Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Weight of the Sunrise, by Vylar Kaftan

The Weight of the Sunrise is the second story I've read by Vylar Kaftan, and since I seem to only have time for award nominees these days that means he's pretty good.  I certainly enjoyed this one--it's a solid alternative history.  What if the Incas had held off Pizarro's initial Conquistador attack (he only had 168 men), and figured out how to hold off smallpox through public health and hygiene measures?  In this story, they would have been able to sort out how to hold on to their empire in the face of European imperialism.  That makes for many changes in the Western world--the Americans come to visit in 1806 with a proposal to sell them the technique of vaccination.  And so hangs the tale.  We get a good exposition of Incan culture as Kaftan speculates it would develop.  It's not a whitewash--it has plenty to say about the shortcomings of both Incan and American culture.  Not quite in the spectacular category, but I was glad of the time spent reading it.  I give it three stars.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Wakulla Springs, by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages

With this review I open my 2014 award nominated story and novel reading.  Only a so-so start.  No objection to the writing--Wakulla Springs is a nice story in the Nebula novella category.  It's a personal history, following a few highly varied characters (Johnny Weismuller and several impoverished black people from central Florida), giving vignettes of their lives from the late forties through recent times.  We see integration struggles, discrimination, and the ennui of stars.  What we don't see is much actual speculation.  We have exactly one page where an animal might have talked.

As stories go, it's sort of several related stories put together.  But really only juxtaposed.  I didn't mind reading it, but this isn't what I read speculative fiction for.  Hopefully the stories in the novella category get better from here. Two stars from me.