Sunday, May 21, 2017

Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Published: Tor (2016)
Awards Nominated: Hugo and Locus Fantasy Awards
Awards Won: Nebula Award

The Book:

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together -- to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.” ~WWEnd.com

I checked this one out of the library after seeing all the positive buzz online.  Since then, it has garnered several award nominations!  

My Thoughts:

The prose of All The Birds in the Sky is very light, easy to read, and often humorous.  It was easy for me to feel drawn into the story, even when I could only read in short bursts (life is busy).  The plot moved very quickly, and so often it felt like details were glossed over.  The story features Patricia and Laurence as teens and, later, as young adults, but skips over several crucial years of development. We only learn a little about Patricia’s time at Eltisley Maze through flashbacks, and there isn’t much information about Laurence’s growth from genius kid to start-up scientist. I would have liked to see more of this in-between time, even though I admit that the push of the story is more in tying the seeds sown in their childhood to the environmental catastrophe of their adulthood. Even without these years, there was so much going on in both of their lives that it was easy to just let myself get swept along in the current.

While Patricia and Laurence face environmental issues that will be familiar to people today, they clearly live in a more magical version of our world.  Theirs is a world of 2-second time machines, easily-made artificial intelligences, and talking animals.  It was hard to read this as a story about the balance of science and magic, since the science was essentially just another kind of magic.  Instead, it felt to me more like a story about the clash or balance of two different perspectives. Laurence’s science valued humanity and progress over even the continued existence of the Earth.  Patricia’s magic valued non-human life and nature over the continued existence of humanity. Both sides could go to harmful extremes, and it was difficult for those on either side of the line to understand one another.  Laurence and Patricia’s relationship gave them an opportunity to find a balance between the two.

In this way, Laurence and Patricia’s bond becomes a reflection of the larger conflict in their lives.  I enjoyed reading about them, with all their earnestness and flaws.  I appreciated the awkwardness of their early friendship, where shared ostracization pushed them together despite their differences. I liked how their shared history made them more willing than others to bridge the gap between their experiences and beliefs.  The two of them really were the center of the book--there were a number of minor characters that wandered in and out of the story, but few of them were especially memorable.  The final conclusion of the story felt a little anticlimactic, but it also made sense in terms of all that came before.  
My Rating: 4/5  
All the Birds in the Sky is an entertaining story about the clash between science- and nature-focused worldviews in a magical world similar to our own.  It was engaging and easy to read, with a fast-moving plot that always kept my attention.  The story focuses on Laurence, a scientist, and Patricia, a witch.  The two of them meet as teens, and then reunite as adults to cope with a world in environmental decline.  Their developing relationship and understanding of one another may help them preserve the world and the human race.  It was a very fun novel to read, and I am curious to see what Anders will write next!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Short Fiction: February 2017

It’s time to discuss my favorites from another month’s worth of excellent short fiction!  My favorites from February are all available to read online, and linked below.  This month features a new Wild Cards mutant story, a twist on a familiar tale, and a story set after humans have destroyed the environment.

The Atonement Tango by Stephen Leigh (Novelette, Tor.com): This is the second story from the Wild Cards universe that has made it into my favorites.  I don’t think prior reading is required to understand it, but I got the impression that the protagonist, a mutant ‘joker’ who is a living drumset, might be a recurring character.  In this story, most of his band is killed in a terrorist attack, and he begins to quietly search for the perpetrator on his own.  I was drawn into the emotional arc of the main character, and I felt the final scene was especially moving.

Out of the Woods by Marissa Lingen (Short Story, Beneath Ceasless Skies): This story is an interesting take on a kind of Robin Hood tale. The good king died in a war, and is not coming back.  The band of outlaws now realize that no pardon is ever coming, and that there is no hope of the ‘rightful’ king reclaiming his throne.  Is it time to surrender or to change tactics? I thought it was a really effective representation of the difference between opposing a person and opposing a system.

How Bees Fly by Simone Heller (Novelette, Clarkesworld): This one takes place after an environmental collapse, in a world that is mostly occupied by a new sentient race.  They view the few remaining humans as monsters, and use leftover human technology by rote and with superstition.  One of these newer sentient beings is trapped with a pregnant human couple during a storm. The story left a lot of questions to be answered, but I appreciated the core about confronting one’s own prejudices and being willing to understand new things.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Published: Orbit, 2015
Awards Nominated: Campbell & Locus SF Awards

The Book:

“Many years ago, a generation ship set out with the purpose of spreading humankind to the stars.  Their goal was the planet Aurora, which was expected to be both devoid of life and suitable for human habitation.  The original travellers are long gone, but their descendants--who were given no choice in the matter--now struggle to maintain the delicate balance of their ship’s ecosystem long enough to reach their destination.

The humans are aided by the ship’s AI, a sophisticated computer whose interactions with the brilliant engineer Devi have set it on a path toward self-awareness. Freya, the mildly developmentally-impaired daughter of Devi, will be in the generation that must attempt to colonize Aurora and handle whatever comes after.” ~Allie  

I like generation ship stories, and I have been a fan of Kim Stanley Robinson for years. Thus, Aurora was an obvious book for me to pick up.  I bought the audio version (narrated by Ali Ahn), and my husband and I listened to it while driving across Provence and then the eastern US.

My Thoughts:

Aurora is what I would consider characteristic of a Robinson novel, a story constructed with careful attention to scientific detail in its treatment of the future of the human race.  It can be dense sometimes, and there are occasional digressions on topics of interest. The story is told by the ship’s AI, who has been tasked with building a meaningful narrative account of the voyage, so it’s understandable that the narration sometimes focuses on technical aspects.  The development of the AI’s character was one part of the story I particularly enjoyed. She learns about the nature of self and life both through her attempt to create meaning out of events and through her connections to members of the crew.  I also appreciated her understated sense of humor.  The narrator of the audiobook did a pretty fantastic job with the voice and intonation of the AI.

I am a big fan of stories about building societies, so it must be no surprise that this aspect of a generation ship is one that appeals to me.  A lot of Aurora involves exploring how people can structure the ship to survive, both physically and socially.  Not only do the colonists need to deal with the very delicate balance of materials needed to support life, they also have to make sure the people stay happy and under control.  It was interesting to see the social forces that come into play, and to see the decisions people make about priorities.  The ship is large enough to have habitats with different biomes and cultures, and I enjoyed seeing how the various groups of people came to terms with their situation.  

The story takes a darker turn once they arrive at Aurora, and it was interesting to see what the stress from the crisis they face there would do to their fragile community.  There is so much that happens after their arrival that it seems like it could easily have been a series.  The novel has several notable narrative shifts, and by the end it felt a little like there was just too much packed in.  It also makes it a little difficult to talk about in review, since I try to avoid major spoilers. The story wraps up nicely in the end, but the final segment runs a little longer than I would have liked. As a planetary colonization story, the conclusion is pretty pessimistic regarding humanity’s prospects, but I think there is value in stressing that we shouldn’t be cavalier with the health of the one planet that we know will support human life.

My Rating: 4/5

Aurora is yet another novel by Kim Stanley Robinson that I have greatly enjoyed. It is a compelling and thoroughly-researched take on the idea of a generation ship. I loved seeing how people might manage to make their circumstances work generations down the line.  The AI made for an unusual narrator, and I appreciated her digressions about language, humanity and self. The story takes several unexpected turns, and it has a rather dim view of our chances of successful colonization.  After seeing all the difficulties the colonists encounter, I hope that our current planet remains viable for human life for many years to come.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review: The Just City by Jo Walton

The Just City by Jo Walton
Published: Tor, 2015
Series: Book 1 of the Philosopher Kings
Awards Nominated: Prometheus Award

The Book:

Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future--all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome--and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo--stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does--has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.” ~WWEnd.com

I’ve been meaning to read The Just City, for quite a while, so I jumped on the chance to pick it up from Tor.com’s ebook club a few months back (http://ebookclub.tor.com/).  I have liked everything that I have read by Jo Walton, and the topic of this one piqued my interest. I enjoy reading about the process of building a society within a fictional universe.  This novel was very satisfying in that respect, and it left me eager to read The Philosopher Kings and Necessity.

My Thoughts:

All of us (who are honest) can agree that there are no perfect societies on Earth. I think every person acts, to some extent, to shift society toward their concept of the ideal arrangement.  This is a slow process, and muddled by the fact that people have very different ideas of how things should change.  That’s why, to me, the lure of building a new society from scratch is undeniable.  Athena’s group of mentors take Plato’s Republic as their model, and attempt to build it on an isolated island that will not endure in the future. While I don’t agree with many of the details of Plato’s Republic, I like the emphasis on creating a just society that allows each person to become their best self.  The Just City takes this idea and considers how it might work when implemented by and for actual people.  The City can’t be truly separate from the world, since the mentors are shaped by their own times and experiences, and the ten-year-olds are certainly not “blank slates”.  Even if it were somehow kept pure from the influence of other societies, people are messy, emotional, and confusing creatures.  It was fascinating to see how this planned society fared when taking human nature into account.

The novel covers many aspects of human experience through an engaging mix of viewpoint and minor characters.  Maia provides eyes into the group of mentors, people who are united in purpose but not in their prejudices.  Many of the men from older civilizations struggle with accepting women as equals, which has some frustratingly predictable consequences. Among the children, Simmea represents the kind of person best suited to the education the City offers.  She’s brilliant, driven, and eager to become her best self.  I also appreciated that she was unattractive, and that this did not harm her self-esteem or others’ estimation of her worth.  In her cohort is Apollo, who has a really personable, amusing narrative voice.  I enjoyed his outsider’s perspective on the society, and his exploration of the experience of being mortal.  The concept of the novel really depends on having characters that feel authentic, and I feel that it succeeds on this count.  

Central to Apollo’s arc is developing an understanding of volition and equal significance, and this is echoed in many places in the development of the City itself.  The mentors intend to create a just society, but they begin it with a denial of choice.  They buy children from slave markets, with the justification that they will have a better life.  This may be true, but it also leaves some children angry with being ripped from their world and taken to a society that is planned to have no future.  Not everyone wants their life to be part of an experiment.  The society attempts to regulate many things that most of us would consider personal, such as sexual and non-sexual relationships.  While their intentions may be honorable, the mentors are treating the children as subjects to be managed, not as people with equal significance.  I enjoyed seeing how this conflict between ideals and execution would influence the development of the City.  I think The Just City came to a natural conclusion, but there is still clearly story left to tell in this universe.

My Rating: 5 / 5

I am a fan of Jo Walton’s work, and The Just City is my favorite of her novels so far. The idea of building a society based on Plato’s Republic intrigued me, and the novel gave a fascinating look into how the experiment might play out when enacted by real people.  Apollo, Simmea and Maia each brought a valuable perspective on the planned society, and I especially enjoyed Apollo’s conversational narration.  One of the central ideas is the importance of choice and of considering others equally important to oneself.  It was interesting to see how this both drove and contradicted the efforts to build a more just society. The ending makes it clear that this phase of the story is complete, but that there is more to tell.  I am curious as to see where the citizens of the Just City will go from here!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Short Fiction: January 2017

It’s time to kick off my 2017 recommendations for short fiction!  My favorites for January span a variety of subgenres, from harder SF to barely fantasy.  There’s not much of a theme I can claim for this month, except that they were each entertaining in their own way. They're all also available to read online, at the links provided below.


A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, Novelette): This story takes an interesting look at 3D-printing biological material, with an eye to how it might intersect with politics and crime.  The main character runs a small business 3D-printing steaks for consumption, and one ‘customer’ decides to blackmail her into filling a high order in an impossibly short amount of time.  It’s a surprisingly funny story, and also one that touches on a variety of up-and-coming issues that society may face.


The Thing About Growing Up in Jokertown by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, Novelette): This is set in the Wild Cards universe, but I was able to enjoy it without having read the novels set in the universe.  It’s a sweet, simple story about a group of marginalized teenagers who live in NYC’s “Jokertown”.  One day, they decide there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to enjoy Central Park, just like all the “normal” New Yorkers. What follows is a pleasant story about a small-scale adventure.


Fable by Charles Yu (The New Yorker, Short Story): I would hesitate to actually call this one speculative fiction, since the fantasy elements are only used as an analogy to real life.  However, it is beautifully written and deeply emotional.  It concerns a man, who has a child that is developmentally disabled, talking for the first time to a therapist. He describes the story of his life, and how he has come to feel that it has lost meaning.  It’s kind of a tearjerker, but ends on a hopeful note.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Review: The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
Published: Orbit, 2016
Series: Book 2 of The Broken Earth

Beware some spoilers of book 1, The Fifth Season, below!

The Book:

“A world-wrecking Season is underway, and Essun’s search for her daughter has reached a dead end. She remains in the underground city of Castrima, a community that claims to accept orogenes as equals.  Castrima may also be the final home of her former mentor and lover, Alabaster, who is now dying. Even if there is no forgiveness between them, he needs her to perform a dangerous task that he no longer has the power to undertake.  

In the meantime, Essun’s orogene daughter Nassun travels with a father that struggles to reconcile his love for his daughter with his conviction that all orogenes should be killed on sight.  He is intent on finding a way to ‘cure’ his daughter, but their bond is already poisoned by the hatred he carries. She will find a new kind of guardian at her destination, as well as a new focus for her life and considerable talents.” ~Allie

I loved The Fifth Season, and I am excited to continue Essun’s story.  I would definitely recommend reading this series in order.  Also, to note, I don’t normally give all the books I review 4.5-5 stars.  I’m just in the middle of a stretch of reading really good books.

My Thoughts:

While much of the story of The Fifth Season takes place during a relatively stable period in the history of the Stillness, The Obelisk Gate starts and continues firmly in apocalyptic territory. The environment is changing, and there’s no guarantee that humanity will be able to endure until the world becomes stable again.  In this world, the Seasons are uncommon but not unexpected, so people fall back on harsh lore that they hope will help them survive.  The conditions stress the characters to their breaking points, and force them to center day-to-day survival as their goal.  The story mostly follows two viewpoint characters, Essun and her daughter Nassun, as they find shelter in two very different communes.  There are a number of parallels in their stories, and it is interesting to see the differences in how they each come to see the world.

The Obelisk Gate sometimes lacks the momentum of the first book in the series, but this allows for an interesting exploration of the richly complex characters.  This is the kind of story where no one is completely admirable, but their reasoning and actions feel emotionally authentic.  This can sometimes be uncomfortable, as their relationships generally lack the definite moments of closure or reconciliation that I guess I have come to expect in fiction. Of the main characters, I feel closest to Essun. While she makes some horrific decisions, I can understand and sympathize with the impulses behind them.  Underneath everything, right now I feel like she is a good person who is constantly forced to make impossible choices.  The situation with Nassun and her father Jija is simply heartbreaking.  No child should ever have to manipulate their own parent into caring for them, or to live in fear of violence from the one that should protect them.  That being said, I am worried about the path that Nassun is currently following, and the harm it is likely to cause to so many people.  There are many memorable moments between the characters, and I hope that the final book in the trilogy leaves them in a better state than they are right now.

The Obelisk Gate also expands considerably on the nature of the world and orogene.  Some questions from the first novel are beginning to be answered, and I feel like I have a better sense of what the endgame is going to involve.  I enjoyed learning more about the origins of the stone eaters and guardians, and to see both Essun and Nassun developing and refining their skills in orogeny.  I was surprised that orogeny is explicitly labeled as magic, probably because so much in the world feels very physical and explainable.  As one would hope after the second book in a trilogy (the darkest of the three acts), I can’t see right now how the story can ultimately have any kind of happy ending.  I’m anxious to see how things will turn out for Essun and the others, and thus impatient for the final novel, The Stone Sky, to come out this August!  

My Rating: 4.5 /5

The Obelisk Gate is a sequel that lives up to the impressive, award-winning first novel of the series, The Fifth Season. Now fully an apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic story, the novel follows the roughly parallel stories of Essun and her missing daughter, Nassun. There was less action in this middle part of the trilogy, since the main characters stick with the communes that have accepted them as conditions worsened.  However, there was considerable development in terms of the characters and their understanding of the world they inhabit.  The main characters are a major draw of the story, as they are both deeply flawed and deeply human.  I am loving this series so far, and will certainly pick up The Stone Sky when it is available this August.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Review: The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
Published: Saga Press, 2016
Series: Book 2 of the Dandelion Dynasty

The Book:

“Kuni Garu has conquered Dara, but now he must rule.  As Emperor Ragin, he finds that it is not easy to realize his vision of what a society should be. Politics is a tricky game that can make enemies out of allies, and his young Empire will soon enough be facing the “wall of storms”, the transfer of power to his selected heir.

There is a literal wall of storms around Dara as well, and an unexpected threat--an invasion force from another Empire--passes through it at a very delicate time.  Kuni, his family, his friends, and his growing children will face this threat with the abilities that they have to offer. Prince Timu offers his morality, Prince Phyro his strength, and Princess Thera her agile mind.” ~Allie  

I’d been looking forward to reading this novel since I finished the first of the series, and was excited to come across it at my local library!

My Thoughts:

When I was reading the first novel of the series, it took me a while to warm up to all the mortal characters and to get a sense of the pantheon of Dara.  This time, my prior knowledge of the world made it much easier to jump right into the story, and familiar characters served as an emotional bridge to the next generation. Some recurring characters changed in unexpected ways. For instance, the casual Kuni Garu accepted the need for formality and ceremony in establishing an enduring Empire, and his wife Jia really took her role as a politician to heart.  Of the new characters, my favorites by far were Zomi and Thera.  Zomi is a young disabled woman from a rural, poverty-stricken home, and her rise as a brilliant scholar begins with an apprenticeship to Luan Zya.  Princess Thera’s life is one of privilege and luxury, but also of dissatisfaction with the path she assumes is intended for her. Her intelligence and determination ensure her life will be anything but boring.  

There is so much going on in The Wall of Storms, and so many ideas (social, political, scientific, cultural) that could be discussed at length. Today, I’m going to restrict my comments to a few topics that fascinated me the most, nation-building and the advancement of science.  By the end of The Grace of Kings, I was pretty sure that Kuni Garu was the best and most just of available options for leading a new Empire.  Now, it’s clear that building a good Empire, for all its people, is a lot more complicated than just having a decent person at the top.  Kuni is stuck between the past and the future, with some of his key positions held by commoners and others held by traditional aristocrats.  His fragile power is held together by a combination of personal loyalties and the sense of a new status quo that he is attempting to establish.  In a similar way, his effort to develop a merit-based “national exam” suffers from the unconscious biases of traditional scholars, and it seems like everything he does to balance the playing field brings new problems.  It was interesting to read about the intersection of Kuni’s ideals and the realities of governing.

As for science, I absolutely adore stories featuring intelligent people working out fundamental physical principles in fictional societies.  I think that might be my favorite thing in fiction books, period, and it doesn’t seem to come up in all that many of them.  Kuni’s government is one that values research and innovation, and progress becomes crucial when they face a powerful invading force.  I loved watching the scientists of Dara slowly uncover electromagnetism, which they called “silkmotic” power.  There’s also some particularly entertaining biological investigation of unusual fantastical creatures, which one might call dragons.  In addition to the process of discovery, I enjoyed seeing how they would harness their knowledge for practical use.  Given the circumstances, most efforts were for scientific advances that could be used in the military defense of Dara.  Creative military strategy looks like it is going to be a constant in this trilogy, but I feel like The Wall of Storms really raised the bar in that area. I am both excited and desperately impatient to see what Liu has in store for the conclusion!
 
My Rating: 5/5
While I enjoyed The Grace of Kings, The Wall of Storms is the book that has won me over as a fan of the Dandelion Dynasty series.  The first book in the series was about winning the Empire, and this one is about governing and protecting it. Tradition and history can get in the way of trying to push a society towards progress, and uncomfortable compromises might sometimes be the cost of stability.  With political threats from within and invasion from without, there was plenty of tension and action. I also loved the parts of the book about scientific advancement, and seeing how new technology is implemented strategically in the battlefield.  There’s so much more I could say about how the novel portrays different approaches to politics, managing dissent and rebellion, and the way cultures grow and change.  In short, it was an amazing book, and I am eager to see how things will turn out in the final volume!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hugo 2017: Dramatic Presentations

This final post about the Hugo fiction categories is intended to review short and long dramatic presentations from 2016 that I think were particularly impressive.  There has been a ton of science fiction and fantasy television in recent years, and a decent number of films as well.  I can’t possibly watch everything, but here’s my favorites out of the films and shows that I have seen.

Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

For science fiction movies, I think my clear winner would be Arrival. It’s both an interesting original story about first contact with an alien species, and a deeply touching story about love and time.  There are also a few franchise films that, while they had some flaws, I thought were pretty good entertainment: Star Trek Beyond and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This category can also include seasons of television shows, and the one I think would particularly fit this bill for 2016 is the 80s-style sci-fi thriller Stranger Things. In true Netflix style, the season fit together nicely into a compulsively watchable story about a missing kid, a mysterious young girl, and a creepy government experiment.

I usually default to science fiction first in these categories, but there were some notable fantasy films as well.  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, written by J.K. Rowling, introduced us to the adorable Newt Scamander and the wizarding world of the United States.  Also, Moana was a touching adventure/coming-of-age story with truly amazing music.  On the television side, season one of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was a highly original show that works well when considered as a full season arc.

Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

In some ways, this is a more difficult category.  Each television show has so many episodes, and it is hard to narrow seasons down to the episodes that are the most dramatic and effective. These are a few of my favorites:

12 Monkeys, “Lullaby”: This was a relatively self-contained episode, which involved using time travel in a desperate attempt to destroy the origin of time travel.  It ends up as a kind of Groundhog-Day-like story about the day the inventor of time travel’s daughter died.

Orphan Black, “The Scandal of Altriusm”:  There were a number of episodes that were really good in this season, but this one stood out above the rest.  As part of a desperate plan to save themselves, Sarah and Cosima attempt to make a deal with the enemy.  This goes even more terribly than I expected.

The Expanse, “Leviathan Wakes”: This is another show that has a number of award-worthy episodes.  I chose the finale, which brings the story of season one to a climax.

The Magicians, “Thirty-Nine Graves”:  The Magicians is another new Syfy show which had a killer first season.  This episode stood out, because it marks a major shift in various storylines, including the reveal of what exactly Jane Chatwin was up to, Julia and Quentin’s reunion, and the journey to Fillory.

3%, “Button”: This episode is the finale of a Brazilian Netflix dystopian series.  It showed that the series has more story to tell outside the testing of the process, and brings all of the surviving young adults a better understanding of themselves, their society, and the philosophy of the offshore community.

Killjoys, “Johnny Be Good”: This was the standout episode of season two, for a show that is getting more and more interesting as it goes.  This episode involved a city penned in by government walls, and the horrifying resolution of a particular character’s arc.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hugo 2017: Short Fiction

I’ve dedicated a lot of time to reading short fiction in this past year, and have posted my favorites out of the stories I’ve read each month (though usually on a bit of a delay).  You can find my per-month lists just by selecting posts with the “short fiction” tag.  


Today, while considering my final Hugo nominations,  I have put together a list of my top favorites of each category. My weak point this year was novellas, of which I read very few.  I’m hoping to find a way to fit more of these in my reading for the future, but we’ll see how that works out. Whether you’re planning to nominate short fiction for the Hugo awards or not, I would highly recommend checking these stories out. I’ve provided a link for where each story can be purchased or read for free online.

Short Stories



Novelettes



Novellas

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Short Fiction: December 2016

This is my last post for my favorite short fiction from 2016. I’ll be starting up the 2017 posts very soon.  Both of my favorites from this month are available for free online, so I’ve linked them below for others who are interested!

Every Day is the Full Moon by Carlie St. George (Short Story, Lightspeed): This story takes place in a world where people commonly become some sort of supernatural creature as they grow up. That sounds like a lighthearted premise, but it's a surprisingly heavy story. I would say it is about learning what the power of love can do, and what it can’t do.

Straight Lines by Naru Sundar (Short Story, Mothership Zeta): This story focuses on the rehabilitation of a ship AI that has developed OCD.  I thought it was really neat that it focused on an AI “going berserk”, but not in a necessarily sinister way.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Hugo 2017: Best Novel Thoughts

This year, I’ve made a solid effort to read as much eligible work as possible for the Hugo nominations period. I read short fiction on a monthly basis, and you can see all the stories I most enjoyed by clicking “short fiction” in my word cloud.  Novels, I started reading feverishly at the beginning of 2017, guiding my reading by my own interests and by which novels seem to be recommended most commonly on best-of-2016 lists.  

I’m going to put up a few posts this month, to point out some work that I think deserves consideration in the fiction and dramatic presentation categories.  Today, I will talk about novels.  Out of the 2016 novels I have read, there are a number that I would consider award-worthy.  There are also certainly many award-worthy novels that I haven’t had time to read. The following is not a slate, but just a reminder of some excellent novels from 2016.

Favorite 2016 novels that I have read (but not yet reviewed here)

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin: Jemisin won the Hugo Award for Best Novel last year with the first book of this series, and the second is really just as amazing.  I think this is a strong contender for the award, and may be hurt only by the fact that it is the second in a series.

The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu: This is also the second book in a series, following The Grace of Kings.  I liked the first novel, but the series seems to be getting even better as it goes along.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders: This one is a debut novel, and an excellent one.  The story follows the friendship between a witch and a scientist, as the world falls apart around them.

Good books I’m still reading now  

I’m currently reading Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit and Mishell Baker’s Borderline.  Both are entertaining so far, and Lee’s novel in particular is impressively weird.  So far, I would recommend these, but I haven’t quite finished them yet.