johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

91) ‘How I Crippled a World for Just 0.01 Cents’ by Michael W. Lucht
First published, 2010 – appeared in The Drabblecast #247

It really would be terrible if you had to pay royalties on common physical formulae; V = IR costs $12 to licence in this short piece. Cheaper systems are available, but many of them are nonsense – especially the very cheap Aristotelian mechanics, which are almost completely useless. I liked these concepts, they made me smile.

The Drabblecast are apparently currently running a little low on funds, so if you listen, help them out and donate, mmmkay?

92) ‘Softlight Sins’ by Peter F. Hamilton
First published, 1997/1998 – appeared in StarShipSofa #212

This was a pretty immense story about capital punishment, the nature of the soul and a variety of other things. The reading in StarShipSofa was great, I was quite impressed. The story starts in one manner and ends in another, but the ending is fantastic. I love the central conceit, of a form of capital punishment that doesn’t actually require the death of the body; I was a little confused by some of the religious undertones partway through the story, but I think it works, in the end.

93) ‘Dial Double Zero’ by Ray Bradbury
First published, 1963? – appeared on BBC Radio 4

I’ve got to be honest I didn’t get this one, and I’m thinking that might be the fault of the BBC’s way of presenting it as a dramatisation. A quick Google to find the publication date reveals a page that says the point of the story was about the spontaneous creation of Artificial Intelligence. The impression I gleaned from the BBC’s version was that a mental person had gone around codifying his younger self into tapes and set them all to ring him incessantly when he turned 80, which just didn’t make any sense whatsoever. I think, to be fair, I should probably read the short story proper.

94) ‘113 Feet’ by Josh Roseman
First published, 2012 – appeared in Escape Pod #351

I liked this story, which was told from the perspective of a girl learning more about her father as she grew up. It’s another example of how good the original fiction from Escape Pod is. In this one, the girl reads her father’s notes on a couple of occasions to learn that he’s not really in the line of work he says he is, but in another one; she’s not sure which, because she’s too young to understand some of the words. The story jumps forwards through her childhood and further revelations about her father before, one day, something happens to turn these revelations into an obsession. I liked this a lot, and while I’m going to include it on my Hugo longlist just in case I don’t think it’ll make the final cut.

95) ‘The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City (Prologue)’ by John Scalzi
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

I enjoyed this but the joke began to wear thin by the end and it’s nowhere near to the same standard as any of the other Hugo-nominated short stories in 2012. There really isn’t much substance to the story and whilst I suspect that’s a deliberate decision, it also means I don’t have much to say about it, nor do I have any real desire to put it higher than last place in my Hugo rankings.

96) ‘Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage’ by Seanan McGuire
First published, 2011 – appeared in StarShipSofa #245

I enjoyed this story, overall. It was about a young girl in a faraway, fantasy land who fought some bad guys before coming home, to our universe, to sleep. She gets visited in the night, with huge ramifications for her plans for the future. It’s a good tale, and I liked the Truth Fairy and her effect on people quite a lot, but I didn’t really feel the ending was great.

97) ‘Food for Thought’ by Laura Lee McArdle
First published, 2012 – appeared in Escape Pod #352

This one’s about an intelligent (ish) cow who is taking part in a reality television show being put on by people from the future. I enjoyed it, although it was incredibly silly. Just the sort of story to kick off a Monday without needing to think too much – I’d recommend it but it isn’t going on my Hugo longlist!

98) ‘The Cockroach Hat’ by Terry Bisson
First published, 2010 – appeared in The Drabblecast #248

This one was even sillier than the last one. Perhaps ‘whimsical’ is a better word. The plot is so disjointed that I can’t even begin to sum it up, and the central conceit appeared to be that anyone can turn into a cockroach at any time. It made me giggle, but it’s one surreal kettle of fish.

99) ‘The Steam Dancer (1896)’ by Caitlín R. Kiernan
First published, 2007 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

This story was intriguing, set somewhere in the United States (‘the great smoky city at the end of the mountains’) and following the tale of Missouri Banks, a woman who has mechanical protheses instead of her left leg or her right arm. It was well-written, especially the dialogue. I loved the description of the dancing, which was really vivid and also very body-positive, both things of which I wholeheartedly approve! There aren’t any big ideas here (beyond clockwork protheses in the 19th century) but that didn’t matter to me given how much fun I had.

100) ‘Ruminations in an Alien Tongue’ by Vandana Singh
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

This one’s a bit of an odd one. It’s about a woman called Birha and her experiences with aliens. I’m presuming that the reader is supposed to assume that the story is a translation from an alien tongue, or perhaps we’re the aliens and so English is the alien tongue – either way the title doesn’t appear to bear much relevance to the story, which is mostly concerned with many-worlds theories. It’s a curiously mellow tale of love and heartbreak, and I enjoyed it.

101) ‘Nomad’ by Karin Lowachee
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

I liked this one. I liked the concept of a Fuse at a very early age between a Radical (the name for the artificial intelligences in the story) and a human. The story is touching, and it didn’t feel as long as some of the novelettes that I read in the Hugo packet this year. It’s about a Radical who survives an event that kills everyone else present, including its human – it has to deal with that, and the story describes it leaving the Streak (tribe/clan thing) to which it belonged.

(I hadn’t noticed before that Lightspeed publishes novelettes as well as short stories, and this is the first one of those that I’ve noticed. Since they only appear to publish one Hugo-eligible novelette per issue, I figure there’s not much point in longlisting them since I can just go through and refresh my memory of the twelve that I’ve read.)

102) ‘Our Town’ by Kim Stanley Robinson
First published, 1986 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

Stunning short story about sculptures made from microuniverses containing living beings, frozen at just the right instant to create the desired effect. Totally great idea, however, the ending struck me as rather a damp squib – I was expecting some revelation about Desmond and the girl, but nothing was forthcoming and the story finished very abruptly.

103) ‘Mother Ship’ by Caroline M. Yoachim
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

The title is a literal one, which gives you some idea of the content of the story; I loved the idea of a colony ship bred for the purpose, and the idea of humans taking it, fiddling with it and fucking it up resonated with me. I really liked the way that Yoachim makes it seem more plausible by taking the way we do IVF and applying it to how we attempt to breed a ship for ourselves. Melancholy in its own way.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

91) ‘How I Crippled a World for Just 0.01 Cents’ by Michael W. Lucht
First published, 2010 – appeared in The Drabblecast #247

It really would be terrible if you had to pay royalties on common physical formulae; V = IR costs $12 to licence in this short piece. Cheaper systems are available, but many of them are nonsense – especially the very cheap Aristotelian mechanics, which are almost completely useless. I liked these concepts, they made me smile.

The Drabblecast are apparently currently running a little low on funds, so if you listen, help them out and donate, mmmkay?

92) ‘Softlight Sins’ by Peter F. Hamilton
First published, 1997/1998 – appeared in StarShipSofa #212

This was a pretty immense story about capital punishment, the nature of the soul and a variety of other things. The reading in StarShipSofa was great, I was quite impressed. The story starts in one manner and ends in another, but the ending is fantastic. I love the central conceit, of a form of capital punishment that doesn’t actually require the death of the body; I was a little confused by some of the religious undertones partway through the story, but I think it works, in the end.

93) ‘Dial Double Zero’ by Ray Bradbury
First published, 1963? – appeared on BBC Radio 4

I’ve got to be honest I didn’t get this one, and I’m thinking that might be the fault of the BBC’s way of presenting it as a dramatisation. A quick Google to find the publication date reveals a page that says the point of the story was about the spontaneous creation of Artificial Intelligence. The impression I gleaned from the BBC’s version was that a mental person had gone around codifying his younger self into tapes and set them all to ring him incessantly when he turned 80, which just didn’t make any sense whatsoever. I think, to be fair, I should probably read the short story proper.

94) ‘113 Feet’ by Josh Roseman
First published, 2012 – appeared in Escape Pod #351

I liked this story, which was told from the perspective of a girl learning more about her father as she grew up. It’s another example of how good the original fiction from Escape Pod is. In this one, the girl reads her father’s notes on a couple of occasions to learn that he’s not really in the line of work he says he is, but in another one; she’s not sure which, because she’s too young to understand some of the words. The story jumps forwards through her childhood and further revelations about her father before, one day, something happens to turn these revelations into an obsession. I liked this a lot, and while I’m going to include it on my Hugo longlist just in case I don’t think it’ll make the final cut.

95) ‘The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City (Prologue)’ by John Scalzi
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

I enjoyed this but the joke began to wear thin by the end and it’s nowhere near to the same standard as any of the other Hugo-nominated short stories in 2012. There really isn’t much substance to the story and whilst I suspect that’s a deliberate decision, it also means I don’t have much to say about it, nor do I have any real desire to put it higher than last place in my Hugo rankings.

96) ‘Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage’ by Seanan McGuire
First published, 2011 – appeared in StarShipSofa #245

I enjoyed this story, overall. It was about a young girl in a faraway, fantasy land who fought some bad guys before coming home, to our universe, to sleep. She gets visited in the night, with huge ramifications for her plans for the future. It’s a good tale, and I liked the Truth Fairy and her effect on people quite a lot, but I didn’t really feel the ending was great.

97) ‘Food for Thought’ by Laura Lee McArdle
First published, 2012 – appeared in Escape Pod #352

This one’s about an intelligent (ish) cow who is taking part in a reality television show being put on by people from the future. I enjoyed it, although it was incredibly silly. Just the sort of story to kick off a Monday without needing to think too much – I’d recommend it but it isn’t going on my Hugo longlist!

98) ‘The Cockroach Hat’ by Terry Bisson
First published, 2010 – appeared in The Drabblecast #248

This one was even sillier than the last one. Perhaps ‘whimsical’ is a better word. The plot is so disjointed that I can’t even begin to sum it up, and the central conceit appeared to be that anyone can turn into a cockroach at any time. It made me giggle, but it’s one surreal kettle of fish.

99) ‘The Steam Dancer (1896)’ by Caitlín R. Kiernan
First published, 2007 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

This story was intriguing, set somewhere in the United States (‘the great smoky city at the end of the mountains’) and following the tale of Missouri Banks, a woman who has mechanical protheses instead of her left leg or her right arm. It was well-written, especially the dialogue. I loved the description of the dancing, which was really vivid and also very body-positive, both things of which I wholeheartedly approve! There aren’t any big ideas here (beyond clockwork protheses in the 19th century) but that didn’t matter to me given how much fun I had.

100) ‘Ruminations in an Alien Tongue’ by Vandana Singh
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

This one’s a bit of an odd one. It’s about a woman called Birha and her experiences with aliens. I’m presuming that the reader is supposed to assume that the story is a translation from an alien tongue, or perhaps we’re the aliens and so English is the alien tongue – either way the title doesn’t appear to bear much relevance to the story, which is mostly concerned with many-worlds theories. It’s a curiously mellow tale of love and heartbreak, and I enjoyed it.

101) ‘Nomad’ by Karin Lowachee
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

I liked this one. I liked the concept of a Fuse at a very early age between a Radical (the name for the artificial intelligences in the story) and a human. The story is touching, and it didn’t feel as long as some of the novelettes that I read in the Hugo packet this year. It’s about a Radical who survives an event that kills everyone else present, including its human – it has to deal with that, and the story describes it leaving the Streak (tribe/clan thing) to which it belonged.

(I hadn’t noticed before that Lightspeed publishes novelettes as well as short stories, and this is the first one of those that I’ve noticed. Since they only appear to publish one Hugo-eligible novelette per issue, I figure there’s not much point in longlisting them since I can just go through and refresh my memory of the twelve that I’ve read.)

102) ‘Our Town’ by Kim Stanley Robinson
First published, 1986 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

Stunning short story about sculptures made from microuniverses containing living beings, frozen at just the right instant to create the desired effect. Totally great idea, however, the ending struck me as rather a damp squib – I was expecting some revelation about Desmond and the girl, but nothing was forthcoming and the story finished very abruptly.

103) ‘Mother Ship’ by Caroline M. Yoachim
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

The title is a literal one, which gives you some idea of the content of the story; I loved the idea of a colony ship bred for the purpose, and the idea of humans taking it, fiddling with it and fucking it up resonated with me. I really liked the way that Yoachim makes it seem more plausible by taking the way we do IVF and applying it to how we attempt to breed a ship for ourselves. Melancholy in its own way.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

So I read a bunch of novellas tonight (I had some spare time that didn’t get taken up by writing, or compiling a project, or working, or going to the cinema) and to save you all from the prospect of having a bunch of entries suddenly appear in your feed, I thought I’d write about them here.

I think the order in which they will go, in my voting, is ‘Kiss Me Twice’, ‘The Man Who Ended History’, ‘The Man Who Bridged the Mist’, Countdown, Silently and Very Fast and then ‘The Ice Owl’.

24) Countdown by Mira Grant

This novella is actually written in a semi-similar style to the last one I read, Ken Liu’s ‘The Man Who Ended History’, and so I jumped straight in with gusto. It’s not presented as a documentary, but it’s the story of several snippets of different people’s lives, all of which build towards the end of the book. Countdown is a novella in the Newsflesh universe, alongside Feed, Deadline and Blackout; I don’t think I’m spoiling much if I tell you that this universe is mostly preoccupied with the Rising, in which the dead rise and try to eat the living. Countdown is a compilation of stories that describe the events before Feed that lead to that occurring.

Countdown )

I feel guilty that this ended up as low in my rankings as it did, but I think that’s a function of the fact that nothing here is anything new in terms of the Newsflesh universe. Grant hasn’t included any titbits that are critical to the plot of the trilogy, which is fair enough, since this isn’t required reading for people who want to read the novels – however, that ultimately ends up hurting the novella because it means I got exactly what I expected, with no surprises or expansion of the boundaries.

25) ‘The Ice Owl’ by Carolyn Ives Gilman

This novella is, structurally, very easy to follow, telling a story in chronological order from the perspective of a single protagonist (the first of the novellas I read that did so). I liked the main character, a somewhat rebellious teenager called Thorn, and I liked the background, too. It’s set in the Twenty Planets universe, which is a backdrop that Gilman also used in a previous novella and which I liked the look of – humans can transport themselves between the planets via beams of light, but since this occurs at light speed, they leave everything behind when they do so, as by the time they get back to their original destination the friends they had will have aged significantly whilst they stayed the same. This isn’t a new concept (something similar happens in Revelation Space, for instance) but it’s a nifty implementation, in my opinion, and the characters that arise as a result are intriguing.

The Ice Owl )

I enjoyed reading this, which might make it a little weird that I’ve ranked it last on my Hugo ballot. This reinforces the high standard of the novellas this year, and is a reflection of my dissatisfaction with the ending, which spoiled the story for me. If this was the first segment of a novel, and had been released as a teaser, I’d totally buy the novel; as a standalone work it fails.

26) ‘Kiss Me Twice’ by Mary Robinette Kowal

This story almost makes me glad that I still have ‘For Want of a Nail’ still to read from last year’s Hugo Voter Packet, since it completely drew me in. I wasn’t this gripped by any of the previous three novellas, and I really liked the pacing of the plot. I suspect this was not hurt by the fact that I’ve always been rather fond of crime fiction! As I finished it I wanted to read it again, and I definitely want to seek out more of Kowal’s work.

Kiss Me Twice )

For reasons I can’t adequately put into words this one tops my list of novellas this year. I would dearly love to read more about this partnership.

27) Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente

I really wanted to like this story, but something about the way it was written made it hard for me to get into and even harder for me to understand properly. Valente is writing, essentially, about how an artificial intelligence develops within the mind of a human; it’s a fascinating look at this process and one that I found very interesting. Unfortunately, I really felt that the style of the writing obfuscated the concepts that were being explored, to the point where I was really slogging through the story as opposed to wanting to keep reading. Since this was the only novella that made me feel that way, that might explain why I didn’t rank it very highly.

It’s worth noting at this point that, of all the novellas here, this is probably the one that attempts to tackle the largest sfnal concept. It’s also the only one that I felt tackled an SFnal concept that wasn’t easy to get your head around. ‘The Man who Ended History’ made me think, but it did so by using a simple concept to illustrate something horrific from different viewpoints, which is a different kind of mental gymnastics; this is definitely the hardest SF of the six candidates on offer, I’d say.

It’s a shame, since Valente is clearly very clever in her style of writing and I can tell that my dislike for the tale is almost certainly a fault on my part rather than on hers. I really enjoyed how cleverly she constructed ‘Golubash (Wine-Blood-War-Story)’ (which was the story that appeared in Escape Pod #340) so I am now eagerly anticipating experiencing more of her work to see where I fall on that. But, ultimately, this novella didn’t do it for me, and so it winds up second-to-last in my rankings. (This reinforces my suspicion that Neil Clarke will end up somewhere towards the bottom of my rankings in that category, too.)

28) ‘The Man who Bridged the Mist’ by Kij Johnson

The last of the novellas that I read for this year’s Hugo Awards was also very gripping and came from the same editor as ‘Kiss Me Twice’, more or less confirming my suspicions that Sheila Williams will be doing very well when I vote in Best Editor (Short Form). This story really drew me in with the strange and ethereal Mist, and the descriptions of the crossings performed by the Ferrys are awesome to read – very vivid!

The Man who Bridged the Mist )

I have to admit that I don’t think this will place above ‘The Man who Ended History’ for me due to the lack of conceptual brilliance here. I thoroughly enjoyed the tale, but I didn’t fall in love with it in quite the same way that I did with ‘Kiss Me Twice’; as such, it goes into a comfortable third place in my voting.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

So I read a bunch of novellas tonight (I had some spare time that didn’t get taken up by writing, or compiling a project, or working, or going to the cinema) and to save you all from the prospect of having a bunch of entries suddenly appear in your feed, I thought I’d write about them here.

I think the order in which they will go, in my voting, is ‘Kiss Me Twice’, ‘The Man Who Ended History’, ‘The Man Who Bridged the Mist’, Countdown, Silently and Very Fast and then ‘The Ice Owl’.

24) Countdown by Mira Grant

This novella is actually written in a semi-similar style to the last one I read, Ken Liu’s ‘The Man Who Ended History’, and so I jumped straight in with gusto. It’s not presented as a documentary, but it’s the story of several snippets of different people’s lives, all of which build towards the end of the book. Countdown is a novella in the Newsflesh universe, alongside Feed, Deadline and Blackout; I don’t think I’m spoiling much if I tell you that this universe is mostly preoccupied with the Rising, in which the dead rise and try to eat the living. Countdown is a compilation of stories that describe the events before Feed that lead to that occurring.

Countdown )

I feel guilty that this ended up as low in my rankings as it did, but I think that’s a function of the fact that nothing here is anything new in terms of the Newsflesh universe. Grant hasn’t included any titbits that are critical to the plot of the trilogy, which is fair enough, since this isn’t required reading for people who want to read the novels – however, that ultimately ends up hurting the novella because it means I got exactly what I expected, with no surprises or expansion of the boundaries.

25) ‘The Ice Owl’ by Carolyn Ives Gilman

This novella is, structurally, very easy to follow, telling a story in chronological order from the perspective of a single protagonist (the first of the novellas I read that did so). I liked the main character, a somewhat rebellious teenager called Thorn, and I liked the background, too. It’s set in the Twenty Planets universe, which is a backdrop that Gilman also used in a previous novella and which I liked the look of – humans can transport themselves between the planets via beams of light, but since this occurs at light speed, they leave everything behind when they do so, as by the time they get back to their original destination the friends they had will have aged significantly whilst they stayed the same. This isn’t a new concept (something similar happens in Revelation Space, for instance) but it’s a nifty implementation, in my opinion, and the characters that arise as a result are intriguing.

The Ice Owl )

I enjoyed reading this, which might make it a little weird that I’ve ranked it last on my Hugo ballot. This reinforces the high standard of the novellas this year, and is a reflection of my dissatisfaction with the ending, which spoiled the story for me. If this was the first segment of a novel, and had been released as a teaser, I’d totally buy the novel; as a standalone work it fails.

26) ‘Kiss Me Twice’ by Mary Robinette Kowal

This story almost makes me glad that I still have ‘For Want of a Nail’ still to read from last year’s Hugo Voter Packet, since it completely drew me in. I wasn’t this gripped by any of the previous three novellas, and I really liked the pacing of the plot. I suspect this was not hurt by the fact that I’ve always been rather fond of crime fiction! As I finished it I wanted to read it again, and I definitely want to seek out more of Kowal’s work.

Kiss Me Twice )

For reasons I can’t adequately put into words this one tops my list of novellas this year. I would dearly love to read more about this partnership.

27) Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente

I really wanted to like this story, but something about the way it was written made it hard for me to get into and even harder for me to understand properly. Valente is writing, essentially, about how an artificial intelligence develops within the mind of a human; it’s a fascinating look at this process and one that I found very interesting. Unfortunately, I really felt that the style of the writing obfuscated the concepts that were being explored, to the point where I was really slogging through the story as opposed to wanting to keep reading. Since this was the only novella that made me feel that way, that might explain why I didn’t rank it very highly.

It’s worth noting at this point that, of all the novellas here, this is probably the one that attempts to tackle the largest sfnal concept. It’s also the only one that I felt tackled an SFnal concept that wasn’t easy to get your head around. ‘The Man who Ended History’ made me think, but it did so by using a simple concept to illustrate something horrific from different viewpoints, which is a different kind of mental gymnastics; this is definitely the hardest SF of the six candidates on offer, I’d say.

It’s a shame, since Valente is clearly very clever in her style of writing and I can tell that my dislike for the tale is almost certainly a fault on my part rather than on hers. I really enjoyed how cleverly she constructed ‘Golubash (Wine-Blood-War-Story)’ (which was the story that appeared in Escape Pod #340) so I am now eagerly anticipating experiencing more of her work to see where I fall on that. But, ultimately, this novella didn’t do it for me, and so it winds up second-to-last in my rankings. (This reinforces my suspicion that Neil Clarke will end up somewhere towards the bottom of my rankings in that category, too.)

28) ‘The Man who Bridged the Mist’ by Kij Johnson

The last of the novellas that I read for this year’s Hugo Awards was also very gripping and came from the same editor as ‘Kiss Me Twice’, more or less confirming my suspicions that Sheila Williams will be doing very well when I vote in Best Editor (Short Form). This story really drew me in with the strange and ethereal Mist, and the descriptions of the crossings performed by the Ferrys are awesome to read – very vivid!

The Man who Bridged the Mist )

I have to admit that I don’t think this will place above ‘The Man who Ended History’ for me due to the lack of conceptual brilliance here. I thoroughly enjoyed the tale, but I didn’t fall in love with it in quite the same way that I did with ‘Kiss Me Twice’; as such, it goes into a comfortable third place in my voting.

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: ([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)

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)

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)

Before I begin; I’ve attempted to remember which books I’ve read so far this year (or at least get a partial list of the same), and modify the count accordingly. Here goes:

  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  3. Deadline by Mira Grant
  4. His Majesty’s Starship by Ben Jeapes
  5. Weyr Search by Anne McCaffrey
  6. Embassytown by China Mieville
  7. Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
  8. Hands Up! Who Wants to Die? by Lucius Shepherd
  9. Lightborn by Tricia Sullivan
  10. Among Others by Jo Walton
  11. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  12. Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber
  13. Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia
  14. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

So this is my fifteenth. I’ve been making an effort to read more lately, and I’ve also been trying to read more good books; thirteen by the middle of the year is significantly better than I’ve managed over the last two or three years, and I’m hoping I can continue the trend.

15) The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

I must confess I wasn’t expecting to finish this quite so quickly, but between consciously trying to read more and it being a very good book, the pages flew past. The story is about a woman going to a strange new land, and reacting to it; her character is very compelling and the principal cast is absolutely fascinating, so I just couldn’t stop reading. If I had finished this when it was up for Best Novel at Renovation’s Hugo Awards, I probably would have put it at the top of my ballot – I heartily recommend giving it a look! Kinda sorta spoilers )

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

Before I begin; I’ve attempted to remember which books I’ve read so far this year (or at least get a partial list of the same), and modify the count accordingly. Here goes:

  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  3. Deadline by Mira Grant
  4. His Majesty’s Starship by Ben Jeapes
  5. Weyr Search by Anne McCaffrey
  6. Embassytown by China Mieville
  7. Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
  8. Hands Up! Who Wants to Die? by Lucius Shepherd
  9. Lightborn by Tricia Sullivan
  10. Among Others by Jo Walton
  11. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  12. Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber
  13. Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia
  14. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

So this is my fifteenth. I’ve been making an effort to read more lately, and I’ve also been trying to read more good books; thirteen by the middle of the year is significantly better than I’ve managed over the last two or three years, and I’m hoping I can continue the trend.

15) The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

I must confess I wasn’t expecting to finish this quite so quickly, but between consciously trying to read more and it being a very good book, the pages flew past. The story is about a woman going to a strange new land, and reacting to it; her character is very compelling and the principal cast is absolutely fascinating, so I just couldn’t stop reading. If I had finished this when it was up for Best Novel at Renovation’s Hugo Awards, I probably would have put it at the top of my ballot – I heartily recommend giving it a look! Kinda sorta spoilers )

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