Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Extracurricular Activites, by Yoon Ha Lee

Extracurricular Activities (The Machineries of Empire)Extracurricular Activities by Yoon Ha Lee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This prequel centers around Shuos Jedao when he was alive, early in his career. It's a lot more madcap than I remember the novel to have been, and much more action-oriented. There's a lot of fun in here, but I still found it very disjointed and hard to read in places. Somebody else mentioned the hair thin--yes, it's frustrating not to know what was up with that. I have not read The Raven Stratagem yet, but plan to, hopefully it gets more coherent as the series goes along.



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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Clearly Lettered In a Mostly Stable Hand, by Fran Wilde

Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady HandClearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand by Fran Wilde

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I just finished this story, and read all the reviews below to see if there was something I missed. If so, the rest of us did too. If there isn't some kind of a reveal that any of us can figure out, then it's just a series of disturbing little vignettes. Fran Wilde is a better writer than that, at least in her novels, so I'm willing to give more of the benefit of the doubt once I find out what all this is a metaphor for, but so far it eludes me.



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Carnival Nine, by Caroline Yoachim

Carnival NineCarnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Clockwork universes are a great plot device, as they simplify the workings of that universe so that they can be exposed. Yoachim's clockwork dolls have a very simple economy based around carnivals that proceed along the tracks. They have no doubt who their Maker is, as that Maker winds their mainsprings every day. Otherwise, it's a story of our lives, translated into this clockwork universe. So it's 100% predictable, but suspense is not the point. We get a new perspective on what it means to care.

Thing is, it's a nice story and well written, but for me not super engaging. I do think it has a decent shot at an award.



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Friday, May 18, 2018

Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience, by Rebecca Roanhorse

Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceWelcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience by Rebecca Roanhorse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


So we have a story by an authentic Native American, about a character who is an authentic Native American, but has a job as a VR immersive experience lead doing a kind of "therapy" as an "Indian". This story works better if you've read more about the experiences of Native Americans and people of color outside of the story, and can identify with it in that way. There's a lot of potential depth and ideas to explore about "passing", and what Native Americans have to do to get by in a White world. (view spoiler) Subtle and wry. I wish Roanhorse well in her writing career.



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Fandom for Robots, by Vina Jie-Min Prasad

Fandom for RobotsFandom for Robots by Vina Jie-Min Prasad

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I liked the story. I'm just not sure I'd even call it speculative. Maybe alternate history, since it involves a one-off sentient robot from 1954. IRL, bots produce somewhat above average fan fiction, and have been for several years. Basically Computron is a self-training AI--it consumes a data set and then starts producing answers, which are refined by a trainer. It's 2018, we have those now.



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All Systems Red, by Martha Wells

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was a fun read, not really a jaw dropper but nice as a setup in a series. Our protagonist is a SecUnit, a cyborg construct intended to provide security for an exploration crew. It hacks itself to have free will, and when we pick up it has humanized itself by watching 35,000 hours of entertainment vids. So it does not think of itself as human, and maintains a distance that reminds me a bit of autism. But it definitely has feelings, opinions about the entertainment it watches, etc.

The plot is pretty standard and a bit thin--really all of it is, though it has potential. There are three more books in the series, so some who read this will know where it goes--but I'd be interested in how these Units are made (it reminds me strongly of Robocop, like there's an ex-person in there). Right now the plot isn't engaging enough for me to want to read more. Really, it's a YA novelette, and readers down to 11-12 would enjoy it.

In my estimation this is about a 3.6, rounding up.



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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Passing Strange, by Ellen Klages

Passing StrangePassing Strange by Ellen Klages

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is nominated for a Nebula, but the SF element is barely there at all. One of the characters uses it to make an appointment on time. What it really is, is lesbian erotic fiction/romance. And for that, it's pretty good. But short--I wouldn't say we had time to get to know the characters. The plot elements around Haskell's lurid pre-code horror magazine cover art are interesting, it's easy to believe the character in that space. Overall I enjoyed it, though it's not really my thing.



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