Friday, June 25, 2010

The Lost Kafoozalum, by Pauline Ashwell

Occasionally I go back and pick up old award nominees off of Free SF Online. Just finished The Lost Kafoozalum, a Hugo award nominee from 1961. I had never heard of Pauline Ashwell, she was not prolific though was nominated for three awards.

The Lost Kafoozalum is written in a unique voice, which made it sort of interesting to read. But she took a social engineering premise (averting a war by creating a common enemy) and then put it in the background, making it mostly an action story. The hero is a heroine, which is ahead of its time. But the story didn't age that well.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

WWW:Wake, by Robert Sawyer

A few days, ago, I finished WWW: Wake, a Hugo-nominated novel for 2010. The novel is the first in a trilogy about the awakening of the world-wide web. I use the old-fashioned terminology purposely--this novel is reasonably well executed, but reads like yesterday's news all the way through. Really, we've seen this before. And nowhere better than Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

The plot is suitably ordinary--a young girl, blind from birth, gets a chance to try a treatment to correct the "coding error" between her eyes and her brain. Instead of seeing the normal world, she sees a visualization of the Web. And detects something else out there.

Sawyer is a veteran writer, and the execution kept me reading and entertained. But it has a flavor of someone's grandpa explaining new technology. Cute, sort of. It is flawed in other ways--there is a subplot on a smart chimp that never ties back in this novel. It's obviously intended for the sequel. Just a little sad that this sort of ordinary effort makes it onto a list of bests of the year.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Moment, by Lawrence M. Schoen

This story started out in a way that made me think it was going to be silly. The aliens in it were sort of whacked. But as it went on, it grew on me. In the end, it has a message and a grip.

The problem here is, I think the message is incorrect. Spoiler Alert: The story ends with aliens in the far future visiting the Moon, viewing Neil Armstrong's boot print. "This is where humans jumped off".

I think not. I watched the Moon landing in 1969. I took it for granted that we would be going into space, in numbers, in the near future. Instead we got the space shuttle. And with the troubles we have, and the troubles coming, I see no way we will be leaving this planet's gravity well in my lifetime. It is a truly sad state of affairs.

3 stars for the story.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Bride of Frankenstein, by Mike Resnick

Mike Resnick has a Hugo-nominated story this year, which, according to the introduction to The Bride of Frankenstein is no surprise. He is the most award-nominated writer ever. And this story is a good example of why. He is a great craftsman, making most any theme worth reading. This story in most people's hands would be a dull rehash. He lifts it with his understanding of people. I can't give this more than 2 stars, but it's a decent read.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Island, by Peter Watts

The Island by Peter Watts, a Hugo finalist, tells a really interesting story about a deep time colonization project. Peter Watts specializes in horror, so of course this has a dark turn. The human crew are creating colonization star gates for a completely post-human humanity. They live in tension with the AI guiding the ship. The protagonist has to work and contend with a human co-opted by the AI--her son. They encounter a large distributed intelligence encompassing a star. Their gate will destroy some part of it. Which part?

These kinds of stories aren't too common, but they are some of my favorites. I give this one 3 stars.