johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’ve started my way through the Hugo Voter Packet and this is the first short story I’ve read since starting my short stories roundups every week (it should be pointed out that I listened to four of the five Hugo-nominated short stories via Escape Pod, who did excellent readings of each). So expect some stuff from that coming up this week!

80) ‘1963: The Argument Against Louis Pasteur’ by Mur Lafferty
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

This is the first thing of Mur’s that I’ve read and it made me giggle in several places. It’s the tale of a journalist meeting the famous Dr Lambshead, and it first appeared in The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, which is a book designed for dipping in and out of. As such, I’m not sure it stands so well on its own, but since I possess a copy of the book I have the context for the piece. As a result I liked it a lot, and I was a huge fan of the sense of mystery around the object described in the story. I was also taken in by the use of parentheses to tell the story in a very perpendicular way which seemed to suit the nature of the book.

As I’ve already mentioned I’m planning to read the rest of Mur’s fiction, too. If you click the link now, you can get it whilst it’s still available for free: The offer ends at the end of June, which is tomorrow, so get downloading!

81) ‘The Transfiguration of María Luisa Ortega’ by E. Lily Yu
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

I enjoyed this thoroughly for the ideas it threw out but it’s extremely short. Given that it takes under five minutes to read, rather than me waffling on, you should probably just click the link and go read it.

I’ve already listened to ‘The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees’, and so this was the first one I read from Yu’s excellently presented Campbell Award ebook.

82) ‘The Lamp at the Turning’ by E. Lily Yu
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

This one is longer than the previous one but still pretty short. Despite that it feels long enough for the story it tells, and I definitely enjoyed it greatly. It’s about a streetlamp that falls in love with a man who walks past it every day, which is just such a great concept. Definitely worth a look.

83) ‘Observer Effects’ by Tim Pratt
First published, 2007 – appeared in Escape Pod #250

This is Escape Pod’s last superhero-themed episode, which makes me sad. It includes ruminations on the nature of privacy and privacy intrusions, which I imagine would really annoy [livejournal.com profile] lproven. It also had a completely fascinating conceit: A computer that hooks into a superhero’s brain in order to work correctly. I found it difficult to get behind the central character in the ending of the story, though.

84) ‘Forget You’ by Marc Laidlaw
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

This story was from one of the creators of Half-Life and so I was surprised to see it was fantasy, not sf. A man is lonely, and then a woman insinuates herself into his life. He is promptly slowly driven mad trying to remember how he met her. Definitely worth a read.

85) ‘Domovoi’ by M.K. Hobson
First published, 2005 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

Mournful story about a real estate developer killing the soul of an old building by reinventing it. Not sure what I thought of this one; it’s evocative and tugs at my heart strings but at the same time leaving old buildings unused instead of redeveloping seems like a triumph of nostalgia over practicality.

86) ‘Ray of Light’ by Brad R. Torgersen
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

Reading this simultaneously marks having read something by every Campbell-nominated author and also having read the first of the five nominated novelettes this year. I must confess that I really enjoyed this; I liked the concept, I thought that the logic behind the difference between the adults and the children made sense and loved the ending. One thing I was unsure about was the mother; I didn’t care about what happened to her, and I’m not sure that’s a good sign. I don’t yet know where I’m going to put Torgersen in my rankings for the Campbell; we’ll see.

87) ‘Six Months, Three Days’ by Charlie Jane Anders
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

This is the second novelette and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s about Doug and Judy, two people who can both see glimpses of the future – they meet, fall in love and have a relationship. It lasts six months and three days. What I liked about this story was the contrast between Doug and Judy, and also the way in which the story ends. I would love to find out more about both characters!

88) ‘What We Found’ by Geoff Ryman
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

This book tells an interesting personal story but didn’t transport me in the way that the previous two novelettes have done. It’s the story of a family living in Nigeria. The mother and father have four sons, and we hear the story through one of the middle ones. The science fictional idea that lies at the heart of this story is completely brilliant, and I loved it. I found parts of the family dynamic interesting, too, but I didn’t think the two were married particularly well and I would like to have seen more discussion of what the idea would have meant. I felt like this story had a lot of potential that didn’t really come through, in the end.

89) ‘Fields of Gold’ by Rachel Swirsky
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

The setting of this story instantly made me fall in love with it. The way that Swirsky plays with the setting made me continue to fall in love until it made me cry, instead. And then it made me happy, at the end. I have a feeling that this one’s going to be my favourite.

90) ‘The Copenhagen Interpretation’ by Paul Cornell
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

Apologies for the link to a PDF: I don’t think it’s available freely in any other format. I thought I’d already listened to this on StarShipSofa, but I went back to check and in fact I listened to the second Jonathan Hamilton novelette; this is the third.

I like Hamilton; he’s a cool character, and I also like the world quite a lot, with its vision of Britain as a world power. However, I must say I’m not sure that I have enough context for the world itself. I kinda feel like I need something a bit longer to solidify a couple of concepts regarding this universe. The action was really great, and something that wasn’t really present in any of the other nominees in this category. I do like the central ideas; the way that science has concluded that there must be a God; the dramatic irony inherent in the explanation of the twin paradox; and the explanation that it was Newton who came up with quantum theory. All in all an enjoyable read.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’ve started my way through the Hugo Voter Packet and this is the first short story I’ve read since starting my short stories roundups every week (it should be pointed out that I listened to four of the five Hugo-nominated short stories via Escape Pod, who did excellent readings of each). So expect some stuff from that coming up this week!

80) ‘1963: The Argument Against Louis Pasteur’ by Mur Lafferty
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

This is the first thing of Mur’s that I’ve read and it made me giggle in several places. It’s the tale of a journalist meeting the famous Dr Lambshead, and it first appeared in The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, which is a book designed for dipping in and out of. As such, I’m not sure it stands so well on its own, but since I possess a copy of the book I have the context for the piece. As a result I liked it a lot, and I was a huge fan of the sense of mystery around the object described in the story. I was also taken in by the use of parentheses to tell the story in a very perpendicular way which seemed to suit the nature of the book.

As I’ve already mentioned I’m planning to read the rest of Mur’s fiction, too. If you click the link now, you can get it whilst it’s still available for free: The offer ends at the end of June, which is tomorrow, so get downloading!

81) ‘The Transfiguration of María Luisa Ortega’ by E. Lily Yu
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

I enjoyed this thoroughly for the ideas it threw out but it’s extremely short. Given that it takes under five minutes to read, rather than me waffling on, you should probably just click the link and go read it.

I’ve already listened to ‘The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees’, and so this was the first one I read from Yu’s excellently presented Campbell Award ebook.

82) ‘The Lamp at the Turning’ by E. Lily Yu
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

This one is longer than the previous one but still pretty short. Despite that it feels long enough for the story it tells, and I definitely enjoyed it greatly. It’s about a streetlamp that falls in love with a man who walks past it every day, which is just such a great concept. Definitely worth a look.

83) ‘Observer Effects’ by Tim Pratt
First published, 2007 – appeared in Escape Pod #250

This is Escape Pod’s last superhero-themed episode, which makes me sad. It includes ruminations on the nature of privacy and privacy intrusions, which I imagine would really annoy [livejournal.com profile] lproven. It also had a completely fascinating conceit: A computer that hooks into a superhero’s brain in order to work correctly. I found it difficult to get behind the central character in the ending of the story, though.

84) ‘Forget You’ by Marc Laidlaw
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

This story was from one of the creators of Half-Life and so I was surprised to see it was fantasy, not sf. A man is lonely, and then a woman insinuates herself into his life. He is promptly slowly driven mad trying to remember how he met her. Definitely worth a read.

85) ‘Domovoi’ by M.K. Hobson
First published, 2005 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

Mournful story about a real estate developer killing the soul of an old building by reinventing it. Not sure what I thought of this one; it’s evocative and tugs at my heart strings but at the same time leaving old buildings unused instead of redeveloping seems like a triumph of nostalgia over practicality.

86) ‘Ray of Light’ by Brad R. Torgersen
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

Reading this simultaneously marks having read something by every Campbell-nominated author and also having read the first of the five nominated novelettes this year. I must confess that I really enjoyed this; I liked the concept, I thought that the logic behind the difference between the adults and the children made sense and loved the ending. One thing I was unsure about was the mother; I didn’t care about what happened to her, and I’m not sure that’s a good sign. I don’t yet know where I’m going to put Torgersen in my rankings for the Campbell; we’ll see.

87) ‘Six Months, Three Days’ by Charlie Jane Anders
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

This is the second novelette and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s about Doug and Judy, two people who can both see glimpses of the future – they meet, fall in love and have a relationship. It lasts six months and three days. What I liked about this story was the contrast between Doug and Judy, and also the way in which the story ends. I would love to find out more about both characters!

88) ‘What We Found’ by Geoff Ryman
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

This book tells an interesting personal story but didn’t transport me in the way that the previous two novelettes have done. It’s the story of a family living in Nigeria. The mother and father have four sons, and we hear the story through one of the middle ones. The science fictional idea that lies at the heart of this story is completely brilliant, and I loved it. I found parts of the family dynamic interesting, too, but I didn’t think the two were married particularly well and I would like to have seen more discussion of what the idea would have meant. I felt like this story had a lot of potential that didn’t really come through, in the end.

89) ‘Fields of Gold’ by Rachel Swirsky
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

The setting of this story instantly made me fall in love with it. The way that Swirsky plays with the setting made me continue to fall in love until it made me cry, instead. And then it made me happy, at the end. I have a feeling that this one’s going to be my favourite.

90) ‘The Copenhagen Interpretation’ by Paul Cornell
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

Apologies for the link to a PDF: I don’t think it’s available freely in any other format. I thought I’d already listened to this on StarShipSofa, but I went back to check and in fact I listened to the second Jonathan Hamilton novelette; this is the third.

I like Hamilton; he’s a cool character, and I also like the world quite a lot, with its vision of Britain as a world power. However, I must say I’m not sure that I have enough context for the world itself. I kinda feel like I need something a bit longer to solidify a couple of concepts regarding this universe. The action was really great, and something that wasn’t really present in any of the other nominees in this category. I do like the central ideas; the way that science has concluded that there must be a God; the dramatic irony inherent in the explanation of the twin paradox; and the explanation that it was Newton who came up with quantum theory. All in all an enjoyable read.

johncoxon: (Grammar Crisis)

I have a question regarding style; namely, the logic behind whether a title should be italicised or whether it should be encapsulated in quotation marks.

The candidates for Best Novel, Best Related Work, Best Graphic Story, Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form), Best Semiprozine, Best Fanzine and Best Fancast are all italicised. The candidates for Best Novelette, Best Short Story and Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) are all denoted using quotation marks. However, the candidates for Best Novella are signified thusly:

Best Novella (473 ballots)
Countdown by Mira Grant (Orbit)
“The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2011)
“Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s, June 2011)
“The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s, September/October 2011)
“The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” by Ken Liu (Panverse 3)
Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld / WSFA)

Clearly this isn’t as simple as a category-by-category rule. My best guess is that works are italicised if they were published as a standalone work, but quotation marks are used if the work was published in an anthology or magazine. Is that correct, or did I miss something?

johncoxon: (Grammar Crisis)

I have a question regarding style; namely, the logic behind whether a title should be italicised or whether it should be encapsulated in quotation marks.

The candidates for Best Novel, Best Related Work, Best Graphic Story, Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form), Best Semiprozine, Best Fanzine and Best Fancast are all italicised. The candidates for Best Novelette, Best Short Story and Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) are all denoted using quotation marks. However, the candidates for Best Novella are signified thusly:

Best Novella (473 ballots)
Countdown by Mira Grant (Orbit)
“The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2011)
“Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s, June 2011)
“The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s, September/October 2011)
“The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” by Ken Liu (Panverse 3)
Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld / WSFA)

Clearly this isn’t as simple as a category-by-category rule. My best guess is that works are italicised if they were published as a standalone work, but quotation marks are used if the work was published in an anthology or magazine. Is that correct, or did I miss something?

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

21) Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht

This is the second of the two novels from people nominated for a Campbell. I’m going to move onto Ray of Light by Brad R. Torgersen, because it’s also nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novella, and then segue into that category from there before moving onto Editor (Short Form) and Semiprozine.

Set during the Troubles of Northern Ireland, this book is a harrowing read in parts, especially if (as I am) you’re British. It’s about Liam, a young Irish lad who lives in Derry, and then in Belfast. It follows the first chapters of his life, starting out as a teenager imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Martin McGrath, an Irish Nationalist with direct experience of the Troubles, wrote an excellent analysis of the book and what’s wrong with its portrayal of the Unionists, the British and the Nationalists. I had read the blog post without realising that it was a review of a Campbell-nominated author’s novel, and so I liked the chance to reread it having some of the context for the book that it was talking about.

One important thing to note about this novel is that, despite the fact some parts seemed jarring to me and I noticed a very one-sided portrayal of the issues, involved, it made me want to know more. Speaking as a young Briton who only vaguely remembers hearing about the Good Friday Agreement on the radio, I don’t know much about the Troubles. After finishing this novel one of the first things I did was start looking stuff up on Wikipedia, and reading. As far as I can tell from browsing Wikipedia and some other sources, there were some Republicans, who did bad things; some Unionists, who did equally bad things; and the British Army, some of whom were doing their job as best they could but some of whom had far too much sympathy for the Unionists to be anything other than terrorists in British uniforms. (This is a gross oversimplification but I think that’s the gist of it; McGrath’s excellent post will give you an idea of what I mean.) I’m happy that I was spurred into learning more about this, since I think it’s really important that people are aware of the history here, but what I’ve learned has diminished my enjoyment of the book due to the above issues.

As a consequence of all this, I feel really conflicted about the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it, from cover to cover – although it’s a very melancholy tale so don’t read it if you don’t have easy access to hugs! – but I’m uncomfortable about how skewed the image I came away with was. As far as I can tell, the Troubles in Northern Ireland are a hell of a lot less black and white than Leicht would have us believe. The comments on McGrath’s blog highlight Leicht saying, “I guess you can say it’s my way of finding a real situation that fits extreme good versus extreme evil.” That, to me, suggests that she thinks anyone in Ireland who’s a Catholic is ‘extreme good’, and anyone who is not is ‘extreme evil’. Given that, as a Briton, I guess I would fall under the ‘extreme evil’ classification, that’s obviously an opinion that I have certain issues with.

Current views on the Campbell

When it comes to my current rankings for the Campbell Award, I think I’m voting for E. Lily Yu first, with Karen Lord second and Stina Leicht third. I love how Yu plays with the worlds she describes in her short stories in a way that seems very perpendicular to me. Lord’s novel was unusual in terms of its narrator, and Leicht’s novel is heartrending, and both were very enjoyable, but I kinda felt both were playing with pretty standard fantasy fare. In contrast, Yu includes ideas that feel really unique to her, and I think I feel that sets her apart from the others. I haven’t yet read any Torgersen, so we’ll see where I place him in the rankings.

I don’t know where to place Mur yet; I’m thinking I might read the rest of her fiction, which is available for free till the end of June, before making my decision on which number will go beside her name.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

21) Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht

This is the second of the two novels from people nominated for a Campbell. I’m going to move onto Ray of Light by Brad R. Torgersen, because it’s also nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novella, and then segue into that category from there before moving onto Editor (Short Form) and Semiprozine.

Set during the Troubles of Northern Ireland, this book is a harrowing read in parts, especially if (as I am) you’re British. It’s about Liam, a young Irish lad who lives in Derry, and then in Belfast. It follows the first chapters of his life, starting out as a teenager imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Martin McGrath, an Irish Nationalist with direct experience of the Troubles, wrote an excellent analysis of the book and what’s wrong with its portrayal of the Unionists, the British and the Nationalists. I had read the blog post without realising that it was a review of a Campbell-nominated author’s novel, and so I liked the chance to reread it having some of the context for the book that it was talking about.

One important thing to note about this novel is that, despite the fact some parts seemed jarring to me and I noticed a very one-sided portrayal of the issues, involved, it made me want to know more. Speaking as a young Briton who only vaguely remembers hearing about the Good Friday Agreement on the radio, I don’t know much about the Troubles. After finishing this novel one of the first things I did was start looking stuff up on Wikipedia, and reading. As far as I can tell from browsing Wikipedia and some other sources, there were some Republicans, who did bad things; some Unionists, who did equally bad things; and the British Army, some of whom were doing their job as best they could but some of whom had far too much sympathy for the Unionists to be anything other than terrorists in British uniforms. (This is a gross oversimplification but I think that’s the gist of it; McGrath’s excellent post will give you an idea of what I mean.) I’m happy that I was spurred into learning more about this, since I think it’s really important that people are aware of the history here, but what I’ve learned has diminished my enjoyment of the book due to the above issues.

As a consequence of all this, I feel really conflicted about the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it, from cover to cover – although it’s a very melancholy tale so don’t read it if you don’t have easy access to hugs! – but I’m uncomfortable about how skewed the image I came away with was. As far as I can tell, the Troubles in Northern Ireland are a hell of a lot less black and white than Leicht would have us believe. The comments on McGrath’s blog highlight Leicht saying, “I guess you can say it’s my way of finding a real situation that fits extreme good versus extreme evil.” That, to me, suggests that she thinks anyone in Ireland who’s a Catholic is ‘extreme good’, and anyone who is not is ‘extreme evil’. Given that, as a Briton, I guess I would fall under the ‘extreme evil’ classification, that’s obviously an opinion that I have certain issues with.

Current views on the Campbell

When it comes to my current rankings for the Campbell Award, I think I’m voting for E. Lily Yu first, with Karen Lord second and Stina Leicht third. I love how Yu plays with the worlds she describes in her short stories in a way that seems very perpendicular to me. Lord’s novel was unusual in terms of its narrator, and Leicht’s novel is heartrending, and both were very enjoyable, but I kinda felt both were playing with pretty standard fantasy fare. In contrast, Yu includes ideas that feel really unique to her, and I think I feel that sets her apart from the others. I haven’t yet read any Torgersen, so we’ll see where I place him in the rankings.

I don’t know where to place Mur yet; I’m thinking I might read the rest of her fiction, which is available for free till the end of June, before making my decision on which number will go beside her name.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

21) Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

Reading this marks my exit from reading long overdue loans and my entrance of the Hugo Awards’ voter packet: this is the first thing I have read for the Campbell award. It’s a fairly short novel (half the length of Of Blood and Honey, the other novel in that category), but I found myself getting thoroughly drawn into the story and the world that was being described; I definitely recommend giving it a read.

Spoilers! )

I hope the other Campbell nominees are as well-paced and enjoyable as this was!

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

21) Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

Reading this marks my exit from reading long overdue loans and my entrance of the Hugo Awards’ voter packet: this is the first thing I have read for the Campbell award. It’s a fairly short novel (half the length of Of Blood and Honey, the other novel in that category), but I found myself getting thoroughly drawn into the story and the world that was being described; I definitely recommend giving it a read.

Spoilers! )

I hope the other Campbell nominees are as well-paced and enjoyable as this was!

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

20) The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

This is the last of the four books that were lent to me by [livejournal.com profile] laura_russell. It was also the longest and the one with the worst typography (I swear the font changes on a couple of pages). I enjoyed it, but it put me in mind of a book I read when I was little; Heidi by Johanna Spyri. My mother gave it to me and told me that I should read it; I got to about the halfway mark before I sought her out and earnestly asked her, “Mummy, when does the adventure start?” That’s not to say it’s a bad book, because it isn’t; I read it all the way to the end and I didn’t get bored enough or tired enough of it to put it down at any point, and I read most of it today which probably means it doesn’t get grating overly quickly. However, I’m having real trouble thinking of anything I want to say about it that needs to go under an LJ cut, which is a bit worrying since I read most of it today and it’s still pretty fresh in my mind.

There are fantastical elements to the novel, which I wasn’t expecting, and which my friend – who is not a great sf/fantasy fan – calls ‘magical realism’. The amount of racial stereotyping that pervades the book made me a little uncomfortable; I have no idea if the ideas and words expressed were okay back when it was written, in the mid-eighties, but I didn’t really feel their inclusion was merited. The book was constructed in such a way that things mentioned at the start of the novel come back and affect the end of the novel, but none of these things felt like a twist, which I’m assuming was intentional and not just a sign of the worst twists ever.

All in all, this book’s alright. Wouldn’t recommend it, probably, but you could do worse.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

20) The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

This is the last of the four books that were lent to me by [livejournal.com profile] laura_russell. It was also the longest and the one with the worst typography (I swear the font changes on a couple of pages). I enjoyed it, but it put me in mind of a book I read when I was little; Heidi by Johanna Spyri. My mother gave it to me and told me that I should read it; I got to about the halfway mark before I sought her out and earnestly asked her, “Mummy, when does the adventure start?” That’s not to say it’s a bad book, because it isn’t; I read it all the way to the end and I didn’t get bored enough or tired enough of it to put it down at any point, and I read most of it today which probably means it doesn’t get grating overly quickly. However, I’m having real trouble thinking of anything I want to say about it that needs to go under an LJ cut, which is a bit worrying since I read most of it today and it’s still pretty fresh in my mind.

There are fantastical elements to the novel, which I wasn’t expecting, and which my friend – who is not a great sf/fantasy fan – calls ‘magical realism’. The amount of racial stereotyping that pervades the book made me a little uncomfortable; I have no idea if the ideas and words expressed were okay back when it was written, in the mid-eighties, but I didn’t really feel their inclusion was merited. The book was constructed in such a way that things mentioned at the start of the novel come back and affect the end of the novel, but none of these things felt like a twist, which I’m assuming was intentional and not just a sign of the worst twists ever.

All in all, this book’s alright. Wouldn’t recommend it, probably, but you could do worse.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

For the avoidance of doubt, I’ve decided to start referring to the stories I’m planning to consider for Hugo Awards as my ‘Hugo longlist’. This means the big text file I have that contains all the stories I want to come back to at the end of the year, for whatever reason.

74) ‘Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Goodbyes’ by Tom Crosshill
First published, 2012 – appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine #67

Somewhat heartrending story about a man who operates a business that allows people to be saved into memory. The amount of virtual reality packed into this short story was almost TARDIS-like, and I really liked the way implications were made about virtual reality without being stated outright; I got the distinct impression of VR as a way to make contact more fleeting, and relationships more transient, but that’s just my reading and others will undoubtedly take something away from what is here. Definitely going on the Hugo longlist.

75) ‘Kidney’ by Amir Ahmed
First published, 2012 – appeared in Drabblecast #246

Another short-but-sweet story from the Drabblecast, hot on the heels of their last one. This one’s about a man who splits up with his kidney, and the occasion on which they meet several months after the breakup. It was a cute story that made me giggle a lot, and was set in Toronto – I was pleased to get a couple of the references to places in the city. This isn’t going to get considered for the Hugos, but it’s an entertaining story all the same.

76) ‘Origins’ by Ari Goelman
First published, 2009 – appeared in Escape Pod #249

This is the second instalment in Escape Pod’s superhero month, which is currently happily ongoing. It’s a tale of a couple, their pregnancy, and then their reactions to it; the fact that it’s set in a superhero world is rather by-the-by, all things considered. I liked her power, heat manipulation: it would be easy to be more simplistic, and I liked the idea that being able to do things with ice also gave her the power to do things with fire. (I did a similar thing in a friend’s Mutants & Masterminds game, with the power of electromagnetic manipulation.) I also liked the final stages of the story, and their final conversation made me giggle (don’t want to give it away).

77) ‘Draftyhouse’ by Erik Amundsen
First published, 2012 – appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine #67

This story was a somewhat confusing tale of ghosts on the Moon. I never really got a firm handle on what was going on, but I think that might have been a deliberate choice on the part of the author, making the reader feel as weirded out as the protagonist does. The concept of the Bridgeways was cool, as was the description of the four things that man can usefully do on the Moon. I also liked the author’s observation that war cannot be recorded in history if there are no survivors on either side. Some cool ideas, but I didn’t really dig the story as a whole.

78) ‘The Womb Factory’ by Peter M. Ferenczi
First published, 2012 – appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine #67

So, first things first: This one’s on my Hugo longlist, for sure. I really felt the story impacting on me, and I really enjoyed it. Perhaps it’s the effect of the feminist leanings of a couple of the novels I’ve read recently, whiich drew my attention to the feminist angle of the plot? The title gives away the main premise of the story, which is about girls getting pregnant for a company (the reason for this becomes apparent fairly early on).

My interest was piqued by the protagonist’s assertion that she must be ‘working’ for a company that made knockoffs, since the company that made the real deal would never stoop to using humans (instead favouring big shiny buildings with artificial biomedical equipment and the like). However this flies in the face of what’s happening in the real world at the moment, with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Sony etc using Foxxconn and Chinese labourers to build products instead of shiny manufacturing robots in the developed world. I thought the story would have had more impact had the author said it was the market leader that was engaging in these practices, and not the knockoff merchant.

79) ‘The Sympathy’ by Eric Gregory
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

This was a perfectly good story about a woman driving across America and picking up a hitchhiker. The woman, it is established, has just left her long-term boyfriend, and she meets a girl who wants a ride. The woman has thoughts and dreams about her boyfriend whilst the girl is clearly not quite what she seems, at first. This story was okay, and it certainly moved along quickly without any problems; however, I found it a bit empty. Nothing I could begin to put my finger on, but it didn’t make an impression for whatever reason.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

For the avoidance of doubt, I’ve decided to start referring to the stories I’m planning to consider for Hugo Awards as my ‘Hugo longlist’. This means the big text file I have that contains all the stories I want to come back to at the end of the year, for whatever reason.

74) ‘Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Goodbyes’ by Tom Crosshill
First published, 2012 – appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine #67

Somewhat heartrending story about a man who operates a business that allows people to be saved into memory. The amount of virtual reality packed into this short story was almost TARDIS-like, and I really liked the way implications were made about virtual reality without being stated outright; I got the distinct impression of VR as a way to make contact more fleeting, and relationships more transient, but that’s just my reading and others will undoubtedly take something away from what is here. Definitely going on the Hugo longlist.

75) ‘Kidney’ by Amir Ahmed
First published, 2012 – appeared in Drabblecast #246

Another short-but-sweet story from the Drabblecast, hot on the heels of their last one. This one’s about a man who splits up with his kidney, and the occasion on which they meet several months after the breakup. It was a cute story that made me giggle a lot, and was set in Toronto – I was pleased to get a couple of the references to places in the city. This isn’t going to get considered for the Hugos, but it’s an entertaining story all the same.

76) ‘Origins’ by Ari Goelman
First published, 2009 – appeared in Escape Pod #249

This is the second instalment in Escape Pod’s superhero month, which is currently happily ongoing. It’s a tale of a couple, their pregnancy, and then their reactions to it; the fact that it’s set in a superhero world is rather by-the-by, all things considered. I liked her power, heat manipulation: it would be easy to be more simplistic, and I liked the idea that being able to do things with ice also gave her the power to do things with fire. (I did a similar thing in a friend’s Mutants & Masterminds game, with the power of electromagnetic manipulation.) I also liked the final stages of the story, and their final conversation made me giggle (don’t want to give it away).

77) ‘Draftyhouse’ by Erik Amundsen
First published, 2012 – appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine #67

This story was a somewhat confusing tale of ghosts on the Moon. I never really got a firm handle on what was going on, but I think that might have been a deliberate choice on the part of the author, making the reader feel as weirded out as the protagonist does. The concept of the Bridgeways was cool, as was the description of the four things that man can usefully do on the Moon. I also liked the author’s observation that war cannot be recorded in history if there are no survivors on either side. Some cool ideas, but I didn’t really dig the story as a whole.

78) ‘The Womb Factory’ by Peter M. Ferenczi
First published, 2012 – appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine #67

So, first things first: This one’s on my Hugo longlist, for sure. I really felt the story impacting on me, and I really enjoyed it. Perhaps it’s the effect of the feminist leanings of a couple of the novels I’ve read recently, whiich drew my attention to the feminist angle of the plot? The title gives away the main premise of the story, which is about girls getting pregnant for a company (the reason for this becomes apparent fairly early on).

My interest was piqued by the protagonist’s assertion that she must be ‘working’ for a company that made knockoffs, since the company that made the real deal would never stoop to using humans (instead favouring big shiny buildings with artificial biomedical equipment and the like). However this flies in the face of what’s happening in the real world at the moment, with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Sony etc using Foxxconn and Chinese labourers to build products instead of shiny manufacturing robots in the developed world. I thought the story would have had more impact had the author said it was the market leader that was engaging in these practices, and not the knockoff merchant.

79) ‘The Sympathy’ by Eric Gregory
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

This was a perfectly good story about a woman driving across America and picking up a hitchhiker. The woman, it is established, has just left her long-term boyfriend, and she meets a girl who wants a ride. The woman has thoughts and dreams about her boyfriend whilst the girl is clearly not quite what she seems, at first. This story was okay, and it certainly moved along quickly without any problems; however, I found it a bit empty. Nothing I could begin to put my finger on, but it didn’t make an impression for whatever reason.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

I realised that I didn’t really have a good place to put novellas, and so I’m including them here; to me they fit better in this series than they do in the short story posts I’ve been doing. Novelettes will probably go in the short stories’ posts, though.

19) The Political Officer by C.C. Finlay

I just started reading Lightspeed Magazine #23 (yes, I know I’m behind) and this is the subscription-exclusive novella in that issue. It’s set on a starship, and concerns the movements of the ship’s Political Officer, Max, who appears to be half busybody/spy and half extension of the Government. It’s his job to make decisions that the captain can’t make – for instance, military actions that would significantly affect policy – whilst spying on the other members of the crew. I found this interesting, and I also found it interesting that the captain, the high-ranking intelligence officer and him are all the same rank, and all at the top of the pecking order in their own way. Having three people at the top of three separate chains of command seemed a bit unrealistic, if I’m honest, but I don’t know much about military bureaucracy so I’m going to let it slide.

But, more confusion, and spoilers. )

All in all, I thought this was a fairly enjoyable romp through a spaceship, but it didn’t really hugely engage me. The ideas contained herein are very secondary to the protagonist and the plot, so on the hard SF front it doesn’t score brilliantly. My recommendation: If you find it in front of you, give it a go, but don’t seek it out.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

I realised that I didn’t really have a good place to put novellas, and so I’m including them here; to me they fit better in this series than they do in the short story posts I’ve been doing. Novelettes will probably go in the short stories’ posts, though.

19) The Political Officer by C.C. Finlay

I just started reading Lightspeed Magazine #23 (yes, I know I’m behind) and this is the subscription-exclusive novella in that issue. It’s set on a starship, and concerns the movements of the ship’s Political Officer, Max, who appears to be half busybody/spy and half extension of the Government. It’s his job to make decisions that the captain can’t make – for instance, military actions that would significantly affect policy – whilst spying on the other members of the crew. I found this interesting, and I also found it interesting that the captain, the high-ranking intelligence officer and him are all the same rank, and all at the top of the pecking order in their own way. Having three people at the top of three separate chains of command seemed a bit unrealistic, if I’m honest, but I don’t know much about military bureaucracy so I’m going to let it slide.

But, more confusion, and spoilers. )

All in all, I thought this was a fairly enjoyable romp through a spaceship, but it didn’t really hugely engage me. The ideas contained herein are very secondary to the protagonist and the plot, so on the hard SF front it doesn’t score brilliantly. My recommendation: If you find it in front of you, give it a go, but don’t seek it out.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

Just quickly, before we get down to business: New icon! I wanted one for the posts I make about books and whatnot. So here it is.

18) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I am, apparently, on fire right now, since this is the third novel I’ve read in recent days. I’ve been setting aside a lot more time to read every evening, especially since television is drying up as the summer looms. In previous years I’ve bemoaned the lack of visual entertainment in the summer months but, despite the fact I am vaguely planning to watch Stargate SG:1 and/or True Blood over the summer to replace the lack of TV, I am placing reading above sitting at my computer. This is a new development, but a welcome one.

Onto the book, which is about Afghanistan, and is another literary piece lent to me by my friend [livejournal.com profile] laura_russell. This is the third I’ve read, and the first that didn’t have any sfnal or fantasy tendencies. When I finished reading it I posted on GetGlue, saying “Amazing, harrowing, heartwarming, thought provoking, tear inducing.” If you want to read a great novel set amongst the turmoil of Afghanistan and the Afghan people, I’d not hesitate to recommend this book.

So sad. So very sad. )

I think I’m all novel’d out today. I’ll probably start the next one tomorrow.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

Just quickly, before we get down to business: New icon! I wanted one for the posts I make about books and whatnot. So here it is.

18) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I am, apparently, on fire right now, since this is the third novel I’ve read in recent days. I’ve been setting aside a lot more time to read every evening, especially since television is drying up as the summer looms. In previous years I’ve bemoaned the lack of visual entertainment in the summer months but, despite the fact I am vaguely planning to watch Stargate SG:1 and/or True Blood over the summer to replace the lack of TV, I am placing reading above sitting at my computer. This is a new development, but a welcome one.

Onto the book, which is about Afghanistan, and is another literary piece lent to me by my friend [livejournal.com profile] laura_russell. This is the third I’ve read, and the first that didn’t have any sfnal or fantasy tendencies. When I finished reading it I posted on GetGlue, saying “Amazing, harrowing, heartwarming, thought provoking, tear inducing.” If you want to read a great novel set amongst the turmoil of Afghanistan and the Afghan people, I’d not hesitate to recommend this book.

So sad. So very sad. )

I think I’m all novel’d out today. I’ll probably start the next one tomorrow.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

17) The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Since I was away this weekend, I decided I’d take two books back with me and try to read both before work tomorrow. This was partly my desire to return them to the friend that lent them to me, and by Jove, I managed it! I read this novel second because it seemed like it might have some fantasy elements, and I’m trying to ease myself into literary fiction gently rather than just going genre cold turkey, as it were. I wasn’t expecting to like this novel, but I actually really enjoyed it; unfortunately I felt that the last fifty pages were somewhat unnecessary, and the plot would have been resolved entirely satisfactorily had it ended on p346, instead of on p396. However, this is a minor quibble, and I think I’d still recommend it.

Some musings on the work )

This was the first translation from Russian that I’ve read, I believe, and I was surprised at how well-written the book was. That’s my ignorance of such things showing through; it’s fairly obvious, now that I’m thinking about it, that the translators do more than just replicate the bare bones of the plot.

I’m really enjoying reading more, and I’m glad I didn’t put any television on my laptop before I went away. I think I need encouragement to read more often, and perhaps having a lack of options is a good way to achieve that!

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

17) The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Since I was away this weekend, I decided I’d take two books back with me and try to read both before work tomorrow. This was partly my desire to return them to the friend that lent them to me, and by Jove, I managed it! I read this novel second because it seemed like it might have some fantasy elements, and I’m trying to ease myself into literary fiction gently rather than just going genre cold turkey, as it were. I wasn’t expecting to like this novel, but I actually really enjoyed it; unfortunately I felt that the last fifty pages were somewhat unnecessary, and the plot would have been resolved entirely satisfactorily had it ended on p346, instead of on p396. However, this is a minor quibble, and I think I’d still recommend it.

Some musings on the work )

This was the first translation from Russian that I’ve read, I believe, and I was surprised at how well-written the book was. That’s my ignorance of such things showing through; it’s fairly obvious, now that I’m thinking about it, that the translators do more than just replicate the bare bones of the plot.

I’m really enjoying reading more, and I’m glad I didn’t put any television on my laptop before I went away. I think I need encouragement to read more often, and perhaps having a lack of options is a good way to achieve that!

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

16) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This is a classic, I have been told by many people, and as such I’ve been meaning to read it for ages. Recently, a close friend of mine leant me four books, amongst which was this one; it was the most SFnal of the four, and so I elected to start with it and read the others subsequently (I’m hoping to finish another this weekend, since I want to give them back at the end of June). I started it on the train yesterday evening and read the rest this morning, which gives you an impression of how much the novel gripped me and drove me to keep reading!

Some of my spoilerific thoughts and musings on the novel )

All in all, I am very glad indeed that I read this book.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

16) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This is a classic, I have been told by many people, and as such I’ve been meaning to read it for ages. Recently, a close friend of mine leant me four books, amongst which was this one; it was the most SFnal of the four, and so I elected to start with it and read the others subsequently (I’m hoping to finish another this weekend, since I want to give them back at the end of June). I started it on the train yesterday evening and read the rest this morning, which gives you an impression of how much the novel gripped me and drove me to keep reading!

Some of my spoilerific thoughts and musings on the novel )

All in all, I am very glad indeed that I read this book.

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