book log July 2013 – part 3

More Hugo Voting Packet, plus an audiobook.

47) John Joseph Adams (editor) — Armored (anthology)

This anthology was included in the Hugo Voting Packet as the sample of Adam’s work for the short form editor category. As one might expect from the title, the stories are all about powered armour. However, it’s not just military powered armor. There are plenty of civilian uses, and some of them get an airing in this book.

Most of the stories are at least readable, and some are excellent. The anthology does suffer a little from the stories starting to seem too much the same after a while, but I think that could be dealt with by not reading the whole thing in a couple of sittings. If sf shorts about powered armour are your thing, this is a nice solid anthology.

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/armored-1

48) Clarkesworld

Sample issue of the zine, included in the Hugo Voting Packet as the sample of Neil Clarke’s work for the short form editor category. I enjoyed this a lot, and if I had more reading time I’d be very tempted to get a subscription.

http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/

49) Ngaio Marsh — Surfeit of Lampreys (audiobook)

The tenth Inspector Alleyn novel, abridged on 3 CDs and ably read by Anton Lesser. The Lampreys of the title are in fact titled, being of a spendthrift aristocratic family, eccentric beyond belief, broke as usual, and depending upon a handout from an extremely wealthy uncle. Who won’t play along, and of course is found murdered. An amusing listen. The novel also available as a full cast dramatisation from BBC Radio 4.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

50) Analog

Sample issue of the zine, included in the Hugo Voting Packet as the sample of Stanley Schmidt’s work for the short form editor category. Some excellent fiction in this issue.

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Book log July 2013 Part 2 – Hugo novellas

I read four of the novellas on the 2013 Hugo ballot. Two of them in particular I think are worth explicitly recommending: Aliette de Bodard”s “On a Red Station, Drifting”, and Brandon Sanderson’s “The Emperor’s Soul”.

43) Aliette de Bodard – On a Red Station, Drifting

Blurb: For generations Prosper Station has thrived under the guidance of its Honoured Ancestress: born of a human womb, the station’s artificial intelligence has offered guidance and protection to its human relatives.

But war has come to the Dai Viet Empire. Prosper’s brightest minds have been called away to defend the Emperor; and a flood of disorientated refugees strain the station’s resources. As deprivations cause the station’s ordinary life to unravel, uncovering old grudges and tearing apart the decimated family, Station Mistress Quyen and the Honoured Ancestress struggle to keep their relatives united and safe. What Quyen does not know is that the Honoured Ancestress herself is faltering, her mind eaten away by a disease that seems to have no cure; and that the future of the station itself might hang in the balance…

A consequences-of-war story set on a space station that’s part of a large interstellar empire, one that’s descended from an ancient Asian empire back here on Earth. Not an uncommon theme, but what makes this story different is that although it’s inspired by a Chinese story, the empire’s ancestor is Ancient Vietnam, and it’s written by a Franco-Vietnamese.

de Bodard has built a world full of rich detail, and peopled it with strongly drawn characters, most of whom are coping with being the ones left tending the home front. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

More information on the author’s own website: http://aliettedebodard.com/bibliography/novels/on-a-red-station-drifting/

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/on-a-red-station-drifting
Amazon UK
Amazon US

44) Jay Lake — The Stars Do Not Lie

I finished it, but I found it hard going for personal reasons, and did not like it. Which is a shame, because I like Jay, and I’ve liked other work of his.

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-stars-do-not-lie

45) Nancy Kress – After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall

While I enjoyed this one and could see why it made the ballot, I find that a year on I don’t remember much about it and don’t feel any urge to re-read it, unlike the de Bodard and Sanderson novellas.

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/after-the-fall-before-the-fall-during-the-fall-a-novel

46) Brandon Sanderson — The Emperor’s Soul

Blurb: When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life. An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife. If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos.

Shai is given an impossible task: to create—to Forge—a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days while trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood.

This was absolutely stunning, one of the best things I read all year. I’ve never read any of Sanderson’s work before, but going from this I need to find some more. It’s a beautifully constructed story which demonstrates the strength of novella length. The soulstamp magic system is fascinating, and Sanderson’s exploration of the philosophical implications about identity makes for a complex story with a great deal of depth. It deservedly won the Hugo. If you like fantasy and you haven’t read this yet, check out the excerpt posted at Tor.com: http://www.tor.com/stories/2012/10/the-emperors-soul-excerpt

More information with buy links for various formats in various countries at the author’s website:
http://brandonsanderson.com/books/elantris/the-emperors-soul/

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-emperor-s-soul-1
Amazon UK
Amazon US

book log July 2013 – part 1

Back to the ever more neglected book log. I’m going to do July 2013 in several parts, because there are a lot of titles, some of which I did or can say something sensible about, and some of which I left too late.

July was Hugo Voting Packet month. I chugged my way through an awful lot of words that were up for a Hugo, and logged the short stories at the time.

3 short stories:

33) Ken Liu – Mono no Aware (Published in the anthology The World is Japanese)

A young Japanese man is sitting in the control room of a generation ship, minding the solar sail. As the story cuts between his present and his memories, the story gradually reveals how and why he came to be there, and why the choice he makes at the end of the story matters so very much. Beautifully written study of loss and survival, and made me want to read the rest of the anthology it appeared in.

34) Aliette de Bodard — Immersion

A lot of things are stuffed into this short story. Imperialism, whether economic, cultural, or in the recent past nakedly military. Class and money. Identity, and how it ties into the imperialism. The use and abuse of technology. Common themes, but handled deftly, and with a genuine sf slant to them. There’s some superb world-building done in a short story word count, and characters whose fate I care about. This one’s my pick for the Hugo, although it was a hard choice between this and Ken Lui’s story.

35) Kij Johnson — Mantis Wives

Take praying mantises, give them human intelligence and emotions so that we can identify with them — and leave them their insect behaviour patterns, described in beautiful language that heightens rather than hides the horror of what’s going on.

I can see why this made the Hugo ballot. But it really doesn’t work for me. Not voting for this one.

36-40) 5 Hugo novelettes
From the Hugo website:
“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
“In Sea-Salt Tears”, Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
“Fade To White”, Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“Rat-Catcher”, Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)
“The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)

All well-written, although they varied in how much I actually enjoyed reading them. I’ve left it too long and would have to re-read to review.

Two of the novels:

41) Lois McMaster Bujold — Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

A novel from the Vorkosiverse, with Ivan in the starring role. Funny, romantic and smart, just like Ivan himself.

42) John Scalzi – Redshirts

Very, very meta novel about junior starship crew members who slowly realise that in another universe they’re fictional characters, and that what the show writers do to them in that universe bleeds over into theirs. Which is not a good thing if you’re a redshirt. It’s territory that’s been trodden before, even in Star Trek itself, but Scalzi does an impressive job. The main text is a lot of fun, with some thoughtful and moving sections; but it’s the codas which really make this book something special.

“Not quite Shakespeare” now available for pre-order

Got home to an email telling me that the UK-themed Dreamspinner anthology “Not quite Shakespeare” is now available for pre-order from their site. I’ve got a short in the anthology, all about baking bread and what it can lead to. :-) The book is available on both dead trees and live electrons, and will be released on 2 June. I’m assuming that it will eventually show up on the third party distributors as well, but here are the purchase links for the Dreamspinner shop:

ebook – ISBN-13 978-1-63216-020-1
paperback – ISBN-13 978-1-63216-019-5