johncoxon: ([Me] Renovation)

Hello LiveJournal! Writing this on Monday morning at work, because I was too tired last night.

Monday and Tuesday were roleplay, as per usual: Pathfinder and Star Wars, respectively. It felt like we got through more roleplay on the Monday than we have been doing recently, although I don’t know whether that’s just my perception or not. I helped the GM solve a technical problem after we’d played, regarding the upcoming redesign of Physics for Idiots, a website that he and a couple of friends of ours constructed back in the day. It’s an exciting project, and I’m looking forward to seeing Physics for Idiots reborn in all its glory! Star Wars was fun, I’m still enjoying GMing and I’m having a blast coming up with ways to have the players’ explorations land them on the main plot by hook or by crook. I like the feeling that they can go and poke around and still wind up uncovering stuff that’s relevant, but it requires a lot of reworking and improvisation as a game progresses. It’s a rather terrifying experience, actually.

Wednesday was a bit weird for two reasons: firstly, it was the graduation ceremony for the College of Science and Engineering, so I was tasked with selling the Journal of Physics Special Topics to the graduates. It’s a compilation of some of the miniature papers that they write over the course of a year, and so they tend to get bought so that people can sign them, etc. I produce the book for the department each year, and each year I have to work out all the problems from scratch because I take terrible notes. Next year, I’ll be at my new post in Southampton and so I won’t be able to do it; as such, this year I took pretty good notes. I must blog them, really. In the evening of Wednesday, [livejournal.com profile] cmdrsuzdal and I went to Café Research, a monthly meeting of postgraduates to discuss postgraduate research throughout the University of Leicester. This month saw the launch of Frontier, a new magazine that also focuses on postgraduate research – I was the director of design for the inaugural issue, so I attended to see that happen. I have a couple of copies for my parents, etc., and it’s quite cool to see my designs in a semi-professional magazine!

I know we watched The 40-Year-Old Virgin at some stage this week and I think it was Wednesday night. I enjoyed it, it was silly and fun. We also started watching Orphan Black at some stage, which I am enjoying. And we really need to finish the series of Rick and Morty, which should really be getting a Hugo Award this time next year.

Thursday and Friday were much the same at work, but both involved barbecues afterwards. The Thursday saw a couple of my colleagues throw a barbecue leading into watching The Secret Life of Students, because the latest episode had my supervisor in it. España and I left before the communal watching so that we could watch it in bed, but it was fun to see the department and academics I know featured on the show. I’ve actually been rather enjoying the show generally, so it’s nice to keep up with it on the day it airs (especially given that it tends to get discussed at work). Friday, [livejournal.com profile] himedark decided to throw a barbecue, which was great fun. It was nice to hang out with Lianne, Liz, Hamish and Ian, and have España spend a bit more time with them. We ate way too much meat, which was also very fun!

Saturday, I went to the gym really early before España was properly awake, and we headed to Mrs Bridges Tearooms when she had gotten up so that we could get a spot of breakfast. I got some pork shoulder diced on the market for an experiment, and then we headed home to clean the flat. That evening was Chris’ birthday dinner at Buddies USA, so we got a lift with Liz and Hamish and met up with Alex, Lianne, Shannon, Andrew, Chris, Ash and Nicola at the restaurant. It was fun: España had a burger that came in two waffles instead of in a bun, with maple syrup. I had the Chewbacka, which is just bacon, cheese and mushrooms – also yummy. After the meal I headed back to Chris and Andrew’s to drink some prosecco, and then headed home to collapse into bed because knackered.

Sunday was a day on which my parents visited at 09:30 to drop some stuff off, so we got up stupid early. I made a banoffee pie and hung out with Chris, Andrew, Alex, and Lianne to play Eldritch Horror, which is jolly good fun. It’s similar to Arkham Horror in terms of the need to close gates and defeat monsters, but the actual lower-level mechanics are different enough that I think it’s worth playing both. I had a great time.

Finally on Sunday, I went to see Monty Python with my friend Josh. It was really great fun, but the introduction of a few new jokes in places didn’t work very well. Honestly the best bits were when they were corpsing or forgetting their lines on stage. John Cleese, particularly, seemed to be having difficulty with lines and whatnot. I was pleased to see Graham Chapman appear on the monitor quite prominently. All in all, a good evening (and about 3.5 hours long at the cinema, which was worth the money!).

Until next time, LiveJournalers!

johncoxon: ([Me] Renovation)
Hello everyone! As most of you will have noticed I stopped posting book updates on here; I've migrated to Goodreads (which is a pretty awesome website). If you want to keep up with me on Goodreads then feel free to do so, I've linked my account to Facebook so it should be easy to find me.

However, I wanted to list the books that I want to read in February (as much for my reference as anything else) so here goes.

Books I'm currently reading

Report on Probability A by Brian Aldiss*
World War Z by Max Brooks
The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton*

Books I want to read

Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell*†
Cyber Circus by Kim Lakin-Smith*
The Noise Within by Ian Whates*
Hothouse by Brian Aldiss*
Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds (possibly)*
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie†
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell‡

* Author appearing at the Space Fiction event being held at the National Space Centre in February.
† Reading for book club.
‡ UK film release on 22nd February.
johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

35) ‘Stealth’ by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I read this in the issue of Asimov’s that was in the Hugo Voter Packet and I must confess I would rather it have been on the ballot this year than a couple of the others that actually got nominated. It’s the tale of a woman called Rosealma aka Squishy, who starts the tale on a station; she quickly moves off the station again before it blows up. I liked this story because of how well the flashbacks were used – it’s not a novel concept but they were exactly where they needed to be to lend context to proceedings. I also liked the central idea and the hints at what might be happening.

The rest of this entry is cloaked )

I could probably try to write more about this but I’m tired and it’s late, unfortunately. Another time, perhaps.

johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)

35) ‘Stealth’ by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I read this in the issue of Asimov’s that was in the Hugo Voter Packet and I must confess I would rather it have been on the ballot this year than a couple of the others that actually got nominated. It’s the tale of a woman called Rosealma aka Squishy, who starts the tale on a station; she quickly moves off the station again before it blows up. I liked this story because of how well the flashbacks were used – it’s not a novel concept but they were exactly where they needed to be to lend context to proceedings. I also liked the central idea and the hints at what might be happening.

The rest of this entry is cloaked )

I could probably try to write more about this but I’m tired and it’s late, unfortunately. Another time, perhaps.

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)
If you were forced, at gunpoint, to submit your five novel nominations for the Hugo Awards now, which five novels would you pick?
johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)
If you were forced, at gunpoint, to submit your five novel nominations for the Hugo Awards now, which five novels would you pick?
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: (Default)

23) ‘The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary’ by Ken Liu

This is the first novella that I’ve read from this year’s Hugo selection and if the others are of as high a standard, then it’s going to be an extremely good year. I loved this story, from start to finish.

Details! )

johncoxon: (Default)

23) ‘The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary’ by Ken Liu

This is the first novella that I’ve read from this year’s Hugo selection and if the others are of as high a standard, then it’s going to be an extremely good year. I loved this story, from start to finish.

Details! )

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) 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)

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.

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