Friday, April 30, 2010

Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest: by Eugie Foster

Had time for another one today, this a tale of semi-horror, though not too scary. Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest describes a society in which one's identity is chosen every day, by means of a Mask. The story is interesting in that it focuses on tactile and scent communication, unusual in literature. And in the end it's reality-based, not magical. In the end its execution is just OK, I would not say this is a real contender for the Nebula.

I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said, by Richard Bowes

I have been reading the Nebula Award nominees available online--the latest was I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said , by Richard Bowes. The story is of a Greenwich Village man, seemingly rather ordinary, developing a serious illness and making contact with the world on the other side, as it were. The story has a very autobiographical feel--the character turns out to be a writer of speculative fiction. His struggles to maintain sanity might be contact with a different reality, or a more mundane slide into madness. This one grew on my as I read it, I like it just enough to give it 3 stars.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Vinegar Peace, by Michael Bishop

My latest read is Vinegar Peace, by Michael Bishop, also available in this collection. I think I may actually have read it twice, which is too bad, as it isn't really worthy of that. Michael Bishop is always somewhat roundabout, but at his best he's quite entertaining. Chihuahua Flats is one of the more unique and memorable stories I have ever read. But this one doesn't quite make it, despite being nominated for a Nebula award. You can't win em all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sublimation Angels, by Jason Sanford

Today's read is Sublimation Angels, by Jason Sanford, brought to us by the good folks at Free SF Online. This fine work is a reminder that science fiction provides most of the support for work shorter than novels these days, particularly the mid-length (novella and novelette) categories. The story itself is a fairly standard adventure--a group of humans have been tricked into living on an alien's planet, and must somehow deal with them. Tension is built and released nicely. No new ground is broken, but it's a worthy read.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Act One, by Nancy Kress

The read of the day is Act One, by Nancy Kress. The protagonist is a dwarf, a man with achondroplasia. He manages a mature actress on a comeback. They are planning a movie about children genetically modified to be empathetic. Things get difficult when The Group, the power behind the modifications, decides that mods from birth aren't sufficient, and goes about infecting "normals" with some version of it via retrovirus.

The story explores themes of disability and people's reactions to it in somewhat standard but richly explored ways. Nancy Kress really knows how to write and construct a character, and this story shows her craftsmanship at its best. This plotline is also explored in David Brin's The Giving Plague, with a different setting but the flavor of the story is actually very close. Go out and read it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Arkfall, by Carolyn Ives Gillman

My read of the day is Arkfall, by Carolyn Ives Gillman. This is a Nebula award nominee for 2009. It is a competent story, exploring themes of interdependence and its limits. The protagonist learns about these limits while caring for her increasingly debilitated aunt, who is afflicted with Alzheimer's syndrome.

It's a reasonably good story, with current scientific interest and social relevance. Just not too much of each. It just doesn't have a lot of flavor, particularly for an award nominee. It reminds me of far too many stories, most of the ones in my 2-star category, which this will join. So it goes.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Makers, by Cory Doctorow

Just finished Cory Doctorow's Makers, which was serialized on TOR.com and is also on his blog. I read it in the serialized form, with a rather long break.

The book has some of his best characters yet--tinkerers, bloggers, evil corporate functionaries. And some really interesting ideas on where work is going. An entire way of working travels the hype curve. The storytelling is powerful and hits hard. I really enjoyed this one.

The only thing that wears a little thin is his thing with Disney rides. Doctorow has a complicated love affair with Disney. The theme of people obsessing over an amusement park ride was the focus of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. I think he's pretty much done that.

For all that, it's a great ride. I recommend downloading off the blog site for reading, since some of the links in the tor.com serialization are messed up. But the comments on the serialized version are entertaining, and the commenters correct the bad links, so it might be worth a look.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tatja Grimm's World, by Vernor Vinge

Just finished Tatja Grimm's World, by Vernor Vinge, one of my very favorite authors. This one overall does not disappoint. It is a tale of superhumans in a human world, so Vinge here takes on the task of trying to represent the thinking of someone much smarter than any human can be. Mostly he just finesses it, but does it pretty well. In the end, my only complaint is that it seems such a partial story. There's so much more to tell about Tatja Grimm, and the book is not overly long. Good stuff, overall.