Redshirts by John Scalzi is a fun read. For anyone who doesn’t know, the title refers to the tendency for auxiliary characters on Star Trek to die in various fashions while supporting the main character. Often these characters wore the red colored shirts of the security detail.
The book opens with a scene involving a team from the starship Intrepid trapped in a cave by Borgovian Land Worms.
We then join the main story as Ensign Andrew Dahl joins up with the Intrepid, and meets other new members of the crew. All of them are replacing other unfortunate former crew-members. Andrew and his friends fairly quickly begin to suspect that something is amiss in their new posting as they note the very high casualty rate on the Intrepid and that none of the senior crew members seem to share in this fate no matter how badly they may be hurt.
Scalzi’s twist as to what causes the situation on the Intrepid is fun and allows for a lot of meta SF jokes. I’ll also admit that I didn’t see the particular twist coming. A number of laugh inspiring episodes ensue, mixed with some pause for thoughts on the suffering the high rates of fatality cause to the crew-members.
The Bonehunters is the sixth volume in Steven Erikson’s epic fantasy series, The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Highly recommended.
As the sixth volume, it truly does occupy a crucial pivot point in the series. Many things from the first five volumes reach a climax and the ground for many events in the rest of the series is richly sown. The book provides endings and beginnings and is rich with action. It is a large book but so much is packed into it that it could really occupy the entirety of lesser series. As such, it is one of my favorite books in the series. It isn’t really possible to talk about much of this without spoilers, so proceed after this at your own risk:
Continue reading The Bonehunters
Movement: A Short Story About Autism in the Future by Nancy Fulda is a nominee for the 2012 Hugo short story award. It begins with Hannah overhearing a conversation between her parents and a therapist. She overhears the conversation by virtue of being in the same room, but her parents are so used to her not seeming to understand that they essentially ignore her. Hannah does understand, however her understanding is different than her parents understanding of understanding.
Hannah has a condition that she describes as temporal autism. The way in which she perceives the relationship of time and the world is not the same as that in which “average” people perceive the world. Hannah must decide how she feels about receiving the treatment and how to relate that decision.
This story dealt with the relationship between children and parents as did The Paper Menagerie and The Homecoming. Each story took a different take, from a different perspective and did that take quite well. Aside from being good stories on their own, I found it interesting that 3 out of 5 of the stories shared this theme.
You can read it online here.
The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu is a short story nominee for the 2012 Hugo award. It is a very well written story that begins with the discovery that a species of paper wasp creates intricate maps upon the paper of their nests. The wasp society (they have a sentient POV) is somewhat imperialistic but scholarly. Without giving too much away, the wasps come into conflict with a bee colony that they subjugate. This subjugation forces a splinter group of bees to embrace an anarchistic philosophy. The results of the splintering and colonization are somewhat explored.
The story feels as though it should be an allegory for something–perhaps along the path of following natural inclinations. The allegorical nature seems somewhat secondary to the craft of the story. It worked well and was enjoyable as a tale, but left me somewhat wondering at the point–which may have been the point.
You can read a copy online here.
The Homecoming by Mike Resnick is an interesting counterpoint story to The Paper Menagerie. The Homecoming is also nominated for the 2012 short story Hugo and concerns a parents alienation from their child. One parent through Alzheimer’s and the other through the son becoming alien.
This was nicely done. The SF elements helped to highlight the differences in what is really a very common occurrence. It seems like Hugo voters have balanced the wild hilarity of “Shadow Way of the Night Dragons” with several fairly sad stories.
You can find a copy to read here.
The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu is a nominee for the 2012 Hugo short story and has won the Nebula award for short story. It packs quite a punch in its small amount of space. Liu deals with issues of loss, inter-generational misunderstanding and cultural and racial problems.
It is about an American son whose mother is a Chinese mail order bride. She makes him magical origami animals. As he grows older he disassociates from her and the animals. I enjoyed this one quite a great amount. I’ve always been a pushover for stories with tigers.
You can read it at this link on Suvudo.
Discount Armageddon is the first volume of Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series. This book was a lot of fun. The main character, Verity Price, wants to be a ballroom dancer. Her family wants her to more fully embrace the family business. That’s not too unusual. In this case, the family business is being cryptid ecologists and staying hidden. A cryptid is:
1. Any creature whose existence has been suggested but not proven scientifically. Term officially coined by cryptozoologist John E. Wall in 1983.
2. That thing that’s getting ready to eat your head.
3. See also: “monster.”
In the world of Verity, “monsters” are real. Some are a real pain and some are real people. McGuire has provided a bestiary covering some of the cryptids that you will encounter on her website. The Price family, however, can’t just study the cryptids. Some of them want to eat you and while the Price’s have found ways of coexisting for the most part, for the Covenant–a fanatic group whose answer to dealing with both cryptids and Prices is to kill them, coexistence is not an option.
While dealing with all this and working on her dancing career, Verity works as a waitress in a club run by a boogieman and lives in an apartment that she shares with a sub colony of Aeslin mice. In a book full of fun, the Aeslin mice are more fun than you can shake a stick covered in mice at. They are intelligent mice with a propensity for forming religions and religious holidays over just about anything. Like:
HAIL! HAIL THE HOLY FESTIVAL OF NO I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS, BUT IT’S BLEEDING ALL OVER THE FLOOR!
I do a little map based detective work about Patrick Rothfuss’ world here. Very minor spoiler ahead (if my assumption are correct).
Continue reading Some Map Work — Four Corners