Monday, March 30, 2015

Calendrical Regression, by Lawrence M. Schoen

Calendrical Regression is the latest novella in Lawrence M. Schoen's Buffalo Dogs series.  They've been garnering a lot of award nominations.  The latest one is, I would have to say the best so far.--

The Amazing Conroy has graduated to running a multimillion dollar corporation selling bootleg Buffalo Dogs--he escapes for a week to return to his former profession as a stage hypnotist.  He gets mixed up in a plot from his origin (I was mistaken, the previous post was the first one in the series but NOT the origin story).  The Svenkali are out to get the Uary, and the Uary are out to discover the origins of the Mayan calendar. 

The Buffalo Dog eats everything as usual, and the action is fun and interesting.  I would call these good journeyman SF stories, worth reading if you like it.  Not really breaking new ground in literature, but that's OK, not everything has to.

I give it three stars, and recommend it for Buffalo Dog fans and others looking for a good read.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Buffalo Dogs, by Lawrence M. Schoen

Lawrence M. Schoen has received his third award nomination for a Buffalito story.  This is not that story.  Rather, it's the origin tale for Buffalitos, or Buffalo Dogs.  And it's a nice little story, but really it's just an intro to The Amazing Conroy (journeyman stage hypnotist) and Reggie the Buffalito.  After this I'll read the award nominee.  This one, I give 2 stars for averageness.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Grand Jete, by Rachel Swirsky

Rachel Swirsky is a very reliable award nominee, it seems like I have reviewed a story of hers every year.  They are always good literary stories, and The Grand Jete is no exception.  The speculative piece is a robot avatar--a capture of a person in robot form, developed for military use.  It is a rather light framework for the story, concerning the relationship between a dying girl and her engineer father.  The cultural exploration is Jewish--the father tries to keep Shabbat and kosher, but they bend the rules significantly, particularly to accommodate her illness.

It's a fascinating and difficult exploration, told from both the father and daughter perspective.  The father intends to keep the robot as a replacement for his dying daughter, but in order to complete the process must have her permission.  We see what she goes through as she considers this.

The story has a little bit of a feeling like it's both speculative and dated.  We have a household run by AI (only a mild enhancement of Google Now) but it is exercised mostly to play DVDs.  It's in keeping with the household and the father, though--he is a tinkerer and has patched together the household components.

Overall, I give it a strong 3 stars for literary value.  Enjoy

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Mothers of Voorhisville, by Mary Rickert

Reading the Nebula nominees--The Mothers of Voorhisville is the second one I've read in the novella category.  And it's on the long end, nearly a novel.  But a good choice for this category and length because, while it is complete as a story it does not read like a novel.

The story is told as a series of vignettes by the Mothers, a group of women who have all been seduced in very short order by a "man" (they are not quite sure later) and have given birth to very unusual - winged - babies.  They try to tell their story in their own words, not pulling too many punches but still trying to explain themselves.  Voorhisville is a small town, typical in its uniqueness.  All the Mothers are well acquainted.  Their work in trying to process this utterly strange thing that is occurring to them is fascinating and moving.

I give it three stars overall, and can recommend it as a good read, something to savor.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Regular, by Ken Liu

Ken Liu is an extremely hot property in SF right now.  Last year he had a couple of stories nominated, and this year he has one novella and one editor nomination (by Cixin Liu, no relation so far as I can tell).  The Regular is a typically strong entry from him.  The protagonist is a private detective, and this is a pretty straight up noir crime story.  But the characters set it apart and get the award nomination.  Ruth Law appears caucasian but lives in Chinatown, and there's enough Chinese in her to allow for limited speaking.  She left the police force after a traumatic decision and has since had several personal enhancements.  In the afterword Liu says he is indeed playing with the "cyborg" concept, noting how far we've come along that line.  I'd say it's somewhat true, at least.  And an enhancement is the turning point in the story.  I won't quite spoil it, but the author might have gone further and had the criminal write or commission an app to detect his victims, since it seems quite possible.  3 stars from me.  It has a good helping of everything you'd want--characters, action, science.  Check it out.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Martian, by Andy Weir

I got The Martian as a gift in paperback, but as most know by now it was originally posted online for free, then put out as a 99 cent Kindle edition.  It went completely nuts, became a bestseller, and now he has a movie deal.  I hear Matt Damon is going to play Mark Watney.

And everything the reviewers have said so far is true.  I could put it down, because I'm disciplined (compulsive), but it was damn hard.  I devoured every page.  Mark Watney is a likeable, everyman/McGuyver.  He logs his solutions to insanely hard survival problems with a great mix of stress and pride, and throw sheer joy of problem solving into the mix.  This is true old-school Golden Age Science Fiction, where the science drives the story.  The writing is matter-of-fact, the protagonist is basically the author, and it all works perfectly.

Andy Weir is a phenomenon now.  I do kind of wonder what he's going to do with himself.  I don't expect him to repeat this feat, and it would be painful to see him try.  He does say he's been writing as an amateur for some time, but for him to do another commercially successful book he would have to get into more literary things like character creation.  Hard to pull off.  And who cares.  If this is all he does, he's gone a ways toward reviving hard SF.

I give it 5 stars.  And this is not an Amazon 5 stars.  I've only given that a few times out of the 1300+ stories I've reviewed.  It is a masterpiece of its type. I noted that it did not get a Nebula nomination.  If it doesn't get a Hugo nomination then SF awards are simply broken and I will have a hard time justifying paying attention to them anymore.