Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Human Stain, by Kelly Robson

A Human StainA Human Stain by Kelly Robson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this because it is nominated for a Nebula. But horror is not so much my thing. It's appropriately ghastly and weird. There's a very nicely executed turning point. Ew Gross! A good one for horror.

View all my reviews

Original Source

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi

The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1)The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, let me say this...I liked the book. I did not love the book. The only other novel-length Scalzi title I have read is Redshirts, which I absolutely loved. This one is witty, as all Scalzi stories are, but it's a setup for a longer series and it started to feel forced. It definitely was forced, at the end. The acknowledgements explain this--he was late with the book, totally distracted by election politics. If he wants to write any more he's going to have to seal himself in a media-proof room. This is an OK novel that can be forgiven, and it's even making some long lists for awards, but I don't think his fans will let him get by with this again.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Old Dispensation, by Lavie Tidhar

The Old DispensationThe Old Dispensation by Lavie Tidhar

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this story Tidhar posits a universe that becomes a new home for Jews. It is, however, also populated by beings, including monstrous ones, that threaten them. To counter these threats they have created their own modified beings, even though this appears to go against some tenants of the faith. Thus the dispensation.

I didn't think much of this story at all until, like others here, I read the comments at the end. They are a fascinating discussion of the Jewish nature of the story. Unless you're familiar with Jewish culture you will need a lot of reference material, and then your impression will depend very much on your sources. As a story it's just OK, but set in context it's very thought provoking and interesting.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 4, 2018

New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson

New York 2140New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has a solid near-future premise. Robinson is ultimately an optimist (more on that later) and comes to this book to portray New York City as the very special place that it (believes it) is, having made a very difficult adjustment to a 50-foot sea level rise. This is happening all around the world but the story consciously sticks to NYC.

Some reviewers have problems with the characterizations but I really didn't. They are not as strong as some KSR books but I found their voices recognizable and reasonable (except maybe for Amelia Black, the ditzy animal activist cloud star. KSR does not have a way to get into the head of this kind of person).

Mostly this book seems to do what so many other SF novels do--set their time at some relatively far future, but project technology and social ideas only a short way ahead. Example: Franklin Garr, one of the main characters, is a high-finance trader. As we speak this job is being automated out of existence. The future already belongs more to the quants than this book says it will 120 years from now.

This really should be New York 2040. Sea level rise might not be 50 feet, but it doesn't need to be to create the disruption described in the book, and the rest of it is not really a stretch for the present day. It never develops real strength in speculation beyond climate, and sort of breaks down into utopianism as it goes along. It starts to ask for people not to behave like people. We like to think this has happened before (say, with the US "founding fathers") but they were much more complex and flawed characters than our heroes here.

In 2312 Robinson avoided that short-range thinking I mention above. His society had truly progressed. This novel is pretty much today, only warmer. His predictions about our future may come true (one can hope), but if they do it's going to be a lot sooner than depicted here.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 19, 2018

And Then There were (N-One), by Sarah Pinsker

And Then There Were (N-One)And Then There Were by Sarah Pinsker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story is the most clever take I've seen yet using the encountering-yourself-on-multiple-timelines/universes trope. It is an incredible piece of autobiography--she explores multiple versions of herself meeting herself--at a SarahCon! Too good.

The story itself is personal and gets appropriately meta, but never really weird--it's pretty apparent Sarah Pinsker imagines herself as an acutely normal person. But maybe not, the boundaries of differentiation of Sarah Pinskers is actually explained in the story. It's fascinatingly self-complete. I don't give out five stars very often, this is only the third time, but if this story isn't on multiple award ballots then the awards are messed up.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 16, 2018

Probably Still the Chosen One, by Kelly Barnhill

Probably Still the Chosen OneProbably Still the Chosen One by Kelly Barnhill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was really quite a lot of fun to read. Barnhill manages to swing back and forth between this being a true alternate reality and something just in the protagonist Corinna's imagination. There's something very mature about the way the story unfolds. At first, as an eleven year old, she's thrilled at the attention and being special. As the story proceeds she becomes wiser and examines events critically. The image at the end of her with her four children, scuttling through the tunnel under the sink, is just precious. Am absolutely glad I read it.

View all my reviews

The Massacre of Mankind, by Stephen F. Baxter

The Massacre of MankindThe Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read the original a long time ago, but it wasn't one of my first SF reads. I was at a point where I could take into account the time and style in which it was written. Baxter replicates that style pretty effectively, from a different point of view, so in that sense the book is successful.

It's also a reasonably interesting read. I was encouraged to persevere to the end. But I have to say it didn't really grab me. I could put it down at any point. Others have mentioned the basically unlikable nature of the protagonist--she was drawn as a good and honorable person with a pretty strong sense of judgment. She is very hard on the original narrator, Walter Jenkins, mostly for the crime of being a limited human, though he did make use of his fame to influence events and opened himself to it. All very subtle stuff.

The book is very thoroughly researched and seems to be internally consistent. Baxter really does capture Wells' style very effectively, so perhaps the best I can say is that it doesn't age so well. I'm glad I read it but the rating is the best I can do.

View all my reviews