Archive | Reviews

28 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novel Review (Partial): Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)

I’ve been reading as fast as I can before the Hugo voting deadline on July 31st, but there’s been a bunch of things competing for my time (most recently the Welcome to Night Vale novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor) and so I haven’t been able to read as many of the nominees as I like. I am only part way through The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu, but since the Hugo voting deadline is almost here I wanted to give a partial review–I’ll give a complete review when I have had the time to finish the book.

The story starts in China in 1967, during the Cultural Revolution (a social-political movement started by Mao Zedong whose stated goal was to preserve the “true” Communist ideology from the corrupting influences of capitalist and traditional elements from society. Ye Zhetai is a physics professor at the time, trying to teach his students without coming under the ire of the movement, but in a debate about relativity he is struck dead. His daughter Ye Wenjie follows in his footsteps, becoming a physicist as well, and ends up being recruited for a top-secret research project.

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24 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novella Review: “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr.

“Flow” by Arlan Andrews Sr. was published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Analog published it free to read online as part of the Hugo season.

Rist and Cruthar live with their people in the Tharn’s Lands where the world exists in unending hazy twilight. They make their living by riding icebergs that break off from the greater ice mass to sell them to warmlanders further south. In this story Rist takes his first berg-riding trip to the south, where the sky is blue and the light burns brightly in the sky. They are only meant to take the iceberg as far as the ice broker, but Rist gets the idea to ride the iceberg further south, and so they go on to the strange lands of the south for an adventure. People from different lands have lived separately long enough to gain differentiating racial features, including extreme farsightedness so that none can see things clearly up close in favor of far vision. The people of the Tharn’s Lands used carved figurines for writing, and Rist keeps a journal of everything he does, and everything he learns to share with his family (both on a philosophical level and things that might have applications in their merchant business).

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22 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novelette Review: “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra

“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra, published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, is nominated for the Hugo Award this year in the novelette category. Analog has posted this story for free for the voting period.

The protagonists of this story are a trio of Exoplanetary Explorers: an earthling, a silver Venusian, and a golden Martian. They get in a bar fight, which puts them on thin ice with their commanding officers. Their punishment is to be assigned to a mission doomed to fail–there is a planet on which they wish to establish a colony, where they have learned that the residents are intelligent but have failed to establish true contact with them. Priam, the Martian, raises the stakes by promising that they can establish contact and offering up their jobs if they fail.

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20 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novelette Review: “Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner

“Championship B’tok”, written by Edward M. Lerner, published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, is nominated for this year’s Hugo Award in the Novelette category. Analog has posted this story for free online as part of this Hugo season.

I generally start these stories with a synopsis, to give a sense of what the story was about. For me to be able to write a meaningful synopsis I need to be able to get some cohesive sense of what the story was about. I had trouble discerning that for this particular story, so this is not so much a synopsis as a list of story elements. The story starts with pilot Lyle Logan playing chess against his ship AI, and then the scene ends very abruptly in a way that’s never adequately explained and these characters never appear again in the story, nor have any other appreciable effect. We’re introduced to an alien race known as Snakes, among other things. There are also a mysterious race of beings (Interveners) that can apparently mimic the appearance of either humans or Snakes–these beings are not at all well-understood but they believe that the beings sparked the explosion of life in the Cambrian Era and that they steered the social/technological development of the human race. The story mostly circles around two characters: a snake named Glithwa and a human named Corinne, and a human Carl. Glithwah represents the ruling Snakes, digging for information about what might be human sabotage. The titular game, b’tok, is played during the story, which is supposedly as much more complicated than chess as chess is more complicated than rock-paper-scissors.

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17 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novelette Review: “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn

“The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn, published in Analog, is nominated for this year’s Hugo Award for Best Novelette. Analog has posted this story as a free read as part of the Hugo season.

This is part two of the Journeyman series of stories. I have not read the first part of the story, so I am extrapolating a bit. Teodorq sunna Nagarajan the Ironhand and Sammi o’ th’ Eagles are in the midst of a journey that began in the previous story, where they were sent on a quest by a ghost that resided in a crashed vessel from the sky (presumably an AI residing in a starship) to find particular settlements for the star-men to salvage from the remains. As well as the quest, they are also trying to stay ahead of Kalakaran Vikaram who is looking to avenge his brother that Teodorq killed. As they are trying to cross a territory toward their destination, they stop to examine a stone building and they wonder how it was constructed (the technology level of the setting is mostly like a Medieval level, but with the remains of higher tech scattered about it’s clear that this occurs in the future after a technological collapse of some kind). They, as well as their pursuer, are captured. To continue their quest they must somehow escape their imprisonment.

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15 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novelette Review: “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelte (translated by Lia Belt) was published in Lightspeed Magazine. It appeared both in text and on the Lightspeed podcast.

Toby’s world turned upside down, figuratively speaking, when his girlfriend Sophie left him, with only a promise to pick up her goldfish the next day. But, before she can fetch the fish, the world turns upside down, literally. No one knows why or how, but gravity suddenly reversed. Many people don’t survive, many from head injuries, many others from falling down into the endless sky. Toby survives. The goldfish survives. Did Sophie? He has to find out. And also give her the fish back. And maybe, just maybe, they can reconnect in this world gone wrong. As Toby makes his way across the dangling undersurface of the Earth, he meets other people trying to survive.

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13 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novelette Review: “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart

“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart was published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. The story is posted here for free to read.

Alluvium is the name of a human settlement and the planet its on, a place close enough to Earth in habitat that colonists can live with just nano-infusions to balance out the few chemicals that are toxic to humans. Life is as good as it can be, until the Peshari (a lizard–like alien race) landed and conquered the human settlements. Cerna is one of the settlers still living under their oppressive rule. His friend, Keller, has become sick, since the Peshari took away their all-important nano-fabbers. Keller has taken an interest in the death rituals of the Peshari and how it differs from human death rituals.

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10 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Short Story Review: “On a Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli

written by David Steffen “On a Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli, published in Sci Phi Journal, is nominated for this years Hugo Award in the Short Story Category.  Sci Phi Journal has posted the story for free for the voting period, which you can find here. The story takes place on the alien planet Ymila, […]

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08 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Short Story Review: “Totaled” by Kary English

“Totaled” by Kary English was first published in Galaxy’s Edge magazine, edited by Mike Resnick. Galaxy’s Edge posted the story for free after the announcement of the Hugo ballot so you can read it for yourself if you like.

The story is told from the point of view of a disembodied brain extracted from a woman’s body after her body is “totaled” in a car accident. Before the accident she had been a member of the research team that made this possible. A rider on her insurance dictated that if she died or got totaled her tissues would be donated to her research lab–including her brain. At first she can only sense from the outside nerve by feeling vibrations in the vascular tissue, but as the experiment advances she is connected to more peripherals, including sensory apparatus, and she can find ways to communicate outward as well because they are scanning her brain. She tries to communicate with her research partner Randy, who doesn’t know that the brain he’s using was his partner’s.

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06 July 2015 ~ 1 Comment

Hugo Short Story Review: “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond

“A Single Samurai” was first published in The Baen Big Book of Monsters published by Baen Books.

In this story a mountain-sized kaiju has arisen in Japan, rising from beneath the land itself where the landscape had built up around it. The monster is moving across the countryside, crushing everything in its path. A samurai has survived its uprising where so many others haven’t by riding the kaiju as it rose up and climbing up its back even as the soil and trees and rocks shift off the kaiju as it walks. To save Japan he has to finish his climb and find some way to kill the monster.

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