Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Overtime, by Charles Stross

Charles Stross has a Hugo-award novelette nominee to accompany his novella nominated Palimpsest. This one is called Overtime, one of a series of stories about the Library. The Library appears to be an ordinary sort of run-down British government bureaucracy, except that it deals with the supernatural. And it is dealing with the first of an expected onslaught of Things That Go Bump In the Night brought about by belief. The story is quite funny, a good read. If you like this you'll probably like Jasper Fforde's work.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It Takes Two, by Nicola Griffith

Just finished another Hugo contender, It Takes Two by Nicola Griffith. This story mostly centers around the lead character and how she falls in love with an exotic dancer in Atlanta. The lesbian angle makes it very 21st century. And it is quite well crafted, a good read. The science part, about how an experimenter managed to induce that love, reads like something that would very much be possible today, for an unethical researcher. Pretty interesting, but it feels slightly gimmicky to me and I can't give it 3 stars.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

One Of Our Bastards Is Missing, by Paul Cornell

Latest read in the Award series, this time the Hugo, is One Of Our Bastards Is Missing, by Paul Cornell. This story is the second in Cornell's John Hamilton series. The interesting thing for me was how it built. Even though it's part of a series, it stands alone well. You start off thinking it's just an alternate Elizabethan Europe story. Then the advanced technological elements get introduced, one by one. By the end, it's a very speculative story. And a good one. This particular ground is very well-trod, most major authors seem to have tried their hand at it. But this one is decent, worth 3 stars.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Palimpsest, by Charles Stross

Have just finished another Hugo-nominated novella, Palimpsest by Charles Stross. This is a very intricately woven time travel story, and very well told, probably the strongest of the lot I've read so far. The time entanglements in the story make it clear what a pain time travel would be if it were possible--times become more like places, infinitely accessible and mutable. There is a sense of time outside of time--the sense of bodily decay, I'm guessing. Some have speculated that that is in fact what time is, the sense of entropy. There's no rules in physics that say time has to run one way.

There is also a novel named Palimpsest that is nominated for a Hugo. It's a fun word to say--palimpsest, palimpsest, palimpsest. I expect to see it in a Zippy cartoon sometime.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bridesicle, by Will McIntosh

Death, and what it would be like to come back, is a dominant theme in speculative fiction. Bridesicle, by Will McIntosh, explores this territory by looking at one of the crasser motivations for reviving frozen and stored people. No afterlife here--the dead are simply gone until they revive, in this case as part of a dating service. The protagonist is a woman who died in an auto accident, but had a contract to be frozen and preserved. She is interviewed by a succession of men looking for a mate. This is a sufficiently weird twist to give originality to this kind of story, which is no mean feat. And it is reasonably well told so I will give it 3 stars

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Going Deep, by James Patrick Kelly

Today I'll begin with James Patrick Kelly's Going Deep. It's pretty much a straightforward coming of age story, well written and paced as his work usually is. Mariska has a good life, but it is very predetermined, from her profession to her partner. She is happy in many ways because it's done so precisely, but it still chafes her. In the end, her only escape is to "go deep". Good stuff, but there's a lot like this out there so in the end I can't give it more than 2 stars.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Non-Zero Probabilities, by N. K. Jemisin

Continuing my reading of this year's Nebula Award nominees with Non-Zero Probabilities, by N. K. Jemisin. The hook on this one is that our good luck wards and gestures actually do something. Probability goes weird in New York, and unless you keep up on your luck the rare bad events will catch up to you. Seems kind of interesting, in that you would gain some control over otherwise uncontrollable events. And that's what some in the story think. It's reasonably well executed.

As a side note, it is interesting to see how many of the shorter fiction nominees are coming from online publications now--nearly all of them. The short form lives on in SF, in the advertising/sponsorware support model.

Bonus: Spar, by Kij Johnson

Given that an alien rescue could be most anything, I suppose it could be an endless fuck. So the story goes. Sort of interesting as a nightmare story, but hard to view it as a Nebula award nominee. Hard up, I guess. 2 stars.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela, by Saladin Ahmed

My latest read has been Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela, by Saladin Ahmed. This is a reasonably well-written story about a court physician who finds a hermit consorting with a hideous ghoul. The protagonist is a favorite of the caliph, but having unwisely resisted the caliph's wishes regarding his girlfriend, he must spend a little time among the country rubes reflecting on his behavior. He ends up performing surgery on a local hermit at the behest of his ghoul wife. The story is well written, but aside from the middle eastern setting it is not real different in any way. I give it 2 stars.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Memory of Wind, by Rachel Swirsky

Moving along through this year's Nebula Award nominees, tonight's review is of A Memory of Wind, by Rachel Swirsky. In this story we get Iphigenia's point of view on the Siege of Troy. All we know about her from Homer is that she was sacrificed to Artemis in exchange for a wind to blow the Greek army to Troy. The story is told in a haunting fashion, but it's kind of self-consciously so. While it was crafted well, it left me pretty much unmoved. Maybe it just isn't my thing. But it has many positive comments on the site, so quite possibly you will like it better.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Divining Light, by Ted Kosmatka

Moving on in my reading of the 2010 Nebula Award winners, my most recent read was Divining Light, by Ted Kosmatka. The protagonist is a brilliant quantum physicist, but the very study of physics has pushed him close to madness. He gets one more chance at a research laboratory, where he explores the implications of retrocausality in the classic two-slit experiment. This is really great stuff, reminding me of why I read speculative fiction. The collapse of a wave form to a particle form ends up to be used in a somewhat mundane way (detecting aliens among us). But Kosmatka's simple description of the utter weirdness of the two-slit experiment is priceless. Read it just for that. Four stars