Jul 112014
 

Here are my picks for the 2014 Hugo awards. You can follow the links where I have posted reviews for individual works. In each category, you can rank your preferences (1 being best). They encourage you not to vote for categories in which you have no experience (don’t just guess in other words). I’ve read (or watched or seen as appropriate) everything that I voted on. I didn’t individually review everything.

Best Novel

  1. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
    The pronouns are what get mentioned a lot in Ancillary Justice and I liked how that pointed out some interesting characteristics of the groups in the novel and my default assumptions. What I really liked was the dealing of distributed consciousness with Breq’s parts in the various stories, the ships and the leader of the Radch. I found the base quest story to also be entertaining and the world building with hints towards what is to come was nicely laid out.
  2. Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK) The sub-light economic system of Neptune’s Brood was masterfully done and I enjoy things like that. The undersea miners are an amazing example of a non-human species. The background universe of NB with its post-biological human basis has all sorts of room to develop interesting ideas that point back to biologicals and forward to trans human ideas.
  3. Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK) Parasite was a nice take on a cause of “zombieism.” I liked the exploration of what it means to be human from the non-zombie worm beings perspective. The narrator didn’t quite gel with me. I figured out the reveal about her fairly early on and part of her personality was almost certainly related to that.
  4. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books / Orbit UK) The Wheel of Time series was nominated as and ruled to be a multi-part serialized single work, as defined in Section 3.2.4 of the WSFS constitution.

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia was nominated but I did not consider it a strong enough candidate to be on my Hugo ballot.

Best Novella

  1. “Equoid”, Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013) I both enjoyed Equoid a lot and was squicked out a lot at the same time in a lovely fashion that I appreciated immensely.
    The use of the Lovecraft letters and the procurement forms (recall Shub-Niggurath [The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young] as a reason for those forms reappearing) played off of both each other and the story itself and served to ramp up the tension in a way that was really well done (I thought). The “Unicorn” and some of the Lovecraft letters were horrifying but they also work rather well with the mythos of Lovecraft himself. As “Case Nightmare Green” draws closer, it would seem that Bob’s world is going to get rather more horrifying
  2. Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press) I love Valente’s prose and I liked the western riff on Snow White. Just, somewhat less than Equoid.
  3. “Wakulla Springs”, Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013) I liked the story and the prose of Wakulla Springs quite a bit, but would have preferred the speculative part was more than tacked on to the end.
  4. The Butcher of Khardov, Dan Wells (Privateer Press) This was a decent enough story and I might have appreciated it more if I were into the Warhammer universe. It was a decent addition to the Hugo ballot.
  5. “The Chaplain’s Legacy”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013) This was better written than Torgersen’s novelette entry but didn’t seem to quite work for me.

Best Novelette

  1. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013) I enjoyed The Lady Astronaut of Mars quite a bit. I rather liked the Oz parallel and the writing style was grade A.
  2. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013) The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling was well done and I enjoyed it although there was, for me, a bit of a feeling of disconnection from the story. I think that may have been on purpose as a subtext to the paralleling of writing and digital memory.
  3. “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam) The Waiting Stars was also nicely done although it didn’t appeal to me quite as much as the previous two.
    I did not include either of these on my ballot:

  • “Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands) I did not find Opera Vita Aeterna to be well written. The plot manages to both meander and rush. The writing style is clunky and the philosophy trite. This work is not at all at the level I expect from a Hugo candidate.
  • “The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013) The Exchange Officers could have shaped up to a decent enough piece of action fluff with some good editing. As it stands, the writing was awkward enough to detract from the story flow.

Best Short Story

    The short story category was particularly good this year. All of the entries were strong and well done.

  1. “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013) I really liked this. It was very well written and the fantastic elements tied nicely into the theme.
  2. “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013) This was a lovely story with a lot of message packed into its short length.
  3. “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013) Another fine entry. I found it interesting how the story played on touching the speculative aspect and interwove that with the story of racial and gender difficulties.
  4. “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)This was well crafted but didn’t really resonate with me. It seemed a bit disconnected.

Continue reading »

Jun 302014
 

Here is my commentary on Chapters 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 of A Feast For Crows.
I have been reading the various Game of Thrones novels for the first time and posting my thoughts over in the tor.com A Read of Ice and Fire.
This has been quite the interesting experience as it is a very odd way to read a book (or even odder a set of books). Since Google is awash with Game of Thrones spoilers, this limits my ease of look-up of details from earlier books. Funny how quickly the internet has become an external reference point/expanded memory. On the other hand, I have eBook editions and that helps balance things out as it is wildly easier to search them than paper monsters.
Since I am reading these for the first time, don’t post any comments about events later in the series, but also be warned that each chapter’s posts will contain all the details I find in the chapter or happen to think of as I am reading. I may even put in some extra material that I think I have figured out that I either don’t put in the tor read or white out there to not spoil others reads who may not have thought of such things.

Continue reading »

May 122014
 

Here is my commentary on Chapters 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20 of A Feast For Crows.
I have been reading the various Game of Thrones novels for the first time and posting my thoughts over in the tor.com A Read of Ice and Fire.
This has been quite the interesting experience as it is a very odd way to read a book (or even odder a set of books). Since Google is awash with Game of Thrones spoilers, this limits my ease of look-up of details from earlier books. Funny how quickly the internet has become an external reference point/expanded memory. On the other hand, I have eBook editions and that helps balance things out as it is wildly easier to search them than paper monsters.
Since I am reading these for the first time, don’t post any comments about events later in the series, but also be warned that each chapter’s posts will contain all the details I find in the chapter or happen to think of as I am reading. I may even put in some extra material that I think I have figured out that I either don’t put in the tor read or white out there to not spoil others reads who may not have thought of such things.

Continue reading »

Apr 212014
 

Here are the short lists for the nominees for this years Hugo awards. A total of 1923 valid nominating ballots were received and counted. This count of 1923 greatly exceeds the previous years record of 1,343 nominating ballots. That’s a good trend.
I was at Minicon and watched the live stream amidst a group of fans. I like that format and since the numbers are increasing, it seems to be a useful thing to be doing. As I gather my thoughts together, I’ll be posting about nominees (I have linked where I’ve already made posts). In the mean time, I am eagerly awaiting the Hugo Voter Packet.

Best Novel (1595 nominating ballots)

  • Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
  • Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, Larry Correia (Baen Books)
  • The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books / Orbit UK)

Note: The Wheel of Time series was nominated as and ruled to be a multi-part serialized single work, as defined in Section 3.2.4 of the WSFS constitution.

Best Novella (847 nominating ballots)

  • The Butcher of Khardov, Dan Wells (Privateer Press)
  • “The Chaplain’s Legacy”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
  • “Equoid”, Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
  • Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)
  • “Wakulla Springs”, Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)

Best Novelette (728 nominating ballots)

  • “Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
  • “The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
  • “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
  • “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
  • “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)

Best Short Story (865 nominating ballots)

  • “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
  • “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)
  • “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
  • “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)

Note: Category had only 4 nominees due to the minimum 5% requirement of Section 3.8.5 of the WSFS constitution.
Continue reading »

Apr 182014
 

Here is my commentary on Chapters 10, 11 & 12 of A Feast For Crows.
I have been reading the various Game of Thrones novels for the first time and posting my thoughts over in the tor.com A Read of Ice and Fire.
This has been quite the interesting experience as it is a very odd way to read a book (or even odder a set of books). Since Google is awash with Game of Thrones spoilers, this limits my ease of look-up of details from earlier books. Funny how quickly the internet has become an external reference point/expanded memory. On the other hand, I have eBook editions and that helps balance things out as it is wildly easier to search them than paper monsters.
Since I am reading these for the first time, don’t post any comments about events later in the series, but also be warned that each chapters posts will contain all the details I find in the chapter or happen to think of as I am reading. I may even put in some extra material that I think I have figured out that I either don’t put in the tor read or white out there to not spoil others reads who may not have thought of such things.

Continue reading »

Apr 142014
 

The debut novel from E.E. Giorgi, Chimeras is a delightful combination of hot prose and cool science. I was hooked on the first sentence of:

It was one of those hot summer afternoons, with air made of cobwebs and a glare as sharp as pencils.

Wonderful stuff, that, and the book continues to delight with prose that streams out like Chandler.
Actually, I’ve been hooked even prior to reading that first line as I first heard about the Chimera books and E.E. Giorgi in September of 2011 via a post on Ian Tregillis’ website. I read that interview and have been following Giorgi’s blog on genetics that is so skillfully done. I’ve been anxiously awaiting her fictional prose ever sense.
In the book, we meet the main character, Detective Track Presius of the LAPD Robbery and Homicide Division. Track leads a journey of discovery through the novel. Discovery, both of his own personal nature (why his senses of smell and vision are heightened far beyond “normal” peoples) and discovery of the mystery at hand. The mystery that Track finds turns into a growing series of murders linked to the name Rhesus. Behind both the personal and case discoveries, we get very engaging views of cutting edge genetics via the characters of Diane Kyle, a genetics researcher and Doctor Watanabe–a doctor Track went to, seeking answers after his mothers death.
In addition to the main point of view of Track, we also get a series of segments from the point of view of Rhesus. I liked the layering this provides as we see events from the other side of the coin.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery be it of the scientific or the serial kind. Very well written.

Apr 042014
 

My Real Children by Jo Walton is a multi-textured joy. This book was tremendously powerful. I was in quite literally tears at the end. They were tears of both sorrow and joy; I didn’t mid at all. The story totally captured my heart and I totally recommend it.
The book opens in a nursing home where we meet Patricia Cowan. Close to 90 and deemed “very confused” by the nursing home staff. Patricia herself is unsure if she is confused or if she really remembers what she thinks she does. She does tend to forget various small things like the current year but she remembers two distinct lives for herself. Two sets of memories. Two families and two very different world histories. The slow opening into Pat’s thoughts gives us something to think about. Is she really suffering from dementia or has this experience of two worlds essentially unhinged her–or both?
This is a story about choices and the effects they have. How a simple choice may alter not just the chooser but, perhaps, the whole world.

If she had made a choice — well, she knew she had. She could remember as clearly as she could remember anything. She had been in that little phone box in the corridor in The Pines and Mark had said that if she was going to marry him it would have to be now or never. And she had been startled and confused and had stood there in the smell of chalk and disinfectant and girls and hesitated, and made the decision that changed everything in her life.

As we are told Pat’s tale, the world is a singular place and the first part of her life is that of a woman in England born in 1926. She has to deal with all the problems that this implies and entails for a woman in that time.
By chapters 6 & 7, there are clear signs of the parallel tracks splitting the world between “now” and “never”. Never seems a much more attractive alternate. The alternating chapters tell us two poignant tales of the same powerful woman; Pat in one set of memories and Trish in the other.
As we go along we get glimpses of people we recognize from out own timelines and see how they fare for better or worse in the events as they unfold in Pat’s lives.

In addition to the main character driven plots, we also get a fantastic travel book. Walton does a fantastic job of capturing the feel of being in places like the Pantheon:

In the Pantheon Patty looked up at the circle of blue sky at the centre of the dome and saw three birds wheeling left to right across it. She knew that would have meant something to Agrippa and the Romans who had built this building. Augury. She did not know what it augured, but she felt it was something good. The clutter down below, the graves of modern kings and even the artist Raphael, seemed irrelevant to this purity of form, the grave splendour of the dome, the pillars, the circle through which the eye was drawn up to heaven, to God. She wept, and understood that she did not weep for herself.

The time spent in Florence is especially wonderfully done. Rich in detail and a showing us a clear love of the parts of the world we travel through along with Patty.

She sat alone in restaurants eating pasta and refusing wine. Men looked at her lecherously and occasionally tried to touch her, but Marjorie’s technique of appealing to old black clad ladies continued to work. She spent her days looking at art and architecture and eating gelato in a little place she had found near the church of Orsan Michele, Perche No! Gelato was not ice cream but pure essence of frozen fruit, with flavours she could not have imagined, watermelon, lemon, strawberry. She thought she would never eat ice cream again. She sat eating it and staring at Verocchio’s statue of Doubting Thomas poking at Christ’s wound in a niche outside the church. That was the Christian way to deal with doubt, open yourself up to being poked at. Not shut it in a cupboard, as her mother had done when her childish inquiries about religion crossed some invisible and unpredictable line.

Isn’t that lovely? I very much like the detail of appealing to old black clad ladies–I saw this in a current guide somewhere as advice for single women in Italy. I also quite agree on the subject of gelato.

In addition to being a wonderful book, I have a special reason for being even more happy to see this book come out. I was able to be a beta reader and so I first read this almost one year ago. This was fantastic fun for me. 2013 was a great year from my standpoint as a fan of SF. As this year goes on, I’ll be able to share a few more of these fun events.

Apr 012014
 

Here are the works I nominated for Hugo awards for 2014. My general process is to think about the works that I have actually read and not to cast about looking for things. You will also notice that I only nominated a couple (at most) things in each category rather than using all five nominations. These are the works that I felt deserved the Hugo for this work. I didn’t nominate in categories where I didn’t feel I had spent enough time to have a really good opinion.

Best Novel:
Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis, published by Tor
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, published by Orbit

Novella:
Equoid by Charles Stross, published by tor.com

Short Story:
Thirteen Steps in the Underworld by Su-Yee Lin, published by tor.com

Editor, Short form
Liz Gorinsky

Best Fan Writer
Kameron Hurley — example: “‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative,” by Kameron Hurley, at A Dribble of Ink.

Best Related Work
Sleeps With Monsters, by Liz Bourke at tor.com

Best Dramatic (Long Form)
Pacific Rim directed by Guillermo del Toro

Mar 242014
 

Here is my commentary on Chapters 10, 11 & 12 of A Feast For Crows.
For those of you who don’t know what I am doing with these, I have been reading the various Game of Thrones novels for the first time and posting my thoughts over in the tor.com A Read of Ice and Fire.
This has been quite the interesting experience as it is a very odd way to read a book (or even odder a set of books). Since Google is awash with Game of Thrones spoilers, this limits my ease of look-up of details from earlier books. Funny how quickly the internet has become an external reference point/expanded memory. On the other hand, I have eBook editions and that helps balance things out as it is wildly easier to search them than paper monsters.
Since I am reading these for the first time, don’t post any comments about events later in the series, but also be warned that each chapters posts will contain all the details I find in the chapter or happen to think of as I am reading. I may even put in some extra material that I think I have figured out that I either don’t put in the tor read or white out there to not spoil others reads who may not have thought of such things.

Continue reading »

Mar 072014
 

Here is my commentary on Chapters 8 & 9 of A Feast For Crows.
For those of you who don’t know what I am doing with these, I have been reading the various Game of Thrones novels for the first time and posting my thoughts over in the tor.com A Read of Ice and Fire.
This has been quite the interesting experience as it is a very odd way to read a book (or even odder a set of books). Since Google is awash with Game of Thrones spoilers, this limits my ease of look-up of details from earlier books. Funny how quickly the internet has become an external reference point/expanded memory. On the other hand, I have eBook editions and that helps balance things out as it is wildly easier to search them than paper monsters.
Since I am reading these for the first time, don’t post any comments about events later in the series, but also be warned that each chapters posts will contain all the details I find in the chapter or happen to think of as I am reading. I may even put in some extra material that I think I have figured out that I either don’t put in the tor read or white out there to not spoil others reads who may not have thought of such things.

Continue reading »