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2013 Hugo Awards: Best Novella Nominees

The novella is my favorite length of fiction. It's long enough to get in a good story with multi-layered characters and a complicated world, but it's short enough that you have to work hard to get all of that in. I love sitting down to a good doorstop of a novel just as much as anyone I know, but novellas that work thrill me to no end. First up, we have After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress. I actually purchased this in trade paperback form just after it came out after reading a review somewhere. The review was reserved, as if the reader hadn't figured out what bothered her, but the description intrigued me a lot. As implied by the moderately odd title, there are three time periods interweaved in this novella: the world just before, during, and after the apocalypse. We get to see what led up to the fall through the eyes of both its inhabitants and the eyes of people sent back in time to scrounge for goodies - and babies. We see the world of the future through those same people when they return to a prison made of plastic, humans who are too genetically damaged to breed (why they steal babies), and unseen aliens that keep them trapped in plastic but still let them go back in time to scavenge. We don't see the apocalypse until near the end of the novella, where you finally see what happened, and how almost everyone was wrong about it. I enjoyed this novella quite a bit, and I can see why it was nominated - the prose is strong, the structure innovative, and the payoff satisfying without [...]

By | July 24th, 2013|book review|Comments Off on 2013 Hugo Awards: Best Novella Nominees

How book referrals have opened my world

Some of the books I own, recommended to me You know how friends will push books on you, saying that you'll love them and that they can't wait to discuss them with you? I owe a lot of my library to those friends.  Most of them come from just two people. My friend Michael has extremely varied taste in fantasy and science fiction, and both his library and recommendations show it.  The first book I bought on his say-so was Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark.  It's a monster of a book, so once I decided I was going to like it, I also bought a copy for my Kindle.  It was well-worth it. He's also got an amazing collection of older sci-fi.  He introduced me to Norman Spinrad with Child of Fortune (which is now available in e-format and oh gods people buy it), and it was like taking a trip - on LSD.  This is the author who also wrote Bug Jack Barron and The Void Captain's Tale.  I devoured them, because they're a mesmerizing combination of word play and mind-bending plots.  I'm considering buying all that writer's work.  Hard copy, because once I've decided to follow an author, I want the physical object.  It's like a sign of commitment to completeness. Michael also managed to get me to read a Piers Anthony novel that I didn't immediately hate called Macroscope, back when Mr. Anthony did not attempt to write the same novel 400 times.  I still didn't really enjoy it, but it managed to surprise me. Finally, Michael introduced me to the awesomeness that is Tim Powers.  I want everything this man ever wrote.  He pushes every literary [...]

By | August 8th, 2012|book review|1 Comment

Cat Valente – how I learned to love her work

Full disclosure:  I'm doing this as part of a series for BookRiot.com, and I’m entering Book Riot’s START HERE Write-In Giveaway. I'm also doing this because Catherynne Valente is one of my favorite writers ever, and I want to share the love. Cat Valente is one of the most poetic modern writers I've ever come across.  Her work is dense with imagery, fascinating characters, and world-building that I can only aspire to.  She draws from mythologies all over the world and takes a careful mortar and pestle to them, keeping the flavor, but altering them to suit her stories.  My first exposure to her work was in an anthology called Ravens in the Library, and while there are big names aplenty in that lovely charity work, it was Cat Valente's short story 'The Ballad of the Sinister Mr. Mouth' that I remember best.  I read the story in a breathless state of wonder, and ended up weeping at the end of it.  It wasn't necessarily a sad story, but it touched me in that artist's place and managed to lay me raw.  Since then, I've been buying everything she writes, in hardcover. The woman is incredibly prolific.  She writes short fiction, poetry, and novels.  I've decided to recommend one of each. 1)  Short Fiction - Silently and Very Fast This novella is up for a Hugo this year, and I can see why.  It's a gorgeous dreamscape that slowly shows you its underpinnings until you realize you've been reading a treatise on how we may treat other forms of intelligence, how the human race may slowly become redundant, how the smallest of families can protect themselves in such a world.  Both plot and prose are [...]

By | August 7th, 2012|book review, kickstarter|1 Comment

Convention! and a review of Old Man’s War

I went to my favorite SF con this weekend, CONvergence. As usual, it was fantastic.  I was Aeryn Sun for one day, and I think I'll have to bring the costume back next year. I also did a panel on Martial Arts for the Working Writer, sitting next to Lyda Morehouse, who is a hoot and a half. I'll see if I can do more paneling on the same subject next year. It depends on who I can round up to be on it. I also have been doing a lot of reading. I plunged into a few Cat Valente novellas and came out feeling like I could converse in poetry. Her work is so dense, as though all the colors and emotions and references are all boiled down to their thickest, most complex of reductions. I feel more like I've played a movie in my head, rather than read a story. Review And to move on to an other still amazing and yet completely different, we have John Scalzi, and my second read by him, Old Man's War. The first of his books I read was The God Engines, and thus I was resistant to reading anything else by him as a result. Not that I didn't like TGE - in fact, I loved it intensely. My reticence came from John's own admission that TGE was like nothing he'd ever written before, and he would likely never write anything like it again. Cue my personal sadface. At any rate, I finally uncrossed my arms and decided to try one of his other novels once all the hype about Redshirts started hitting my news feed. I felt like I would probably enjoy that [...]

By | July 9th, 2012|book review|2 Comments

Novellas and my first review here

I had a half hour to dork around a mall before a friend's birthday party, so of course I went to Barnes & Noble.  Did anyone know they have a YA SF/F section now?  Interesting sign in the real world of a trend I've seen online for at least a year. At any rate, after browsing for my allotted time, I picked up After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall: A Novel by Nancy Kress.  It's really more of a novella, as evidenced by its place on the Hugo ballot, a slim 182 pages in my copy.  I've never read her work before, but this little/big story made me rethink that. "The year is 2035. After ecological disasters nearly destroyed the Earth, 26 survivors—the last of humanity—are trapped by an alien race in a sterile enclosure known as the Shell. Fifteen-year-old Pete is one of the Six—children who were born deformed or sterile and raised in the Shell. As, one by one, the survivors grow sick and die, Pete and the Six struggle to put aside their anger at the alien Tesslies in order to find the means to rebuild the earth together. Their only hope lies within brief time-portals into the recent past, where they bring back children to replenish their disappearing gene pool. Meanwhile, in 2013, brilliant mathematician Julie Kahn works with the FBI to solve a series of inexplicable kidnappings. Suddenly her predictive algorithms begin to reveal more than just criminal activity. As she begins to realize her role in the impending catastrophe, simultaneously affecting the Earth and the Shell, Julie closes in on the truth. She and Pete are converging in time upon the future of humanity—a future which might never unfold. [...]

By | June 13th, 2012|book review|Comments Off on Novellas and my first review here