book log: June 2014 part 1

As previously noted, the book log is woefully out of date. However, I want to try and write up this year’s Hugo Voting Packet while it is still of some use to other people (and indeed me, for purposes of doing my ballot), so I’m skipping straight to this month instead of trying to keep it in order. Here are the three short story nominations I’ve read so far (if it wasn’t in epub, it didn’t go on the Kobo):

35) “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)

Hugo short story finalist. The water of the title falls on anyone who lies — the less truthful what is said, the harder and colder the water falls. It’s possible to avoid the water by being careful with your phrasing, but that just makes it obvious that you’re being economical with the truth. What does it do to relationships, for both good and ill, when it becomes impossible to lie convincingly? Beautifully written character-driven short.

http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/02/the-water-that-falls-on-you-from-nowhere
http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-water-that-falls-on-you-from-nowhere
Amazon uk
Amazon US

(DRM-free)

36) “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)

Hugo short story finalist. Wishes for the year are sent floating down a Thai river, and it’s one village’s duty and privilege to gather the wishes up and grant them, in exchange for the money and gifts attached to the wishes. It’s a situation that’s ripe for exploitation, but all the lives around the river are connected, and wishes can be granted in surprising ways. It’s a fun concept and there’s some nice writing in it, but the story didn’t quite gel for me.

http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/04/the-ink-readers-of-doi-saket

(DRM-free)

37) “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)

Hugo short story finalist. First person narrative by a young woman who has good reason to believe that selkie stories are for losers. It’s difficult to say much about it without spoilers. I liked it but thought it took time to get going.

http://www.strangehorizons.com/2013/20130107/selkie-f.shtml

Erotic romance short story now out – Bread and Butter Pudding

I have a new short story out today. :-)

Not Quite Shakespeare cover art Bread and Butter Pudding. Erotic romance short story, 3,600 words, contemporary, m/m. First published in the Dreamspinner Press anthology Not Quite Shakespeare, which is now available at Dreamspinner’s website in both ebook format (ISBN-13 978-1-63216-020-1) and trade paperback (ISBN-13 978-1-63216-019-5).

(It’s not showing up on Amazon yet, but give it a day or two and it should be.)

I have a new trib copy…

… but alas, my trib copy of The Mammoth Book of Quick and Dirty Erotica has been mangled by a minion of Royal Mail, who shoved it into my letter box without regard as to whether it could actually fit through without tearing the envelope and contents. I may have to write a letter of complaint tomorrow. And yes, I will be only too pleased to display the damaged item if need be. Anyway, my contribution, “A Sparrow Flies Through”, amounts to 4 pages out of 554. But there are 119 other stories for your entertainment contained within this volume, so if you wish to make a lot of authors and their editor and publisher very happy, you can pre-order it now at Amazon UK, Amazon US, and other fine book emporia. Official release date is 18 April, at least in the UK (US Amazon is showing a June date).

Book review: Pati Nagle – Pet Noir

79) Pati Nagle – Pet Noir

Note: I received a review copy of this through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme.

Short fix-up novel about a genetically engineered cat whose creation is commissioned by the security chief of a large space station. The chief wants an undercover agent who’ll be overlooked by criminals who might be suspicious of humanoids. A Maine Coon who’s been genetically engineered to have human level intelligence, opposable thumbs, and a tongue that can wrap itself around human language is a useful thing to have loitering around fast food outlets and in cargo holds, picking up the gossip. An ordinary-looking cat won’t be suspected because the high cost of gengineered animals means they’re still rare — but it’s a price that’s worth it for someone who wants to bust a drug-smuggling ring.

The book is structured as a series of short stories covering the first year or so of Leon’s life, a first person retrospective from the day the Chief collects a know-all kitten from the labs to a year or so later, when Leon’s experienced enough to understand how very inexperienced and naive he was that day. The general tone is that of a hard-boiled detective story, only here the hard-boiled tone is distinctly feline-flavoured and the setting is futuristic.

It’s a lot of fun following Leon’s emotional and intellectual development alongside his cases, and the cases themselves mostly make good stories. There are some good observations of feline behaviour worked into this. Leon’s mostly plausible as a portrait of a cat with boosted intelligence, and his relationship with his human partner Devin, a mix of self-centredness and genuine affection after a rocky start, works well. However, there are two flaws which badly broke suspension of disbelief for me.

The first is that Leon is not just super intelligent, at 4 weeks old he speaks fluent English and he’s already showing a better grasp of human culture than a human ten year old. Yes, cats develop much faster, but there hasn’t been time for him to physically assimilate that amount of information, even if he does spend all day in front of the tv.

The second is that Leon speaks to other, unenhanced animals, who appear to be also human level intelligence in their conversation, even if they’re speaking in cat rather than English, which rather undermines the point of him being genetically engineered for human level intelligence. There also appears to be a single human-level language across at least three species who are not regarded as fully sentient by the humans and other sentient species on the station. It felt as if the author was trying to appeal to readers who like to think of their cats as being just little humans in fur coats.

One of the things I did like about the book is that it touches on the ethics of uplifted animals. It’s a very light touch, and anything stronger would have unbalanced the book, but it’s made clear that Leon is under an indentured contract and is required to pay off the costs of his creation by working for whoever owns the contract. He’s effectively the property of Gamma Station Security for several years, and he’s unimpressed by this.

Overall, something of a mixed bag. It’s a fun light read, and has some laugh out loud moments, but there are some niggles which mean I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. A free sample consisting of the prologue and first chapter are available for download at Book View Cafe, which will give you a reasonable idea of the style.

LibraryThing entry

book log: 71) Barry Perowne — Raffles of the M.C.C.

71) Barry Perowne — Raffles of the M.C.C.

Not the original Raffles stories, but one of the pastiche collections. Alas, I have not yet read the original as created by EW Hornung (though I’m currently enjoying the 1970s tv series on DVD), so I have no idea how well this compares, either in fidelity to the tone of the original, or in quality of writing. It was simply the Raffles book that happened to be possessed by my local library in the dim and distant past, when the way one tracked down books one had heard of was to consult the library’s copy of “Books in Print”. I liked it well enough as a teenager to grab a copy when I saw it a few years ago, and thought I’d re-read it in conjunction with watching the DVDs.

I don’t find it quite as good now as I remember it being thirty years ago, but that’s a change in my reading tastes rather than a criticism of the book. It’s still good fun, and staying on my bookcase. This collection includes 11 short stories, each a nicely constructed mystery/caper. Some of them also include as secondary characters historical figures that a contemporary reader at the time of publication would be expected to recognise, although in the period of the story they were as yet unknown to the public at large. I suspect that this conceit could prove irritating to some readers, but I enjoyed it.

LibraryThing entry

book log: 69) Agatha Christie — “How does your garden grow?” and other stories [audiobook]

Back to posting July’s book log…

69) Agatha Christie — “How does your garden grow?” and other stories [audiobook]

Five short stories taken from the collection “Poirot’s Early Cases”, read on 3 CDs by the man who plays him so perfectly on tv, David Suchet. The stories included in this set are “The Plymouth Express”, “The Submarine Plans”, “Problem at Sea”, “How Does Your Garden Grow?” and “The Market Basing Mystery”. Entertaining short mysteries, and Suchet is an excellent reader. I’d like to get more audiobooks read by him.

LibraryThing entry

book log: 67) Margery Allingham — My Friend Mr Campion and other mysteries

67) Margery Allingham — My Friend Mr Campion and other mysteries

Collection containing the novella The Case of the Late Pig, four short stories, and a short essay excerpted from a radio broadcast by Allingham.

This was my first encounter with amateur sleuth Albert Campion, as I’d not even seen the tv adaptation. It struck me as covering some of the same territory as Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey, although much lighter in tone. Very enjoyable light reading, but the stories didn’t really stick in my memory for the most part, and I thought the solutions rather too obvious in one or two stories. I suspect that they suffered somewhat from the strictures imposed by the short story format.

LibraryThing entry