Paul Cornell’s Rosebud is an interesting little novella from an expert creator. While the title certainly brings to mind either horticulture or the works of Orson Welles, this volume is instead very much of the post-post-transhuman society. The basic plot features a handful of entities on a ship with the same name as the title of the book as they encounter an extremely smooth black sphere in space. As the reader is educated on the Strange World these characters inhabit, they find themselves investigating the sphere and learning more about themselves and it than they would have thought possible.
Most of the characters are well drawn and even endearing in their fashion, but the figures of Diana and Haunt are perhaps the most sympathetically depicted. Still, the time the reader will spend with each of these characters makes them all the more well-rounded leaving their a fates of more and more interest.
Pop culture plays an extremely large part in this book. Aside from the title and its relevance to the ship in the story, the image of Bob Ross and Christopher Lee are brought to the reader in numerous ways. Given the darkly comedic tone of the entire piece that is appropriate, but it is still hard to deny. Still, one can certainly see the utility in many of the physical appearances chosen by characters, and even those instances where they do not can seem quite serviceable.
Paul Cornell in many ways cut his teeth working on Doctor Who. The fact that this is a strange story that could be as much science fiction or fantasy makes that feel more than a little appropriate. Indeed, aspects that seem to lend themselves to the idea of time travel appear in the story, as do a number of unusual references to impossible actions.
The question of memory is almost universal in this little piece. Even with characters seeming to be digitized versions of themselves or something different entirely, the question of the importance of memory is key to the story. Even without the other inclusions, the fact it is the name of the ship, that would make the title of this story absolutely brilliant.
Tolerance versus persecution, and the wide array of different hurtful behavior is that can exist (culturally and individually) play a major role in this volume. It opens with a warning about transphobia as a trigger, and this becomes more understandable as you read the book.
Rosebud is an extremely short read, a little over a hundred pages. While it is divided into chapters, the entire volume can and probably should be read in a single sitting. It is at times hilarious and terrifying, with a strong core that will pull the reader further in. While this is not perhaps the first work one should experience by the author, it is all the same a complicated and beautiful read.