Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Sudden Appearance of Hope, by Claire North

My Goodreads review -The Sudden Appearance of HopeThe Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first experience with Claire North, and I'll look forward to reading more. The book has a logical clarity that really works well with the literary experience. North has come up with an excellent form of invisibility, in that having people forget they have seen you is just as good as not being seen in the first place.

The story is really just a vehicle for this exploration. How Hope Arden gets by in life ties into really overly efficient self-help software, but even though the author makes it clear that Hope is really invested in the outcome, the story line and the exploration end up sitting side by side rather than integrating. The book is all told in the first person, and we really get a sense of the voice of someone who can talk with others, interact with them, but never be real to them.

We even get some interesting exploration of the boundaries of the phenomenon. Can you remember that you have interacted with someone you can't remember? Not easily, you have to make a lot of notes and in some way doubt your own sanity.

The book is well-written and a deep exploration. I would recommend it to anyone really trying to get into the gears of building speculation, because they are somewhat exposed here, in a good and artful way.

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I think it's a real contender for the 2017 World Fantasy Award.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Story of Kao Yu, by Peter S. Beagle.

My LibraryThing review.

Foxfire, Foxfire, by Yoon Ha Lee

My review on LibraryThing.

Red as Blood and White as Bone, by Theodora Goss

Here's my review on LibraryThing.

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2)A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky  Chambers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a thoroughly entertaining book that shows Chambers' skills well. We have two parallel narratives, one with Lovelace the embodied AI living with Pepper in current time, and a flashback to Pepper's origins. The stories weave together well and keep things fresh. It's an excellent followup to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. Have fun with a classic SF piece

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky  Chambers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like to read the major award nominated novels each year. Chalmers' A Closed and Common Orbit was nominated for the Hugo award this year, and now that they've gotten their act mostly back together I take them seriously again. So I wanted to catch the series up.

I would describe the Wayfarer's setting as an alternate, less heroic version of the Star Trek universe. The GC (Galactic Congress?) is the equivalent of the Federation, a group of spacefaring races that took in a faction of the human race that left Earth when it collapsed environmentally. The alien species are closely related, most having some kind of symmetric body plan, a central nervous system including a brain, and DNA. Interspecies sex is just as common but brought up to date.

The author shares a reflection of Roddenberry's vision of Federation goals--an inclusive grouping dedicated to helping all, but prone to mendacity in the details. That mendacity drives the plot, as the GC prepares to take in a new, perhaps not very stable, race.

The protagonist is Rosemary, a woman from a different (wealthy, escapist) faction of the human race that was found later. She is fleeing her past. She joins the ensemble cast of the Wayfarer on their part in working with this new race.

The strength of the book is in its deft, solidly competent weaving together of the stories of the crew and the current situation. The characters are easy to care about. Chalmers makes a solid case for Federation (er, GC) values through characters' actions, so it's only mildly preachy. And the writing carries you along, you're never bored waiting for something to happen.

Original? Not so much, but that's pretty hard to achieve now. This is darned good storytelling, and I'm excited to move to the next book in the series.

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That Game We Played During the War, by Carrie Vaughn

That Game We Played During the WarThat Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the last story I read of this year's Hugo nominees. The setting is a peace in a long-running conflict between two countries, one where the people are telepaths, one not. The protagonists were involved in the war, one as a combatant and one as nurse. The story is told from the nurse's point of view.

The premise is a little shaky, and I don't know how a race of people could be telepaths and otherwise be pretty much normal people. But Vaughn does a good job of selling that notion through the story, and describing what such people would be like from the perspective of someone who isn't one. That would be the main reason the story deserves a good rating. Overall it was fun to read, but my favorite in the group is Seasons of Glass and Iron. It won the Nebula and will likely take the Hugo too.

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