Monday, June 29, 2015

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1), by Kami Garcia (author), Margaret Stohl (author), Kevin Collins (narrator), Eve Bianco (narrator)

Hachette Audio, December 2009

Ethan Wate is sixteen years old, living in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina where his family has lived for centuries, and having a very tough year. His mom was killed in a car accident a few months ago, and his father, a writer and, like Ethan's mother, a former history professor, has retreated into his study and emerges only to eat and shower. If not for Amma, their housekeeper who has always been a second mother to him, Ethan would be alone.

He doesn't really fit in at school, either, with only his basketball skill giving this bookish, thoughtful kid a social toehold.

And lately, he's been having weird dreams about a beautiful girl he's never met.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form 2015 Hugo nominee

Captain America fights Hydra and confronts the deadly Hydra agent the Winter Soldier, who turns out to be [spoiler].

It is, mostly, an exciting movie. It's also very loud and very violent. "Very violent" is a thing that doesn't really work for me. While this is partly a moral thing, and partly an aesthetic thing, it's also to a significant degree a question of how much and what kind of overstimulation my nerves can take when I am not having a good day emotionally and go to the movies to distract myself.

But this is an exciting movie with lots of neat superhero stuff. I have to admit I did not really warm to Captain America, who seemed very contained and distant, but it is an exciting movie that gets the adrenaline pumping.

The level of violence was too high for me to fully enjoy the Neat Superhero Stuff, though.

Overall, not really my cup of tea.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Interstellar, screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form 2015 Hugo nominee

Interstellar is visually magnificent, exciting, thought-provoking, and a bit long.

It pains me to say that last bit. I wanted to love every second of it. In the end, I couldn't, though I did love most of it. Parts of it did just drag, and there's no way around that.

The basic story, especially its opening, is familiar. A near-future Earth is struggling against drought and famine, and nearly everything is being sacrificed to food production.  Former astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is now a struggling farmer with two children, daughter Murphy (played by Mackenzie Foy at age ten, Ellen Burstyn as an adult), and son Tom (played by Timothée Chalamet at age fifteen, and Casey Affleck as an adult. He's appalled by the shrunken prospects facing his children, though Tom, at least, doesn't seem to share his father's distaste for life as a farmer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson

Random House, ISBN 9781400063369, June 2015

John Chatterton and John Mattera had decades of experience as shipwreck divers when they formed a partnership to go hunting for sunken treasure galleons. They invested their money, bought their equipment, picked their target--and then got a call from Tracy Bowden, a quiet legend among shipwreck divers, now well past the age of serious diving himself.

He had a lead on something rarer and more wonderful than a treasure galleon: one of the great pirate ships of the Golden Age of piracy, the late seventeenth century. Bowdon thinks he knows where Joseph Bannister's Golden Fleece is sunk.

If they can find the Golden Fleece, it will be only the second authenticated shipwrecked pirate ship to be found--the only previous one being the Whydah, which sank off Cape Cod in 1717, and was found in 1984.

Strange Horizons, Niall Harrison, editor-in-chief

Strange Horizons is a 2015 Best Semiprozine Hugo nominee.

Strange Horizons publishes speculative fiction, poetry, reviews, interviews, and essays. It's possible, though not easy or obvious, to get to 2014 material. Unfortunately, I bounced off every piece of fiction I tried to read in it. That doesn't mean it's not necessarily excellent fiction; it means only that I bounced off it. My only further comment is that it doesn't have the visual attractiveness of some of the other nominees.

I don't feel able to have much of an opinion at all on this one.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant

Lightspeed Magazine is a 2015 Best Semiprozine Hugo nominee.

Lightspeed publishes a wide range of science fiction and fantasy fiction, as well as interviews, Q&As with their authors, and fiction podcasts. What I did not find is an archive allowing me to look at their 2014 issues, the relevant issues for this year's Hugos. The only thing I've been able to read that they published in 2014 is "The Day The World Turned Upside Down," by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translated by Lia Belt. I've already expressed my opinion on that one, and you can read it, if you wish, by clicking the link.

It's very well presented visually, but with the Heuvelt story being the only thing from 2014 that's available to read, I'm not prepared to rate it very high.

The Book of Speculation, by Erika Swyler

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250054807, June 2015

Simon Watson is a librarian in the town of Napawset, on Long Island. His house, inherited from his father, is crumbling around him, as is the land it stands on. His father, inexplicably, never did the basic things necessary to maintain it against the forces of erosion, and the problem is now unfixable on a librarian's income.

That's before Simon loses his job to budget cuts.

But in the midst of the crisis, he receives a book in the mail, from Martin Churchwarry, a dealer in old and rare books. The book apparently belonged to Simon's grandmother, or someone who knew her, and it's the log book of a traveling circus. This is where we get the first hints of the strange family history of Simon's late mother, Paulina. Paulina was a circus mermaid, able to hold her breath for impossibly long periods. Yet she died by drowning, a suicide. And so did her mother, and her grandmother...  As Simon uncovers more and more of his family's past, he becomes frightened for his younger sister, Enola, who is also a circus performer, although she's a fortune teller, not a mermaid.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews

This is a 2015 Best Semiprozine Hugo nominee.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is an online magazine of literary adventure fantasy. It's visually attractive, and it offers some impressive fantasy fiction. I was pleased to find an archive that allowed me to check out the 2014 issues, the relevant issues for this year's Hugos. An extra delight is that it offers audio fiction as well as print. This is an altogether fine magazine, and I'm very impressed.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine

Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine is a 2015 Hugo nominee for Best Semiprozine.

Visually, I found this a lot more appealing than Abyss & Apex, the only other nominated semiprozine I've looked at so far. On the other hand, I was not as impressed by the accessible fiction. Also, there seemed to be no means to access the relevant material, i.e, what was actually published during 2014.

I'm left feeling that I have no reasonable way to fairly assess this one.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Abyss & Apex: Hugo-Nominated Magazine of Speculative Fiction

Abyss & Apex is a 2015 Hugo nominee for Best Semiprozine.

It's a web-based zine publishing a mix of poetry and fiction. I was very pleased to see that they have organized and accessible archives that made it easy to look at their issues from 2014. i.e., the relevant ones for this year's Hugos. Overall, the quality looks high, and the presentation is good. My one objection is that the body text font doesn't seem to be completely consistent across the site, and for me, that makes it a smidge less reasonable. In total, though, I'm favorably impressed.