regards, I feel that Driftwood lives up to those standards. It was a fascinating world, filled with interesting and unique characters. I’ll admit, I got a little bored on occasion because there didn’t seem to be much in the way of a solid plot. But, overall, I enjoyed this book!

When I saw there wasn’t a solid plot, I don’t mean nothing happened. There was plenty of action and character growth, particularly with Last. But I had a hard time figuring out what exactly this book was about. There didn’t seem to be a min, overarching story, but rather a handful of shorter stories that were loosely tied together. It almost read more like a biography for the main character, Last. It was an interesting way to tell a story, and I liked it to some extent. But I also found myself having a hard time staying interested on occasion because I wasn’t sure where the story was supposed to be going.

The characters were what really made this book for me. I loved getting to know Last and all of the different people he met throughout his life. They all had such unique histories and cultures. It was so fun to learn about them. I wish I could have been able to get to know them a bit better, but I still enjoyed what I did learn about them.

I’m glad I was able to read Driftwood! It’s a different type of book, but still pretty enjoyable to read. It’s not a book I think everyone would love, but if you go into reading it with an open mind, I think you may enjoy this book as well!
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* Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Driftwood is something magical and different. It is an interesting compilation of short stories that link together in the story of Last, a mysterious immortal being and guide to Driftwood. Driftwood is a place where worlds literally collide as they disintegrate and eventually disappear into the land's center, known as the Crush.

This book was incredibly atmospheric and built with an amazing amount of imagination. The writing flowed easily and pulled me through the book with continuous wonder and curiosity. There are several unique worlds and species introduced within this tapestry of a land, delivered in such a tantalizing way as to leave me both captivated and wanting more.

The was so much at work here in such a small space that it was at times almost overwhelming, but I still found myself just mesmerized. There is no solid indication of additional planned works in this universe, but this book felt like both a standalone and a primer for a sweeping epic. This feeling of being on the precipice of something larger is bolstered by the ending, which left substantial room for continuation.

I am terribly intrigued and fascinated and really hope to see more of this land and its characters.
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Driftwood is a charming, meditative, and often poignant collection of linked stories by Marie Brennan that mostly succeeds both in its individual tales and as a whole, though I had a few issues. But given that one of those is it was too short, it’s still an easy book to recommend.

The book’s general setting is the titular Driftwood. Think of it as a beach whose tide, instead of washing up the pebbles and the sea’s detritus, washes up instead dying worlds. Except instead of piling up on a sandy strand, the worlds just edge farther and farther inward, getting ever smaller before eventually disappearing forever. Or as one character explains to another whose world has just started the process:
Bits [of a world] just vanish. People die, or vanish with the bits, and though maybe you’re still having kids — some world do; some don’t — your population shrinks with your world. One day there’s a place on the other side of you, where before there was only Mist. They’ve had an apocalypse too. Different than yours, probably but the result is the same; there’s a fragment that survives, a fragment that isn’t done dying, and it came her like all the rest of them. They fade like you do, and as you fade you move inward, because the worlds that lie Crush-ward of you are doing the same thing. Eventually you’re just a little ghetto, hardly anything left. And then your reach the Crush, the heart of Driftwood. The last bits vanish — and then there’s nothing.

That speaker is the mysterious man known as Last, someone whose world disappeared long, long ago, but somehow he has not (some believe him to be eternal and/or a god), and so he’s spent his many years as a guide, “for people whose business takes them out of familiar territory and who want — or need — to learn the ropes where they’re going. Vigilantes, crosser-merchants, scholars.”  The stories in the collection are driven by Last’s disappearance, which causes a group of Drifters to tell stories of how and why they sought out Last, and what he did for them.  Chapters alternate between those flashback stories and brief interchapters amidst the storytellers, with the central present-time mystery being what happened to Last.

I absolutely love the setting, which serves up endless potential for stories, since each one reveals a new world to us. Driftwood has a bit of a Calvino-esque feel to it, particularly Invisible Cities, one of my favorite all time works of fiction. You’ve got visits to different worlds (cities), a sense of the fantastical, each new setting told as a story, some lyrical language. And, as with Calvino, a bit of a haunting sadness.   Brennan uses the rich potential of the setting premise to deliver some beautifully original images/ideas, which I won’t ruin by noting here.

The setting is also perfectly attuned to the structure, with the fractured worlds being a nice echo of the fractured stories. Both even have mysteries attached: Why does this happen to the worlds (and what happens next when they go through the Crush) and what has happened to Last?

As with any collection, the individual stories vary somewhat, but I wouldn’t call any of these “weak.” I’m satisfied when I enjoy more than half the stories in a collection, happy at three-quarters and thrilled at more.  I was firmly in the happy zone with Driftwood. My favorite stories were probably “Remembering Light” and “Into the Wind”, each of which deals in different ways with memory and honoring the past.  The former also is a nice metaphor for immigration/refugees, with Last’s client desperately trying to keep her people connected to their heritage: “Ila’s great-grandchildren will be Drifters. They’ll know nothing of Oneua . . . as if I know anything about it. All I know are my grandparents’ stories! I was born after they fled here. We try to live as they did before, but it isn’t the same. We eat the food of the Brenak’I, wear fabric the Thiwd make from worms . . .  all our rituals are guesses.”  It’s a moving story, both eternal and topical.  “Remembering Light” meanwhile is more personal in the narrative’s realm, but in its focus on memory and grief is even more universal. 

While I mostly enjoyed the client stories, the intervening chapters acting as connective tissue felt stretched too thin. I can’t say they added much and in addition felt a bit awkwardly artificial. I would have been perfectly content with just the client stories themselves.  Finally, the ending felt a bit abrupt (though I loved the last story).  But those were minor complaints.

While the book seems to bring the story arc to a close, the Driftwood universe allows for an infinite number of stories.  I, for one, would love returning there for more of them.
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Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advance reading copy. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.

I’m a huge fan of Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series. Any book by her is an instant buy for me. So I jumped on requesting an ARC copy of Driftwood.

This is an innovative story with beautiful writing. Driftwood is fragments, memories of dying worlds as people drift from place to place, adapting to new ways of life, or clinging to the old ones. Last is a legend, a one-blooded survivor of a world long gone. Some people think he’s immortal, others seek him out in desperation to try and save their world. With a rumour going around that he’s died, various drifters gather around an impromptu memorial to tell stories about Last.

Brennan does an amazing job at fleshing out so many worlds and stories. It could be easy for Driftwood to feel weak as a setting. It doesn’t though, even though there’s so many moving parts and stories. With Brennan’s beautiful prose, the stories and characters come to life.

Sadly though, one of the main strengths of Driftwood, the fragmented vignette nature of the novel, is also a weakness. This is a story about Last, but we very rarely get to know him from his own perspective. We’re constantly learning about him from the experiences and memories of other people. This furthers the narrative of Last being a legend of sorts. But it made it hard for me to get a proper hold on the characters as the stories kept changing and we only got glimpses of Last.

Driftwood is a beautiful book. Although not everything about it worked for me, I do recommend it if you’re looking for something original. It’s also an incredibly hopeful read, about people forming relationships and community in the face of destruction of their worlds and the arrival of the end. And with the state of the world right now, that’s the kind of story we really need right now.
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Undoubtedly one of the richest fantasy worlds I've had the pleasure of reading, all the more impressive for being packed into a relatively short book. The premise is deceptively simple, but offers so much: Driftwood is where worlds go to die. They start out at the Edge after their apocalypses and from there they travel slowly inwards, shrinking as they go. Countries become cities become, eventually, individual streets and houses, before it all disappears in the Crush at the centre of Driftwood. It seems like a mammoth task to conceive of and differentiate all the worlds, but I thought this was done very gracefully, and Brennan knows when to leave something at broad strokes and when to add light touches of detail. We have a world which is simply very windy; we have a world with seven suns for whom night is known as Absent Light. I loved this, and I have little doubt that a reread would yield even more detail.

The book itself is concerned with the disappearance of Last, famous for his inexplicable longevity. His world disappeared into the Crush lifetimes ago, but he remained. People of all kinds gather to tell of their experiences with him, arguing between themselves about what he was and where he went, making for a short story / vignette structure that fits the fragmented world of Driftwood itself. It's fitting that the book is concerned about the importance of memory -- the collective memory of a single famous figure, yes, but also the inevitable loss of cultural memory and the ways that we can fight it. The promotional material I've read suggests that there is more to come in the Driftwood universe, but this stands alone perfectly well, and I found it a rewarding experience in its own right. Many thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Every world or universe thinks it's alone until its apocalyptic death drives it to Driftwood, the place where all worlds go to literally drift off into nothingness. They come out of the Mist, to the Edge, and as parts of each world fade away, they become Shards that rub against each other in the pull of the Crush — the center of Driftwood and the place where all worlds are forgotten and smashed into nothing. As such, Driftwood itself is an odd land, with wildly variant inhabitants and their respective cultures, as well as different rules of physics in each of the worlds and Shards. But one man, aptly called Last, is famous throughout Driftwood as the last of his kind, a race that died out before the grandparents of anyone still alive were born. But when it seems that Last has finally died, the Drifters gather to remember the man or the charlatan or the god...whoever each person thinks he was or is.

This is a fascinating little book, with plenty to mull over after the final pages are done. And about those final pages... I'm not going to spoil this book by saying that they're odd. In fact, I'd love it if someone would read this book simply so I can talk about this ending! It's not my favorite book this year, but it's definitely thought-provoking and creative, so it gets a thumbs up from me.
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Like driftwood caught in a cove, dying worlds emerge out of the Mist to join the apocalyptic and jumbled geography of Driftwood. Each world makes the purgatorial journey from Driftwood’s outermost circle towards its middle, “The Crush,” where it will die. Gradually, piece-by-piece, the world disappears: neighbors, countries, suns. But before its annihilation, the world’s inhabitants struggle to preserve their memory in Driftwood's complex weave of cultures, religions, and mythologies. 

“People out on the Edge usually deny it; you’ve got enough of a world left that you can. But it’s fading—have you noticed that? Shrinking. Bits just vanish. People die, or vanish with the bits, and though maybe you’re still having kids—some worlds do; some don’t—your population shrinks with your world. One day there’s a place on the other side of you, where before there was only Mist. They’ve had an apocalypse, too. Different than yours, probably, but the result is the same; there’s a fragment that survives, a fragment that isn’t done dying, and it came here like all the rest of them. They fade like you do, and as you fade you move inward, because the worlds that lie Crush-ward of you are doing the same thing. Eventually you’re just a little ghetto, hardly anything left. And then you reach the Crush, the heart of Driftwood. The last bits vanish—and then there’s nothing.”

As in her acclaimed pseudo-Victorian “Memoirs of Lady Trent” series, which was a finalist for the Hugo and the Grand Prix l’Imaginaire, Marie Brennan capitalizes here on her academic background in archaeology, folklore, and cultural anthropology. In each short story, she suggests an entire ancient culture with a spray of details: a dancing-magic of forgetfulness, a mask immortalizing “the principles of harmonious bodily proportion,” an endless ravaging sandstorm at the edge of a dying world.

“No one there has seen the mask before. It is carved out of wood and still carries traces of paint in the hollows of its contours, though most of the pigment has worn away. Unlike the abstracted or exaggerated style of many masks, this one has been carved to look as lifelike as possible—almost a portrait, rendered in wood. A portrait of a man’s face, with a high forehead and a full-lipped mouth.”

Several of Driftwood’s stories have been published before; when gathering them into a collection, however, Marie Brennan adds two epistolary layers and multiple narrators. The organizing frame story of the collection begins with a first person storyteller named Last, an ancient immortal who has inexplicably outlived his culture, race, and world. Each story-within-the-story explores the relationship between Last and a given world, casting him as “guide” or perhaps “god.” This mature collection’s subtle shifts of tense and point-of-view, as well as the mystery of the ambiguous plot and narrators, will be appreciated by fans of N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy.

Ultimately, Brennan manages in this short collection to capture the cry of all lost cultures: 

“Keep remembering.”

“For it is only through the telling of our tales that we have hope of immortality.”

Readers will surely remember the lost of Driftwood.
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How do I even begin to talk about this book?

Driftwood is the most creative, inventive, brilliant book I've read in ages. The worldbuilding is increidible: this is a story of the end of the world. But not The world. Rather, of all worlds. 

Imagine a series of concentric rings constantly contracting. The outermost ring is made up of worlds that have just undergone their apocalypse. The outer edge of this ring is bounded by mist. 

After a time, the mist will spit out new worlds having recently undergone their apocalypse, and the worlds in the outer ring will be pushed into the next ring. As it is smaller, parts of the worlds will disappear as they enter this ring. Perhaps now they are the size of countries, bounded on all sides by other worlds. Sometimes water can cross the boundaries, but sometimes not. Weather usually does not. So you can walk from desert into constantly pouring rain, etc.

The inner ring is known as the Shreds. Here, worlds have been reduced to city blocks, or neighborhoods and they are crammed together one atop the other in a constantly shifting mass of cultures and languages and species. The Shreds are populated not by distinct species, but those descended of many worlds known as Drifters.

At the center is the crush, where eventually all worlds go to die.

This story is told through a series of vignettes showing the interactions of various cultures and people with a guide named Last as they try to understand him and figure out where he has gone.

Last is widely believed to be immortal, sometimes believed to be a god. He is the last of his race, as his world died out long ago. Somehow he managed to live beyond it - but don't ask him how; not even he knows. He knows more Driftwood than anyone, and guides people across it to help them find what they need.

The writing is beautiful and each vignette showed a world and culture that I wanted to explore more. I would read an entire series about Driftwood. This is perfect as it is, a self-contained marvel, but it could easily expand indefinitely.
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