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.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sucker Punch, by Eric S. Raymond

Published in Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House, December 2014

Eric S. Raymond is a 2015 nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

This is a perfectly competently written MilSF...vignette. It's not a story. It describes a couple of important and unfortunate advances in military weapons and tactics, and presents the resulting dilemma quite poignantly.

It also starts off with a good deal of weapons porn. That's off-putting for me; for its intended audience, it's very much wanted.

I'm left with the feeling that this one very short piece is not enough for me to assess Mr. Raymond as Best New Writer, but I haven't found anything else by him. I don't have much to say except that if this is the kind of story you like, you will like this story, and it might count as a point in favor of buying this collection.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Deaths of Tao (The Lives of Tao #2), by Wesley Chu

Angry Robot Books, ISBN 9780857663320, October 2013

Wesley Chu is a nominee for the 2015 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

I did not expect to like this book.


Invisible energy-being aliens that live as parasites inside human beings, and have been manipulating human history and evolution since at least Gigantopithecus. Two factions, one of which regards human beings simply as tools, and is happy to advance their plan of preserving themselves as a species and, maybe, getting home to Quasar, where they from millions of years ago, and the other which is friendly to humans and wants to advance their plans in ways helpful to both species.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Best Editor, Long Form -- 2015 Hugo Award Nominees

Theodore Beale (Vox Day): Mr. Beale has generously provided numerous opportunities to evaluate his work in the Hugo Voters packet. Most notably this includes the nominated works of John C. Wright, and the anthology Riding the Red Horse. And as I have observed elsewhere, Mr. Wright needs an editor, which he apparently doesn't have in Mr. Beale, and Riding the Red Horse contains infelicities and pointless inflammatory comments which don't serve the writers' purposes in the non-fiction pieces. The pieces in that anthology that are excellent would appear to be excellent on the authors' unaided merits. They were not, apparently, much assisted by the editors.

Sheila Gilbert: Ms. Gilbert is, with Betsy Wollheim, Publisher at DAW. Ms. Gilbert did provide both a list of edited works, and sample chapters. Her writers include Seanan McGuire, Julie Czerneda, and Jacey Bedford, and the sample chapters include both science fiction and fantasy. Within the limits of my ability to assess her work as an editor, I'm very impressed. There are also some new works added to my To Be Read list.

Jim Minz: Mr. Minz has many years' experience as an editor in science fiction and fantasy, has been with Baen since 2007, and has been executive editor there for the past year. With neither sample works nor a list of works edited included in the Hugo Voters packet, I'm left with no way to evaluate his work as an editor for 2014 except the fact that Baen publishes a few things I really like, and a lot of things I have no interest in at all. That hardly seems an adequate basis for evaluating anyone nominated for Best Editor, Long Form. It's all I have though, and I'm at a loss. [Note: No one owes the voters any free samples in the Hugo Voters packet. We should all be grateful for what we do get, and Baen very generously included the complete The Baen Big Book of Monsters, which contained one nominated story, in the packet. Unfortunately, it was edited by Hank Davis, who is not among the Baen editors nominated this year.]

Anne Sowards: Ms. Sowards does provide a substantial list of works she edited in 2014. She's been with Penguin since 2007, and has been Executive Editor there since 2009. Her edited works for 2014 include Skin Game, by Jim Butcher, one of this year's Best Novel nominees, as well as other familiar titles. Skin Game doesn't work for me, but that's largely related to it being book fifteen in an ongoing series that I don't read, and it's not good enough to really draw me in despite that. That's not even much of a criticism of Jim Butcher as a writer, much less of Ms. Sowards' editing of it. To the extent that I can assess her work, she's a good, effective editor, and her writers are likely very pleased to have her.

Toni Wiesskopf: Ms. Weisskopf is Publisher at Baen, and has been since the death of Jim Baen in 2006, prior to which she had been executive editor there for years. As with  Jim Minz, there are no sample works and no list of works she edited in 2014 to assist in assessing her work as an editor for the year. This leaves me in the same position: I know Baen under her leadership publishes a few things I really like, and a great deal I have no interest in at all, and that's very weak tea on which to evaluate her for Best Editor, Long Form for 2014. [Note: No one owes the voters any free samples in the Hugo Voters packet. We should all be grateful for what we do get, and Baen very generously included the complete The Baen Big Book of Monsters, which contained one nominated story, in the packet. Unfortunately, it was edited by Hank Davis, who is not among the Baen editors nominated this year.]

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Stars Came Back, by Rolf Nelson

Castalia House, January 2014

Rolf Nelson is a 2015 nominee for the John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award.

It's a movie script that "morphed into a novel." Except no, it didn't. So it has none of the sights, sounds, and actors that make a move or tv show work, and none of the narrative features that make novels work. Here's the script; you the reader do all the work.

Helton Strom has failed at most things he's tried; the script opens with him managing to crash a flight simulator while doing a crash simulation program. Crashes it in the sense of doing serious damage to it. How? Who knows?

Murder World: Kaiju Dawn, by Jason Cordova and Eric S. Brown

Severed Press, May 2014

Jason Cordova is a nominee for the 2015 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

The shady captain of a merchant starship accepts a job from a secretive government agency, retrieving the database of a spy ship that crashed on Gorgon IV, a.k.a. Murder World. It's apparently not the first time Vincente Huerta has accepted dubious jobs from dubious clients or from the military before, and he'd probably be better off financially if he didn't drink a good deal of the profits. He also has at least one ex-wife he owes a substantial amount of money to. It's his saving grace that he has Jasmine, his pilot and a thoroughly kickass woman with no apparent reason to put up with him. She could surely get a better job!

After an encounter with the ex-wife to hire mercenaries, and another stop to buy fuel from a stoner gang called the Wild Ones (no, really, their security is so good their guy on watch is smoking a reefer on duty, but it's okay because they are all badass fighters like Jasmine), the Fancy zips off to Gorgon IV.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hill 142, by Jason Cordova

Jason Cordova is a 2015 nominee for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best New Writer.

This is a single, small battle of World War One, with the Germans equipped with giant, venomous spiders as cavalry mounts, and the Americans equipped with giant (2000-pound) lion as mounts. There's no explanation of why or how, other than a reference to a breeding program for the lions in Texas, There's also no indication of how this affects the war, other than sending the surviving soldiers home with more fantastical stories to tell.

So what's the point? I have no idea.

Not recommended.

Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth, by John C. Wright

Castalia House, May 2014

John C.Wright needs an editor.

With a bit more restraint, his prose could be lyrical--the opposite of the transparent prose the Puppies say they're looking for, and certainly not to everyone's taste, but offering its own kind of enjoyment. Without that restraint, alas, it too often becomes word salad, and at best is tiring and annoying.

Underneath all that excessively ornate prose, what he's saying in this collection of essays is no more attractive. Mr. Wright claims to be a devout Roman Catholic, yet what he is preaching in these essays bears little to no resemblance to anything I was taught in CCD, or have heard preached from the pulpit. He finds science to mostly be a source of spiritual misdirection as it leads us to reject magic and miracles... Sorry, but the priests and nuns who taught me the faith he claims to embrace thought scientific research and the study of science helped to illuminate the glory of God's Creation. That it made the world, in the sense Mr. Wright seems to mean, more magical, not less so.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Flight of the Kikayon, by Kary English

originally appeared in the Grantville Gazette in July of 2013

Kary English is a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

This story is a rare treat in the 2015 Hugo Voters packet.

Lydia is the wife of the man who perfected clones as backup/substitute mothers for wealthy women too busy to care for their own children, who don't want to be seen to be leaving their children to the care of servants. Since they are vat-grown clones of the women themselves, the substitution isn't obvious. Since Lydia's husband Donnie got the clones ruled non-people, and neural implants keep them bonded to and under the control of their originals, there are no worker complaints. The clones are physically identical, but deferential and obedient.

And this did not go where I expected it to go. Lydia, Donnie, Cara (the clone), and their situation all prove to be far more interesting than I expected. I'll be looking for more by Kary English in the future.


Fledgling (Theo Waitley #1) (LiadenUniverse #12), by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author), Eileen Stevens (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, September 2012 (original publication September 2009)

This is a palate cleanser for all the Hugo reading I've been doing lately.

Theo Waitley is the adolescent daughter of Kamele Waitley, a professor at Delgado University. All her life, they've lived in the home of the man she calls Father, Professor Jen Sar Kiladi, her mother's onagrata. Suddenly Kamele moves herself and Theo back to The Wall, where most of the university faculty and staff live, and Theo's life changes dramatically, and not in ways she likes. It gets worse when her mother announces that she's making a trip offworld to investigate an academic scandal--and she's taking Theo with her.

Theo would much prefer to return to Professor Kiladi's home for the duration.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Departure Gate 34B, by Kary English

originally appeared in Daily Science Fiction on August 18, 2015

Kary English is a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

This is a gentle, melancholy story about a ghost who doesn't know they're now a ghost, and the surviving spouse who still loves, but is ready to move on. Enjoyable, even if not a stand-out.

Riding the Red Horse, by Tom Kratman (editor), Vox Day [Theodore Beale] (editor)

Castalia House, December 2014

Theodore Beale (Vox Day) is nominated for Best Editor, Long Form, and also Best Editor, Short Form.

This collection is included in the Hugo Voters packet in support of Theodore Beale's nomination for Best Editor, Short Form.

Unfortunately, it's a very uneven collection. It includes the very good The Hot Equations, by Ken Burnside, and the very disappointing Turncoat by Steve Rzasa. There is, early on, a casual endorsement of the probable "necessity" of genocide on the grounds that Those People aren't smart enough to modify their behavior. A point Beale's fans will have difficulty with is that such inflammatory language makes it less likely that readers will take in the point the author was attempting to make. A better editor would have caught it and told the author to dispense with pointless provocation and just make his point.

If this is the best evidence Beale has to offer, he has no place on the ballot.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF, by Ken Burnside

Best Related Work Hugo nominee, published in Riding the Red Horse, edited by Tom Kratman and Theodore Beale (Vox Day), December 2014

This is easily the best of the Best Related Works Hugo nominees. Burnside lays out what thermodynamics really mean for military actions and combat in space, at least if you are writing "hard" sf, intended to be based in scientific reality. That's not the only "right" kind of sf to write, but it's great when it's well done--and sad and frustrating when it's done badly. It's one thing to break the rules intentionally; another thing entirely to break them because you don't know you're doing it. As with any other rules, if you're going to break them, you should know you're doing it, and how, and why.


Letters From Gardner: A Writer's Odyssey, by Lou Antonelli

Merry Blacksmith Press, ISBN 9780692299425, September 2014

A Best Related Work Hugo nominee.

This is a combination short story collection, memoir, "how to get started in fiction writing," and correspondence with editor Gardner Dozois. Since it's about Antonelli's development as a writer,many of the stories, and all the early ones in the collection, are his earliest stories, the ones that got turned down by real publications and were published, if at all, in webzines that weren't going to be long for the world.

In short, it's a collection consisting substantially of work he knows is, to varying degrees, not up to professional standards. When I got to the story he himself describes, in his introduction to it, as "my first major mis-fire." I did not find this encouraging. I did resist the temptation to throw my Nook against the wall; one downside of ebooks.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Skin Game (The Dresden Files #15), by Jim Butcher

Roc, ISBN 9780451464392, May 2014

Harry Dresden is a detective, a former cop, a Wizard of the White Council, and Winter Knight to Mab, The Queen of Air and Darkness.

And this is his fifteenth adventure, leaving the reader coming in cold working to figure out a great deal of backstory.

Harry's immediate problem is that he has a magical parasite in his head that is causing terrible headaches and will eventually kill him. There's a limited number of people who can help him, and they're not responding to his messages. Then Mab shows up at his Demonreach lair, with such a deal. She's got a temporary fix for Harry's problem, to allow him to function away from Demonreach so that he can do a little job for her--or rather, for Nicodemus, whom she owes a favor to. If he completes the job successfully and returns alive, then she'll deal permanently with his parasite problem.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Best Professional Artist Hugo Nominees

Once again, visual arts are not an area where anyone should be looking to me for insightful commentary.

Carter Reid: No. Sorry, no.  I feel no hesitation in saying that Reid's art is just not very good.

Nick Greenwood: I'm sorry, no, these just do not work for me. No one should take this as a criticism of their taste; in this area, I have none.

Alan Pollack: Very nice work, but they don't move me much beyond "very nice."

Julie Dillon: Very lovely work, that I'd like to see more of.

Kirk DouPonce: This is also lovely work, that I'm pretty sure would make me reach for the book. That's one of the main purposes of commercial art, right? But not the only purpose of professional science fiction and fantasy art. I'll have to give serious thought to the choice between DouPonce and Dillon.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Why Science is Never Settled, by Tedd Roberts (Part One) (Part Two)

This essay is quite decently written, and very effectively covers the ground of why science is a process, not a result, and truly never finally settled. Sadly, while never going at the subject head-on, it's laced through with excuses for climate science denialism.

Science is never settled, but we're reasonably sure gravity doesn't make things fall up, and that we really can't breathe in a vacuum. And while geocentrism and the humors theory of medicine were once "settled science," the same is not true of global cooling speculation in the 1970s. We now have a great weight of evidence in favor of climate change in the direction of warming of the planet, not cooling. Nor has global cooling made a comeback in th 2010s, as Roberts asserts. The ice caps are melting, the permafrost is thawing, and the sea level is rising. There's always the possibility we may have the explanation wrong, and it's always possible that things will change. The fact remains that as of right now, we have abundant evidence that the planet is warming at an alarming rate which may soon become truly dangerous. It's sad that this essay that so effectively explains how science works and the factors that can both create and perpetuate error, then embraces a currently popular error, the belief that because it's politically convenient, current climate science data, reasoning, and conclusions can be ignored.

I really wanted to like this one. So much of it is solid.

Not recommended.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Wisdom From My Internet, by Michael Z Williamson

Patriarchy Press, December 2014

This is a Best Related Work Hugo nominee.

It's a collection of tweets from Williamson's Twitter feed. It's decently written, if you consider it as a collection of tweets.

It's not witty, informative, or in any way entertaining. Fatally for a Best Related Work Hugo nominee, it's not sf-related. The tone of it can pretty fairly be deduced from the fact of it's publisher: Patriarchy Press.

Do I have to say it? Not recommended.

Best Fan Artist--Brad W. Foster, Elizabeth Leggett, Ninni Aalto, Spring Schoenhuth, Steve Stiles

Now I venture into a category where I would not ordinarily post anything even vaguely resembling a review. In the visual arts, I don't feel qualified to do much more than say what I do and don't like. That said...

Looking at the samples in the Hugo Voters' Packet.

Spring Shoenhuth: I see two lovely selections of jewelry, and an image to which my initial reaction was "What the heck?" On further examination, the "What the heck?" image was produced for Loncon 3, for the Retro Hugos, and I think I'd like it much better at its original size. And of the three, it's the one that best fits my perhaps limited ideas of "fan art."

Ninni Aalto: Two fantastical caricatures that are definitely "fan art." They look to be quite skilled, and, for me, sadly, they just don't do it. I expect the reaction to that statement, from many, will be variations of "Why NOT?" No defensible reason; they just don't.

Elizabeth Leggett: Three truly lovely images. I just don't see what makes them "fan art," specifically, though.

Brad W. Foster: Three images, unambiguously fan art, and I like them.

Steve Stiles: Three images, unambiguously fan art. And I love them. I just really have fun looking at them. They make me smile.

And there you have it. Remember, in this category, I didn't promise anything more informative than my own personal, not-visual-arts-educated, entirely subjective opinion.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alis, Alex, and Tansy

Another Best Fancast Hugo nominee.

Speculative fiction, publishing news, and chat. This podcast comes to us from Australia, and as far as I can find, they do not reveal their last names anywhere on their website. That's a shame, because these are very engaging people, and they mention up coming book launches. (Feel free to enlighten me in comments. Please!)

The episode I listened to was recorded shortly before last year's Worldcon, Loncon 3, in London. It's "just" chat about the upcoming Worldcon, their recent activities, and upcoming books, crowdfunding, the death of blogging, etc. Superficially, that doesn't sound like much, but it's like a congenial and interesting conversation in the consuite at your favorite convention. Definitely, give this one a try.


Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2), by Ann Leckie (author), Adjoa Andoh (narrator)

Hachette Audio, October 2014

This is the second book in the trilogy begun in last year's Best Novel Hugo winner, Ancillary Justice. Breq, having survived the confrontation between the two parts of Anaander Mianaai, is now in command of Mercy of Kalr, and off to contain another part of the spreading crisis at Athoek. While there, she hopes to also protect and offer some sort of compensation to the sister of her much-loved Lt. Awn, whom she was forced to kill.

At Athoek, she finds an already tricky political situation exacerbated by the closer of the gates and the news that there are at least two perfectly legitimate "Lords of the Radch" now in open conflict with each other. It takes longer to discover that underneath the existing and new political conflicts, and ordinary class conflict and exploitation, there's a truly horrifying corruption hidden here.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Dungeon Crawlers Radio

Another Best Fancast Hugo nominee.

This is also an interview podcast, in this case focused on gaming and related subjects. As such, it doesn't really speak much to me, as this is not an area of interest for me. However, it is fairly cleanly and professionally produced, even managing an effective interview presentation in the midst of the chaos of Salt Lake Comic Con. I would expect this to be at least very interesting for viewers more into gaming. The knowledge of the interviewers I can't seriously assess, but they at least seemed knowledgeable and reasonable to me.

If gaming is your thing, you should at least give this a try, if you haven't seen it yet.

The Three Body Problem, by Cixin Liu (author), Ken Liu (translator)

Tor Books, ISBN 9780765377067, November 2014 (original publication in Chinese, January 2008)

The Best Novel category is going to be a tough decision this year.

I loved The Goblin Emperor  I'm currently enjoying the Ancillary Sword audiobook. And now I've just finished this amazing novel by Cixin Liu.

The story opens in China during the Cultural Revolution, with the brutal deaths, first, of a teenage radical in a conflict between different factions of the People's Liberation Army, and next, of "counterrevolutionary" university professor, while his older daughter watches, and his wife is forced to testify against him.

The daughter, Ye Wenjie, survives the Cultural Revolution, not unscathed, but she lands a somewhat precarious position on a secret project where her work as an astrophysicist is valuable. It's not an easy time for her, but she's doing useful work. We don't find out till later just how secret the work of the Red Coast Base is.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Tea and Jeopardy, Emma Newton (presenter, writer), Peter Newman (presenter, writer)

Another Best Fancast Hugo nominee.

Another sf-focused interview podcast. Emma Newman hosts, with Peter Newman playing Latimer, her butler. In the sample episode included in the Hugo Voters packet, some people may find the introductory segment a bit longer than necessary, and sadly lacking in any hint of what type of program this is, but it is charming. In this episode, she interviews Ramez Naam, one of last year's Campbell Award nominees, about his fiction, movies, and the portrayal of science and scientists in both print and media fiction. It's friendly, intelligent, interesting, and engaging. I really enjoyed this, I think more than any of the others so far.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Sci Phi Show, presented by Jason Rennie

One of the Best Fancast Hugo nominees.

The Sci Phi Show discusses major philosophers and schools of philosophy illuminated in science fiction, fairly broadly defined. In the sample episode, it's Nietzsche and the movie The Dark Knight. It's an intelligent, thoughtful discussion, with good production values, accompanied by odd, distracting sound effects. There's also opening and closing theme music that tries hard to give me a headache.

There has to be an audience for this. A niche audience, but no less worth serving for not being a mass audience. But how many of them will, like me, be reaching for the aspirin due to the theme music?

Very mixed feeling about this one.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Adventures in SciFi Publishing -- Best Fancast Hugo Nominee

This is the first of the Hugo-nominated fancasts that I've listened to. Briefly -- it's good.

Longer version: Adventures in SciFi Publishing features long-form interviews with figures of interest in science fiction and fantasy publishing. Shaun Farrell is a lively and interesting interviewer. In the sample included in the Hugo packet, he interviews Jennifer Marie Brissett, author of Elysium, her first novel. Farrell doesn't sound like a polished, professional broadcast interviewer; on the contrary. He didn't fake-read the book; he asked intelligent and insightful questions that got at the distinctive features of the book, while carefully avoiding spoilers. He also drew out Brissett on the writing process, why she took certain approaches, and her experience running a bookstore that she started at what turned out to be the start of the Great Recession.

Farrell sounded like he really enjoyed the book, and he made me want to read it. This book that I missed entirely last year is now on my TBR list.

Finding new things--both this fancast, and this particular book--is one of the benefits of paying more active attention to the Hugos again.

Black Dog Summer, by Miranda Sherry

Atria Books, ISBN 9781476779027, February 2015 (original publication July 2014)

Sally is killed in a farmstead massacre in the South African bush, and watches from the afterlife as her daughter Gigi and her extended family cope with the shocking events and the aftermath.

As shocking as the opening event is, this is mostly a gentle and moving story, as Gigi, Sally's sister Adele, Adele's husband Liam--whom Sally had also loved--and their children Tyler and Bryony, work through the aftermath. And Sally isn't gone; she finds herself bound to the world and her family, unable to move on until she deals with something that must be done first.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Lynda E. Rucker, Pete Young, Colin Harris, and Helen J.Montgomery

One of the 2015 Best Fanzine Hugo nominees.

Journey Planet is visually attractive, filled with interesting and thoughtful articles, well-written, and well-edited. I'm totally impressed. Go read it. Highly recommended.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Tangent SF Online, edited by Dave Truesdale

One of the 2015 Best Fanzine nominees. This is a review zine, focused on reviewing science fiction and fantasy short fiction. I did not find that its style or judgments engaged me at all. However, that said, it's perfectly competent and professional, and for those who connect better with the tone and approach of Tangent Online, this is a valuable service.

The Dark Between the Stars (Saga of the Shadows #1), by Kevin J. Anderson (author), Mark Boyett (narrator)

Audible Audio, June 2014

So, this is book one of a series--a good place to start, right?

Except that this series is a successor to a previous series, The Saga of the Seven Suns. Of the many characters in this long book, most seem to have an extensive history from the prior series. This is probably a fine thing for those who read the previous series. For those of us who didn't, we don't get the benefit of that character development.

And there are a great many characters, nor do we spend much time with any of them. We're constantly jumping between characters and plotlines that don't necessarily have much apparent connection. Characterization is limited and rather cardboard, and common sense doesn't seem to play a large role in anyone's decision-making process. For instance, a character goes to great lengths to collect "royal jelly" from the decades-dead corpses of an insect species, for medical research. There's no apparent concern, or even apparent awareness, about the effects of biological decay on the usefulness of the jelly for research.