Hugos Challenge 2012: Short Stories

And onto the short stories!  Like the novelettes, I’m going to make these short and sweet.

“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees”, E. Lily Yu

Another author who I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t gotten around to reading yet.  I need to start reading more short stories again, or at least making a rule to read the Year’s Best anthologies and not just let them gather dust on my shelf.  This one just blew me away – it’s absolutely like nothing else I’ve ever read before.  Amazing.

“The Homecoming”, Mike Resnick

This one wins for making me cry.  I think that makes it a contender pretty much on the basis of this.  Clearly, I am a reader who is motivated by emotion (in case no one has figured that out before), and if you make me feel something, especially in a short story, you’re damn well doing something right.

“Movement”, Nancy Fulda

And another one that made me cry.  I don’t even have the words for how damn beautiful and heartbreaking and hopemaking this story is, all at one time.

“The Paper Menagerie”, Ken Liu 

And another one that produced tears, dammit.  I’d actually been meaning to read this one for ages and ages, since Jonathan Strahan talked it up on the Coode Street Podcast.  I even bought the hard copy of F&SF it was published in, and then it kind of got lost on my shelves.  I think I need to search out all of Liu’s fiction and mainline it for a while.  And probably cry a hell of a lot.  I am so glad that I got a supporting membership and the Hugo Packet, for nothing else than for making me read some of the authors that I’ve been meaning to read.

“Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue”, John Scalzi 

This is one that just isn’t for me, I think.  It’s well written and it’s clever and it deserves to be on the ballot, but I think against some of the emotional gut punches of the other stories, it fades a bit.

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I feel like the short story ballot is as strong as, if not stronger, than the novellas (which is saying something).  And I honestly don’t know where my vote is going to lie here.  I think maybe The Paper Menagerie, but I’m really not sure.  I see some rereading before I cast my vote here.

Hugos Challenge 2012: Novelettes

And the Hugos reading continues!  I suspect that I’m only going to be blogging the novelettes and short stories, and not the other categories so much, due to other things needing my attention.  I may be able to find the time for other categories, but we’ll see.

And so, the novelettes.  I found this category to not be as strong generally as the novellas (but hell, just look at that novella lineup!).  These are going to be short and sweet, just my general thoughts about these novelettes.

“The Copenhagen Interpretation”, Paul Cornell 

I think this one just wasn’t for me.  There was nothing bad about it, nothing that I can point a finger to and say why, but it just didn’t grab me on any level.

“Fields of Gold”, Rachel Swirsky

This was one of my favourite stories out of Eclipse Four (which is saying quite a lot, since that anthology was amazing.  I’m becoming a massive fan of Swirsky’s work in general – I love her writing style and I seem to invariably find that the stories she tells resonate with me.  This one is no different.

“Ray of Light”, Brad R. Torgersen

I don’t know what it is with my brain and this story – I keep on forgetting what the hell it was about, then I open it up and remember and then wonder why on earth I didn’t remember.  Maybe it’s the title?  Anyway, I adored this story, through and through.  Not too crazy about the aliens in it, but they’re hardly the centre of the story.  I love the idea of people trying to survive by living in the remaining heat at the bottom of the ocean.  I love the hope that remains, no matter what.  Definitely in contention for me.

“Six Months, Three Days”, Charlie Jane Anders

This one was really interesting – I love the way Anders plays around with how life would be if you could see the future (and see the future in different ways).  But beyond the concept, it didn’t really grab me – I didn’t find myself empathising much with the characters, and I don’t really know why.  I need to read it a few more times and ponder on it a bit.

“What We Found”, Geoff Ryman

This is another one that I need to reread, I think.  There was nothing bad about this, and it damn well deserves to be nominated, but something about it just didn’t resonate for me.  Definitely a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”, though.  Just maybe not for me?  I’m not sure.

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For me, my voting is likely to lean towards Fields of Gold or Ray of Light.  I’m honestly not sure where I’m going to go on this one, and I’ll have to do some rereading.

Hugos Challenge 2012: Novellas

And onto the novellas nominated for the Hugos for 2012.

I read all of these on the Kindle, all of them from the Hugo packet apart from the Valente and the Grant, which I already owned (I also own the Valente in hard copy, which I am gleeful about. I had a few issues with the formatting of a couple of these on the Kindle, but they were ultimately readable.  It’s a small quibble, and hey, the Hugo packet is provided for free, essentially, and the love.  Not complaining, just putting it out there in case anyone is wondering.

 

Countdown by Mira Grant
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Newsflesh trilogy, for which this novella is a prequel.  I was pretty excited to read it, and overall, I wasn’t disappointed.  I don’t know how any voters who haven’t read the trilogy will fare with this one, since it is vastly enriched by the reading of the other books.
Basically, this novella relates some of the events that led to the Rising, where humanity and animals over a certain mass rose as zombies.  The Newsflesh books are an awesome look at the potential the zombie outbreak has on humanity, and I loved the way that Grant incorporated the world of bloggers in the events post-Rising.
I don’t feel that this novella is as strong as the novels.  One of the major strength of the other books are the protagonists, and here, the reader is given a variety of viewpoint characters (which would be very hard to relate to if you hadn’t read the other books).  There are a lot of “aha!” moments which call back to events of the trilogy, and there’s a decent amount of stuff that’s genuinely heartwrenching.
I really enjoyed this one, but I feel that, standing on its own, it’s not strong enough to be a Hugo winner.

The Ice Owl, Carolyn Ives Gilman 

This is the weakest story on the ballot, to my thinking.  There is some genuinely beautiful stuff in here – the ice owl itself, and its story arc – but overall, it felt scattered and nothing captured me.  I felt like there wasn’t consistency or conviction in the characters, and as such I didn’t feel invested in their stories.

There are some fascinating glimpses into the larger universe this takes part in, which just aren’t explored enough in the context of the story.

Not for me, but there are obviously people who see more in this story than I do, since it’s on the ballot.

 

Kiss Me Twice, Mary Robinette Kowal

Another of my favourite authors, who I am very happy to see on the ballot.

I loved a lot about this novella – I loved Metta herself, and I think the use of Mae West quotes and imagery for her was an inspired choice by Kowal.  I liked Huang as protagonist, and even though the police procedural isn’t really my thing, I found myself really caught up in the plot.

I do feel like the ending let this one down a bit.  I felt as though there was a bit too much luck involved in the resolution, which detracted from what otherwise was a wonderful and strong story.

In another ballot with different competition, this would probably be a winner for me.

 

The Man Who Bridged the Mist, Kij Johnson

Here’s where I have to admit to some sacrilege and admit that this is the first Kij Johnson story I’ve read.  I’m just not someone who tends to seek out short stories in general, which is one of the reasons I was really keen to get a supporting membership and get hold of the Hugo packet.

This one really surprised me.  The plot is really pretty basic: man builds a bridge over the mist (populated by fishes and Big Ones, who are clearly lethal and angry and gloriously enigmatic).  I honestly thought this one would totally bore me, and I was completely wrong.

I am someone who reads for character, and this novella gave it to me.  I really liked Kit as protagonist, and I adored Rasali.  I even liked the end of this one, though I can imagine that it would be frustrating and anti-climactic for some readers.

Definitely up there in competition for my vote.

 

The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary, Ken Liu

And here is where I have to admit that this is the first Ken Liu story I’ve read.  I have a handful of his sitting waiting on the Kindle and in various publications, I’ve just not gotten around to it (despite many people enthusing about his work, and justifiably so).

I don’t think I can say that I enjoyed this one.  This novella is a punch in the gut.  It is amazingly written, with the documentary style coming across flawlessly, and it is a very realistic look at what could be done with time travel, and the motivations behind people’s choices to travel back.

This one should definitely come with a trigger warning, and I know several people who wouldn’t be able to read this because of the war crime content (I have a pretty strong tolerance for such, and this one pretty much had be revolted/weeping/despairing in general).

I’m torn on this one, because it is amazing, but a lot of the amazing and wrenching content comes from the history and not the science fiction elements.

 

Silently and Very Fast, Catherynne M. Valente 

The novella category is one that really spoiled me, including three of my favourite recent authors.  And this novella pretty much propelled Valente to the status of being one of my favourite authors of all time (as well as being an incredibly awesome person in general).

And tangent – if I ever get a cover like this one, I will be an extremely happy author.  Happily, the story within is just as awesome as the cover.

I can understand that Valente’s lyrical style probably isn’t for everyone, but I adore it, and it’s especially amazing to see her writing science fiction in that same style.

This novella is just incredibly beautiful and complex, like the jewels that Elefsis begins “life” as.

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I think this is a pretty damn amazing list of nominees, and all of them would be deserving winners in their own right.   For me, the race is between Countdown, The Man Who Bridged the Mist and Silently and Very Fast, but I think it is the latter that truly deserves to win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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: 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.