Hugos Challenge 2012: Leviathan Wakes

 

Humanity has colonized the planets – interstellar travel is still beyond our reach, but the solar system has become a dense network of colonies. But there are tensions – the mineral-rich outer planets resent their dependence on Earth and Mars and the political and military clout they wield over the Belt and beyond. Now, when Captain Jim Holden’s ice miner stumbles across a derelict, abandoned ship, he uncovers a secret that threatens to throw the entire system into war. Attacked by a stealth ship belonging to the Mars fleet, Holden must find a way to uncover the motives behind the attack, stop a war and find the truth behind a vast conspiracy that threatens the entire human race.

I’m honestly not sure about this one.

There is some amazing science fiction in here – stuff which makes me see why this book is getting nominated for awards.  Some of the plot near the end of the book, in particular, was amazing, and totally worth getting through the first half of the book.

But.  You knew there was going to be a but in there, didn’t you?  I found it very hard to connect with any of the main characters.  For me to really get into a story of any kind, I need at least one character that I can connect with, resonate with, if you will, and I just didn’t get it here.  The action was enough to keep me reading, and I’ve ordered the second book, so I didn’t hate this one.  It was just kind of meh for me, especially when you compare it to the other shortlisted books.

So not on my list for this year.  But that’s totally a personal thing.  I will, however, be foisting this on the husband when he finishes his current stack of books, because space opera is totally his thing.  Not that it’s not mine – I adore Peter F. Hamilton’s books, for example – but just not this one.  Still, I’m going to keep reading the series, and we’ll see – maybe it’ll gel more for me on a reread.

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And this is the end of the novels for me.  There’s always a chance that I’ll magically find the time to read my way up to A Dance with Dragons, but it’s probably not that likely.  I feel bad about that, but I’m just going to do the best I can to cover the shortlists.

Hugos Challenge 2012: Embassytown

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.

When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties—to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.

This was another reread for me, and one that I happily undertook.  I love Mieville’s work in general, though none of his novels yet have really resonated enough with me that I can count them amongst my ultimate favourites.  Embassytown comes pretty damn close.

This was easier on a reread, mostly because I was more familiar with the world and its setup.  On first read, I found myself a bit overwhelmed by the world and its complexities (which probably says more for the fact that I tend to read too damn quickly than anything else).

I love so much about this.  I could go on for a very long time about how awesome Language is, and the Ariekei.  I love the idea of the Ambassadors in general (though they do remind me in some ways of the Paratwa from Christopher Hinz’s books, which are woefully underrread IMHO).

This is actually pretty close to being an excellent book for me, apart from a couple of things.  Avice as protagonist I found quite frustrating – she just seems to be there as a cipher for the plot to revolve around a lot of the time, and I actually found her actions fairly unbelievable near the end of the book. The ending of the book in general feels a bit all over the place to me, anyway – things seem to wrap up too quickly and it all just feels a little messy, even on a second read through.

Hugos Challenge 2012: Deadline by Mira Grant

Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organization he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn’t seem as fun when you’ve lost as much as he has.

But when a CDC researcher fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a ravenous pack of zombies in tow, Shaun has a newfound interest in life. Because she brings news-he may have put down the monster who attacked them, but the conspiracy is far from dead.

Now, Shaun hits the road to find what truth can be found at the end of a shotgun.

 

 

 

I could pretty much summarise my reaction to Deadline thusly: Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant broke my brain.

I originally read Feed, the first book in the trilogy, a while back.  And for reasons that I can’t pinpoint, I could not for the life of me get into it.  I found Georgia as POV character really irritating, I didn’t like everything being explained time and time again.  I was actually pretty hesitant to keep on reading the second book, but I decided to give it a go.  And because I am weird, I went back and reread Feed first.

And I don’t know what my brain was doing the first time, because on reread, I found Georgia engaging, I loved the humour and I’m just generally kind of in awe of the worldbuilding.  I love that I ended up caring so much about the characters, almost at times to the point where I didn’t care about the zombies.

Going onto book two, I found myself just caring more and more.  I was worried about how Grant would continue the series after the events of the first book, but she’s done so admirably.  Some of the new characters are amazing and fascinating, and I am amazed by how much their voices all differ.  This one does get heavier on the science behind the zombie outbreak, but I never found that it detracted much from the enjoyment of the reading.

And the ending…without spoiling anything, the ending is what broke my brain.  I should have seen it coming, but I absolutely didn’t.  I cannot wait for the third book, which is currently in transit to me.

Hugos Challenge 2012: Among Others by Jo Walton

Startling, unusual, and irresistibly readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and science fiction, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

 As a child growing up in Wales, Morwenna played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. When her half-mad mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled—and her twin sister dead.

 Fleeing to a father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England—a place all but devoid of true magic. There, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off….

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination, this is a stunning new novel by an author whose genius has already been hailed by dozens of her peers.

I started my Hugo novel reading with a reread of Among Others.  I preordered this book on the basis of the blurb (science fiction! fairies! a boarding school novel!) and a love of several of Jo Walton’s previous books.  I’m fairly sure that I actually picked it up and read it soon after it arrived (though a check at Goodreads may refute that and prove how bad my memory is), which is rare for me, who tends to hoard books unread.  I do know that I devoured it.

Where do I even begin with this book?  It has so many things that are particular loves of mine.  I grew up reading a lot of Victorian children’s books – think What Katy Did – and the boarding school thing, even though it isn’t a huge part of the story, is always something that draws me in.  I love the ambiguity of it all – the fact that Mori actually states baldly at several times that she is unable to tell the difference between her imagination and reality, which of course leads to the question about the reality of the magic that we see.  Is Mori’s mother actually a witch, or is she just mad?  Do the fairies exist?  I love that there are no cut-and-dried answers (though I believe Walton herself has stated that the magic is, indeed, real), which means that the reader can make up their own mind.

And the science fiction!  This book has been described so much as being a love letter to science fiction, and that is so true.  It makes me want to go back in time and discover genre again myself.  And it makes me realise how much classic SF I haven’t read.  I found myself starting to make a list of everything that I wanted to read, and gave up quickly, realising that the list was getting ridiculous.  Maybe if I stopped the nasty habit of sleeping?

I do remember that the first time I read this book, I found myself a little frustrated with how quickly the resolution of Mori’s mother’s plot came.  It felt like an afterthought, and I wanted to see more of it.  On this reread, I realised this: that plotline isn’t what the book is about at all, and it doesn’t matter that it comes quickly or too late or is over too fast.  It’s there because it has to be there, and it’s an amazing scene when Mori and her mother confront each other, but it’s not the heart of the book.

This is absolutely a book that I’m going to read and reread.  I am absolutely in love with it, and I am so glad that it won a Nebula Award.  The rest of the novels in the Hugos shortlist are going to have to be damn good to win out against this one for me.

 

 

AWW2012 #2: The Shattered City, by Tansy Rayner Roberts

She could hear that laughter again, and for a moment Velody was confused, not sure which dead man was mocking her. Velody now holds the leadership of the Creature Court. The unsteady alliances within the Court are beginning to fracture, as a series of murders and disappearances throw suspicion on one of their own. A shiol finds Aufleur’s many festivals frivolous, until a major one is cancelled. Unease grows. It seems nothing can save the city from a massacre … nothing but the ultimate sacrifice from one of the Creature Kings.

 

 

 

 

The Shattered City is book two of Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court trilogy, following on from book one, Power and Majesty. I know that there are some mixed opinions on the covers of the books, but I still think that they’re gorgeous.  Possibly they don’t do a good job of indicating just how blood- and sex-soaked the books can get, but I still think they’re lovely.  These books could easily have been illustrated with scantily-clad women or men (which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, given how gorgeous the characters are) but I’m glad that we get something classier.  Doubly glad that we get Velody dressed, and that the artist chose not to portray her as some stick-thin waif. Returning to Aufleur in this book feels like returning to a home, in a way.  There is less of a sense of Aufleur as a living, breathing entity in this book than in the first, but the city itself is still vivid and real.  Personally, I like the fact that we get to delve deeper into some of the characters and their lives. Despite the fabulous men who populate the Creature Court, the plot of this book, and of the trilogy to date, is shaped very firmly by Velody, our protagonist, and her friends Delphine and Rhian.  Both Delphine and Rhian are more fully formed in this book than the first, as both find their places in the world.  Delphine, in particular, shines, finding strength even as she is tortured by her own shortcomings. I am absolutely and completely in love with all three of the main female characters – Velody, Delphine and Rhian.  Each of them is real and three-dimensional, and even in the depth of pain, they are very, very human.  I think that the humanity that Roberts gives her characters acts very much to ground the more fantastical elements of the world, and make it feel very much like a real place. Roberts has a particular talent for making even the most minor characters live and breathe, which in turn makes the reader empathise with even the most minor of characters.  Her dialogue, as always, remains incredible, with each character given their own unique voice. My only complaint is that things end on somewhat of a cliffhanger, which was slightly irritating the first time I read this book, because the third book was still to be released.  On a reread, it’s much better, since I had the third book ready to go! The Shattered City is now available internationally for Kindle.     Things become clearer, as we delve more into the mythology of Aufleur and the Creature Court, but there’s still much to be learned.