Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Championship B'Tok, by Edward M. Lerner

My latest adventure in reading this year's Hugo nominees.

Earth has well-developed in-system space travel, colonies on other planets, and an over-arching government for the system called the United Planets. They're also in contact with several out-solar alien species, even though Earth doesn't have an interstellar drive--at least not yet.

Some years previously, a clan of an alien species known as the Snakes came barrelling into Sol system in a starship stolen from another species, called the Centaurs. Their plan to repair their fading clan fortunes by conquering Sol system failed spectacularly, Earth forces captured the starship, and the Snakes have a contained and regulated colony on Uranus and its moons.

Earth is reverse-engineering the captured starship, and has nearly completed the construction of their own first starship, Discovery. The Snakes' access to certain kinds of technology is restricted, but of course they don't meekly accept that. They're evading as much as they can, and are working on their own starship.

The humans of course are spying on the Snakes. There are accidents the snakes suspect might be sabotage. There are accidents the human authorities have questions about.

Oh, and there are hints of a conspiracy manipulating all eleven known intelligent species, going back half a billion years. Of course. Why not?

Paragraph by paragraph, this story is decently written. Character development hovers in the vicinity of competent. The plot, unfortunately, wanders all over the place, and doesn't go anywhere really interesting. It's possible this is a piece of a larger whole, and I can easily conjecture a larger whole in which this piece would make more sense, and being doing some important work for the larger story. Sadly, that is in no way indicated, and it's nominated as a novelette.

Unlike some of this year's nominees, I don't resent reading it. However, no, sorry, this is not a Hugo-worthy story, and it has no place on the Hugo ballot.

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