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September 4, 2015

I see you like science fiction…
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:59 AM * 600 comments

(… and fantasy).

So here’s a thread for what you’re reading, watching, and listening to these days, and what you think of it.

It’s tragic that I feel that I need to, but let me lay down a few rules and guidelines for what I’d like this thread to be.

I want it to be an open discussion of our own personal reactions to things. This means leaving room for other people to have other views, even ones that disagree with yours quite strongly. I want this to be a space where people from other communities of fandom could, if they wished to, recommend and discuss works that might not be to the usual taste of this community. To that end, I’ll be moderating pretty closely, either propria persona or as Idumea.

I also want this to be a space where we can note and link to Hugo-eligible works (do link if you can!). Please mark them based on category ([NOVEL], [NOVELLA], etc) if you know where they would fit, and if they’re eligible for next year’s Hugos, add [2015]. Here are a Google Docs spreadsheet and a Wiki which can help determine these things. If you’re too swamped to check, note that you haven’t and maybe someone else can.

Please ROT-13 spoilers. If we get enough of a discussion going on a work that the thread looks like someone took a blender to the alphabet, I’ll happily hive off spoiler threads.

Note that there will be no summing-up, no conclusion, no derived recommendation list from this conversation. Please don’t try to create one in-thread, either, right?

Comments on I see you like science fiction...:
#1 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 03:31 AM:

"The Godzilla Sonnets" by Jo Walton [SHORT STORY][2015]. It's a bit odd to nominate poetry in the short story category, but that's where it's eligible, and it's a delightful work.

Ariah by B. R. Sanders [NOVEL][2015]. Politics, magic, love, functional and dysfunctional families. A member of an oppressed elvish minority learns to control his magical talent for mimicry (and other, more subtle, talents), but his apprenticeship will take him beyond the borders of the empire and back. I feel in love with this book the same way I fell in love with The Goblin Emperor, and would recommend it to that novel's fans.

#2 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 05:26 AM:

"The End of All Things", John Scalzi. [NOVEL][2015]
Sixth volume in the "Old Man's War" sequence, like its immediate prequel, this is a collection of shorter works that were initially published individually, written so that they form a coherent narrative. Don't quite know if that means one should go by the publishing date of the first shorter work, or for the collected volume.

Anyway, MilSF is, I believe, the least-inappropriate label I can give this. We follow a couple of different POV characters, through a story of deceit, duplicity, treachery and brains in jars (well, techincally "brains in boxes", but brain-in-a-jar is a stronger trope, so...). On the whole, I quite enjoyed it, but that may have been influenced by reading it in Seattle, in the run-up to Sasquan. If you've liked previous works in the OMW universe, chances are you'll like this. If you haven't read any OMW books, you may be better off starting either from the beginning or with The Human Division (book #5).

#3 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 05:39 AM:

The Capital of Latecomers by Nina Nenova (tr. Vladimir Poleganov) [NOVEL] [2015] - I got this one through Amazon's "Firsts" programme (you sign up, you get to buy an ebook cheap, a little before its official release date), and so far it's proving to be rather interesting. I'm having to read with care and attention, because it's got an unreliable first-person narrator in an unreliable setting.

The narrator is Rhein, a troubled artist (who now only paints in a dissociative fugue state, where he himself remembers nothing of what happens) who's living in a luxurious oasis resort set up for troubled people (with immense amounts of money). However, the oasis itself is the former site of an ancient civilization called the Remorites, and although they're dead, they may not be dead and gone. Weird things are happening - it may be something to do with quantum physics and dark matter, or it may be ghosts. Or both.

There is a lot of eeriness - the setting itself is unreliable; different people, or even the same people, see things happening in different ways. It's all slightly J. G. Ballard, slightly "Twin Peaks", slightly "The Prisoner", and there are a surprising number of dead bodies falling out of refrigerators.

Haven't finished it yet, but it's looking good - if it doesn't fall apart in the last few chapters, this one will be a keeper. The translation (from the original Bulgarian) made me bite my tongue in a few places, but only a few, and that might just be my inner pedant talking anyway. (I have an inner pedant, he's hidden under my outer dork.)

#4 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 06:04 AM:

I'm sorry, I can't resist:

"In conclusion, we should read, watch, nominate, and vote for ALL THE THINGS."


"Yes. That."

#5 ::: JDC ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 06:51 AM:

Predestination directed by The Spierig Brothers [BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM)] [2014 but eligible for 2016] I found this through a recommendation on File770. It's a fairly straight forward telling of "All You Zombies". A tight 97 minutes and very enjoyable.

#6 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 08:05 AM:

On Texanne's recommendation, I picked up The Grass King's Concubine [NOVEL]. It's technically portal fantasy, 2nd world to other 2nd world, and follows a goal oriented young woman who was born in the right/wrong time for her blood. Deals with privilege, class, expectations, protagonist is brown, and is part of a genre that Anne termed Kindnesspunk. It's been a joy to read.

(If someone can make the link happen, I'm on my phone...)

(Hugo eligibility tag removed, since it isn't from 2015.—Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads.)

#7 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 08:25 AM:

Oh, how could I forget to mention Kung Fury [BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM)] [2015]?

- actually, never mind [2015]. Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) [EVER]. I dare anyone to disagree.

(Oh, all right, if I have to be all serious... it's a parody of 1980s action/kung-fu/SF movies, it is insanely over the top, and if you are steeped in the direct-to-video genre, you will very likely find it as funny as I do.)

#8 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 08:25 AM:

sisuile @6, I don't think The Grass King's Concubine is 2015. I've had a copy sitting on my TBR pile for ... longer than I want to admit. (Looks it up.) It's 2012.

And I want more kindnesspunk.

#9 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 08:51 AM:

Jumping in here with_The Shepherd's Crown_ by Sir Terry Pratchett [NOVEL][2015]. The 41st (and expected to be final) book in the Discworld series is not by any means the best, but is mostly fun, and a fitting end to the books (if not the world, in our millions-of-fans' hearts). The plot is more straightforward than many in the series, due to Sir Terry's failing condition precluding him from making his usual second pass over the book (per the note at the end of the book).

I think, oddly enough, that the character I'm going to miss the most from DW, among the many^many^many that I will miss, is Daft Wully the Nac Mac Feegle. He has never failed to make me laugh aloud, and never meanly. So long, all you folks, and thanks, Sir Terry, for The Ultimate Answer-1.

#10 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 09:11 AM:

The Sculptor, by Scott McCloud [BEST GRAPHIC STORY] [2015]. A young man makes a deal with someone claiming to be Death to be able to sculpt anything he can imagine, but in exchange he'll die in 200 days.

That's a shorter description than on any of the sites selling it, but I don't want to say anything more about the plot. I really enjoyed it.

#11 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 09:22 AM:

The Mechanical (Alchemy Wars #1), Ian Tregillis [NOVEL][2015]
How would the world look if the Dutch had invented (or possibly stolen from Isaac Newton) the secret of how to build mechanical workers that comprehend spoken language, governed by geasa? The Mechanical is one possible (beginning of an) answer to that question.

The Netherlands rule most of Europe, the French have decamped to the New Continent and have a French kingdom-in-exile in the northern bits, while the Dutch rule strong in New Amsterdam.

We follow multiple strands of narratives (a Catholic priest undercover as a Protestant priest in the Netherlands; a mechanical; a French spy-master) through the narrative, as these interweave and conflict.

This is not really uplifting and cheerful, but it is interesting and makes for food of thought.

#12 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 09:26 AM:

Jupiter Ascending. Sprawling and untidy and panned by the critics, but it's FUN and gorgeous (oh, the spaceships) and has a female lead who does more than just wait to be rescued. And it embeds some interesting criticism of current Western society as well.

It's absorbing in part because it leaves so many questions unanswered. There's plenty of room to imagine what else goes on.

#13 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 09:32 AM:

(I have been lurking since, I think, the beginning of this year but was terribly hesitant to join in. This seems like a good opportunity.)

I have recently read Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds [NOVELLA] [2015] which I thought was excellent; right now I've lent it out, but I shall need to re-read it when I get it back. There's an in-depth and therefore very spoilery review at Strange Horizon here which also gave me plenty to think about.

I have been making a conscious effort to read as much short fiction as I can this year, spurred partly by l'affaire Hugo. I'd never quite realised how much stuff is made available online for free, where I can read it at work in my copious free time. Two of my favourites so far have been

Elephants and Corpses by Kameron Hurley [SHORT STORY] [2015] which has a wonderfully rich world realised in a small space, and also has something profound buried in it about embodiment, companionship and self;


The Ticket Taker of Cenote Zaci by Benjamin Parzybok [SHORT STORY] [2015] which I am not sure quite how to classify but which I am glad I read and which has stayed with me.

Steven desJardins @1, the Godzilla Sonnets are a joy. Thank you for the link.

#14 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 09:59 AM:

Welcome, Craft (Alchemy)!

#15 ::: David Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 10:08 AM:

The only Hugo-eligible thing I've recently read would be Stand Still, Stay Silent [Best Graphic Story]. I've just finished the extant PC Grant books by Ben Aaronovitch and I'm about to start on The Martian.

#16 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 10:22 AM:

The Night of the Salamander, by Michael Stanwick [SHORT STORY?] [2015]. I immediately went back to read the whole series. This story feeds both sides of my reading desire: It's an interesting puzzle, solved with intelligence, both cerebral and emotional.

#17 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 10:24 AM:

I adored Austin Grossman's first novel, Soon, I Will Be Invincible, because it's told in the format of a litfic 'serious' bestseller, but all the SUBSTANCE of the story involves the interactions of superheroes and mega-villains. It's amazing, and I loved it.

Last week I found out that he has another novel out, You, which does for me what Jo Walton's Among Others apparently did for all of fandom -- put my childhood and people like me front and center of an amazing coming-of-age story. I'm only halfway done and loving it.

Apparently he has published something this year as well, which might be eligible, but I haven't found a copy.

Another thing that's been giving me life is Y.S. Lee's "Agency" series, starring Mary Quinn, about a young girl in Victorian London basically engaging in semi-freelance superspy shenaningans. First book in series is A Spy in the House, and I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who liked Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. No supernatural elements.

#18 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 10:41 AM:

David Weingart @15, it's my understanding that this thread is not limited to Hugo-eligible works.

I certainly hope it's not; including non-eligible material would help to dispel any potential misconceptions about whether it's a recommendation list in disguise.

#19 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 10:45 AM:

lorax @18 is correct. Please label works that are Hugo-eligible with [2015], but don't be shy about talking about non-eligible works as well!

These threads are intended to give people looking for things to read some ideas, whether or not they're reading for rockets. And they're a chance to talk about things we love, which pleasure I think we would all like right about now.

#20 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 10:49 AM:


I had been catching up on TV shows - Dark Matter, ep. 11 is one of those episodes that tie things in a series in a way that make the episode stand out. The whole series may not be everyone's cup of tea and it has its issues but I really enjoyed it. It is heavily serialized series though - so ep. 11 requires you to have watched the previous 10... but the way the nominations work are episodes only so...

#21 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 10:52 AM:

I don't know what specific episode or set of episodes I'd put up, but Phineas and Ferb [DRAMATIC PRESENTATION] [2015] packs two parallel, usually interlocking, plot threads, a mad scientist, kid engineers, and a musical number into eleven hilarious minutes, over and over again.

#22 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 10:58 AM:

Heroic Engineer meets Character Development (and we are all the better for it): In the Ocean of Night, by Gregory Benford [NOVEL] [1977] is still one of the best novels I have ever read.

#23 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 12:07 PM:

A few to start with:

Naomi Novik's Uprooted[NOVEL][2015]. I finished this and immediately had to start over from the beginning. It doesn't so much subvert fairy tale tropes as pick them up, look at them from a slightly different angle, and then put them carefully together in beautiful configuration, with characters I wanted to see more of.

Jo Walton's The Just City[NOVEL][2015]. (My only hesitation here is that The Just City and The Philosopher Kings both came out in 2015. They're both good, and different from each other. I picked The Just City because I'm happier recommending that someone start with that.) Another novel that required an immediate re-read. Very good thinky SFF, with gods and time travel and philosophy and philosophers.

Jupiter Ascending[DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM)][2015]. It just made me happy. It's messy and has plot holes large enough to drive a starship through, but OMG, look at that starship! I saw it twice, and the plot wasn't any tighter the second time, but I still walked out grinning.

#24 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 01:00 PM:

Invar M@11:I'll second The Mechanical --very interesting. Tregillis does an excellent job with the prose, the plot and the philosophy.

dotless I@23:The Just City and The Philosopher Kings are both very good also. Philosophy abounds in these also.

I'm currently reading "The Annihilation Score" by Charles Stross. It is a Laundry novel but done from Mo's viewpoint.

#25 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 01:23 PM:

I read fairly eclectically in the sf&f realm. Most recently, Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job and Secondhand Souls; right before that, Steven Brust's "Phoenix Guards" trilogy/pentalogy. Before that, N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, Christopher Priest's The Affirmation, Charles Stross's The Annihilation Score, Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora, Jo Walton's The Philosopher Kings, Ian Tregillis's The Mechanical, John Scalzi's The Human Division, and Neal Stephenson's Seveneves. That takes me back to mid-May.

Of course, I read other stuff too.

#26 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 01:29 PM:

Mostly I don't watch. Can't remember the last sf film I saw; probably was Inception in 2010 (didn't much like it), and before that Pandora, which I pretty much hated except for the clouds. Marcia has been watching Game of Thrones, but I haven't.

#27 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 01:57 PM:

Oh, yes, and an ongoing webcomic to mention, Stand Still, Stay Silent, by Minna Sundberg. [BEST GRAPHIC STORY] [2015]. A moderately intrepid team of investigators sets out into the troll-haunted wastelands of post-apocalyptic Scandinavia. Even if you think that sounds fun, it's actually more fun than it sounds like.

#28 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 02:03 PM:

the anime Hunter x Hunter showed up on Netflix and I sort of got hooked on it.. ha. Really enjoyed the first few seasons, but it was frustrating after that as the story lines seemed to peter out without resolution. Minor annoyance - Gon's father (mostly not present) seemed a real jackass. I never mastered the reading of manga, so it's possible the books have the answers.
My son wanted to go to Nan Desu Kan anime convention in Denver, I was going to cosplay as Leorio - a suit and tie with briefcase, can manage that ;-)

Just finished re-reading Crown of Stars series by Kate Elliot, it's still excellent. Carefully researched medieval fantasy, with magic deployed much as the medievals understood it, wonderful.
Now starting on Jaran, which is a bit more romance-novelish, but I just skip those bits..

Next up is non-sf/f, the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan novels, though the prospect is daunting. I'm not at all sure of having the strength to deal with such a vivid exposure of reality. A central concept is la frantumaglia, explained as “an unstable landscape, an air or water mass of infinite wreckage that violently appears to the self as its only true interiority”: "The frantumaglia is the sediment of time without the order of a story, or a tale. The frantumaglia is the effect of the sense of loss, when you have the certainty that all that seems stable, lasting as an anchor for our life, will soon join that landscape of ruins that we think we are seeing."
That is why I read sf/f, for the consolation of meaning imposed upon the world, as an antidote to living in it: like Ferrante's character Lenù, I call upon novels as tranquillizers.
Best review of the series is Aaron Bady,

#29 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 02:05 PM:

Steven Desjardins -- I know you mean nothing but good, but I'd turn down a short story nomination for poetry. I'm pretty sure the definition says "prose fiction" anyway, but even if it doesn't it should. It's belittling to both forms to conflate them.

Poetry is its own genre with its own awards, and we don't give it Hugos. Hugos do not cover all the things and don't need to.

#30 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 02:20 PM:

Jo Walton @ 29: How about Related Work? (Asking for a friend. ;-)

#31 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 02:28 PM:

Whenever I read someone gushing about Rick and Morty I cringe a little. The show is violent and often mean-spirited.

But damn, it is obviously put together who know and read SF. They pop out some brilliant and original ideas. Like:

Rick (dissolute genius scientist grandpa, like a perverse sort of Doctor Who) brings Morty (teen kid hero) and his sister Summerto a world of humanoids that has just been assimilated by a infectious mass-mind. Everyone is happy and healthy and helpful. Summer is outraged at the thought of individuals having their free will ripped away from them. By the end of the episode fur trgf ur jvfu; zber naq zber bs gur vasrpgrq ibzvg bss gur uvirzvaq nssyvpgvba. Nynf, vg gheaf bhg gb or n cynarg shyy bs wrexf naq boabkvbhf enpvfgf.

In another, Morty's family is plagued with psychic parasites who disguise themselves in illusory forms and implant false pleasant memories to explain their presence. Rick catches on and begins slaying the interlopers. The cast of imaginary friends is varied and wonderful.

So. Cautiously recommended.

#32 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 02:41 PM:

Anne Nesbet's THE WRINKLED CROWN (not out yet, but [2015]) is a lovely middle-grade book. Her two earlier books (THE CABINET OF EARTHS and A BOX OF GARGOYLES) recall E. Nesbit with a protagonist who's an American schoolgirl in Paris; this one is an alternate world where magic works well in the wrinkled lands, and science works better down on the plains, and how the two interact. It's nice, it's subtle, and it's all I want in a middle-grade book -- I've got a longer review of it coming out in Locus, but I want to mention it here.

I'd also recommend Robert Charles Wilson's [2015] THE AFFINITIES, a really interesting book on social media and community. I wouldn't be at all sorry to see it win a Hugo.

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 02:54 PM:

I concur with the recommendation for the End of All Things [2015]. Scalzi, as usual, tells a good story and leaves the reader (this one anyway) wanting more.

#34 ::: Mercy ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 03:00 PM:

My current tops are:

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua [BEST GRAPHIC STORY][2015]: I've been a fan of the webcomic for years, and I was so pleased when my husband gave me the print collection (with significant new stuff!) along with a signed bookplate for my birthday. Steampunk alternate history with lots of humor and footnotes.

Forgotten Suns by Judith Tarr. [NOVEL][2015]: I don't even know how to describe this book without either spoiling it or confusing myself and others, but I really loved it, both for plot and for worldbuilding (universebuilding?) and also details like non-humanoid aliens! Also I love space opera and genre bending.

Linesman by S. K. Dunstall [NOVEL][2015] which I talked about a bit in the other thread.

I seem to be on a little bit of a space opera kick this year. Last year it was epic fantasy.

#35 ::: Mark Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 03:05 PM:

JDC @5: I was a co-sponsor on the proposal to extend eligibility for Predestination, so obviously I second the recommendation. A good movie and a good, faithful adaptation, which is far too rare.

johnofjack @10: I'll be rooting, and rooting hard, for "The Sculptor". A masterpiece, and the best graphic novel I've read in years.

John @21: Phineas & Ferb only produced one new episode in 2015, "The Last Day of Summer", and I'll be nominating it. It's the official last episode, it's clearly sf, and it's great.

I am, as always, horribly behind on fiction, so I'll have to defer those categories for now. But I do have some other favorites in Dramatic Presentation.

Short Form:

Defiance: "Upon the March We Fittest Die" Defiance hasn't gotten much notice, but it's been steadily growing on me, and the season ended extremely well.

Orphan Black: "History Yet to Be Written" I thought the second season of OB didn't quite live up to the first, but loved the season finale.

Long Form:

Ex Machina, for its overall intelligence.

Inside Out, for character, emotion, and imaginative worldbuilding.

Tomorrowland, because I just plain loved it.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, for acting, design, and its success in capturing the feel of the book.

Naturally, any of these might be bumped off my ballot by things coming out later this year.

#36 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 03:05 PM:

I read _The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim_, by E.K. Johnson. The characters and their friendships are completely realistic, even though they're living in an alternate history with dragons. Yes, of course Ottawa has terrible weather, but they had to put the capital there to keep it well away from the hatching grounds. And I loved how the oil industry connects to dragon-slaying.

#37 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 03:08 PM:

There's a webcomic I've been enjoying immensely lately, Wilde Life. I can't quite call it urban fantasy, because it's actually intensely rural: a man named Oscar Wilde ("Yes, like the author") moves to a small town in Oklahoma, avoiding as-yet-unrevealed backstory issues, and begins to encounter supernatural things. Such as the ghost haunting the house he's rented; she's a computer from WWII, who died in the 1950s, and has been haunting the place ever since.

And then a very large dog shows up unconscious on his doorstep, and things start to get very unsettling...

I want to note this for a few specific points. One: the art is sharp but absolutely stunning. Some of the most recent pages have included a background I'd happily put on my wall as a poster, and the line art has this sort of carefully casual look to it. Excellent detail, and a strong style, without trying for photorealistic.

Two: this particular author/artist has done long-form webcomic work before, and knows how to pace and tell a story. Each of the chapters so far has been very satisfying, while leaving a lot of interesting hooks for subsequent ones, and she clearly has a plan laid out. After so many webcomics that just wander from gag to gag, I really appreciate one that clearly has a story arc in mind, but can also make each chapter complete and satisfying on its own.

Three: the most recent chapter, which is not quite done, has an absolutely stunning take on...well, parenting and parental grief, I'll say, and not say any more than that, because you should really read it on your own rather than being spoiled for some of the turns it takes. I linked to the first page, not the current page, so that no one gets accidental spoilers while going to look.

Should be eligible for [GRAPHIC STORY 2015], though I am not sure how continually-running comics are handled. When the first 8-chapter "season" wraps, I'll be sure to nominate it for that year, at the least.

#38 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 03:08 PM:

Jo, I'll respect your wishes, of course, and refrain from nominating it. But I do interpret the award differently: the rules say "A science fiction or fantasy story of less than seven thousand five hundred (7,500) words", and in my mind it doesn't (and shouldn't) matter whether the form of the story is poetry or prose. If a poem tells a story, then I think it is and ought to be eligible.

#39 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 03:10 PM:

There is an absolutely breathtaking graphic interpretation of Asimov's "The Last Question" that I stumbled across a few months ago. I can't tell if it's Hugo-eligible or not because there's no date on it, and I don't know who the artist is because I can't read the language in the credit line, but if this doesn't knock your socks into orbit I don't know what will.

#40 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 03:25 PM:

The language is Korean. But I can't read it either.

#41 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 03:36 PM:

Doug K (28) mentioned Kate Elliott. I just finished a galley of her The Black Wolves [NOVEL] [2015*], the first in a new fantasy trilogy. The setting is not quite the usual medievaloid; it reads as vaguely Asian to me, but I may be influenced by the cover art. I am very interested by where she is going with the magic, as well as how all the characters end up. I recommend it, with two caveats:
1) The first several hundred pages are all set-up, with new, apparently unrelated characters and events being introduced throughout the first third. It isn't until roughly the halfway point that they all start to come together. So it requires the ability--and willingness--to tolerate a fair amount of uncertainty and complexity.
2) The ending is not quite a cliff-hanger, but there is no resolution, not even a temporary one. The final chapter consists of yet another twist setting up the remainder of the series. Some first-book-in-a-series stand alone pretty well; this is not one of them. If that's going to bother you, you probably want to wait until the whole trilogy has been published.

*due out in November

#42 ::: Jim S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 03:38 PM:

Currently reading "Seveneves" by Neal Stephenson [NOVEL][2015]. It's an intriguing idea developed with his usual excellent writing. The way that he uses only known technology extended a bit into the future (aside from the initiating event) reminds me of The Martian, which I just re-read. I have a feeling it'll be on my Hugo nominations, although it's not my favorite book of this year.

One odd thing though - I've decided to read more short fiction this year so I can be a useful nominator for those categories, too, and I find myself oddly resentful of how long the book is. Not that I want it shorter, just that there's this voice in my head saying "ugh, let's finish this so I can move on to all the other stuff on my list." It's silly, but there you go.

I did take a short break to read "Justice Calling" by Annie Ballet [Novella?], which I really enjoyed. It's fun, easy to read, and in a genre I've been wanting to spend more time in.

#43 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 03:50 PM:


_Killjoys_ is a low-budget sci-fi TV series (SyFy series in fact) which showed up this year. It's about a pair (then trio) of bounty hunters in a star system of four habitable moons and a whole lot of social and economic inequities.

I put the season down as a long-form candidate, rather than any particular episode, because the strength of the show is in background details that slowly build up and become relevant to the story. Any one episode looks like pure fluff but there's quite a lot of thought in the worldbuilding.

The showrunner is Michelle Lovretta, known for the urban-fantasy series _Lost Girl_. As with that show, _Killjoys_ is strong on respecting people and their choices. Dutch (the lead character) likes sex but prefers one-night stands over anything entangling, and there's no judgement of this. Her partnership with Johnny is intense and intimate without being sexual. (Then the third main character shows up and stirs things up, because story.)

I feel like both _Killjoys_ and _Dark Matter_ (c.f. @20) are trying to be the new _Firefly_, but _Killjoys_ is much better at dodging the cliches and taking unobvious turns.

#44 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 03:58 PM:

In other TV:

_Strange/Norrell_ was superlative.

I watch _Defiance_, and I enjoy it, but... wow, it was a murdery season. I'm just saying. I agree the last episode did a great job.

I feel like _Orphan Black_ doesn't really know where it's going. Then again, I felt that about the first two seasons. It's been relying on character and acting pyrotechnics all along, and that works, so I have no complaint.

#45 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 04:14 PM:

Does a full series fit under long form though? I have a similar problem with Dark Matter - I would rather nominate the whole season but I am not sure that this will fly. It is almost as if we need a third category or a revision of the short category to become a tv season one. :)

I liked both Killjoys and Dark Matter (and Defiance actually had a good season as well) but I am never sure how to pick one episode. Killjoys and Dark Matter both have their own problems and their own strengths. Even though the Firefly comparisons are inevitable, I had been trying to stray away from them - that does disservice to any show. :)

Plus I grew up watching Blake's 7 - both of these kinda make me think of it as well. :)

#46 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 04:23 PM:

I wonder if the "Serialized Story" proposed category could be merged to include both meganovel series and whole seasons of TV ... At that point it would also include some video games, probably.

#47 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 04:40 PM:

I'm certainly going to nominate Sense8 under long format dramatic presentation, because it's structured such that nominating an individual episode would make very little sense. If anything, I'd nominate an individual scene before an episode of that show; but nominating one of its episodes would feel like nominating a chapter of a book.

#48 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 04:52 PM:

Enjoyed earlier this year

[SHORT STORY][2015] Ursula Vernon, Pocosin. On choices, and death, and Death, and doing things because they need to be done even when you're tired. And another of Ursula's distinctive settings, and another of her fabulous old lady characters.

[NOVEL][2015] Elizabeth Bear, Karen Memory. This one was just fun. AU Seattle during the Alaska gold rush, with airships and mechanicals, and vividly drawn, enjoyable characters beginning with Karen herself.

I didn't enjoy Uprooted as much as I wanted to and expected to. A little too grim for me in places.

#49 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 05:00 PM:

The Annihilation Score is as much fun as the rest of the Laundry Files; I loved it, but some may find it too bleak/sardonic. Like each book in the series, it takes a new slant on a subgenre -- but this one is told from Mo's PoV. Trivia: see if you can find which footnote does not belong (confirmed by Charlie at Sasquan); rot13 your answers. He also said the next one (finished?) features a surviving vampire, and the one after that is "Bob and Mo break marriage counselors." I'm looking forward.... (Also thanks to Theophylact re new Moore, which I hadn't heard about.)

I'm halfway through Kowal's latest Glamour, Of Noble Family. Longer than previous, and grimmer -- they go to Antigua to settle his late father's sugar-plantation estate. (not a spoiler, that's in the first chapter.)

#50 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 05:19 PM:

Theophylact already mentioned _The Fifth Season_, but allow me to exclaim: [NOVEL][2015]! It's the strongest of Jemisin's books so far. It's grim -- you'd be justified in calling it dystopian -- but the story is propulsive and focuses on people's lives, not the relentless awfulness of the setting.

(Which is not relentlessly awful, come to think of it. That's what's non-stereotypically dystopian about it. It's horribly *precarious*, by our standards, but people cope with that.)

#51 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 05:30 PM:

Mark Bernstein @ 35: Thanks! I watch it when I can with my daughter, which isn't often as I don't have cable or Netflix or anything. I'm not current, though I knew it had ended this year.

I've been avidly staying out of the Steven Universe thread until I've gotten to watch it with her. That and something called Homestuck are her Big Things right now.

#52 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 05:45 PM:

[NOVEL][2015] Hannah Moskowitz is one of those writers who is always intriguing and ambitious even as I'm going "What the hell, though, what the hell????" - and this applies even to the books I don't like.

I don't know whether I like "A History of Glitter and Blood" or not, but I'm definitely glad I read it. It's the story of the fairies and the gnomes who precariously share a city -- the gnomes like to eat the fairies -- until another group, the tightropers, come to "liberate" the fairies, setting off a war. Beckan, Scrap, and Josha are the only fairies who remain now, with Beckan and Scrap turning tricks for the gnomes when food gets scarce. (Did I mention this is a young adult novel?) From there it gets odd and metafictional, a rumination on power, and war, and who gets to write history, and how complicated the intersections of love and power can be.

#53 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 05:52 PM:

Mark Bernstein @35: I've been a huge fan of Scott McCloud since he was doing Zot! in the mid-'80s. I really liked The Sculptor. But my first-place vote is going to The Sandman: Overture. The story extends and enriches a modern classic, and the art is so astoundingly good that it beggars description. When I heard that J.H. Williams III had been tapped to draw it, I remembered his work on Promethea and rejoiced; and what he's actually done has exceeded my hopes.

In terms of reading, I've just finished A Succession of Bad Days", by Graydon Saunders (whom some people here will remember from Usenet). [NOVEL] [2015] It's a magic school story, of sorts; but one in which the school is an experimental new approach, the setting is a fragile enclave of democracy in a world shaped by a long, long history of battle among Dark Lords, and there is a great deal of civil engineering going on. (The first third of the book is building a house; the last third is building a canal.) A quirky book, but I liked it a lot.

I work three days a week, and for the sake of exercise when I'm coming home I walk from the office to downtown instead of taking a bus. In Houston, in summer, this is a bit strenuous. As it happens, the last part of the walk goes by the main branch of the library. I went in to get a much-needed drink of water, and The Dark Forest [NOVEL] [2015] jumped into my hands. So that's what I'm reading now. So far it's a worthy sequel to The Three-Body Problem.

#54 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 05:54 PM:

CHip @49: Gur bar nobhg Fve Eboreg Crry? That's certainly the one which rings most oddly to me.

#55 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 06:02 PM:

David Goldfarb @ 53: I haven't yet read Sandman: Overture (I'm waiting for the collected edition, due out in November) but I'm very much looking forward to it. There's a chance it would get my first-place vote as well.

#56 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 06:35 PM:


Agent Carter

Avengers: Age of Ultron


Agents of Shield - Season Finale

Outlander - Episode 9 - The Reckoning


The Outlandish Companion Volumes 1 & 2

#57 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 06:49 PM:

@41: The blurb available on Elliott's website confirms that _The Black Wolves_ is set in the Hundred, the setting of her previous _Crossroads_ series (_Spirit Gate_, _Shadow Gate_, _Traitors' Gate_). Apparently the Hundred has kings now...

What you're saying about the series still gathering steam by the end of the first book was also true for _Crossroads_. In my opinion, at least, it was well worth waiting for all of that to unfold.

#58 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 06:55 PM:

Oh, my, yes, "Sense8."

The opening sequence alone is mind-boggling. On a big HDTV is is gorgeous. It makes you realize we're kind of living in a John Brunner future world already.

Some of the episodes were seriously stress-inducing, with the kind of action and high stakes that required me to go out and have a long walk to de-stress.

#59 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 07:17 PM:

chris (57): I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of the Black Wolves series. But I can see how some people might have problems with hundreds of pages of set-up.

I thought I had read Elliott's Crossroads series, but that might be the one I bounced off of. I'll have to try it again when I get time.

#60 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 08:33 PM:

Mary Aileen @59

I bounced off of the Crossroads series the first time I tried it and enjoyed it very much the second go round.

#61 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 09:13 PM:

Naomi Parkhurst (60): Good to know!

#62 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 09:25 PM:

The anime Seirei no Moribito is on my list of things to recommend to everyone, all the time, even if it's somewhat old. It has an advantage over Princess Tutu in that the plot is easier to explain: bodyguard needs to save one last person; job turns out to be a lot more complex (and supernatural) than expected. It features a wonderful female protagonist.

#63 ::: Dragoness Eclectic ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 11:04 PM:

I've been shelf-diving in Project Gutenberg lately. I just finished re-reading Alexandre Dumas (pere)'s The Count of Monte Cristo. As usual, I missed a lot the first time through--character development, and interesting little bits like the lesbian couple and the (then) pop-culture references to Lord Byron's fiction (or, actually, Dr. Polidori's)--the mysterious Count de Monte Cristo is suspected of being a vampire, like Lord Ruthven, by at least one Italian countess. There's a reason it's one of the great classics, and considered the best of Dumas's work.

Next up, I'll be re-reading a short story--John Polidori's "The Vampyre", about the afore-mentioned Lord Ruthven.

#64 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 11:41 PM:

I mostly read novels these days...

I loved THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M. J. Carey, aka Mike Carey. It was published last year; I'm not sure why it didn't get more attention. I liked it so much that I tracked down Carey's urban fantasy series -- and enjoyed those enough to pick up used copies for my library.

I loved Robinson's AURORA, and after I read it I went back and re-read the Mars trilogy. What fun!


I'm waiting for the Ian Tregillis ALCHEMY WARS books to be disgorged by my local library system.

#65 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2015, 11:49 PM:

If I knew what the heck category to put it in and had a time machine, I'd nominate Thomas Was Alone for a Hugo. It's a short, simple video game about a group of AIs with different personalities learning who they are and what they need to do, and then doing it; it's also a story about the accidental emergence of artificial intelligence and the attempts of various engineers to quash it. There's that wonderful thing some games have where they have a story that could not be told nearly as effectively in another medium, because the story and characterization is implicit in the game's mechanic, and your thought process is the same as the characters' thought processes as they travel. ("Okay, so I can't jump as high as that OTHER guy, but watch how I fit into this little space! Haha, he can't do that.")

It doesn't hurt that the score is lovely and the narration is perfect.

#66 ::: weatherglass ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 12:02 AM:

[NOVEL] [2015] A Red Rose Chain: Seanan McGuire has a new book just out in her Toby Daye series, and I'm looking forward to rereading the earlier ones before tackling it. They're engaging old-school urban fantasy in San Francisco. The series gets noticeably better written as it goes along, but it's become clear in the last book or two that the plot has been in place since the beginning. I admire any author who can wait eight books for something to pay off. I also enjoy McGuire's Incryptid series and her Velveteen stories, but I'm pretty sure I initially tried McGuire because people here recommended her. One thing that may not be on the radar of McGuire fans on Making Light is the eerie, wondrous thing that is the Birthday Unending, an ongoing series of posts on her tumblr.

In non-book recs, I'm enjoying the game Starbound; it's an exploration/mining/crafting type of sandbox game in an infinite universe. You start out creating a character in one of seven races--humans, bird-like aliens, robot people, old-west themed plasma people, etc.--and you're dropped onto your broken-down spaceship with minimal tools and weapons and only the ability to beam down to the planet you're orbiting. You mine, craft, fight, build, and eventually get what you need to repair parts of your ship and explore the galaxy. Each race has its own backstory--if you're an Avian, for instance, you've fled your home planet to get away from your culture's religious fanaticism--and there are dungeons to explore and bosses to fight and settlements to discover and so on. It's still in early access, i.e., unfinished, so it's rough around the edges--there are performance issues, stuff (like item descriptions) is sometimes missing, and it feels a little too openended for me at times. What it does right is to create an engaging universe and a real sense of wonder, and the music in particular is lovely. It's similar to Terraria, though a less polished experience so far, or to a 2D Minecraft. The developers have been making major updates every couple of months. The last one went live a few days ago, and added the ability to build colonies and attract residents to live in them.

#67 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 12:57 AM:

I've been on a fan fiction kick lately. Although it's only tangentially SF, my latest tenterhook is the Seduction by Aviation series by flawedamythyst with its spinoff/AU Diversions series by rabidsamfan. The premise is that genius billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark from Iron Man (but single and friends with his CEO) and perpetual underdog Martin Crieff from Cabin Pressure meet in a flight lounge in Mafikeng while on weather hold. They hit it off instantly because Crieff happens to say exactly the right thing before he realizes who the guy under the aviator shades is, leading to the mutual discovery that he and Stark are huge aviation nerds and bypassing Crieff's chronic anxiety. Stark likes cute, brainy redheads who aren't afraid to disagree with him, so he invites Crieff up to see his StarkJet (ahem) (but there is very little actual depiction of sex, which frankly is a relief). Things develop from there. There's some interesting treatment of how Tony Stark living and inventing in a world a lot like our own would affect the world of aviation for us ordinary folks, plus some looks at what it would be like to be poor and proud and dating somebody who is richer than your entire town put together--and what it would be like to be stupidly famous and trying to have a normal relationship with a guy who hates celebrity life with the burning passion of the socially inept. The latest installment is also a tense disaster drama; I will say no more for fear of spoilers. Also it's a work in progress and I am chewing my nails in case it dies in transit.

#68 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 06:17 AM:

Jo, I also disagree (apart from, it's your poem and I will not nominate it if you ask me not to); at least, maybe: I haven't read it. But a story wrapped in verse is not necessarily not-a-story (to me, to me, to me). Just as I would nominate as a novel =The Golden Gate=*, or =The New World= (or =Genesis=).

(Less than a hundred comments before a [◊◊◊ aphasia ◊◊◊] breaks out!)

- - - - - - - - - - -
*of course, probably not for a Hugo.

#69 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 07:09 AM:

Finished The Capital of Latecomers. It's kind of interesting... and it did manage to keep things going, all the way to the end... and the ending was something I have to mull over. It's a good book. (One I'll nominate? Haven't read enough of the competition, yet - but it's certainly a possible.)

Now starting [BEST NOVEL] [2015] Naomi Novik's Uprooted, which probably needs no further recommendations from the likes of me. (Might get one, though. Looks good so far.)

(Also now about to start my free "upgrade" to Windows 10, so I hope to be back in time to catch next year's discussion thread....)

#70 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 07:41 AM:

Scraps #68: Working at a used-book store, there are a buch of books that we've shifted between Poetry and Mythology, and there are actually a few modern verse novels kicking around. Our usual rule for whether they go in Poetry or General Fiction is, "where would the customer look for that author?" (I don't think I've seen a verse novel in genre yet, but same rule.)

#71 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 07:43 AM:

Currently reading Aliette de Bodard's 'Obsidian and Blood' trilogy. Not quite sure what my final judgment on it will be, but I'm pre-committed to reading 'House of the Shattered Wings' when I can get hold of a copy.


Things I've really enjoyed this year include The Philosopher Kings, and Karen Memory (both mentioned above); and Lavie Tidhar's 'A Man Lies Dreaming'. Those considering the last should probably have a look at the blurb, just to be clear what they're getting.

(Other Tidhar novels I've enjoyed and read in the last year include 'The Violent Century' and 'Osama'. The first is strongly recommended, and I found the second very engaging , but might not be for everyone.)

#72 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 11:35 AM:

So the whole Heroic Engineer versus Character Development thing has been on my mind lately, and I guess that guided me when I went to the shelves for reading last night. I'm going to suggest that one of the classics, one even people who mostly dislike the author mostly like, is a fine example of such stories (unless you choose to read it as a coming of age story), namely Waldo.

I was looking for comfort reading but that's what I turned up. Perhaps I'll find a few when I run back through Poul Anderson as well. Or am I just seeing Someone Who Learned Better stories?

#73 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 12:20 PM:

David Harmon @70 -- Aniara, by Harry Martinson, was a verse novel (actually an opera), marketed as SF. And there are several verse plays which have major genre chops (and tend to get filed in plays rather than verse -- think, say, "The Lady's Not for Burning" by Christopher Fry for a relatively modern example).

#74 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 12:37 PM:

Shirley Jackson's Raising Demons [1957] is now the third book that I will say off the top of my head is perfect (Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner and Brecht's Dreigroschen Oper).

I'm also at a loss to talk about just how splendid and mind-bending Radiant State [2015] is, because wow. None of the other Wolfhound Century books has been nominated for a Hugo; it would be wonderful to see attention go to the trilogy as a whole. Back in January, I wrote that Wolfhound Century was "a police procedural set in an alternate history Russia with fantasy and science fiction elements," and that's really just for starters. I don't know why these books aren't hugely famous.

Not every literature is lucky enough to have a Nobel winner tell its story, but The History of Polish Literature by Czesław Miłosz [revised edition, 1982] has lots that would appeal to SFnal people, even if they're not up for reading the whole thing through: how traditions arise, how they interact with other cultures, how material aspects and political conditions affect the form and content of art, personal rivalries as a spur to art, lost works and their later discovery, all of this and more told with verve and personal insight. I wish there were something even remotely as good (in English) that covered the last half century.

I suspect that any master of exposition could learn a thing or three from C.V. Wedgwood's The Thirty Years War [1938]. In addition to a brisk and clear retelling of a complex and confusing (and unfortunate) series of events, it's a consideration of war and peace, Germany and Europe, statesmanship and character published a year before the outbreak of World War II.

#75 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 03:47 PM:

Have been working 14-hour days lately, so haven't had a lot of time for reading. Haven't read any 2015 publications yet (although The Annihilation Score is probably up next). Have mostly been reading Pratchett, lately. Read the first 4 Tiffany Aching books, and then the 4th prompted me to go back and reread Equal Rites.

Film-wise, I caught The Edge of Tomorrow recently, which wasn't bad for an action-blockbuster type.

#76 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 03:47 PM:

I recently finished and enjoyed A Rational Arrangement by L. Rowyn. (ebook). [NOVEL][2015] I can't remember where I got the recommendation for it, but I don't think it was here.

It doesn't ring for me as Hugo material, but I liked it and think some of the rest of you might also. Fantasy of manners with a bisexual polyamorous relationship. Heroine who reads to me as on the spectrum - very intelligent and analytical, but has difficulty with social cues and, for example, keeps a lengthy list of things that are Not To Be Discussed in polite company. Greatcats - sentient felines - who can be servants or friends. A religion that is an active part of the society and characters' lives.

It's on the long side and the pacing is a bit slow, much more romance than active SFF in that way, but it didn't bother me. The eventual resolution of the relationship was obvious far in advance, but I enjoyed the "how" and didn't mind the lack of suspense about the "what." TW for one fairly graphic scene of torture later in the book, but the majority of it is neither violent nor grim.

All in all, recommended.

#77 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 04:03 PM:

OtterB @76 Fantasy of manners with a bisexual polyamorous relationship. Heroine who reads to me as on the spectrum

You almost had me until I looked it up and determined that "bisexual polyamorous w/heroine" translates to MFM. Alas. Maybe next time.

(This feeds back to one of my standard rants on "the problem with GLBTQIA as a literary category". The vast majority of GLBTQIA fiction doesn't push my specific buttons any more than straight fiction does. Perfectly nice stories, I'm sure.)

#78 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 05:00 PM:

I rather enjoyed the second book of Cherryh's Faded Sun trilogy yesterday. I bought the 3rd one maybe 15 years ago but only got the first and second ones a couple of months ago.
I am also planning on catching up with more modern SF, since apart form the more recent Foreginer books, the most recent books I've read are by Gail Carriger, which doesn't count as SF and "Existence" by Brin. Which was quite enjoyable but at times lapsed into the phrases and cant of his blog posts.

#79 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 05:38 PM:

Currently rereading (re, re, rereading in fact) Katherine Addison's Goblin Emperor and still getting new realizations by doing so. If my husband and I were rich and healthy, or even one of each per, I would have gone to Sasquan just to vote for this book. I'm at the stage of inarticulate wonder I always get on the penultimate night of a readthrough, but: such magic! What complexity!

Highly recommend E. Bear's Karen Memory [Hugo2015] especially for the way that steampunk is not just a few gears sewn on as ornament but rather real machines that drive the plot. I must admit I'm also happy with Karen's self-description as a big boned and not especially girlish farmgirl, being one of those myself.

Discussions I've lurked at hither and yon around the web have led me to Ben Aaronovitch's River's of London series; I'll be loading the second volume (Moon over Soho) on my iPad as soon as TGE is done. I'm hoping to buy one volume per paycheck so that I'll be caught up when the latest book comes out in November, but dental work and prescription drugs do have priority. The best way I can describe the worldbuilding is that it's what I looked for in the Harry Dresden books and failed to find.

I got the iPad last fall when we discovered my husband's scoliosis rods had snapped and he needed surgery; it was a way to communicate with the facebook folks who gathered at the time of his original surgery in 2010. I didn't even think about ebooks until the Hugo mess started and recommendations and book discussions started raining from the internet. I have no way to get to the library and no further storage for dead tree media but I've always been doubtful about how useful I'd find electronic devices for reading long works. I still have my doubts; I bought The Natural History of Dragons and found the last third or so was both terribly predictable and relied on tropes I find distasteful and yet there it sits: I can't sell it to the used pixel store or otherwise recycle it.

It offends my sense of thrift in that way.

#80 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 05:52 PM:

The Epic of Gilgamesh [NOVEL][2100 BCE] is a great story. I got on a kick of reading various versions of it, and the more I read, the more I got into it. It's not just that Gilgamesh and Enkidu are great heroes. It's also remarkably inventive and weirdly fantastic. For example, the tunnel that the sun goes through at night is guarded by scorpion people. Awesome!

However, if you are looking for a good old-fashioned adventure story, you may be disappointed. The adventure elements are there, but they are framed in a didactic narrative that is unmistakably strident SJW message fiction. Gilgamesh is strong, smart, and supremely competent, yet he is portrayed as a bad king who oppresses his people (simply by asserting his royal right of jus prime noctis). This is such a problem that the gods intervene, and find him a heroic companion, Enkidu, who he could "love and embrace as a wife". If you enjoy gay love stories, you may like this a lot, but fair warning. It also paints a revisionist picture of the role of women in ancient times. Gilgamesh is the king of Uruk, but his authority is limited, he is just a tactical war leader; the big decisions are made by the priestesses of Ninsun and Ishtar and by the council of elders. Are we to believe there was a democracy 2200 years before it was invented in Athens? Or that the major power brokers would be women? Seriously? When Gilgamesh bypasses them and goes off with the young men to fight the monster Humbaba, he is completely victorious, as one would expect. But this is SJW message fiction so he must be punished and humbled for his success. Likewise, when Gilgamesh goes on a quest for the secret of immortality, he finds all the answers he looked for and yet he comes away with nothing. Supposedly this makes him wise. At the beginning of the story Gilgamesh is a superhero, by the end he is much more civilized. Implicit in this narrative arc is the message that greatness is incompatible with civilization, that great men must be worn down to make them fit in. That's a lesson alright, but not one we need to accept. If I may get a little "meta", there is a larger lesson to be learned here: No hero, no matter how smart and strong he may be, can overcome a storyteller with an axe to grind. Gilgamesh is one of the greatest heroes ever, but he's trapped in a fundamentally anti-heroic narrative and in the end the storyteller wins.

There are multiple versions of the epic, so one could hope that one could go back to the ur-story without the modernist revisions. Sadly, that is not the case. The first version that has survived completely enough to be readable, the Old Babylonian version from around 2100 BCE, is a revisionist version. Fragments have been found of Gilgamesh stories from earlier times back to around 2700 BCE, but they are very few. We will never fully know how much was sacrificed on the alters of early post-modern literary political correctness.

Conclusion: The Epic of Gilgamesh has excellent characters and some very interesting ideas but it is burdened with a dreary and ultimately unsatisfying plot. It's worth reading for the good parts, if you can avoid being thrown out of the story by the social agenda. Or if you are a social justice warrior, you may like the whole thing.

#81 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 05:53 PM:

And of course there's a grocer's apostrophe in my last post, after four previews and revisions. I apologize most abjectly.

Doug at post 74 mentions Shirley Jackson's Raising Demons (and its predicessor, Life Among the Savages) which is, indeed, one of the perfect books. I find that its rewards have held on much more tenaciously than those of We Have Always Lived in the Castle which was one of my favorite books back in my teens.

OH- adding my voice to those recommending Agent Carter as best dramatic performance, long form. Not perfect, but blithly skating over its imperfections.

#82 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 06:36 PM:

Another who has just finished The Annihilation Score[NOVEL][2015]. Recommended. I may sign up for a supporting membership of the Worldcon just to nominate it.
I understand Charlie thinks it won't have much of a chance because it pushes too many Puppy buttons, but they are all part of the fun, and so is annoying Puppies who don't get that.

Next on the TBR pile is The Three Body Problem which already has its Hugo.

J Homes

#83 ::: Nigel C ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 07:06 PM:

I've finished The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers [BEST NOVEL 2015]. Quite good, with some interesting characters and world-building. A couple of chapters felt a bit YA-ish, but that might just be me being curmudgeonly. It's got space-ships, aliens, romance, rishathra, good guys, bad guys and tech!

I'm giving Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear another shot. It might be eligible for [BEST NOVEL 2015]. I bounced off it about 5 chapters in the first time through -- there was too much of the alternate "City that's Seattle but not quite", and I found it distracting (as someone who lives in Seattle).
But other people have spoken highly of it, so I'm giving it another shot.

#84 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 07:34 PM:

guthrie @78: Why on earth would Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate books not be SF? They've got vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and amazing imaginary technology.

Unless you think "SF" means "has equations and spaceships in it," which is a fine thing to prefer, but it's not actually what the word means.

#85 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 08:37 PM:

I recently read Lois Bujold's new novella (released directly to Kindle/Nook), "Penric's Demon." [NOVELLA, 2015]. It's set in the same world as her Chalion books and I loved it, while also very much wanting the rest of this character's story. (It's a very satisfying novella, but I would happily read a full novel about Penric and Desdemona.) If you enjoy Bujold's fantasy, especially "Paladin of Souls," you should definitely pick it up. If you've never read anything by Bujold, you can pick it up cold and see if the setting works for you, although in general I would suggest starting with "The Curse of Chalion."

#86 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 09:05 PM:



#87 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 10:45 PM:

TomB, #80: Bravo! You should go put that up on Amazon.

#88 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 11:26 PM:

Fade Manley @37: Wilde Life.

Dude can actually draw. I particularly like the last frame on page 7.

#89 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2015, 11:58 PM:

... I want to see the movie version, with David Tennant as Oscar.

#90 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 12:09 AM:

Lee @39:
I can't tell if it's Hugo-eligible or not because there's no date on it

Following the attribution links, it looks like the Korean original was posted back in 2012.

#91 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 12:17 AM:

...*snerk* blue roses....

#92 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 12:40 AM:

Lee @39 & P J Evans @40: The language is Korean. But I can't read it either.

If you click on the thumbnails in the page Lee links to, it comes up in English.

#93 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 12:55 AM:

Jacque @88: Her art is amazing. There's a very recent page that has a top panel of a car driving along a rural road, against a sunset, that is stunningly gorgeous. She actually ended up offering posters for it. And I really love being able to tell people about this great new webcomic I found that has great writing and great art...

#94 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 02:01 AM:

#79 ::: JESR

You don't need to go to worldcon to vote on the Hugos. A supporting membership is enough.

Is the DVD of Whispers of Ragnarok eligible for the 2016 Hugo? It's a recording of a performance from a few years earlier.

#95 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 02:17 AM:

Chris, #90: Well, drat. But it's still gorgeous and well worth looking at!

Something else worth looking at: Galactic Journey [RELATED WORK] [2016]

A nice conceit here. The blogger, who styles himself the Time Traveler, is writing what a fannish blog might have looked like 55 years ago -- reviewing science fiction books, magazines, and media and providing news about current events such as regional conventions and the space program, in character as a fan of the period, but with nods to things that modern readers would be likely to notice (such as the absence of women in many of the stories). Where possible, he also provides links to online versions of the stories he's reviewing. It's a delicate balance to maintain, and I think he does it very well. (The link goes to the most recent post.)

I actually follow this on the DreamWidth mirror.

#96 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 02:23 AM:

[NOVEL][2016] Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine. Regency interplanetary romance. The year is 1813. Arabella Ashby is stuck in England with relatives who have very narrow ideas of what a proper young woman may do. She must get back to Mars to save her brother and the family plantation. Lacking funds, Arabella passes as a boy and is hired as crew on a airship set to sail to Mars. But there is a war on, and Napoleon's privateers prowl the winds between the worlds. And there are other dangers that the captain and crew of the Diana don't know about. The only thing you can be sure of is that you'll want to buy this book when it comes out. Next June.

#97 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 02:40 AM:

Nancy Leibowitz at post 94, I know, I didn't put that at all well- there was discussion at my house about attending (my husband hasn't been to a Worldcon since 1972 and I've never been) but when all the numbers were crunched we couldn't afford even a single supporting membership.

Not even to vote for Laura Mixon and Goblin Emperor, alas.

#98 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 04:17 AM:

I've been falling down on the job of [2015] SF, doing a lot of rereading old stuff and getting copies of more recent works that look interesting.

However, I just got an e-copy of The Seventh Bride by our own UrsulaV writing as T. Kingfisher. Only part-way through, and (while not feeling or being at all derivative) reminds me of the wonderful irreverence that shows up in the footnotes of most of Pratchett and the "Excuse me, please, Yes I am a real female character and if you think I'll conform to *your* tropes I think you'll be very disappointed." of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

If you think this is going to be something the puppies would like, you too can get a Sandwich Special For Swan and there will be nobody to offer leaves and sympathy.

And I also have an e-copy of Annie Bellet's 20-Sided Sorceress in the TBR queue

#99 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 04:23 AM:

TomB (#80)


#100 ::: snowcrash ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 07:29 AM:



Mad Max: Fury Road - If you want to know why, just go through the thread that was here in May

Sense8 - I can't in good faith decide on an episode for this. It works almost only as a binge watch for me anyway. Gorgeously shot, and (with one exception) has multiple leads who all *do* something

The Witcher 3 - Because it was the best damn story-driven game I played this year, and unlike most other times, that's not qualified phrasing.


A bit more difficult, as I have decided on the series, but am wiggling on the episodes, but:

Person of Interest - Season 4, Ep 11: "If-Then-Else" - An excellent, pseudo-Groundhog Day of an episode. Really shows of the cast, as well as the capability of the protagonist and their rivals.

Daredevil - Season 1, Ep 2: "Cut Man" - Gives you an origin story, and an amazingly choreographed fight sequence. What more could you want?

#101 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 08:00 AM:

snowcrash @ 100: I walked into a friend's house just as that fight scene from Daredevil was starting. (I hadn't seen the show, not being much of a watcher.) Just that bit alone would be worthy.

I'd never seriously browsed Strange Horizons before yesterday. There were two stories that particularly spoke to me:

[SHORT STORY][2015] Noise Pollution, by Alison Wilgus

[SHORT STORY][2015] Probably Definitely, by Heather Morris (who, as we say elsewhere, had a ticket but it got cancelled)

#102 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 08:13 AM:

And then there's this: Guilded Age. I stuck with it even though the early chapters weren't entirely my cup of tea, because I really like T Campbell's work, and now, I'm glad I did. It turned out to be a very ambitious work, and the only primarily dramatic webcomic I'm reading. [GRAPHIC STORY] [?]

#103 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 10:11 AM:

Took time while I was waiting on my Windows 10 installation to re-read Diamond Mask [1994], second in Julian May's "Galactic Milieu" trilogy....

Unfortunately, this one has the defects I remember - because it's a prequel, my emotional investment in it is low, since I already know how all this is going to turn out. To be fair, Julian May is aware of this, and has introduced a main villain whose purpose seems to be to pop up and metaphorically shout "aha! You think you know how this will turn out, but you might be wrong!"

Except I know I'm not. I suppose I could be sitting back and feeling awestruck at the inevitability of the oncoming tragedy of Marc Remillard. Problem is, the main tragedy of Marc Remillard is that he's a stuck-up git and I don't like him very much.

The overall plotline, actually, has its points of interest - May takes care to make her secondary villains, the metapsychic rebels, seem plausible and sympathetic, to an extent. If we didn't already know they were wrong, they might be quite persuasive. It's just the dead hand of foreknowledge, again, that squashes the potential drama of this bit.

The overall plot doesn't advance a lot, either. We get a hell of a lot of Dorothea Macdonald/Illusio Diamond Mask's childhood, but not a lot of action. I think May's repeating her effects a bit here, too, with Illusio's initial suspicion and rejection of Jack paralleling Lucille's attitude to Denis in Intervention....

Ahem. Flawed books, but I can go on and on about them for ages, so maybe not so flawed after all. It occurs to me that May was a bit unlucky with timing, here. If this lot had come out ten years later, there would have been online discussions and fanfic communities and every last character in the saga would have their own Wikipedia entry. The slashfic alone would fill a good few hard drives. So it goes.

#104 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 10:33 AM:

Craig R. (98): TheSeventh Bride appears to have come out in 2014, not 2015. However, it also looks good, and I've added it to my queueueueueue.

#105 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 10:45 AM:

TomB @80:

Nigel C @83:
I read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet [NOVEL] [2015] last month, and really enjoyed it.

I found one character action at the very end bugged me, both because I disagreed with it quite strongly and because the rest of the characters weren't as ambivalent about it as I would have expected them to be. Yes, they approved of the outcome, but my read of them is that they would have been uncomfortable about the means.

But apart from that, I liked it a lot. It lived up to the billing with which it was sold to me: like Firefly with a pacifist multispecies crew.

I've recently read Uprooted by Naomi Novik [NOVEL] [2015], and endorse the comments by dotless ı @23. A good, textured book, which strips a bunch of fairy tales down to their bones and remakes them into something completely different.

I also just finished The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard [NOVEL] [2015]. I enjoyed the machinations in post-apocalyptic Paris, particularly after my recent visit there. The portrait of an addiction was also well-drawn. Worth a read, if you like that sort of thing (as I do).

Also good, just finished: Updraft, by Fran Wilde [NOVEL] [2015]. It's a classic Bildingsroman in a really interesting setting, where people live in towers of bone which they travel among with bone and silk wings. The society is complex and rigid, and the main character's struggle to find her place in it leads the reader into a lot of interesting places.. I found, reading many of the scenes, that I had to stop and relax all my muscles; I found it very easy to get caught up in the tension of the story.

(Two just-finished novels is a sure sign that I've been sick recently. Which I have.)

#106 ::: MaxL ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 10:49 AM:

I watched the first season (well, so far the only season) of Star Wars: Rebels it's weird. I like it a lot, because it's light, dumb fun. Thing is, if you think about it at all it's also horrific. The protagonists routinely endanger civilians (including umpteen downtown gunfights with stormtroopers and accidentally strafing the marketplace). They usually don't even mention it, though once or twice they mention that it's sort of a bummer all these people are in danger. Two of the members of the rebel cell are minors; one sixteen, one fifteen. The adults in the group have no qualms about asking them to fly starfighters or set bombs or shoot troopers or whatever. And so on.

But, as I said, it's fun. You just have to never, ever think about it.

#107 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 01:09 PM:

Elliot #84 - I don't want to get into a long discussion on it, but basically although there are Sf-nal tropes in there such as the weird tech and indeed adventures opening things up, ultimately I see them as more steam punk/ historical novels. Alternative history, as it were. And they've got explicitly supernatural elements, although they are oddly lacking in specific deities.
Thus to me they aren't SF, whereas Existence is.

#108 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 02:08 PM:

Thanks to Nigel @83 and abi @105 for reminding me of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I'd forgotten to watch for it.

Can someone who understands the rules better than I do tell me if it is Hugo-eligible this year? My understanding is that a version was self-published in 2014 before being picked up by a traditional publisher and re-released in 2015.

#109 ::: Cat Eldridge ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 05:18 PM:

Long form: the first season of Agent Carter. Best video series I've seen in a very long time. I just started Daredevil and it looks equally superb.

Novel: Sean McGuire's second Indexing novel is out soon and I expect I'll be nominating it. Alastair Reynold's Poseidon's Wake was brilliant.

Novella: Reynold's Slow Bullets, Liz Han's Wylding Hall and Catherynne Valente's Speakeasy will be gettting nominations.

Association book: Jack Zipes' Grimm Legacies: The Magic Spell of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales.

#110 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 05:29 PM:

It's too bad that Wizards vs Aliens doesn't really get shown in the US, AFAICT -- I was reduced to buying the Australian version of the DVD for the second season. It's got a lot of what I like Russell T. Davies for -- intelligent, slightly unpredictable scripts with a lot of sensitivity. Yeah, it's a kids' show: which doesn't mean that it's stupid.

#111 ::: Jim S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 05:41 PM:

Following up on my previous post, I'm now done with Seveneves, which I quite liked. I've moved on to The Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu. I've also gotten a Kindle subscription to Lightspeed magazine and backed the Uncanny mag Kickstarter, so I'm on may way with my commitment to reading more short fiction this year.

Still many, many things on my to be read list: Karen Memory, the new Aliette de Bodard book, the new Zen Cho book, Updraft, and a bunch more besides.

#112 ::: Cat Eldridge ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 06:18 PM:

The first three seasons of Wizards vs Aliens is on Amazon USA right now. I've got in my queue for watching at some point.

#113 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 06:25 PM:

[NOVELLA][2015] "The Dead City" by Martha Wells, in Stories of the Raksura: Volume II. It is a prequel to the Books of the Raksura trilogy, requiring no prior knowledge — if you haven't read any of the other stories in the series yet, this is a great place to start. It is a tense action-adventure with unforgettable characters from multiple intelligent species (no humans) in a fantastically diverse world. Highly recommended.

#114 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 07:02 PM:

Speaking of Zen Cho, can I get in a plug for "Monkey King, Faerie Queen" [SHORT STORY] [2015] here? A little while back, I had occasion to read the whole of the Journey to the West aloud, and this short story manages to capture a lot of the style, while also putting an original spin on things. And it's fun. I am a great believer in fun.

#115 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 07:10 PM:

Has there been any discussion of shifting movies from "long-form dramatic presentation" down to "short-form"?

(The formal proposal would be to change the category break from "90 minutes" to perhaps "four hours".)

(Four hours sits tidily between a Peter Jackson Really Extended Director's Director's Cut, on the one hand, and a season of _Sherlock_ on the other.)

Eric Flint has talked about changing the prose categories to reflect current publishing realities -- series and multi-volume stories. Television has shifted too, and I can't be the only person who's thought about it. In fact I know I'm not, because I tweeted this notion and somebody me-too'ed it. :)

The fact is that I now think of movies as short-form drama; long-form means a TV season. Credit to Marvel for bringing this to my conscious attention! I've been comparing _Winter Soldier_ and _Age of Ultron_ to _Agents of SHIELD_ and _Agent Carter_, and this is interesting; one of the interesting aspects is how much time the story has to develop. And in that context, clearly *movies are short, TV seasons are long.*

For some TV shows, it makes sense to nominate an episode -- _Doctor Who_ is the blatant example; each episode has its own setting and story. "The Doctor's Wife" clearly won on the merits of its 44 minutes. But what the heck does it mean to nominate the pilot episode of _Flash_? It's the season arc there that carries the weight. (Which is to say, Tom Cavanagh's brilliant slow burn.)

...If this discussion already happened in another Hugo thread, I apologize. I didn't read exhaustively.

...In book news, I just started _House of Shattered Wings_. Hooked!

#116 ::: Jon Lennox ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 09:08 PM:

Cat Eldridge @109: the final segment of Indexing: Reflections comes out in January, so it'd be eligible for the 2017 Hugos, not 2016. (Unless you want to nominate individual segments.)

#117 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 09:41 PM:

I've started reading The Three Body Problem. It's a bit slow, and there are places where awkward, not-quite-English phrases make me want to unearth a red pencil. But I'm enjoying it.

#118 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2015, 11:50 PM:

Mary Aileen (104)

Oh, I know Seventh Bride isn't eligible - it's just what I'm reading right now.

And it is good reading.

Strike that.

Excellent reading.

Thank you Ursula.

#119 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 12:31 AM:

My favorite of the proposed new categories is the Best Anthology. It's a lot easier to have an informed opinion about an anthology than about an editor.

This being said, is there a formal difference between an anthology and an issue of a magazine? Does it matter?

#120 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 12:40 AM:

Please move the Hugo category change discussion to the Open Thread. Let's keep this thread focused on things we're reading/watching/listening to.


#121 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 01:05 AM:

My apologies. I've moved it.

#122 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 01:30 AM:

Just finished Gardner Dozois’s latest volume of The Year’s Best Science Fiction. It’s the first time in 20 years or so that I’ve read one of them from beginning to end instead of skipping around, so the last story I read was the last (and longest) in the book, Nancy Kress’s “Yesterday’s Kin”. Kress has been a favorite writer of mine, especially at novella-length, since I first read “Beggars in Spain” back in 1991. “Yesterday’s Kin” effectively blends cutting-edge genetics with dysfunctional family drama, adding alien first contact for extra spice. I really wish this was on the Hugo ballot this year, but I suspect the Sad/Rabid Puppies would have hated it, not for being “message fiction” but for asking the reader uncomfortable questions about what it means to be human.

Just after I finished “Yesterday’s Kin” my wife and I went to see the crime-comedy Dope, currently enjoying a second theatrical run. Dope isn’t science fiction or fantasy, but it contains several features of interest to SF&F fans. First of all, the protagonists are teenage “geeks” (referred to as such in the movie), although more time is spent on their preoccupation with late ‘80s/early ‘90s hiphop than with SF&F (Game of Thrones does get a shout-out). Several elements of the plot (including illegal drugs, computer encryption and absurd internet memes) recall 1980’s cyberpunk; one of the high points comes when a couple of thugs track down the good guys with the “find my iPhone” app. Finally, some of the dialogue (close to monologue at points) has philosophical underpinnings (subjects include criminal codes of behavior, the moral responsibility of commercial distribution, and the perception of what something or someone is or does versus what one expects of that something or someone) that bear comparison to similar passages from Robert A. Heinlein. Again, Dope isn’t science fiction or fantasy, but it might shed some light on how those genres work. It's my favorite movie of the year so far; I hope we get some Hugo nominees at least as good.

(Post-finally, if you wanted to know what Tony Revolori got up to after holding his own as the lead among the star-studded cast of The Grand Budapest Hotel, he has a very good supporting part in Dope as the main character’s best male friend. However, the breakout actor in Dope is the lead, Shameik Moore; watch for him in the future.)

#123 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 03:03 AM:

Rob T. #122:

Yesterday's Kin would have been a finalist in a non-bloc-voting year.

But on a more positive (and on topic) note, Ted Chiang's The Great Silence left me breathless.

#124 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 03:07 AM:

That should have been:

[SHORT STORY] [2015]
Ted Chiang "The Great Silence".

(This tagging thing will take a bit of getting used to.)

#125 ::: Arkady Martine ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 10:28 AM:

TomB at #80: that made me extremely happy, thank you~

I've been doing some my-foremothers-in-genre catchup reading, and have just finished Pat Cadigan's SYNNERS [novel] [1991], which I am immensely glad to have read; I love cyberpunk anyway, and Pat's is both psychedelic and embodied. And contains a scene of some of the most amazing horror I have ever read in my LIFE.

#126 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 12:03 PM:

@ a couple of people upthread, re The Annihilation Score - I read this and didn't get on with it, or possibly it disagreed with me. I like Stross' work, but I don't really enjoy proper horror, and I found TAS just over the line; the Laundry books' ratio of horror to comedy has been steadily shifting in favour of the former as the series ticks on, and TAS is pretty bleak. (For comparison, I enjoyed Laundry 1-3, had a harder time with 4&5, liked Saturn's Children, and had much the same reaction to Rule 34 as to TAS.)

@Stephen desJardins #103, the Galactic Milieu books! I haven't read those in ages. I should go back to them and see what I've forgotten.

Also, I've just finished N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season [NOVEL] [2015] and it's stunning; one of those ones I want to go straight back to and read through again. The worldbuilding's stellar and I don't think I've seen anything like it before.

Content note: some violence against children. (Is this OK to mention? it seemed worth mentioning.)

Chapter 1 is available to read online here.

#127 ::: emgrasso ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 12:04 PM:

Just finished "The Sorceror of the Wildeeps" [NOVELLA][2015] by Kai Ashante Wilson. Excellent world building, unusual story structure, and wonderful, gorgeous use of many-leveled language.

There was one battle sequence that felt literally epic: the events were unique, but the text flow would have fit nicely into a good translation of the Illiad (or how I wish the Illiad got translated, perhaps).

Long enough for the story to have room to breathe but too short to have room for extraneous anything. Sort of the apotheosis of one half of an old Ace double.

#128 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 01:36 PM:

Ooo I have got to tell you about:

Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon). A re-telling of Beauty and the Beast with Kingfisher's typical quirky sense of humor, and a protagonist who is a gardener "right down to her muddy clogs" as the song goes. I don't even like gardening and I loved this book.

The Pyramids of London by Andrea K Höst. This book is... well, it's hard to explain. Imagine a roughly Victorian tech-level--and to a lesser extent society--complicated by functional Gods who mean that this world's Great Powers are Egypt and Rome. Mix in a generous dollop of steampunk, a scoop of vampires, a drop of essence of dragon and a link between royalty and divinity. Show us this world through the eyes of two women of differing generations working together to solve a murder.

Seriously you have got to try this.

This was the first work I had read by this author but I've been working my way through her back catalog and the Stray trillogy is really fun too.

I have also really enjoyed a number of the other books recommended upthread but I didn't see that anyone had brought these up.

Between File 770 and now here I'm very pleased to have these recommendations for works to check out for next year's nominations!

#129 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 01:45 PM:

I don't read a lot of new novels in the year they come out, and in the last year or so I haven't read that much new short fiction either -- mostly older single-author collections, plus F&SF and Asimov's, which I'm about a year behind on. And I rarely read paper comics in time to nominate them, either, but I read a fair number of webcomics, some of which I think excellent enough to nominate. For the last few years I've usually been nominating one or more stories from Gunnerkrigg Court and Skin Horse; a few months ago I discovered Namesake, which may have displaced the two previously mentioned as my favorite webcomic. (I think I found it after Seanan Mcguire mentioned it on the SF Squeecast.) It recently completed Book Four, so I'll probably nominate that for Best Graphic Story, along with perhaps the best Skin Horse and Gunnerkrigg Court stories from 2015.

Freefall is also very good, the only hard-sf newspaper style strip I know of, but it doesn't do discrete stories or chapters so I am in despair at how or whether to nominate it.

#130 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 01:54 PM:


" It occurs to me that May was a bit unlucky with timing, here. If this lot had come out ten years later, there would have been online discussions and fanfic communities and every last character in the saga would have their own Wikipedia entry. "

Back in the mid-90s I was a member of a Julian May email discussion list and we chewed over the books in great detail - up until the release of "Magnificat" which as I recall, killed off the discussion list within a few months.

#131 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 02:51 PM:

Oh, gosh, I'm on a Noelle Stevenson kick right now, so I'll recommend two things she was involved with.

I loved the webcomic-turned-published-in-2015 Nimona, which starts silly with a shape-shifting child applying for a job with a supervillain, and ends much larger and sadder and more interesting. I'd been following along with the webcomic for the last few months it was being updated, and just reread it on paper and loved it again. Not sure how Hugo rules work with conventional vs. online publishing, but I expect it would be eligible.

She's also writing Lumberjanes which is a super fun ongoing comic about girls at a summer camp who bond over supernatural happenings. It's a cozier Buffy. Instead of swearing they take the names of noted feminists in vain. It's charming.

I'm not nearly so current on my non-graphic reading.

#132 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 07:06 PM:

Craft (Alchemy) @ 126: While I'm pleased when one of my recommendations meets with someone's approval, I am a bit startled when I can't remember making it. The gentleman who praised the Galactic Milieu books in #103 was actually Steve Wright.

#133 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 08:36 PM:

I want to echo the applause for Elizabeth Bear's Karen Memory [NOVEL] [2015] and T. Kingfisher's Bryony & Roses [NOVEL] [2015]. I'm going to be awfully tempted to nominate Ursula Vernon's Castle Hangnail [NOVEL] [2015] as well, despite it being aimed at middle-grade readers, because I loved it so much.

Meanwhile, M.C.A. Hogarth has just released The Three Jaguars: A Comic About Art, Business, Life (announcement with purchasy-type link goodness). The Three Jaguars is the print edition of Hogarth's old business-advice-disguised-as-a-webcomic site, and is a lot more interesting and fun than my poor skills at blurbing can describe. I'm planning on nominating it for a [RELATED WORK][2015] Hugo.

#134 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 09:27 PM:

@133 - I am deeply flattered, but more importantly, I am super proud of MCA and her book is awesomely useful advice for artists and I am not just saying that because she actually used the world's worst pull quote that I gave her: "Better than burning your house down and taking to the sea." although I will admit that I am rather proud of that too.

I'll be nominating it!

#135 ::: emilly ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 09:47 PM:

Uncanny Magazine! I really loved In Libres, by Elizabeth Bear [SHORT STORY][2015]. A story about some students who need to visit the library and check some references for their essays. Only the library isn't just a building on campus full of books. Delightful.

#136 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 10:20 PM:

I just finished The Shepherd's Crown, by Sir Terry Pratchett [NOVEL][2015].

It's not my favorite Pratchett ever, but it's very good, and it ties in to the other stories well. (And ties up a lot of loose ends without feeling like it's trying to resolve everything.)

#137 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2015, 10:39 PM:

UrsulaV @134: My praise is heartfelt - for the work that both of you do!

And there has to be some way to get your musteline collaborations into print. And not just because they'd be a shoo-in for Best Comedic/Dramatic Presentation - Badger Form!

#138 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 04:51 AM:

@132: Ack, yes, the Galactic Milieu comment was directed at Steve Wright. Apologies.

@135: Seconding the recommendation for In Libres! Anyone interested in library-themed shenanigans may also want to check out The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman [NOVEL] [2015], which I thought was great fun.

#139 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 08:06 AM:

Steve Wright 103: It occurs to me that May was a bit unlucky with timing, here. If this lot had come out ten years later, there would have been online discussions and fanfic communities and every last character in the saga would have their own Wikipedia entry. The slashfic alone would fill a good few hard drives.

Also the FRP games. (IIRC, It would have worked pretty well as a GURPS supplement.) I generally liked the series. I'll grant that Diamond Mask wasn't the best in the series, but I rather liked the Fury subplot. Not so much "maybe it could be different", just more trials she had to deal with (and IIRC Fury extended over several books, announcing himself before the trilogy).

#140 ::: Jen Birren ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 08:43 AM:

Enthusiastically seconding Cat at #128's recommendation for The Pyramids of London- Egypto-pagan clockpunk! Battery-powered golems! Foliate cats! The Mares of the North Wind! (The first protagonist is a middle-aged bisexual woman, if that's something that anybody has been wanting to see more of?)

#141 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 09:16 AM:

David Harmon @139 - I vaguely remember some efforts to make a roleplaying setting out of the Pliocene Exile books (an argument in the letter columns of either Dragon or White Dwarf sticks in my mind, something about "no, iron weapons do not just do double damage to the Tanu". Along those lines. It's been a while.)

Fury is the main antagonist, sort of, for the Milieu trilogy (though his roots go back to Intervention - as a villain, he's not bad, he's got credible motivations and so forth. But the whole trilogy feels sort of unnecessary to me - the final revelation of Intervention (or confirmation, if you were sharp enough to pick up on the clues in the text) seems to me to bring the whole story to a quite satisfying closure.

Perhaps this is why I find the Milieu trilogy so unmemorable - which would be odd, otherwise, as May's writing style still has all the zest it had in the Pliocene Exile books. I remembered whole chunks of those four vividly - and the same goes for Intervention, come to that. But the only thing I really recalled of Jack the Bodiless was the lengthy winter-camping-with-Bigfoot sequence, and as for Diamond Mask, all I remembered was that the title character was in it. I will get round to re-reading Magnificat, sometime, but all I remember of that is vague feelings of disappointment. (Well, some of them are not so vague - I was expecting a particular explanation of Rogi's "Great Carbuncle" talisman, I know, and got a much less interesting one instead.)

#142 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 11:29 AM:

Somehow I missed finding Martha Wells's Raksura stories until this year. (I think maybe there was a Big Idea post about them on Whatever?)

Anyway, they're a mix of novels, novellas, and short stories. I read some of the novellas before reading the novels; I don't think they suffered from being read out of order.

I really like them a lot. I enjoy the world building, character development, and interpersonal relationships immensely. They're fantasy with no human beings in them at all, but many different sapient peoples in the Three Worlds (air, land, and water - not three different planets). There is a lot of diversity in the different societies and the relationships within societies. In some ways they push the same buttons for me that Edgar Rice Burroughs did for me in middle school. Except that I can't stand reading ERB now. And I find the different cultures in the Raksura books fascinating. And the flying islands and ships. Strange, dead civilizations. Adventure!

There's a new collection out this summer:
Stories of the Raksura: Volume II:
The Dead City [novella][2015]
The Dark Earth Below [novella][2015] (I think this is the only story in the anthology that would really suffer from being read out of order.)
Trading Lesson [Short Story][2015] (a slice of life story without much adventure; I liked it, though.)
Mimesis [Short Story][2015]
The Almost Last Voyage of the Wind-ship Escarpment [Short Story][2015] Set in the same world, but with no Raksura in it.

#143 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 11:59 AM:

I played 'Kindness Coins' [2013] last night and was charmed. It's a very very short game priced at "pay what you like" (and I think the author would consider a dollar perfectly fair.) Anyway, it's partly about being the *object* of a dating sim game and what that feels like, in common with being the target of a deliberate "nice guy" approach, and contains sufficient SFness in the form of demon woman, plant woman, cyclops bunny woman. I thought it was just really sweet and wanted to share it here.

#144 ::: --E ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 12:03 PM:

In the past year I've gotten back into graphic novels after years not reading comic books. Pleased to say I already owned and had read all four of the non-pup nominations for the Hugos in that category this year.

Currently I'm geeking happy on LAZARUS, a series from Image. Near-ish future dystopia (yeah, I'm tired of dystopias, too, but this one is good) where the world is divided up among wealthy families and most people are wage-slaves or worse. I think I like this one because it's frighteningly on the nose of believable possibility.

Anyway, the main story is about Forever Carlisle, her family's "Lazarus," genetically modified individuals who are chosen to defend the family at all costs. The story focuses on Forever's internal conflict. The internal politics of the Carlisle family and their conflicts with other families are backdrop and motivator for Forever.

Lest anyone think this is all about the rich folk, Volume 2 was about the poor folks toward the bottom of the socio-economic situation. I expect their story and Forever's will run into each other eventually.

The books also acknowledge the diversity of the world, with characters both rich and poor of every color and background. The art is excellent--each character is distinctive, with features/hair/body unique to each person.

As with so many dystopias, there's a lot of room for the world to make no damn sense, but I think these books are pulling it off.

#145 ::: Reuben ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 03:49 PM:

I picked up The Fifth Season, burned through it over the weekend, and I am fully in accord with Andrew @50 and Craft @126 - it is god damned fantastic. Among all the other joys of reading it, it has that tangible click you get when an author really takes it to the next level. Not that Jemisin hasn't always been a great read, but Season, as a piece of craft, is's a level-up, I don't know how else to put it.

I'm gonna reread it soon, because it's definitely going to be a different experience on reread. Some great sleigh of hand. It's getting a Hugo nom from me for sure.

#146 ::: Reuben ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 03:50 PM:

"Sleight" of hand, of course. Neither Saint Nick nor Charles Foster Kane appear in this novel.

#147 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 04:42 PM:

Seveneves[Novel, 2015] is a quite good hard-SF space story. Actually, it's two stories in a shared universe, about 5000 years apart, with the second one cut in half to make room for the sequel or series. I imagine this was done partly for story reasons (to show that the survivors eventually did survive long-term) and partly because finishing the second story would make this book too long.

The first story is a near-future end-of-the-world story (the biosphere gets flattened and burned up) with a few humans trying to escape to space to avoid being entirely wiped out. (Other people try other strategies for surviving.) I found the technology pretty realistic for near-future stuff--I'm an interested amateur, nowhere near an expert, where it comes to space technology and orbital dynamics and such, but at least it didn't ring false or inconsistent with reality to me. I thought he did a really good job with the characters (I felt like I really *got* Doob and Dinah, and the relationship between Ivy and Dinah worked very well. There are a lot of secondary characters that feel like real people and are quite well fleshed-out (Markus, Reiss, Tekla, Moira, Tav, JBF, Steve).

One odd bit of the story was that there were a bunch of characters (including Doob, who is a major viewpoint character) who seemed to me to be modeled on real people. I was pretty sure I saw Francis Crick (with his death date moved forward as needed), Neil deGrasse Tyson (Doob), and Elon Musk (Sean Probst) as characters who made at least one important appearance. I think JBF might have been loosely modeled off of Sarah Palin. Cami was modeled on Malala Yousafazi. And probably several others I didn't catch.

The least realistic part of this story, to me, was the basically rational and decent way that people on Earth handled their impending destruction. (The crazy/vicious politics up in space later on seemed much more plausible to me, though this may just mean I'm pessimistic about human nature.)

The second story starts 5000 years later, with the distant descendants of the survivors of the first story having an adventure that lets them find out what happened on Earth while they were in space. There was a fundamental plot problem here, which Stephenson evades by just not showing it: the state of the human survivors at the end of the first story was so precarious that it seems very hard to believe they actually managed to keep their civilization going long enough to even have more than maybe one generation of children. Jumping forward to the massively advanced and successful civilization that came from those survivors seemed a bit like cheating.

Ignoring that, the second story is cut off in the middle, probably because the book was too long to keep going, but also to make room for a sequel. A big part of the second story is world-building to allow more stories to be told in that world, along with various instances of reflecting back on how the decisions of the space survivors led to the world as it appears 5000 years later. It's a reasonably interesting story, but not nearly as gripping or interesting as the first story.

I'd say the first story was very good, and the second story was pretty good but less gripping and annoyingly cuts off in the middle. There weren't any of the characters in the second story that stuck with me as well as the major characters from the first story.

#148 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 06:34 PM:

albatross @ 147: Ignoring that, the second story is cut off in the middle, probably because the book was too long to keep going, but also to make room for a sequel.

Although I haven't read this one yet, "story just stops abruptly without any real ending" seems to me characteristic of the majority of Neal Stephenson's novels. REAMDE is one of the few which seemed to me to have a proper ending.

#149 ::: Aaron ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 08:14 PM:

For anyone who wants to take a look, I have reviewed the Hugo-eligible graphic story Ms. Marvel: Generation Why.

#150 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2015, 08:14 PM:

Steve Wright #141: It felt to me that May wanted to show off what the beginning of the Mileu was like, the problem was that half his characters are too perfect by half -- partly because they're demigods in their own right, and partly because they're heralds of a Peaceful Communal Future where it would be rather difficult to set an interesting story.

#151 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 06:28 AM:

David Harmon @150 : the difficulty of writing interesting stories *in* the Peaceful Communal Future - as opposed to around its ragged edges or in the other societies it rubs up against - is something I remember being brought up about Iain M Banks' Culture as well. There's a bit in The Player of Games that nods to it explicitly: "Stories set in the Culture in which Things Went Wrong tended to start with humans losing or forgetting or deliberately leaving behind their terminal ... With a terminal, you were never more than a question or a shout away from anything you wanted to know, or any help you could possibly need." The personal terminal is a nice stand-in for the greater infrastructure of the Culture - you have to cut yourself off before conflict can start to happen.

That said, I would love to read a Culture-set (or Milieu-set) sitcom of some variety - when most people have literally nothing to worry about other than their relationships with other people, that's going to be interesting.

(On another point, re "his characters" - May is one of the rare female Julians, cf. J of Norwich.)

#152 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 01:05 PM:

Craft (Alchemy) @#151: Someone I know is working on some postscarcity satire that I hope you will get to enjoy! In like 5 years when it's out.

Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal [NOVEL] [2015] (more info): I richly enjoyed this, especially in conversation with Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword. Both of them include visits to forced-labor plantations by people who benefit from that labor but until now have not reflected as thoroughly on their complicity, and reflected on how insidiously the system works. And in both cases, the visitor tries to wield their privilege to fix something, and finds heartbreaking unintended consequences.

I think Of Noble Family will mean a lot more if you've read the other four books in the Glamourist series. For instance, I won't spoil you by telling you what kind of worldbuilding premise from the earlier books gets a head-on-its-ear tweak, but the subversion makes more of an impact if you've read the previous books.

As always, I appreciate Kowal's attention to interiority, to the vast depths of feeling often concealed by facades of reserve, to the easy lies out of our own mouths that delude and damn us, to how sustaining intimacy with a partner is and how wrenching it can be when that partner stonewalls you, to money and status, and to the disorienting moment when something you've assumed, or been taught, clearly isn't so.

#153 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 01:14 PM:

Craft (Alchemy) #151: Yup. Niven noted it too with respect to his Known Space; from a writer's point of view, it effectively ends with the age of the teelas ("Safe At Any Speed" notwithstanding). And Card offered a similar issue within his Worthington Saga.

Re: Julian May's gender, whoops. I used to know that, but somehow forgot.

#154 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 01:36 PM:

"Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters" by N. K. Jemisin (a reprint, originally published in 2010). Jemisin's summary: "In the flooded streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, a young drug dealer faces horrors both existential and magical." Teresa once mentioned an appeal of genre fantasy being "numinous landscapes and significant personal actions"; that's in this story, as is a treatment of dialect in dialogue that feels unobtrusive to me.

Zen Cho, Sorcerer to the Crown [NOVEL] [2015]. To quote another reviewer: "I just finished reading Sorceror to the Crown by Zen Cho and it was riveting and amazing and you must stop what you are doing to read it. One content note regarding Sorceror to the Crown: the protagonists are people of color who experience the racism of the British upperclass. So I wouldn't read it if I were looking for a fantasy world in which people of color are not facing racism. But if you are looking for an awesome fantasy where a black man & a biracial woman kick a lot of kyriarchal ass, this book is for you."

So, if you read her historical romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo then you might be forewarned of the kind of genre switchup Cho is doing -- I definitely see Prunella Gentleman prefigured in Jade Yeo. I particularly like that, in Sorcerer to the Crown, Cho writes in a genre that often has kind of a slow tempo, and moves the speed up so there are more exciting plot developments per page, and adds more Wodehouse-y shenanigans and off-the-rails conversations, without ever sliding into unbelievable-silly-farce-romp or territory.

Rereading: a bunch of Gordon Korman children's and young adult novels: Losing Joe's Place, The Twinkie Squad, Son of Interflux, Son of the Mob, A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag. It's been interesting to watch how the different friend configurations among the protagonists seem to affect the internal narration regarding zany schemes, loyalty, and dating.

#155 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 04:39 PM:

[Novel] [2015]
"Archangel", debut novel by Marguerite Reed (she's interviewed here) has a bunch of different elements (older protagonists, ecology, MilSF, genetic engineering, an Earth colony that actually has diverse colonists and not just white Christian heterosexuals) that come together well and gets the thumbs up from me. I really liked the the characterisations & world-building, and the prose is fluent. Disclaimer: We are FB friends.

#156 ::: Jim S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 05:23 PM:

@Steve Wright: Thanks for your recommendation of "Monkey King, Faerie Queen"! I loved the fun of it from practically the first paragraph. I was already planning on reading her book, but I think I'm moving it up in the queue now.

#157 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 05:38 PM:


This makes me wonder: how often are there normal life kinds of stories (comedies of manners, for example) set in fantastic settings (SF, fantasy, etc.?)

One example I can think of right off the top of my head: Heinlein's short story _The Menace from Earth_. That's not set in the Culture's post-scarcity utopia, but it is set on the moon in a pretty pleasant place to live.

Bujold's _A Civil Campaign_ captures some of this--it's a comedy of manners mixed with a political thriller, with an interestiing technological and social backdrop. However, I'm not sure that very much of anyone's time spent in Miles' company counts as "normal life," and the ending of the story isn't anything like normal life even for someone like Miles.

Most of the parts of _Captain Vorpatril's Alliance_ that take place on Barrayar kind-of fit this. There's action/adventure stuff happening at the beginning and the end, but the middle is about Ivan's normal life, with Tej added in as an outside observer and the problems of getting any kind of commitment out of two extremely passive people. (Ivan's normal life is very normal, and he and Tej seem like they would end up with a very comfortable, happy, quiet home life.)

What other examples are there?

#158 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 06:04 PM:

Bowl of Heaven [Novel, 2012] and Shipstar [Novel, 2014] are two books that don't really stand alone--the story isn't done at the end of Bowl of Heaven, and Shipstar wouldn't make sense without reading Bowl of Heaven.

The big idea: A human expedition using a ramscoop[1] runs across a mind-blowingly-large technological artifact[2]--a giant bowl with a hole in the middle, bound to a star by gravity and magnetic forces. The bowl has a membrane over its top to keep an atmosphere in; it spins to provide artificial gravity which is higher as you go toward the "rim" of the bowl. The bowl uses magnetic fields and presumably some other technological magic to make the star flare toward the opening in the middle of the bowl, producing a thrust that keeps the bowl moving in a desired direction. Basically, they've built a device that lets them turn an entire *star* into the engine for a really huge space ship, along with bringing their ecology around.

The human ramscoop and the bowl are heading in the same direction, and the ramscoop is running with lower than expected efficiency because it's running through the "exhaust" of the bowl (with more products of fusion relative to fusable hydrogens). The whole story happens when the humans interact with the extremely old and stable multi-species civilization on the bowl.

I liked the setting--I love how Niven and Benford are both willing to think big. I liked the bits of alien biology. The characters were okay. Probably my favorite was Redwing, the capitain--not that he was all that likeable of a character, but that he seemed very much like the kind of person who would be sent as the commander on humanity's first interstellar expedition. One thing I really liked: Nobody was stupid. That is, if you're outfitting humanity's frst interstellar expedition, you're not going to put any dummies on the crew. Your officers will be extremely smart and adaptable, not martinets or blustering fools; your scientists will be people-aware and survival-savvy enough not to walk off cliffs in stupid ways, your crew will have some self-awareness and will be making good decisions in most cases given their knowledge. I think the books did a pretty good job with that--they don't have anyone doing dumb things that broke me out of the notion that these were the kind of super-smart, driven, functional people who'd be chosen out of 10+ billion humans for this trip.

All that said, the story was interesting, very competently done, worth reading, but it didn't blow me away. The origin of the dominant species seemed like an overly-clever bit of plotting-by-improbable-coincidence. We never did find out what was going on with the alien planet that was sending the threatening messages (tuned to Human culture). The plot seemed a bit meandering.

Like I said, it was a good story, worth reading, but even if I had been in a position to nominate it for a Hugo, I wouldn't have. (It wouldn't have been an embarrasment as a Hugo nominee, just not quite good enough to belong there, IMO.)

[1] A ship that collects hydrogen nuclei from space using a big magnetic field and then uses them to run a fusion reactor to propel the ship. Analogous to a ramjet in air, though I have no idea if you could really get such a thing to work.

[2] Larry Niven is kinda known for these--see Ringworld.

#159 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 06:23 PM:

I'm having a lot of "meh" this year in my novels. Might be operator error and not the books.

I liked, but didn't love, Sorcerer To The Crown . I take it back- I loved parts. Gur erirny bs Trbetvnan Jvgubhg Ehgu for one.

I have somehow stumbled into a nest of teen thug books- first Apocalypse Now Now[NOVEL 2013] and then The War Against The Assholes [NOVEL 2015] which, again, I am liking but not loving. I am only about 50 pages into it, so we'll see.

N.K. Jemisin (I'm having a "looks typoey" moment; apologies if it actually is typoey) is continuing to not be my thing, based on that first chapter. No disrespect meant.

#160 ::: emgrasso ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 07:13 PM:

I think for me 'Sorcerer to the Crown' suffered by being read in too close proximity to 'The Fifth Season' and "Sorcerer of the Wildeeps". It felt bland compared to those bravura performances, though it was good in and of itself. (I think it also did not help it that I had reread JS&MN within the past few months.)

If/when I read it again I'll try to precede it with something adequate but fluffy as a palate cleanser to give it a fairer shake. I'm not sure it's fair to complain that it didn't get me drunk on language and worldbuilding when that isn't the kind of thing it is setting out to do.

On th other hand, comparing 'The Fifth Season' to 'Sorcerer to the Crown' for novels and "Sorcerer of the Wildeeps" to "Witches of Lychford" for novella, I know where my nominations and votes would go.

It will be interesting to see whether I react to "The Obelisk Gate" the way I did to "The Fifth Season": I definitely felt "Ancillary Sword" was a let-down from "Ancillary Justice", and I have not been able to figure out whether it is because of the now-familiar environment or the comparative lack of narrative complexity in the e second volume.

#161 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 07:16 PM:

Sandy B, I've been running into a lot of meh, too. I think some of it is that I'm trying SF novels at the library that were published in this year regardless of whether I would normally pick them up. I am, however, not making myself suffer: if I'm not interested after a chapter or so, the book goes right back to the library.

These four didn't hold my attention, but might be of interest for someone else (tastes vary). I'm just putting them for those looking for novels from 2015:

We all look up
King of the Cracksmen
Above us only sky

On the plus side, I found a space opera series this way by a female novelist I hadn't heard of: I read all of Edge of Dark [novel][2015] by Brenda Cooper before realizing it's part of a series. I liked the book; I'm not yet sure it's Hugo-worthy.

#162 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 07:34 PM:

Albatross #158: I have no idea if you could really get such a thing to work.

Last I heard, the prospects weren't looking too good. IIRC, not only would the fuel-gathering be cranky in itself, but the crew would be dealing with hard radiation from neutral particles and atoms. Plus likely maintenance issues for the fusion reactor.

#163 ::: Aaron ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 11:20 PM:

I've been busy reading classic science fiction. I've reviewed The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume I, 1929-1964.

#164 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 11:58 PM:

David Harmon @150: Correcting to be polite: "her".

Short fiction I've read and enjoyed so far this year, that I can link to:
[NOVELLA] [2015] Penric's Demon, by Lois McMaster Bujold. A good-hearted (if somewhat feckless) boy finds a career, in the World of Five Gods (The Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls). Left me wanting more.

[NOVELETTE] [2015] "The Thyme Fiend", by Jeffrey Ford. A well-written ghost story set in early 20th Century America.

"Drinking With the Elfin Knight", by Ginger Weil. A modern girl collides with faerie ballads.

[SHORT STORY] [2015] "It Brought Us All Together", by Marissa Lingen. A strong examination of public and private grief, in a high school in the future.

More later.

#165 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 12:19 AM:

Just finished "Penric's Demon" [Bujold, Novella, 2015] and…well, it's ok. It's a very pleasant story about a Nice Boy who overcomes obstacles by being Nice. Eh. Well enough written but about as filling as cotton candy.

Or maybe it's me. For the last couple of years I've had this continuing problem that the stories that everyone else thinks are mind-blowingly wonderful seem merely…good. Is the rhetoric overinflated? Have I lost all discernment? Or is it simply that my buttons are rotated 87.5 degrees out of line with everyone else's buttons such that mine never get punched? (In truth, the last is probably closest to the case. Though I'm willing to allow for a bit of rhetoric inflation as well.)

#166 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 07:57 AM:

#163 ::: Aaron

Thank you for doing the extensive review. I thought the horror of "That Only a Mother" was that the mother was hallucinating that the baby didn't have missing limbs, but it's been a while since I've read it.

#165 ::: Heather Rose Jones

I thought Pendric's Demon was second rank Bujold, which I consider to be better than many other things. I'd be glad to read sequels-- I'd like to see what happens with someone who's connected to two gods rather than the usual. On the other hand, I didn't think it was spectacular.

One of the best things I've read fairly recently was "Iphigenia in Aulis" by Mike Carey (2012, I think). Some of it was used as a basis for Carey's The Girl with All the Gifts, which has gotten a lot of acclaim, and which I think is good, but not nearly as good as the short story.

#167 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 09:32 AM:

albatross @157: Austin Grossman seems to be making a career of writing about fannish things using all the tropes and craft of a particular kind of Literary Fiction (capital letters intended and made portentous and spoken in a Voice on purpose).

His debut, Soon I Will Be Invincible [Novel, 2007], reads like an iteration of Fond Memories of Vagina in all its tropes and stylings, but has a female protagonist with superpowers who moves from being an integral member of a superteam to supervillainy, with all the introspection and story-of-her-life involved in that change. It's fascinating and really fun, but also weirded me out a lot, because it was a novel written like all those novels I find deadly boring -- but filled with decent worldbuilding and a character I cared about, I found I actually enjoyed the style.

I just finished reading his You [Novel, 2013] and he's done it again: this time, the kind of novel he's writing, structurally, is one of those "loser trapped in a nowhere loser life who starts hallucinating about things and it's never clear when the book is unhinged in time or actually showing things that are happening in reality" Important Literary Novels that tend to be written by white men about aging literature professors. Only in this case the protagonist is one of the generation of kids who spent their high school years writing the very first video games, and we enter his life in the late 90s, when he decides to go back and get a job from the kids he used to code with (after unsuccessfully trying a variety of other things). And then his life finds meaning, as the story unfolds the plotlines of the epic series of fantasy games the company has made, from his high school years to the present iteration. I kept thinking, "Wow, how in the world has he taken a metastructure shared primarily by books that bore the shit out of me and made me actually care about this one?" And I did care, it hit me in the self-identification feels the way Among Others hit many Fluorospherians (but missed for me).

I don't think it can possibly be by accident after reading both of them. This is something he's doing on purpose.

#168 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 09:41 AM:

Sumana @152: post-scarcity satire sounds interesting, definitely. Also, I second the recommendation of "Sinners, Saints ..."

albatross @157: I'm having trouble thinking of much in the way of "normal-life" stories that just happen to have an SF/F backdrop. There must be some. Possibly people better-read than I can chip in?

emgrasso @160: re narrative complexity in Ancillary Justice/Sword & The Fifth Season I do wonder how The Obelisk Gate can follow TFS in structural terms, given that (rot13 for TFS spoilers): bar bs gur guvatf gung znqr GSF fb fgryyne jnf vg tenqhnyyl orpbzvat pyrne gung gur guerr CBI punenpgref ner gur fnzr crefba (fvzvyneyl gb gur fgbel va NW bs ubj Whfgvpr bs Gbera raqrq hc nf Oerd). Naq bapr gur ernqre'f svavfurq, gung cnegvphyne ovg bs aneengvir yrtreqrznva jbhyq or vzcbffvoyr gb ercrng - ng yrnfg vs gur frdhry fgvpxf jvgu gur fnzr pber punenpgre, juvpu NF qbrf naq GBT vf tbvat gb (V guvax.)

More short stories I have read and enjoyed:

Ambiguity Machines: An Examination by Vandana Singh [SHORT STORY] [2015] which is four stories in one - three linked shorter pieces plus a frame which is even more strange. Very richly drawn.

Forestspirit, Forestspirit by Bogi Takacs [SHORT STORY] [2015], about an ex-military AI trying to defend the forest it now hides in.

Madeleine by Amal El-Mohtar [SHORT STORY] [2015] from the Queers Destroy Science Fiction! issue of Lightspeed, which is about grief and memory and is very beautiful.

#169 ::: Aaron ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 09:56 AM:

@Nancy Lebovitz: I thought the horror of "That Only a Mother" was that the mother was hallucinating that the baby didn't have missing limbs, but it's been a while since I've read it.

The mother certainly doesn't acknowledge that the daughter has no limbs, and I think that is, in part, supposed to be what is unsettling, at least that was probably what was intended in part when Merril wrote That Only a Mother.

But I think it is an open question as to whether the mother in the story is hallucinating limbs, or if she just doesn't care. Even if she is hallucinating, it doesn't seem to me to be that horrific that a child with a physical deformity might be treated well by their parent, for any reason. On the other hand, the idea that a parent would murder their child because it was limbless seems to me to be pretty horrific.

#170 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 10:10 AM:

Elliott Mason@167 --

Oh, it's not an accident. I just read _Crooked_, Austin Grossman's third novel. It's... let me see. It's the novel about a man who attains success but knows he doesn't deserve it, because everybody hates him and his marriage is falling apart and he's secretly failing in everything. The man is Richard Nixon, and what he's secretly failing at is using the Masonic-Lovecraftian magical powers of the Presidency to hold back the Cold War necromancers who are trying to destroy the world.

(Xvffvatre vf n arpebznapre. Guvf vf cnegvphyneyl jrveq orpnhfr Xvffvatre vf fgvyy nyvir. V jbaqre vs Tebffzna nfxrq uvf crezvffvba.)

I suspect _Crooked_ will do better among mainstream readers who want a taste of genre than among genre fans who want a taste of mainstream biography. (It's published under a mainstream imprint.) I enjoyed it, but I wanted it to be _Declare_ or "A Colder War" and it was simply not interested in being those books.

(I liked _...Invincible_. I don't think I can read _You_ because that's my flippin' *life*.)

#171 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 10:18 AM:

Andrew Plotkin: Yes, "You" will either be amazing and awesome for you or terrifyingly no no no nope no nopetopus. It is definitely claustrophobic and detailed in several realms. It may or may not contain handwavium that I missed because I personally am not actually a coder, but itlooked pretty historically accurate to me.

I'm a little reluctant to read Crooked because of my track record with liking Grossman's writing and the fact that I find Nixon so unspeakably loathesome that I really don't want Grossman to make me like him, even a little.

I can salute his skill and the nature of the complex stunt-writing game he's playing without, um, necessarily wanting to read every iteration.

#172 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 10:58 AM:

Reamde [Novel, 2011] is a novel by Neal Stephenson. It's a current-world story that's not exactly SF, because while the multiplayer game and particular piece of ransomware are fictional, there's not really much technology beyond current-world stuff here. It's mainly the story of an internet billionare with an interestingly checkered past and his niece Zara, who was adopted by his brother as a refugee from (I think) Sudan. There are a few times when her refugee background comes up, but mainly it's just background--other than one occasion where someone notes that she's black and a few times where she can *almost* understand some spoken Arabic, she's an American geek girl with a reasonably nice, somewhat weird Midwestern family and a rich uncle who helps her get a job at his company after college.

The story is the opposite of an ordinary life sort of story. It starts out that way--Zara and her boyfriend (a nerdy computer security guy who's into guns) show up at a family reunion, where everyone goes out back and goes shooting for awhile for fun[1]. The normal part of the story is basically where Zara is breaking up with her boyfriend (he's gotten involved in some apparently-minor crime, and peripherally involved her and her uncle).

From then on, the story is this weird action-movie with a parade of armed, dangerous, and often none-too-sane people. Seriously, we get the Russian Mafia, Chinese, British, and US spies, Islamic terrorists, survivalists living in an enclave in the mountains[2], Chinese gold farmers, and ransomware virus writers. We also see this odd parallel story about the billionare MMPOG designer dealing with an interesting social change in the game world, and interacting with both technical people and fantasy writers who are heavily involved in keeping the game interesting.

The story has a lot of cool ideas, and I liked Zara, her rich uncle, and Sokolov (the Russian special forces guy working for the Russian mafia) as characters. The plot had a lot of action, but it turned on a bunch of extremely improbable things happening. Really, there were three parallel plotlines going on--one vaguely SFnal plotline about the things (social change, gold rush caused by a ransomware virus that has to be paid off inside the game) going on in this MMPOG, and then two mostly-silly action-movie plots with Zara as the damsel-in-distress (albeit a basically levelheaded and competent damsel in distress, who is always thinking about how to escape or leave messages to help people looking for her.) The two plots are connected by an insanely improbable chain of coincidences.

The book was fun, in a junk-food kind of way.. Stephenson did have an ending that was actually an ending, bringing all three of the plotlines together at the end. You could imagine this being made into an action movie, and it would work in that genre, since implausible plotlines kind-of work there. Not remotely Hugo-worthy even if it were still eligible to be nominated, but a fun read.

[1] I've done this in get-togethers with my dad and sister, so this didn't seem odd to me. Some people will find it exotic, because it's a big world. Also, this is a gun on the mantlepiece that *does* go off--there are several times in the story where the fact that Zara is familiar and comfortable with guns is important in the story, and the fact that the family also has a crazy survivalist uncle comes up in the plot later.

[2] An important character in the story is a retired Russian special forces soldier who fought in Afghanistan, and who eventually finds himself meeting the American Christian survivalists in their mountain enclave. He immediately starts referring to them, in his own mind, as American Taliban. Turns out his experiences with heavily armed religious fanatics holed up in the mountains have all been pretty uniformly bad.

#173 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 04:27 PM:

Aaron, #163: I tried to comment on your post using my LiveJournal ID, but the comment just... disappeared, never posted, no error message. So I'll make it here instead. "Nightfall" lost me, even as a young teen, by postulating that the stars would remain completely invisible until the last ray of sunlight was gone. It doesn't work that way on Earth; how much less so, then, in a world stated to be inside a globular cluster? That was really a "hanging disbelief by the neck until dead" moment! Also, IMO the ending is a complete downer. The scientists' own descending madness will destroy their enclave, and outside you can see the fires of the End Times starting. Nothing will be left to pass on to the next cycle.

#174 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 05:19 PM:

Self-nitpick: Zula. Not Zara, Zula. Argggh!

#175 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 01:53 AM:

[SHORT STORY] [2015]

Some more I've read recently:

"Damage", by David D. Levine. A space war story from an AI's point of view. What "Turncoat" wants to be when it grows up.

"A Beautiful Memory", by Shannon Peavey.

"Monkey King, Faerie Queen", by hot new writer Zen Cho. Eastern legends and western collide.

"Tender", by Sofia Samatar. Storage of nuclear waste becomes a religious vocation.

"Probably Definitely", by Heather Morris. A rock music ghost story.

...and there's one I'd link to, but I've lost the link. It was about a sentient sculpture; the title was "Slow", but I've forgotten the author's name or the online venue, and it's not a title that lends itself to googling.

#176 ::: Scrabble ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 11:12 AM:

@David Goldfarb: "Slow" by Lia Swope Mitchell in Apex Magazine?

(I loved the Zen Cho story, printed it out to read at lunch and all when it came across my radar. It's hilarious.)

#177 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 11:49 AM:

Ok, thanks to this thread and other threads on other forums elseweb, I'm actually reading sufficient really good short fiction that I feel comfortable starting to assemble my preliminary Hugo nomination ballot. With more than one entry in most categories. (Ok, there are some categories I'm just not going to nominate in; the artist categories, the fancast category; the editor categories. Some things I don't feel I'm qualified to nominate; some categories I just don't care about. But for the literature categories, I actually have a reasonable looking preliminary ballot... which is shifting constantly as I read more, of course.

So, a sincere thank you to all who are recommending fiction, especially short fiction. (Um, my "novella" bracket is still a little thin... hint hint...)

#178 ::: Chuk ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 05:42 PM:

Sandy B. @ #159, I didn't love Jemisin's earlier books (I think I read just the first one of each set) and The Fifth Season took a while to grow on me, but once it did it really did. I echo a previous poster who said she seems to have leveled up (although it may just be that this book is more to my taste).

#179 ::: Tamlyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 08:14 PM:

Thank you to Fade Manley at #37 for the Wilde Life recommendation. I wasn't sure about it at first (at one point I was flipping back and forth because I was sure I had missed page), but it was pretty enough I kept on. It became more obvious there was an overall story, and by chapter three I was hooked.

I've been attempting to read Station Eleven for a while now. As it's due back at the library today and I've already done its one allowed renewal, I think I'm giving up. I've heard so much praise for it, and I really liked the overall concept, but the writing itself just didn't work for me. And being stuck on it means I didn't get a chance to get to my other library books :(

I do have Uprooted waiting for me next.

#180 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 08:28 PM:

Tamlyn, I am so glad you're enjoying it; it's high on my list of things I'm fannish about and trying to get more people into right now. (I no longer recall how I was introduced to it, myself.) It starts a bit in media res, but I'm very pleased with the way the arc is building. The end of the current chapter that's going up page by page right now is doing so amazing things with thematic color-and-weather, as the sunset creeps down over that conversation in the car.

#181 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 05:06 AM:

Scrabble @176: That's the one! Thank you.

#182 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 12:08 PM:

Finished Uprooted. It's possible I may read another eligible book that I like and admire more... I will be quite incredibly lucky to find five like that, so Uprooted looks like it has a lock on one of my nomination slots this time around, anyhow.

(Hadn't read anything by Naomi Novik before. I'd seen Temeraire and its sequels, thought something like "oh, dragons", and passed by. Given just how impressed I am by Uprooted, I'm wondering, now, if that was a good move.)

From the sublime to the ridiculous: re-read of "Doc" Smith's The Galaxy Primes. Sort of Taming of the Shrew with spaceships and monsters, and very much one where the uglier side of Smith's viewpoint shows. I find myself imagining what life would be like, under the regime imposed by psychic superman and self-appointed Galactic Admiral Cleander Simmsworth Garlock, and I am unable to come up with anything besides "horrifying dystopia that makes 1984 look cuddly by comparison". Oh, well.

#183 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 12:44 PM:

Steve W., #182: My partner started on the Temeraire books, and says don't read them if you actually know anything about aerial combat. I haven't bothered with them, but I just got my notice that my library hold of Uprooted is available -- and I put it in over a month ago! -- so I'm looking forward to that.

The Galaxy Primes... ah, yes. I quite liked it as a young teenager; by my mid-20s it seemed faintly ridiculous. Hadn't thought about the Shakespearean aspect, though. No fanfic about it on AO3, either -- one would think that would be a natural for fix-its.

#184 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 12:51 PM:

Galaxy Primes is obscure Doc Smith for a reason. It makes slightly more sense than the Subspace books, but only slightly. I reread The Vortex Blaster relatively recently (one of the six copies bound in gray paper -- what can I say, I read my collectibles) and it's still a fair amount of fun. Not much sense for much of it -- it's mostly backstory for societies that just didn't make it into the main Lensman canon -- but fun. Much more so than Primes or Subspace.

#185 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 01:18 PM:

The Vortex Blasters has the minor virtue of suggesting a way out from incest for the Children of the Lens-- extraordinarily talented people are continuing to turn up who aren't direct results of the Arisian breeding program.

#186 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 02:09 PM:

The Arisian breeding programme is one of those things I'd rather not think about.

I mean, viewed in isolation, the Lensmen are pretty bad, really. Super-cops answerable only to themselves, with the power (and legal authority) to invade your privacy at will... an Unattached Lensman works, basically, without constraint; if he wants something from you, he can just take it, and if you even think of objecting, he will know it, and can vaporize you with his DeLameter and not even have to do the paperwork afterwards. (Let's not get into the Second Stage Lensmen who can actually kill you with a thought.)

So much authority, so little responsibility. It's a good thing that we know a Lensman would never, ever, abuse his authority, for they are all chosen for their incorruptibility by the wise Arisians....

... except, of course, they're not; they're chosen for their usefulness in the Arisian long-term project to create a psionic super-weapon for destroying the Eddorians.

Um. Yes. This is why I prefer to sit back and watch the pretty explosions, and not think too hard about the dodgy bits.

#187 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 02:45 PM:


I thought the incorruptability was the whole point--you could give Lensmen unlimited power because they were incorruptible. I think the Arisans disposed of a few candidates who were corrupted but had gotten past all the humans' screening tests.

#188 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 04:00 PM:

Albatross #187 - yes, exactly. The Arisians were breeding for incorruptibility, mental ability and psi power, and ultimately, well those who have read it know how it all ends.

I found Vortext blaster to be fairly pointless, given the previous 6 books. MOreover, given the children of the lens were going to live for a long time, it was obvious that even without the guidance of the breeding program that suitable mates would turn up sometimes for them.

Galaxy Primes seems to me to belong to Smith's later 'libertarian' phase, as if he'd been mainlining late period Heinlein. You can see the roots of it and the ideas and themes within it in his earlier works, but now they are strangely misshapen and also cut off from the rest of humanity. Which is perhaps the point. Of course the idea of an evolution which climbs higher and higher hasn't been scientific for a century or more.

#189 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 05:10 PM:

I'm definitely going to have to mine some of the recommendations here for reading later, especially the short stories.

Some of the things I've read recently, in the order I remember them.

The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross [NOVEL][2015]. Another solid entry in the Laundry series, this time from Mo's point of view.

The 13 Crimes of Science Fiction edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Charles G Waugh [1979]. A collection of 13 SF mysteries of varying types. I picked this up at a used book store years ago, read it then, and enjoyed most of them. I reread it a few weeks ago and was quite stunned by the ability of the authors to imagine strange futures with new technologies or interesting alternate histories, but with no change in gender relations.

Mad Max Fury Road [BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM)][2015]. I just got it on DVD. It's still good. I will definitely be nominating this one for a Hugo.

At the recommendation of Chad Orzel, the four Steerswoman books by Rosemary Kirstein. They almost seem to start off like a standard fantasy series, but they become something else entirely. If you like exploration, scientific method, adventure, strong female characters, strong characters in general, interesting ecology, and things that aren't quite what they seem, I can't recommend these highly enough.

#190 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 05:58 PM:

@albatross - well, I suppose it just bothers me that the incorruptibility is not something that's valued for its own sake... it's just a necessary part of the psychic ammunition in the Arisians' Genocide Gun.

I suppose, too, that deep down I don't believe in incorruptibility, or in infallible moral judgment - not in Arisians, or popes, or Lensmen, or ordinary people. Making mistakes and acting from impure motives... kind of go with the territory of being human.

OK, so Arisians aren't human - neither are most Lensmen, and even the ones that are biologically homo sapiens come across as something a bit different.... I'm reminded, now, of Brian Aldiss and Enemies of the System. I got the feeling, reading that, that 1,300,000 years into the future, humanity has finally developed into characters from 1950s skiffy novels. Everyone in it has a sort of generalized competence, a complete equanimity, and a tendency to lecture.

#191 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 06:31 PM:

Steve #190 - to put it simply, the books are fluffy entertainment; to judge them as being horribly innacurate with regards to their portrayal of humans rather misses the point of them, which is to entertain, not explore the depths of the human psyche.

Besides, the incorruptibility is both part of the plan, and something that the Arisians regard as a good in it's own right, although obviously having inscrutable near godlike beings explain themselves in detail to less creatures isn't a good idea. Smith event gets a bit close to Lovecraft territory in children of the lens, with injunctions that minds below a certain development can't take the truth of how it all came to be.

#192 ::: Sadie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 09:07 PM:


I've been working on getting back into reading short fiction this year, and here are some of my favorites that I've read so far:
Cat Pictures Please, by Naomi Kritzer - a would-be benevolent AI who likes cats
A Universal Elegy, by Tang Fei - unreliable, unstable narrator, creeping alien horror
Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight - mind ships! complicated sibling dynamics
Pocosin, by Ursula Vernon - a possum god and a Pratchett-esque witch and God and the Devil and Death
Acrobatic Duality by Tamara Vardomskaya - One dancer, two bodies. I really liked the idea of this, although I'm not sure it made all the use of the premise that it could
The Language of Knives by Haralambi Markov - Grief and complicated families and death rituals, beautifully written
Cloth Mother, by Sarah Pauling - Parental AIs, pet holograms, post-apocalyptic backdrop.

Meanwhile I'm reading Dark Eden, a 2012 novel by Chris Beckett, about the descendants of human castaways on a faraway planet. I sometimes have trouble with protagonists/cultures who clearly understand less about themselves and their worlds than the reader does, but that isn't bothering me here. I think it's partly that they've lost earth culture and science, but they also know their own planet way better than I do. Anyway, I'm really enjoying it so far.

#193 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 10:08 PM:

Could we move the Lensmen discussion to another thread?

Courtney Milan has just posted an excerpt from her upcoming romance Once Upon a Marquess, the first book in her Worth Saga. I am particularly excited to see that a future book in this series has a woman of Asian heritage on the cover!

I'm erring on the side of leaving space for other people to disagree with me about Sorcerer to the Crown and fear that I may come off as argumentative if I try to respond to others' different experiences; regardless I'm grateful for others sharing their experiences of the book and I hope that on balance people are glad to have read it.

My spouse and I have just started watching The Legend of Korra, a US animated TV show that aired 2012-2014. We never saw Avatar: The Last Airbender, to which Korra is a sequel, and Korra is pretty much entirely comprehensible to us; it's ok to us that a few worldbuilding details aren't yet crystal-clear to us. I'm enjoying the characters, the dialogue, the world, the plot, and the action; also, more than I had expected, I am loving the art and the music. I think that in most cases I am pretty inattentive to the art and the music in animated stories, but here they are just so interesting and pretty!

I got interested in Korra because of this spoilery episode of the Song Exploder podcast that dissects the music for the very last scene of the show, and because of this awesome fanvid.

#194 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2015, 01:39 AM:

guthrie, #191: I think what Steve is talking about here is the old aphorism, "I'm willing to suspend my disbelief, but not to hang it by the neck until dead." (AKA "bounced me right out of the story".) That line is going to fall in different places for different people, and something which lands on the wrong side of it isn't going to succeed even as fluffy entertainment.

#195 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2015, 05:14 AM:

Actually, I can cope with the Lensman books being fluffy at me - Kim Kinnison is kind of likeable, and you can maybe make allowances for the Arisians. But The Galaxy Primes has the nastiness up front and in your face, and I find it a lot harder to overlook.

Smith's worldview, though, seems to be common to a lot of "Golden Age" SF - the Technocratic outlook, the idea that there just is a class of people who Know What They're Doing and therefore Ought To Be In Charge, and the dull mass of the rest of humanity should just shut up and do as it's told. Which, since the dull mass of the rest of humanity is bound to include me, is not something I'm altogether comfortable with.

I suppose it's not an attitude confined to Campbell's era, either. I remember reading Storm Constantine's "Wraeththu" books (in which boring old humanity dies off, to be replaced by bisexual pagan Goths with rock-star hair) and thinking to myself a) lovely writing, and b) there is no place for people like me in a world like this.

#196 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2015, 10:14 AM:

Sumana @193:

I'm content to leave the Lensman conversation here. It's as relevant as any other reading-oriented discussion, in my view. Do you have a specific reason for the request that I should take into consideration?

(This kind of conversational wandering is why I was glad to be able to adopt the EPH-style tagging; if you want to skip to the next eligible work discussed, it's easy to do.)

#197 ::: Scrabble ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2015, 10:50 AM:

@Steve Wright, re: Novik -- I enjoyed/appreciated Uprooted far more than I did the Temeraire books, fwtw.

@Sadie S, re: short stories -- Quite a few of those were on my radar as well! Hum. I hadn't realized Acrobatic Duality was this year. Things always seem forever ago.


I just finished The Shepherd's Crown. That was a complicated experience.

The Sorcerer's Crown just arrived in the mail for me and I'm looking forward to reading it, with much more care than I usually accord the physical thing called a book.

#198 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2015, 12:22 PM:

I tried reading Shepherd's Crown to Karen, and could not get through chapter 2 out loud. We both had to go off and read it to ourselves. I didn't expect that quite so soon.

#199 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2015, 02:31 PM:

Sumana Harihareswara @193: I, personally, am happy to hear differing opinions and/or have a discussion, especially on the topic of Why I Love [thing]. I don't know if I can coherently defend my position on why I didn't love [thing], in the context of Sorceror To The Crown specifically.

#200 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2015, 04:05 PM:

Do you need a reason not to love something? Isn't "well, it just didn't float my boat" enough, really?

#201 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2015, 05:25 PM:

[BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM)] [2015] "Orphan Black" S3E7 "Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate".

Just blew through the season 3 DVDs of "Orphan Black" and was left wanting more. My current favourite is episode 7. My favourite episodes tend to be the ones where the sisters are in each other's "home setting", the juxtaposition & consequent fun & games make for wonderful storytelling. This was no exception. Tatiana Maslany deserves to win ALL the awards.

#202 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2015, 08:18 PM:

David Goldfarb @ 54: that's it.

albatross @ 158 etc: I recall reading decades ago a math/physics argument that the upper limit on a Bussard ramjet was much lower than Niven had estimated -- ~.3c -- but I couldn't follow the math even then.

Steve Wright @ 182: IMO, Temeraire was an interesting idea that wasn't made entirely plausible and ran a few novels too long; you could try the first and see whether it rings your bell. Note that if you actively dislike Napoleonic-era naval novels (C. S. Forester, Patrick O'Brian(sp?), ...) you will probably find the many battles and other mechanical details tedious.

I have finished The Traitor Baru Cormorant. I'm curious about others' reactions; V qba'g xabj jurgure n frdhry (vs nal) pbhyq whfgvsl gur znva punenpgre gb zr.

#203 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2015, 08:45 PM:

My current plan for the next several months at least was to read only classic science fiction or books-and-stories from 2015. So of course my last two books were neither.

[Novel] Elizabeth Wein - Code Name: Verity. Started before I made that resolution. Okay, now I know why this book has had the rave reviews it did. And a bit why the people who are usually not at all spoiler-averse said it's best to go into it minimally spoiled; I'll say it's set in WWII, in occupied France, and features 2 young British women, and though Wien's prior books were fantasy, it's purely historical fiction. And it will tear your heart out and smush it into pieces.

Mary Robinette Kowal - Shades of Milk and Honey. I started reading this on a whim at my sister-in-law's and wasn't able to stop. Historical fantasy very much in the vein of Austen (Really Austen -- I saw echoes of Pride and Prejudice throughout -- not the Regency romances often compared to Austen but more Heyeresque). Quite enjoyable. I want to read the rest right away, and I suppose I could get away with it in the interests of reaching the 2015 book in the series... But I'll try to wait until 2016 has started before i do.

[2015] T. Kingfisher - Bryony and Roses. Take Beauty and the Beast and inject the heroine with common sense and a passion for gardening. More lightweight than the praise I've seen for the book suggested, but I'm absolutely itching to get back to this (Reading it at home on the computer and I'm in Ottawa).

[Short Stories] The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Vol. 1. I started this not knowing Aaron was reading it and about to review same, but it fit the classic SF part of my conditions. Also, I've owned it forever and read only a portion of the stories. I've only just started this, I'm not even through the Martian Odyssey.

I've been copying the links for almost every 2015 short story/novelette on this and occasionally File 770. I quite liked Cat Pictures Please, and Pocosin.

#204 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2015, 08:49 PM:

SteveWright @ 182: Temeraire does a couple of good things, in that when it gets out of Napoleonic war-with-dragons, his alternate histories and versions of other places are excellent (I particularly liked Empire of Ivory). However, yes, the idea gets drawn out too long; a couple of the novels get bogged down in the middle, partly because the travel time is realistic and somewhat too little skipped.

#205 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2015, 09:09 PM:

Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads @ #196 -- the breeding programme stuff was squicking me out. I'll take your suggestion and just skip those comments and skip to the next work being discussed!

Sandy B. @ #199, thanks! Will consider in case I have anything coherent of my own to say. :)

Just saw the pretty fun 1985 film comedy Desperately Seeking Susan, which was written and directed by women! Also I have started reading today's New York Times and made a note of a few scifi plays coming out this fall in New York City: Futurity, How To Live On Earth, and Lazarus, which I may try to see.....

#206 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2015, 05:29 AM:

@Sumana - that's sort of my point, though, the "benevolent master plan" actually is pretty squicky when you stop to think about it.

Hence my preference, overall, for books which will stand up to analysis - where you can think about the implications, and the assumptions behind them, without immediately going "yuck". There are, fortunately, plenty of those around, even from the "Golden Age" times.

#207 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2015, 08:29 AM:

I just finished Nowhere Wild [NOVEL][2015] by Joe Beernink. It's a different sort of post-apocalypse, in which a teen boy who was camping in the Canadian wilderness during the flu epidemic starts for civilization to get help. A teen girl has been taken into the wilderness by an abuser, who abuses her (rape triggers); boy rescues girl and they head toward remnants of civilization; they do not fall in love. This is not a YA novel, despite the teen protagonists. The interest is in vivid survival in a forested wilderness.

#208 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2015, 09:02 AM:

Lenora Rose @203, in re Bryony and Roses: I kept thinking it was lightweight too, but what it is is FUNNY. It manages to be simultaneously quite funny throughout while also having tension and dark emotional upsetness, and builds to some freaking huge spearpoints.

"But this is a lightweight book, why is my heart racing and I'm clutching the book and can't stop my eyes from reading as fast as possible? That only happens to me with thrillers and horror!"

(Oh, content warning: it does verge on horror towards the middle and end, not so much gore and splatter as awful, awful realizations that make the heroine want to throw up and might have similar effect on the reader)

#209 ::: Aaron ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2015, 10:34 AM:

Also, IMO the ending is a complete downer. The scientists' own descending madness will destroy their enclave, and outside you can see the fires of the End Times starting. Nothing will be left to pass on to the next cycle.

Your points are well-taken. As I noted, the idea that the suns would go "down" everywhere seemed odd, since that's not the way nighttime works. The fact that the stars don't come out until every sun has gone completely over the horizon is just another element that doesn't make much sense but that you have to just go with for the story to work.

I think the bleakness was intentional. Lots of science fiction stories of its era were hopeful, even in the face of nuclear armageddon. It was simply assumed for the most part that humans would rebuild from the ashes even if our entire civilization was destroyed. I think Nightfall was written in that spirit, with the somewhat reassuring underlying message that no matter how terrible things might seem, humanity would persevere.

#210 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2015, 10:47 AM:

Lenora Rose@#203

I've been pushing Code Name Verity on everyone that I can get to hold still for two minutes. It's clearly not Hugo material -- there's nothing SF/F about it in the least, but I hope it garners all the awards that it's eligible for.

I'm in the middle of House of Shattered Wings[2015, Novel], and it's proving to be a gorgeous read so far. It's going on my short-list for the moment.

I also want to pass along An Heir to Thorns and Steel [2015, Novel] by M.C.A. Hogarth and the rest of the trilogy. I went through these in about three days even allowing for the occasional "Aaah!" as I hit the somewhat disturbing bits. They may not make my Hugo list, but they are entirely worth reading on their own. Same for Superheroes Anonymous and Supervillains Anonymous which, while not deathless prose, was a whole lot of fun.

#211 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2015, 05:04 PM:

I read maybe ~70-100 young adult books a year (YA librarian here) and it's easy for me to get gloomy about books that seem forgettable and trend-following; Code Name Verity was one of the very few books that made me stand up and say "This is a book we're going to remember 20 years from now."

It won an Edgar award, a Golden Kite Award, and got a Printz Honor. (The Printz is the American Library Association's award for young adult books; to my taste it was better than the winner, Nick Lake's "In Darkness," which was a little disaster-porn-ish on Haiti.)

#212 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2015, 08:30 PM:

Just finished _Lifeboats_, a Young Wizards novel by Diane Duane. (The author indicates that it's 90000 words, which is shorter than recent entries in the series but still in the [NOVEL] range. [2015].)

Plenty of you will be familiar with the Young Wizards series, but you may have missed this one because Duane is self-publishing it as an ebook. (The next traditionally-published book in the series is scheduled for February.)

Summary: Nita and Kit are called up for a project which is *not* the usual "you must save the planet/galaxy/universe all by yourselves" story. The Powers are mobilizing tens of thousands of wizards for an short-deadline planetary evacuation. It's not combat, it's not a war against the Lone Power -- it's just an enormously complex task that needs boots on the ground. You've worked with worldgates? Here, stand like this and keep an eye on these dozen. Any of 'em start to wobble, fix it or flag it. Thanks. *Next!*

As the author notes, it's not the kind of story that YA publishers are looking for. But it is something that people do. (Not so much with worldgates, but you get the idea.)

This was satisfying. Yes, our protagonists wind up involved a *little* deeper than planned; it's not just a story about doing a job. But it's *primarily* a story about doing a job. With some time off for camping, making new friends, and (for Kit) solving the terrifying mystery of "what do I get my new girlfriend for Valentine's Day."

#213 ::: David Wallace ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2015, 04:08 AM:

Lee@173: Actually, if I remember it right, Nightfall's ending is not quite so much of a downer as that - the scientists have established a shelter that will preserve some adult leadership safe for the next cycle, who won't come out until after the stars have gone. So the next cycle will start with the knowledge that they have built up, and will be better prepared than previous cycles to know what is coming. Two of the young scientists at the observatory had been intended to be part of the shelter, but decided they would rather be where the action was.

#214 ::: Scrabble ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2015, 11:29 AM:

@Andrew Plotkin: I see there's two other novellas in this subcontinuity (continuity segment?) as well, which I haven't read. Since it is currently the ides of September, I wonder if the compendium mentioned on that page is ou-- oh, but Amazon only, sigh.

#215 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2015, 12:49 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 208: Being partway through, I'm certainly willing to wait and render a final verdict.

I suspect I was hoping for the sort of early wow I got from Digger and Jackalope Wives. But it isn't that kind of story.

I had the same "this is fluff" reaction to the early chapters of McKinley's Rose Daughter, which ultimately beat out Beauty (and Chalice) for her Best B&B version, and Kingfisher has already beaten out the "retreading the exact same ground" impression Rose Daughter also suffered from (McKinley's chapter with the father finding the castle felt like it could have been lifted from half a dozen other versions of the story verbatim), because Bryony's reactions are so very much her own.

And funny, oh, yes. The excellent first line is followed by many other things that made me laugh (the line about the uterus...)

on a related note, though, does anybody know how to stop Kindle for PC from telling me where other people have highlighted books? I don't care, even when I laugh at the same line, and it distracts me from getting immmersed.

#216 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2015, 03:59 PM:

Lenora Rose@215
First, THANK YOU. I did not realize that those underlines were a setting that one could disable. I hate them, but never thought to try and get rid of them until you mentioned them.

Second, if you're on the Kindle Android App, here are the steps to get rid of them.

Under Kindle:Home, click the Menu Icon on the left-hand side. Scroll down to You Account:Settings and click that. Scroll down the bottom and uncheck "Popular Highlights"

That seemed to do it for me, at least.

#217 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2015, 02:41 AM:

Wow. Just finished Uprooted [NOVEL] [2015], and it's definitely got a slot on my Novel nominations list.

It didn't pull me in from the first page like The Goblin Emperor did; the first 3 chapters were a little slow, and from there to about the middle of the book it was interesting but not gripping. But about the time the action moves to the palace, the pace picks up abruptly and from there it's one wild ride to the final struggle, followed by a nice soothing epilogue to let you come down easy.

The plot has layers like an onion, and there's a lot of Chekov's gun in it -- pretty much anything that the story mentions in passing is going to turn out to be important later. And while it definitely owes a lot to fairy-tales and folktales in general, it's not strictly speaking a retelling of anything I've ever heard of. The plot has elements of quest, coming-of-age, tragedy, and romance, all expertly woven together, and almost all of the major characters have really interesting arcs.

This is fantasy at its best -- a refreshingly original take on well-worn themes.

#218 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2015, 08:09 AM:

Trump is a madman who must be stopped, Bobby Jindal [SHORT STORY] [2015]. This dystopian short-short starts out well but soon trails off into a late-Heinlein lecture, but without his unique voice. It won't be making my nomination list and I'm hoping not to see it on the ballot. It would be a shame to discourage such a promising fantasist by placing him under No Award.

#219 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2015, 10:44 AM:

Elliott Mason #208: "But this is a lightweight book, why is my heart racing and I'm clutching the book and can't stop my eyes from reading as fast as possible? That only happens to me with thrillers and horror!"

Pratchett managed that with several of his later books, making you care about ridiculous characters and sometimes managing to blend horror with hilarity. ("WHERE'S MY COW?")

#220 ::: Scrabble ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2015, 01:29 PM:

Having finished Sorcerer to the Crown: I enjoyed it, but it didn't -- what's the phrase -- shatter my world? (I *know* that is not the right phrase. I can't remember it!) Now that is a matter of expectation management, for I have had an exceedingly high opinion of Zen Cho's skill and talent from her short fiction -- not to mention a great deal of pent-up fannishness without proper outlet. But, I *am* very much looking forward to the sequel. Gur arj fbeprere eblny vf tbvat gb znxr fbzr JNIRF.

#221 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2015, 02:05 PM:

I just finished reading The Three Body Problem [Novel, 2014]. Wow. I can see why it won the Hugo this year, and not just because its author is pretty clearly not a member of any US political faction.

One thing I loved was the way the author managed to start with a kind of personal history of the Cultural Revolution, and then segue into a horror story, and then a mystery story, before ending up in a more classic SF sort of story. I'm looking forward to reading the next two books in the series. I'm wondering if he can sustain that same feel for the rest of the story.

I think I'd have given 3BP a slightly higher vote than _The Goblin Emperor_ if I'd been voting for the Hugos and had read both in time. Definitely worth reading. (Oddly, I found the Chinese names in 3BP much easier to keep straight than the Goblin/Elf names in TGE.)

#222 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2015, 02:33 PM:

Scrabble @220: Rocked your world? Blew your mind? Knocked your socks off?

I have come to drop more short fiction recommendations; I hope people like them.

The Deepest Rift by Ruthanna Emrys [NOVELETTE][2015], about a team of sapiologists trying to figure out the language of a species of manta-like alien;

The Shape of My Name by Nino Cipri [SHORT STORY][2015], which is about not being the same person you used to be, and family, and the complications of time travel;

Dr Polingyouma's Machine by Emily Devenport [SHORT STORY][2015], told by the janitor who cleans up around the Gate created by the titular Machine;

Going Endo by Rich Larson [SHORT STORY] [2015] [maybe NSFW if other people can see your screen] which is about a tech's relationship with the cyborg craft he looks after, and makes an interesting counterpoint to

Damage by David Levine [SHORT STORY] [2015] which David Goldfarb rec'd @175,

Things You Can Buy for a Penny by Will Kaufman [SHORT STORY][2015] which is a tale on the old theme of being careful what you wish for, and is a good one.

#223 ::: Craft (Alchemy) has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2015, 02:35 PM:

I put five or six links in my last post (more short fiction recs) and the gnomes have taken it away for examination. May I have it back? I offer slices of homemade chocolate-chip-cookie pie.

#224 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2015, 08:32 PM:

On further thought, I'd mark Of Noble Family[NOVEL][2015]. ISTM that the Regency-era novel has been trivialized, and Kowal works with that in some of the previous books in this series. This one is much more substantial; imagine any Regency novel you can think of trying to give even the shadow of reality of slave life on a Caribbean sugar plantation. (I'd be happy to hear of counter-examples.)

#225 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2015, 12:58 PM:

Okay, here's a stunning debut (just out): The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. Not sure how to pigeon-hole it genre-wise unless we invent a new category like "theopunk" or dump it on the New Weird "unsorted" heap, but it's good (if a bit grim at times).

I'd also like to give a shout-out to K. B. Spangler's Rachel Peng books, most recently State Machine, which has something of a police-procedural sensibility, if the police in question were brain-implanted cyborgs able to co-opt virtually all electronic devices and the crimes they were investigating usually had hideous political ramifications in the overheated world of DC politics ... oh, and SFnal interests: the plot of the second book hinges on skullduggery involving maker culture (this is not a spoiler).

#226 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2015, 01:05 PM:

Albatross @172: the theme of REAMDE as I understand it is that it's an extended meditation on the gamification of the War on Terror. (I found it fun, but light: a Stephen Bury thriller published under the Neal Stephenson brand-name.)

#227 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2015, 11:46 PM:

And, having just finished reading it (over 2 weeks late), I have to praise something I have been reading off and on for the last 7 YEARS.

Alternity is a Harry Potter .... they call it an RPG, and behind the scenes it was. It was also extended group fiction, a massive and mass epistolary work.

The background of the alternate universe is that, based on a misunderstanding of the prophecy, Voldemort doesn't attempt to kill Harry. Instead, believing he needs to keep this child safe to survive himself, he adopts Harry Potter (Now called Harry Marvolo.) And of course, wins his initial war, so he's ruling over Britain as the Lord Protector. Muggles and muggleborn wizards are slaves (Or dead, or stored away in enchanted stasis in case more slaves are needed), half-bloods are second class citizens, and the Order of the Phoenix is a small-seeming hidden resistance movement. (The scope of what they're really doing behind the scenes only comes clear as the years go on.)

The entire project was done in "real time", from the day Harry enters Hogwarts to the day before Hogwarts reopens 7 years later, with everything done via magical journals the Lord Protector has issued everyone to allow them to record their thoughts (and whose magical notification spells and ability to answer others' entries act suspiciously like online correspondence via Dreamwidth).

This means that the word count for any given year probably outstrips Rowling's by a couple of novels worth, with the corresponding increase in worldbuilding details and characterizations. People with one reference or one or two lines in the entire of Rowling's canon here are three-dimensional characters, with aspirations.

It has absolutely broken my heart, over and over. It has sometimes been like living with the full cast for all these years. It almost earns the sort of rabid passion I've seen Rowling's books create (and it's not as though I wasn't a fan of the books.)

It does have a few flaws. While most of the behind-the scenes writers managed near seamless transitions, there are a couple of glaring "okay, the person writing this character just changed" - one with Ron Weasley being obvious. and there are the weaknesses and dangers involved in the epistolary format - how to do action scenes in timely fashion, when people would not be writing in books (one clever solution, as an example - Ron doesn't go with Harry after the Philosopher's Stone, so when Harry desperately needs help with a giant chess set, he needs to write Ron, who tells him the moves to play...), how to reveal or at least suggest details nobody would write at all, especially seditious thoughts. And towards the final year, it felt like there were a handful too many minor characters running around. (on the other hand, the impression Hogwarts, and wizarding society, were actually busy places got reinforced well by this.) But man - the writers involved were highly skilled, and even better at playing off one another.

They're trying to collect the whole thing in readable form, I think, besides by going back through 7 years of recaps, but I've never been able to really convince myself it's feasible to get anyone to try and read the lot.

I can still squee over the endeavour. Because wow.

#228 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2015, 04:46 AM:

For those of you who loved The Fifth Season I must recommend City of Bones by Martha Wells. It's a post-apocalyptic fantasy set in a world that probably isn't ours, where civilization clings to the edge of the Last Sea and a fragment of pre-disaster tile can buy a month's worth of water.

#229 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2015, 06:12 AM:

The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman [NOVEL] [2015]

Cogman's debut novel is an intriguing blend of fantasy and investigative yarn. Our POV character is Irene, a Librarian in the eponymous Invisible Library (or as it is also called, The Library Between The Worlds). It starts with Irene undercover in a British boarding school for well-bred young men, with a talent for magic, trying to steal one tiny little book. Then it picks up more speed.

#230 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2015, 10:42 PM:

Charlie #226:

REAMDE was a fun enough read, and like I said, it would probably work as an action movie. But the whole plot turned on several bizarre twists that basically didn't make sense.

Gur Ehffvna zbo obff qrpvqvat gb xvqanc n pbhcyr Nzrevpnaf naq qent gurz bss gb fbzr pvgl va Puvan jvgu onfvpnyyl ab jrfgrearef ng nyy (fb gurl qenj n pebjq rirel gvzr gurl tb bhgfvqr) jnf onfvpnyyl ahgf. (Naq Fgrcurafba ynzcfunqrq guvf ol univat Fbxbybi fcrphyngr nobhg uvf obff znlor univat unq zvav-fgebxrf be fbzr zragny vyyarff.) Gur pbvapvqrapr bs univat gur Ehffvna zbofgref envq gur jebat ncnegzrag, naq vafgrnq bs trggvat gur enaqbzjner jevgref, uvggvat n greebevfg pryy, jnf hggreyl fvyyl. Gura, univat gur urnq greebevfg gnxr gur gvzr gb xvyy gur Ehffvna obff naq gnxr Mhyn nf n ubfgntr, jura ur'f nccneragyl whfg unq uvf uvqrbhg envqrq ol Jrfgrea fbyqvref, fvzvyneyl qvqa'g znxr zhpu frafr. Naq gura gur jubyr vzcebonoyr frg bs riragf gung tbg gur greebevfgf bire gb Pnanqn vagnpg, naq univat gurz nyy raq hc ng Mhyn'f penml hapyr'f fheivinyvfg rapynir, naq....

It blew my suspension of disbelief to bits. He mostly kept the plot moving quickly, which was a good idea, because the plot didn't actually hold together under even minimal thought.

#231 ::: Incoherent ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2015, 07:19 PM:

Various @ 203, 210, 211: Thank you all!

On your recommendations, I went and got a copy of Code Name Verity and read it in one sitting. I wanted to reread it again immediately, just to appreciate all the foreshadowing and misdirection and amazing craft that went into it.

That's only happened twice before: Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief. This book deserves that company.

#232 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2015, 10:19 PM:

Not SF, but I'm glad to be reading Bruce Holsinger's A BURNABLE BOOK [2013], one of the mysteries TNH pointed to a bit ago. Very meaty, with some quite subtle worldbuilding in a historical mystery context.

#233 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 06:50 AM:

Just finished Paul McAuley's Something Coming Through, which is eligible, I think, so [NOVEL] [2015]... I'm not sure I'm that enthusiastic about it, to be honest. The setting is the most interesting part, with humanity being contacted by (mostly) benevolent aliens who give us access to fifteen suitable worlds for colonization - the catch being that they've done the same thing before, and the fifteen worlds contain relics of former inhabitants, and some of those relics can have an unsettling influence on human minds.

I have a vague feeling that this one should have grabbed me rather harder than it actually did. The ideas are good - the alien Jackaroo, the eidolons (memetic ghosts that interface with human brains in unexpected ways), and the pervasive feeling, nonetheless, that humanity adjusts to these things, and interstellar travel and alien ghosts become part of Business As Usual in a surprisingly short time. It's all interesting stuff. And McAuley is never less than competent as a writer; fluent, with an unassuming, unpretentious style. I think my problem might be with the two protagonists (the book has an interleaved narrative, with alternate chapters following two story threads which combine at the end); they're rather, umm, generic - dedicated-cop and caring-investigator-out-of-her-depth. In many ways, they're two of the least interesting people in the story, and I think that's why I didn't engage with the book very much.

Anyway, it's out there, and I read it, and what do I know? Someone else might get a lot more kick out of it than I did. There are already a couple of related shorts out, set in the same world, and there may be more on the way. This isn't a bad thing - there's certainly room for interesting stories in this setting. I just don't feel awfully enthusiastic about this one. (But of course, that might just be me.)

#234 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 06:50 AM:

Just finished Paul McAuley's Something Coming Through, which is eligible, I think, so [NOVEL] [2015]... I'm not sure I'm that enthusiastic about it, to be honest. The setting is the most interesting part, with humanity being contacted by (mostly) benevolent aliens who give us access to fifteen suitable worlds for colonization - the catch being that they've done the same thing before, and the fifteen worlds contain relics of former inhabitants, and some of those relics can have an unsettling influence on human minds.

I have a vague feeling that this one should have grabbed me rather harder than it actually did. The ideas are good - the alien Jackaroo, the eidolons (memetic ghosts that interface with human brains in unexpected ways), and the pervasive feeling, nonetheless, that humanity adjusts to these things, and interstellar travel and alien ghosts become part of Business As Usual in a surprisingly short time. It's all interesting stuff. And McAuley is never less than competent as a writer; fluent, with an unassuming, unpretentious style. I think my problem might be with the two protagonists (the book has an interleaved narrative, with alternate chapters following two story threads which combine at the end); they're rather, umm, generic - dedicated-cop and caring-investigator-out-of-her-depth. In many ways, they're two of the least interesting people in the story, and I think that's why I didn't engage with the book very much.

Anyway, it's out there, and I read it, and what do I know? Someone else might get a lot more kick out of it than I did. There are already a couple of related shorts out, set in the same world, and there may be more on the way. This isn't a bad thing - there's certainly room for interesting stories in this setting. I just don't feel awfully enthusiastic about this one. (But of course, that might just be me.)

#235 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 06:50 AM:

Just finished Paul McAuley's Something Coming Through, which is eligible, I think, so [NOVEL] [2015]... I'm not sure I'm that enthusiastic about it, to be honest. The setting is the most interesting part, with humanity being contacted by (mostly) benevolent aliens who give us access to fifteen suitable worlds for colonization - the catch being that they've done the same thing before, and the fifteen worlds contain relics of former inhabitants, and some of those relics can have an unsettling influence on human minds.

I have a vague feeling that this one should have grabbed me rather harder than it actually did. The ideas are good - the alien Jackaroo, the eidolons (memetic ghosts that interface with human brains in unexpected ways), and the pervasive feeling, nonetheless, that humanity adjusts to these things, and interstellar travel and alien ghosts become part of Business As Usual in a surprisingly short time. It's all interesting stuff. And McAuley is never less than competent as a writer; fluent, with an unassuming, unpretentious style. I think my problem might be with the two protagonists (the book has an interleaved narrative, with alternate chapters following two story threads which combine at the end); they're rather, umm, generic - dedicated-cop and caring-investigator-out-of-her-depth. In many ways, they're two of the least interesting people in the story, and I think that's why I didn't engage with the book very much.

Anyway, it's out there, and I read it, and what do I know? Someone else might get a lot more kick out of it than I did. There are already a couple of related shorts out, set in the same world, and there may be more on the way. This isn't a bad thing - there's certainly room for interesting stories in this setting. I just don't feel awfully enthusiastic about this one. (But of course, that might just be me.)

#236 ::: Steve Wright apologizes to the mods ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 07:00 AM:

I'm not sure how I got so worked up about that McAuley book as to double-post my review... but, err, apparently I did. Um. Sorry about that!

#237 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 09:38 AM:

I want to enthusiastically second Lenora Rose's recommendation for Alternity, and note that the entire thing can be read in PDF format (they've gathered all the posts from each month into a PDF) at .

There are characters who get one mention in the book that are real and vivid (Antonin Dolohov, a Death Eater who appears once or twice in the books, is a complex and often sympathetic portrayal of very, very charismatic evil here), and I find these versions of the characters intruding on my memories and rereads of the books.

#238 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 03:59 PM:

Ingvar @229: "The Invisible Library" came out in late 2014 in the UK -- Hugo eligibility tracks first US publication, yes/no?

I predict you're going to love the second book in the trilogy, "The Masked City" (due same time this year/next year depending on which side of the pond you're on).

I'm only 30% of the way through it so far but "The Traitor Baru Cormorant" by Seth Dickinson is also dinging my "this deserves consideration for nominations next year" button quite hard. As did "Karen Memory" by Elizabeth Bear. (both NOVEL [2015]).

#239 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 10:59 PM:

I just finished _The Library at Mount Char_ (Hawkins), post Charlie Stross's rec at @225. It's awfully good. It's *very* energetic. A lot of characters die but, and this is only a minor spoiler, several of them know how to cure death so it's not GRRM territory.

The book does a great job of echoing familiar fantasy territory while standing firmly outside of it. If I described it as a heist plot wrangled by the Princes of Amber crossed with that family from _Archer's Goon_ inside a cosmology that reminded me of Chinese mythology, Hindu mythology, Paradise Lost, and Fallen London in irregular syncopation... I wouldn't be doing a very good job of describing this book. But I'd be giving you an idea of how unexpected it is.

#240 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 11:08 PM:

I'm so glad The Invisible Library is finally getting a US release! It's been hard to sell people on it when most of the people I'm trying to convince to read it didn't have any convenient way to get the book short of ordering it from across the pond, and it having Hugo eligibility that way (I think?) for this year is a nice bonus. I'm really looking forward to the second one, too. They're exactly the sort of fun SFF that I'd like to see more of. I mean, I'm quite fond of a lot of more serious work, too... But it's nice to have an option to read something light and fast and entertaining that's not thoughtless or careless.

#241 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 05:14 AM:

Charlie Stross @ #238: Huh. I could've sworn I saw "1 Jan 2015" as the publication date, but I now see a mid-December date. :( Darn. But, I have The Masked city on pre-order, so with any luck...

#242 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 08:24 AM:

Charles Stross@238, Ingvar M@241

If I'm interpreting the Hugo rules correctly, works first published outside of the U.S. are eligible both in the year of first publication and in the year of first U.S. publication.

#243 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 08:49 AM:

@Fade Manley #240: Have you read A Darker Shade of Magic [NOVEL][2015] by V.E. Schwab? I liked it a lot, and for me it fell in that same sort of space as Invisible Library - good fun, and fairly light without being lightweight.

(And it foregrounds characters who are queer and/or gender non-conforming, if this is something people are specifically interested in.)

#244 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 09:04 AM:

Someone upthread mentioned Vandana Singh's Ambiguity Machines: An Examination, as a short story. It's actually a [Novelette][2015] by the Hugo definition; it's 7846 words long.

#245 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 09:12 AM:

Craft (Alchemy) @ #243:

Thanks for the recommendation, this is proving to be a thread causing me to buy books at a frightening pace.

#246 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 09:28 AM:

Cassy B @244: That was me. The blurb on describes it as a short story; I didn't check the word count. I shall update my spreadsheet with the correct category ...

Ingvar M @245: enjoy, and my apologies to your wallet.

#247 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 10:45 AM:

Ingvar (246): Do you have access to a library (or library system) with a decent science fiction collection? I get a lot of my books that way.

#248 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 11:09 AM:

Mary Aileen @ #247:

I thankfully have my book spending habit under firm control. I also have this wish to have them on my e-reader and ready for re-reads on mere moments' notice.

#249 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 01:03 PM:

Ingvar (248): Yeah, the books I buy are the ones I expect to re-read. If that's All of Them for you, buying them makes perfect sense.

#250 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 03:40 PM:

Just finished, and almost certainly a Hugo nomination for me: "Cuckoo Song" by Frances Hardinge[NOVEL][2015](The UK edition is 2014, but the US edition is 2015; I believe that means it's still eligible this year?)

When Triss wakes up, all she knows is that she fell into the Grimmer and has been ill. Her memories are fuzzy and untrustworthy, and she can't seem to stop eating; her mother coddles her, but her little sister Pen is terrified of her, insisting that she's not really Triss.

And she's not. But there's more than just the mystery of what happened to Triss; there are the letters that keep arriving from her brother Sebastian, years after he was killed in action in 1918; there's the snow that keeps falling on Violet, Sebastian's fiancee; there are those who Pen made a bargain with, a bargain that isn't over yet...

This is a book that is firing on every cylinder. The writing is lush and atmospheric. Hardinge intertwines a very personal story -- of Triss trying to recover her identity and peel back the layers of her family's lies and denial -- with a magical adventure story, and with a social story of the destruction wrought by the war and the sudden changes in the social order. Violet in particular is a fantastic character, a young woman who rides a motorcycle and goes to jazz clubs and yet has a lot more to her than being a signifier for a Cool Flapper Girl.

#251 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 04:17 PM:

Finished The War Against The Assholes[NOVEL][2015] after abandoning it and picking it back up and still can't recommend it. Next!

#252 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 05:26 PM:

Sandy B., pity; with a title like that, I'd like to like it...

#253 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 05:30 PM:

A new Hardinge! I really liked FLY BY NIGHT, and it's good to see she's still writing. (Goes off to library....)

#254 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 05:42 PM:

Craft (Alchemy) @243: I have not, but it's going on my to-read list now. Thank you!

#255 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 08:17 PM:

By the way; thank you, all. My 2015 Hugo Tentative Nomination List... vanished. <headdesk> So I've been reconstructing it, and this thread has been very helpful.

Does anyone remember the name of Valente's novelette that involved traveling through colored countries....?

#256 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 08:21 PM:

Me, previous: That was supposed to read rainbow-colored countries. I recollect our POV character started at Purple and traveled the spectrum to Red...

#257 ::: Sadie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 08:31 PM:

Emily @250, I just read Cuckoo Song myself and loved it to bits and pieces. It was exactly what I wanted for a spooky autumnal story, it was everyone I never knew I wanted in a story about [spoiler], and I really enjoyed the relationships between Triss and Pen and Violet. I honestly cannot recall the last time a book made me so happy.

And yes, if I'm understanding the eligibility language correctly, it is indeed eligible for best novel for this year:
Because a large proportion of the people who nominate on the Hugo Awards reside in the USA, and because those people often do not get to see works first published outside the USA until those works get US publication, WSFS extends the eligibility of works first published outside the USA. Works published in prior years outside of the USA are eligible if they were published for the first time in the USA in the current year. (from the Hugo Awards website)

#258 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 08:34 PM:

Cassy B. @ 255 & 256

"The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild" ?

#259 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 09:28 PM:

Annie Y @258, that's it! Thank you!

I don't have nearly enough novelettes or novellas on my list. Anyone have links to any that they particularly love, for me to check out...? I've read twenty or more short stories (and am still reading more!), but only a handful of the longer short fiction.

#260 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2015, 06:30 AM:

Cassy B @259:

And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead by Brooke Bolander [NOVELETTE][2015] is one I enjoyed - cyberpunk; corporate skulduggery and adventures in virtual space. Some gore.

Waters of Versailles by Kelly Robson [NOVELLA][2015] is also good, and I love that the groundbreaking invention Our Protagonist is making his fortune with is ... the toilet.

#261 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2015, 08:37 AM:

260 ::: Craft (Alchemy) @260, thanks! Much appreciated. I don't get dead-tree magazines, so the only realistic way I have to read enough fiction for a reasonable ballot is for kind folks like you to post links.

I figure I need to read, ballpark, at least 15 well-regarded works to fill out a five-entry ballot. More, obviously, would be better; less, and I'm filling out fewer entries. If I'm not tossing out at least two for every one I pick, I'm feel that I'm not doing my job.

#262 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2015, 08:45 AM:

Cassy B @261, me too. I could also do with more novelette/novella entries, actually ... On which point, thank you for mentioning - well, prompting Annie Y to mention - The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild; I have no idea what I just read, but I'm glad I did.

#263 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2015, 07:31 PM:

I've decided to contribute my mite to awareness of books people might like to read by trying my hand at a list of SFF with significant queer female characters published in 2015. At the moment I've just barely started making a random heap of things on my blog (for eventual transferal to my website) so I'm not sure I want to provide links yet. But when it's a little more fleshed out I may be back for help with brainstorming.

#264 ::: Pellegrina Stoat ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2015, 05:16 AM:

Lenora Rose @227, lorax @237: <delurk> Apparently I am trying to read the lot. I'll let you know how I got on in 6 years and 11 months...

#265 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2015, 09:47 AM:

If you are a fan of video games, I highly recommend Undertale, released recently on Steam. It's heavily influenced by classic Nintendo RPGs of the late 80s and early 90s, especially Dragon Warrior, Chrono Trigger, and Earthbound. Undertale has the advantage of being easily consumable: it takes only 4-7 hours to complete on the first run... though chances are you'll want to play it again after, to achieve one of the other endings.

It's a brilliant fantasy-comedy-scifi-existential-horror tale, if that sounds like something you'd be into. You can buy donuts from spiders and appear on a tabloid news program hosted by a killer robot. Multiple beings seek to consume your soul for... reasons. There is a dating-sim parody bit which features the best user interface joke I have ever seen.

If I wanted to demonstrate the necessity of an interactive fiction Hugo to someone who had played video games at any point in their lives, this is the game I would show them. Even if they only played old arcade games, or phone games, I think this would be relatively accessible.

The only qualm I have is that the actual gameplay can be moderately difficult at times. This is somewhat by design; the difficulty enhances and interacts with the narrative, and failure is minimally punishing: try again, with very few consequences. I was playing late at night while I wasn't feeling well, with a sub-optimal computer and keyboard setup, so that contributed a bit to the difficulty, but you can't re-bind keys as far as I can tell, which some people might find very frustrating. Still, in the end my struggling really enhanced the narrative, and this story and these characters are definitely worth it.

Slightly spoiler-y further elaboration on combat mechanics and difficulty. (rot13)

Va gur tnzr'f pbzong rapbhagref, lbh eha vagb zbafgref jub lbh pna rvgure svtug be vagrenpg jvgu va bgure jnlf. Ertneqyrff bs jurgure lbh'er gelvat gb or crnprshy, lbh unir gb cynl n qnzntr-nibvqnapr zvav-tnzr crevbqvpnyyl - vs lbh gnxr gbb zhpu qnzntr, lbh trg n TNZR BIRE, gubhtu lbh pna nyjnlf erfgneg ng gur ynfg fnir cbvag. Lbh unir gb svtug naq xvyy zbafgref gb yriry hc, naq gubhtu V nppvqragnyyl xvyyrq n zbafgre be gjb rneyl ba juvyr V jnf yrneavat gur pbzong flfgrz, V nibvqrq xvyyvat znal zber jurarire V pbhyq uryc vg. Riraghnyyl V ernpurq n cbvag jurer V jnfa'g fxvyyrq rabhtu gb nibvq gur nggnpxf jvgu zl zrntre UC, fb V xvyyrq n srj zber zbafgref gb yriry hc fb V'q or noyr gb pbagvahr.

Ba zl frpbaq cynlguebhtu V'z svaqvat vg zhpu rnfvre, abj gung V unir cenpgvpr. Fgvyy, V sryg gur arrq gb hetr crbcyr abg gb tvir hc vs gurl srry fghpx qhevat n svefg eha.

#266 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2015, 12:21 PM:

Travelling, so reading.

Broken Monsters [NOVEL][2014?] by Lauren Beukes. Liked it a lot, not completely convinced by the finale but it's full of great moments before that. It's a police procedural that is also a horror story that also has some fantasy elements and smart 15-year-olds that feel actually smart, and it all works for me. Also there is art and writing and social media and midlife crisis and ... you know. Stuff.

Apparently released in 2014 and I missed it until it was in trade paperback. Alas.

Also House of Shattered Wings [NOVEL][2015], Aliette de Bodard. Set in a really believable Paris after World War 1 - with- fallen- angels. It's very good. As mentioned above, there is a little of "For those who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they like". I am a sucker for bright eyed techno-optimism, which this is not.

We will see what else I brought on this trip. Greece, incidentally, is beautiful. Of course.

#267 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2015, 01:17 PM:

Just finished The Traitor Baru Cormorant [NOVEL] [2015]. I thought it was excellently plotted, digging deep into layers of deception and betrayal. And as a former accountant myself, I found the use of economics as a means of imperialist takeover to be fascinating.

I don't know that I enjoyed reading it, though. It's a dark, difficult book. I raced through a lot of it, wanting to know what happened next. It reminded me in some ways of the mostly-forgotten Ash by Mary Gentle, but darker yet.

Next up: The Library at Mount Char.

#268 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2015, 08:02 PM:

Abi @267: you really are iterating over the finely-written slash-your-own-wrists fic at present, aren't you? Yes, The Library at Mount Char is worth reading; I wouldn't say it's any happier than The Traitor Baru Cormorant, though!

(I'm guessing you'll need a unicorn chaser afterwards.)

#269 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2015, 08:07 PM:

D'oh: forgot to add my suggested unicorn chaser for library/Traitor: Child of a Hidden Sea by Alyx Dellamonica isn't Hugo-eligible (published in 2014) but there's a sequel due out soon, A Daughter of No Nation, which looks likely to fit the bill (caveat: read the first book in the series first?).

#270 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2015, 01:44 AM:

Charlie @268:

I think we trigger on different things. The last book I closed and needed a unicorn chaser for was Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregellis; the last one I let fly across the room was The Magician King by Lev Grossman.

Next up after Library will probably be Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho.

#271 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2015, 11:00 AM:

I am currently reading _Sorcerer_ as a unicorn break between _Library_ and _Traitor_. It may be too much of a contrast, really -- I feel slightly smothered in fluff.

I remember the Tregillis and yes, that was a harrowing read. _Library_ had plenty of dark elements but it wasn't difficult in the same way. The difference is... some balance of the protagonists having triumphant experiences as well as awful. And the reader, as well.

#272 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2015, 11:56 AM:

Abi @270: The Traitor Baru Cormorant is, I think, particularly triggery for LGBT folks (which includes me; Liz Bourke had a similar, even stronger, reaction).

#273 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2015, 12:26 PM:

Abi @ 267 and Charlie Stross @ 272:

I've been meaning to pick up The Traitor Baru Cormorant because I've been hearing how good it was from multiple sources. I like political stories, and characters who have their own tangle of emotions and motivations. I don't insist on everything I read being happy or having a happy ending, but I'm not fond of dark, dark, grim, and also dark, nor do I much care for stories where everyone is thoroughly unpleasant (humorous misanthropy excepted). I'm also bi. Do you think this is one I should pick up, or should I accept that this is probably a very good book that isn't likely to be for me and move along?

For calibration purposes, I like Dune, Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword, the Annals of the Western Shore series, and the Laundry Files.

I know this probably isn't nearly enough to go on, but this is making me sit back and think "hmm, maybe not so much."

#274 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2015, 03:06 PM:

The Dark Forest [Novel][2015] (I think it will be eligible for next year's Hugos) is the sequel to The Three Body Problem. I just finished this last week.

This book continues the story of what happens on Earth after the end of 3BP--basically how the world decides to try to deal with the threat of the Trisolarians and the ETO.

If there's a single theme in this book, it's deception and the opacity of the human mind. The Trisolarians have deployed sophons (magical technology involving a vague string theory handwave) to spy on the humans (as well as mess up their physics experiments), which means that whatever plans the humans make to fight off the Trisolarian invasion, the sophons are likely to learn and report. (The sophons can't watch *everything*, but presumably they're hanging around in meetings involving top military leaders and politicians.) One solution (among many other bigger things the Earth does to try to prepare) is the selection of four people called "wallfacers." Each one is given the job of planning out some kind of secret strategy to respond to the oncoming invasion. The main character of this story is one of these four wallfacers--the apparently least promising one. The wallfacers are given substantial power and resources, and almost nobody can demand an explanation of why they're doing whatever it is that they do. For the wallfacers, deceiving those around them is part of their job. However, at least some of the strategies they come up with are also completely unacceptable to most of the rest of the human race, so the wallfacers are also deceiving their fellow humans to be able to build up their strategies.

A phrase that appears early in the book is "the chain of suspicion." This is an important phrase for understanding this whole book.

There's only one important character with more than a cameo from the previous book--Da Shi, the very smart policeman from the previous story. The main character in this book has a lot in common with a lot of important characters from 3BP, in that he's very smart, rather alienated, and pretty inherently self-absorbed. And the very down-to-earth Shi makes a really good foil for him.

I thought this was a very good book, but I liked it a bit less than the first book. In many ways, this book is more straightforward, but the overall sense (which comes out in the title and in the fate of a couple of human ships) is pretty depressing and dark. I had to expend some energy suspending my disbelief w.r.t. the idea that the sophons, by messing with particle accelerator experiments, were somehow fundamental blocking progress everywhere. (Why would quantum computing, or continuing advances in Moore's Law, or quantum-level effects in the human brain be affected by not being able to get new information from particle accelerator experiments?) I think Liu's idea here was clever--showing the difference between technological and scientific advances, or between the fruits of applied vs basic research. But I didn't quite buy the specific way he did it.

Worth reading, and I could imagine nominating it for a Hugo if I were likely to be in a position to do so, but not quite as good as the previous book in the series.

#275 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2015, 06:31 AM:

I have been slowly working my way through the Vorkosigan Saga over the last year or so. I've just finished Miles in Love, the omnibus collecting Komarr [NOVEL][1998], A Civil Campaign [NOVEL][1999] and "Winterfair Gifts" [NOVELLA][2004].

It's superb, and specifically A Civil Campaign is a tour de force. I love a well-written villain, but I particularly appreciated that ACC has no true villains; pretty much everybody in the book, including Miles' political antagonists, is just trying to do what they think is best, and the eventual resolution is less about defeating anyone than at arriving at solutions that everyone can live with.

Dono Vorrutyer's arc also got me right in the feels for personal reasons, which I need to think about some more.

Also read recently: Lock In by John Scalzi [NOVEL][2014] which is a good near-future police procedural and a nice fast-paced read. I look forward to the sequel.


I have also finally got myself a library membership after 8 years living in $city, which is solely down to this thread. I got Lock In from there, have Luna: New Moon lined up, and am on the waiting list for Uprooted and The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

On Baru Cormorant, I suspect I am not going to enjoy it at all; this suspicion has only intensified now that the man who *wrote* the last book I found too bleak to enjoy (Annihilation Score, above) has described TTBC as bleak and depressing ... But it's a book I would at least like to look into and have opinions on.

#276 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2015, 03:26 PM:

Finished reading The Fifth Season ([NOVEL] [2015]), and am impressed... with one tiny qualm.

I mean, I am impressed - N. K. Jemisin has constructed a terrifyingly complex and complete setting, here, and peopled it with strong characters in powerful dramatic situations. And the writing itself - epithets like "strong, vigorous, compelling" spring to mind. The interwoven narrative is complicated, but it all fits together beautifully, and it really is compulsive reading, a proper page-turner.

My only caveat is that it is very much "Part One of a Trilogy" - some important narrative threads reach a conclusion (and there's a killer last line, which is always good in a book), but others don't, and there's a vague sense of the setting being prepared as a springboard for further stories. Now, OK, that's not exactly bad - the writing is compelling, and I want to read those further stories. I just, ever so slightly, wish that this book, strong though it is, stood just a bit better on its own. It feels to me like a precision-engineered, beautifully gleaming component part. And that bothers me. Just a bit, but it bothers me.

#277 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2015, 03:56 PM:

Just finished A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire [NOVEL][2015]. This is the 9th book in the October Daye series, and they just keep getting better. In this one, we get to see Toby as a political ambassador, of all the unlikely roles for her to play! And of course she does so in her own inimitable way. Also, Spike gets to be more than a background character, which is fun -- although I wish sie hadn't fallen so completely out of the book after the first half. Toby's alchemist friend Walther plays a key role. We get to meet a different King of Cats, whose relationship with Tybalt is illuminating. There are some interesting revelations about a couple of the secondary characters.

TW for a torture scene, slavery, and mind-control drugs. The kingdom Toby has been sent to is severely messed up.

I don't know if I'd nominate it for a Hugo, because it suffers from the Jim Butcher problem -- you pretty well have to have read all the lead-up books to properly appreciate it. Hell, I think I need to go back and re-read at least the previous two books and then read it again; although McGuire is good at providing the necessary back-info without going into "As you know, Bob" format, there's a lot of nuance that doesn't get covered that way. But it certainly did knock my socks off! I would be interested in hearing the impressions of someone who hasn't read any of the other books.

If you bounced off any of the early books in this series for reasons related to the writing, I encourage you to give them another chance. It took her a few books to really hit her stride, but now... wow.

#278 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2015, 05:13 PM:

I hab a cold, so I spent this evening on the sofa with another book instead of anything more strenuous. Finished Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald [NOVEL][2015] and thought it was very good. He depicts a lunar society that's very much its own thing, whilst still visibly descended from Earth-now, and a political structure that's a toxic mix of corporate dystopia - there is no law but contract law - and good old-fashioned dynastic feudalism - purity of blood and political marriages and so forth. (Also the lunar society has abandoned guns as a basically unsuitable weapon in a world of pressurised habitats, and so the murder methods of choice are poison, taser, and hand-to-hand combat armed and unarmed.) For me it had something of the same flavour as Saturn's Children.

#279 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2015, 11:06 PM:

Craft (Alchemy) @ 275: I still love ACC; there are parts of it I periodically remind myself of even while knowing they can be mishandled. (cf discussion on this blog a few years(?) ago about the two-edgedness of "Guard your honor; let your reputation fall where it will.") However, I think you're a bit generous; there's at least one do-anything-to-get-what-they-want character (of substance -- I ignore the peripheral one who gets a well-deserved and very Pyhrric victory).

Other recent reading: Pratchett's Dodger(!2015) was fun \and/ a shout-out to the writer who provided the facts behind the adjective "Dickensian". A bit facile compared to some of his recent work, perhaps, but I don't regret the reading time -- unlike some books which I wish came with the Phantom Tollbooth's promise about refunds on wasted time. Speaking of which, wasn't there supposed to be a new and less-bad (at least) movie version out recently? Has anyone seen or heard anything of it?

#280 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2015, 11:28 PM:

Finished _Sorcerer to the Crown_. I found it pleasant but never got enthusiastic about the story, characters, or setting. Regency is just not my bag. I think I wanted it to go full Wodehouse.

(Or to be more consistently dark... but then it would be treading on the heels on Strange&Norrell, which wouldn't do the book any favors.) (I very much enjoyed the Strange&Norrell TV series.)

Actually, let me take back what I said -- I *was* enthusiastic about the characters. I wanted to read them in a different story. This is not a demand on the author, because the Regency setting (...cluster) is widely beloved and Prunella in particular must shine against the backdrop of the "expected" romance heroine. Still: not my pick for the year.

#281 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2015, 11:48 AM:

Mary Eileen @41 and Chris @57 - oh squee, a new story in the Hundred makes me very happy..

Fade @37 thank you for the Wilde Life pointer, enjoying it immensely.

Just finished The Annihilation Score, did not find it any fun at all, just bitter and sad. Now in need of a unicorn chaser, thank you Charlie for that coinage ;-)

KeithS @189, the Steerswoman series looks fine. I see the first book is available for 0.99 as an ebook, and I just got a smartphone, clearly an alignment of the spheres.
Need to find a reader that is not Kindle though..

#282 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2015, 02:31 PM:

DougK @281: I just handed in the MS of "The Nightmare Stacks", the next Laundry Files novel. I think you'll find it an adequate unicorn chaser to "Annihilation Score". (Not only because it's mostly lighter in tone, but because at one point we see an entire elven heavy cavalry squadron, mounted on equoids, riding in hot pursuit of our protagonist ...)

#283 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2015, 04:11 PM:

Charlie Stross@282: Oh my. Thanks for the reminder to be very cautious any time you invoke the word "unicorn", especially in the Laundryverse. (Rdhbvq (do I need to rot13 that in this context?) was, to my mind, the funniest and most disturbing bit of the series.)

#284 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2015, 05:33 AM:

Charlie Stross @282: a cavalry charge of elves on equoids, and this is lighter than The Annihilation Score?

The worrying thing is, this makes The Annihilation Score sound very much like my cup of tea. I am all about the grimness and the bad things happening to good people. (In the extremely limited set of people who've read my stuff, I am notorious for inflicting pain and death on sympathetic characters - I get reader comments on the lines of "I like X, will miss him when he inevitably dies".)

- actually, this leads me on to a semi-serious bit of musing about horror stories; horror, being specifically concerned with evoking an emotional response in the reader (namely, horror), absolutely demands that you have sympathetic characters in it. Not necessarily nice characters, just ones that the reader can forge an emotional connection with... so that the reader cares about what horrible things happen to that character. I'm in the middle of a book of horror short stories just now (I think it had better remain nameless), and I'm not terribly impressed by it, and this is largely at the core of my not-being-impressed-ness. The protagonists aren't sympathetic. In some cases, they're clearly not meant to be nice people, and I'm guessing that the author might be trying for some sort of Schadenfreude thing in the reader when the not-nice protagonist meets his definitely-not-nice end. (Always "his", thus far.) However, I'm just not invested enough in these characters to care much either way - and the result, well, is not horror. No matter how gorily or otherwise messily the character expires, it's not horror (to me, at least) if you just think "he got eaten by the monster? Meh. About time."

#285 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2015, 09:32 AM:

For a moment there, I read "equoids" as a drug like steroids. Not a drug which made elves like unicorns, but a drug which made them elfier. In a Strossian universe, this would not be a good thing.

#286 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2015, 11:33 AM:

Nancy, don't give him ideas!

#287 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2015, 08:03 AM:

I think we can now conclude that Charlie and I have different trigger-points. I was more intrigued than horrified by the bulk of The Library at Mount Char [NOVEL] [2015], despite the various terrible things that happen to the characters. But then I got to the ending, and found that I quite liked the book, on balance.

I said I'd be reading The Sorcerer to the Crown next, but I've just bought a copy of Ancillary Mercy, and I think that's going to bump the queue.

Also! My copies of Uprooted and The Library at Mount Char are both signature-sewn! Which means I can rebind them. How convenient that they're both stories in which books play a crucial role.

#288 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2015, 09:26 AM:

I'm halfway through The Library at Mount Char and I'm honestly not sure I'm going to finish. It's very well written, which keeps drawing me back... to look at the (metaphorical) train crash with bodies strewn about it. If I do manage to finish it, and if it maintains its quality, its almost certainly going on my Hugo nomination list... and I am Never Reading It Again.

(Kinda like Pan's Labyrinth, actually. Intense, amazing movie that I never, ever want to see again...)

On a happier note, I just saw The Martian. And it's *definitely* going on my Hugo nomination list.

#289 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2015, 12:49 PM:

So many books to get...

#290 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2015, 01:00 PM:

Steve Wright at 286: I thought having ideas was the whole point of science fiction

#291 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2015, 01:20 PM:

Cassy B @288: its almost certainly going on my Hugo nomination list... and I am Never Reading It Again.

That basically sums up my Hugo nom list for novels. (Right now it looks like I'll be picking my nominations among: Karen Memory, The Library at Mount Char, The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Uprooted, and The Invisible Library. I'm not enough of a Regency fan to go for Sorcerer to the Crown in the face of such strong competition, although in a weaker year it'd be up there. And there may be other books I've overlooked or not read yet.)

#292 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2015, 02:00 PM:

One book that's both on my Hugo and Totally Would Reread lists is Updraft, by Fran Wilde. Though I can certainly picture moods where either Mount Char or Uprooted would be the right brain food for me.

Baru Cormorant, though, is probably not one I'll go back to.

Also awesome: the hardcover editions of both Uprooted and Mount Char are signature sewn, meaning I can rebind them. Having Rebindy Thoughts.

#293 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2015, 03:12 PM:

Abi @ 292

Why rebindy thoughts if I may ask? Are the original bindings unsuitable in some way?

#294 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2015, 04:03 PM:

Cat @293:

Because I do fine bindings in leather. It's not repair; it's art.

#295 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2015, 04:12 PM:

By the way, in the UK it seems that The Traitor Baru Cormorant is just The Traitor. This will be fun for the Hugo administrators.

#296 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2015, 05:38 PM:

Yes, indeed. I just started reading The Traitor and have not yet decided whether the US title constitutes a spoiler or not....

#297 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2015, 03:46 PM:


Ooo, very nice!

#298 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2015, 09:32 AM:

Just finished Poseidon's Wake [NOVEL][2015], by Alastair Reynolds.

It is in the same sequence as Blue Remembered Earth and On the Steel Breeze, with plenty of back-references. I have a nagging suspicion that it would stand fine on its own. Worth reading for multiple reasons, but the sheer scale of some of the things in this book makes it (to me) a worthwhile read, even if I didn't know they'd be that amazing before starting.

#299 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2015, 11:34 AM:

Rereading: Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix (just discovered it's the only one of the series where my copy isn't a 1st hb printing, so I'm preparing to upgrade). Just finished: Django Wexler's The Forbidden Library [2014]-- interesting book, but not as engaging as I wanted it to be. Too many characters with obvious hidden agendas which are not resolved by the end of this first book in a middle-grade series. I like having more than one character whose motives are clear. The protagonists' motives are clear to her, and it's obvious that they aren't clear to anyone else she encounters, so it's fair on that level; but it still doesn't work well for me. On deck: Joe Gores' older mystery novel, Spade and Archer, an authorized prequel to The Maltese Falcon.

#300 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2015, 04:21 PM:

The film of The Martian [2015][DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM)] is also being discussed in Open Thread 208, but it is Hugo-eligible, so I'm planting the following remark here.

Lydy Nickerson offers very interesting thoughts on the kind of story The Martian is, and how it may look different when viewed by mainstream eyes than it looks through SF eyes.

#301 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2015, 07:02 PM:

Novels from the last few months of reading...

The Dark Forest[2015][NOVEL] is weaker than the first - the first 1/3rd is going very rough - partially because of the change of translator - I do not know which one is the better one but the change shows; and the book could have used one more editorial reading (words and characters are not the same thing in English for example) - but partially because of the story itself. Yes - knowing what is happening allows the book to proceed better and have more linear structure but at the same time it looses what made the first one so special... It is not a bad book by any means - but it just is weaker than the first.

Anniversary Day Saga by Kristine Kathryn Rusch [2015][NOVEL] - technically all 6 are eligible as a whole - they are a single novel split into 6 pieces (or in 8 if you count the 2 from previous years). However - if you read them one after the other, the repetitions are a bit too much. If that whole story was told in a single longer novel, with a lot more tightened structure, it would have worked a lot better. Not a bad popcorn reading but not much than it. And a lot of the nice feelings come from knowing the pre-history.

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie[2015][NOVEL] - and here comes trouble. Abercrombie has the third one already out and I had not read it yet but I have a very strong suspicion that if he had published just one of them, he could have made the ballot. With both out (and the second one (third in the trilogy) looks as strong as this one, the nominations will split - and the two are not really one story so you cannot put them together. It's a good follow up to last year's Half a King and one of the arguments why we really do not need a YA award - good books can make it in the big category.

Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal[2015][NOVEL] - if you had read the previous 4, you must read that one :) If you like Jane Austen and you are not reading those, you should. It's one of my guilty pleasures in the last years. Not going on my nominations list (it relies a lot on knowledge from earlier in the series) but still recommended.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey [2014][NOVEL] - the first 100 pages are one of those great starts that you read once in a decade possibly. Then when the things get explained it kinda slides down - it is a nice novel and a newish view on the zombie problem but... I really wish it had kept the suspense and magic of those first 100 pages.

Touch by Claire North[2015][NOVEL] - if that had not been written by North, I probably would not have read it with such high expectations. It is weaker than The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August[2014][NOVEL] (which is one of my favorite novels from last year) but it is not weak on its own. It runs a bit too long, it looses a lot of what the premise would have allowed it to be - but it is still readable.

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie [2015][NOVEL] - that one I got around to writing a review of already. I don't even care what exact genre that falls into - it is speculative fiction and somewhere between the west and the east, the magic just happens. Highly recommended and seriously considering putting that on my nominations this year. Oh and if you do your calculations (and some round up because a month is not exactly a defined number), the main work that had influenced it will be clear :)

The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka [2015][NOVEL] - and that one has the same problem that his previous one had - it tries too hard to be too many things at the same time and manages to fail in all (or not succeed anyway). It is a nice science/thriller blend but things just never finish cleanly.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro[2015][NOVEL] - the blend of mythological and mystical works wonderfully. Loss, love, memory and British legends - all rolled into one, mixed and then rebuilt into a lyrical novel. It won't be everyone's cup of tea and maybe it got me at a time when it was what I needed, but I loved it.

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi[2015][NOVEL] - definitely weaker than his previous novel (The Windup Girl was something special) but still... It is set in the area in the deserts of Nevada and Arizona, with Phoenix and Las Vegas dying (or not) and this just happens to be where I live these days. So things resonated. It's almost too close to reality for comfort. I liked it, not Hugo material I think but it stays with you and if it makes it on the ballot, I won't consider it a mistake. I am just not putting it there - its execution was more good than great. Good read though.

Persona by Genevieve Valentine[2015][NOVEL] - if I had posted that immediately after I read it, I would have dismissed it as a readable but unremarkable story. And somehow it grew on me - it is a run of the mill thriller in a future where things had changed (but not enough) but it has its charms. And looks like there will be a second one so I think I am reading it.

And just mentioning two novels from earlier in the year that still lead the list of things I liked from this year's novels Seveneves[2015][NOVEL] and Karen Memory.

And that is official - I've read more 2015 novels before 2015 is even over than I usually do... Now back to some older novels (although a few 2015 ones are coming from the library so this number will grow... ) Plus if I post a bit more often, I won't have a huge list for a single posting :) And I need to get around and post about my favorite shorter works so far...

#302 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2015, 07:57 PM:

I really enjoyed Novik's Uprooted. It's got a spot on my nominations list. I loved how it uses fairytale tropes, turning them inside out. The characters are 3-dimensionaal — no one is all good, or all evil.

#303 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2015, 12:08 AM:

I've just finished reading Ancillary Mercy [NOVEL][2015] and if it weren't so late at night I'd be stomping around the room declaiming at the cats and the dog about my intense resulting feelings. It is an entirely fitting third act to that story, and it has the best kind of ending: one that makes perfect sense on arrival, and has clearly been set up by everything that came before, and is damn near inevitable, and yet surprised me when it arrived because I had not predicted that result. Very satisfying overall.

#304 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2015, 01:50 AM:

Oh yeah! (Just finished reading it my own self.)

#305 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2015, 04:09 AM:

Annie Y @ #303, P J Evans @ #304:

Due to the vagaries of "pre-order arrival", I am at the moment working my way through Chapelwood, which I intend to write a little something about here, in the next few days. Then it's either Ancillary Mercy or that other book I bought whose name I can't remember, that I postponed reading because Cherie Priest book.

#306 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2015, 08:13 AM:

Annie Y@301: I think it's significant that The Girl with... grew out of a short story; it's the initial situation which is really compelling.

#307 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2015, 11:00 AM:

[NOVEL] [2015] Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman arrived yesterday. I am about halfway through it and absolutely loving the characters and the rock-solid sense of place and atmosphere. I wouldn't have gone to work today anyway, honest - I'm coughing and sneezing my head off - but I'm happy to have the excuse to curl up in a chair at home and keep reading.

#308 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2015, 11:28 AM:

In the Company of Mind by Stephen Pizciks [1998]-- a young man has multiple personality disorder as a result of horrific abuse by his exceedingly wealthy father. Nanotech is involved, and is more plausible than some other sfnal nanotech.

Things get better. The book has a remarkably sweet bit in which a disability furthers romance.

I'm not sure how much to recommend this book. It's a solid piece of work, stronger on the plot and emotions than the world-building. If it's what's you're in the mood for, here's a pretty good novel's worth of it.

#309 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2015, 12:47 PM:

Andrew M @ 306

I do not think that I knew that (or if I did, I had forgotten it). But that does explain the change and the structure. Now I wish the story was never expanded...:)

#310 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2015, 03:34 PM:

Finished The Annihilation Score, and while it is grimmer than the previous Laundry novels, I didn't find it to be grim-dark deep.

Currently working on Ancillary Mercy, slowly, because I want to enjoy this.

Cassy @288 said (Kinda like Pan's Labyrinth, actually. Intense, amazing movie that I never, ever want to see again...) and I'd just like to echo that, at least, with respect to the movie. Great work. Never want to see it again.

#311 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2015, 11:01 PM:

A couple of short fiction shout-outs:

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds [NOVELLA][2015] - when something starts as military SF and ends where this one ends, you really want to read it. Plus despite the fact that it won't be as surprising the second time, it is readable a second time - its message of memory, identity and community building works even when you know where it is going. Highly recommended.

Consolation by John Kessel in Twelve Tomorrows 2016 [SHORT STORY][2015] (I am bad with word counts and cannot verify on a kindle - it may be crossing into novelette but not sure) - the best story in this edition of the anthology. 4 intertwined stories in a future where Canada is the power in North America (even though you need to read most of the story to see the changes) and where people will be still people. Immigration, terrorism and love - all mixed into a chilling story that surprises you on every word.

There are a few other nice stories in the anthology and some of them may even bubble to the top of my list but none of them packs as much punch and impressed me as much as Kessel's.

#312 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2015, 11:59 PM:

Holy f*ck, Ancillary Mercy is out, woot! why did I not know this -- okay, trip to B & N tomorrow. *happy dance*

Read and liked: Karen Memory. Cuckoo Song (except the ending felt rushed. Too bad.) Tried to read The Buried Giant, couldn't. Currently reading: Dodger by Terry Pratchett. Enjoying it.

#313 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2015, 01:53 AM:

The Desert and the Blade by S. M. Stirling [NOVEL] [2015]: This is the latest installment in the Changed World series, and it does not disappoint. Crown Princess Orlaith and Empress Reiko of Japan have to make a quest into the Southwestern American desert to recover one of the Great Talismans of the Nippon Empire, which was stolen by an American soldier at the end of WWII. They are opposed by another incarnation of the Evil Power whose main North American focus was defeated and destroyed by Rudi in The Given Sacrifice.

The book is densely written and heavy on the world-building; Stirling spends a significant amount of time on describing the settings, clothing, and food of the various survivor cultures the Quest group passes through, some of which are very different indeed from the major cultures we've become familiar with in the rest of the series. But there's still plenty of action -- at one point I made the mistake of thinking, "I'll just read thru to the end of this battle sequence before I go to bed," and 8 chapters and several hours later... (Because it turns out to be a very extended sequence -- 2 water engagements, a fight on a wharf, a fight on a hill, and POV excursions to the ambush battles fought by each of the 2 sets of approaching reinforcements before you get to the final confrontation! Yet it's all interesting, and never gets into the level of eye-rolling detail at least for me.) There's statecraft as well; Orlaith brings two new survivor-groups into the High Kingdom by skillful politicking on the one hand and a carefully-calculated display of strength on the other.

Stirling is also weaving some of the characters and settings from the stories in the recently-released anthology into the main tale, which is very nice to see. And yes, there's definitely more than just "the Dead Lands" populated by scattered bands of cannibal savages in the old American Southwest. I love the way the scope of this series keeps widening. Of course, after destroying Civilization As We Know It, he's got a lot of space to play with! (Aside: I got to chat with Stirling last week at FenCon, and he says there will definitely be at least two more books.)

Once again, not sure I'd nominate this for a Hugo because of the series issue -- but I do think this book stands well on its own, though it's clearly still part of an ongoing story. At any rate, it's a thoroughly enjoyable read.

#314 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2015, 09:46 AM:


I agree with you about _The Desert and the Blade_. It's a good continuation of the Change series, but I don't think it would stand alone very well.

One thing I think Stirling does well in this series involves founder effects. A small group of people doing the right thing right after the Change[1] can become the seed for a large society later on. The small groups of survivors who were most successful right after the change gathered a *lot* of supporters and built up whole new ways of living, some pretty similar to the way Americans were before (CORA, Boise, Corvallis) and others wildly and weirdly different (PPA, Mackenzies, Dunedain). In most cases, these societies coalesced around a small core of people doing something that worked, driven by some set of ideas or beliefs that turned out the be highly functional in the new changed world.

The whole Change series is like that. The Golden Princess introduced us to what happened after the Change in a bunch of places (Japan, Korea, Australia, some bits of California) and The Desert and The Blade brought in three new survivor communities in California.

[1] Inexplicable changes to the laws of physics that make most modern technology (electronics), and even pretty old stuff like gunpowder and steam engines, no longer work. Civilization collapses and is rebuilt on lower technology by the small fraction of people who survive.

#315 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2015, 11:51 AM:

albatross, #314: If you haven't read the anthology yet, you need to. It gives the back-story for Topanga, Chatsworth, and Mist Hills.

Another thing Stirling gets right is that in the absence of electronic communications, an area the size of the old United States is simply too large for any kind of central government system to work. (Boise is dreaming, in the sense of "wishful thinking".) Even the High Kingdom is a loose coalition of otherwise-independent groups, closer to the EU than to being a single country. Eventually it's probably going to shake out as Montival, Iowa, and Norrheim, with possibly a 4th major power in the Southeast -- I'm looking at the one from the anthology that's building up along the Gulf Coast as a potential there.

I had thought that when Droyn was injured and had to stay behind, perhaps young Conan would join the Quest group, but that didn't happen. It might in the next book, though...

#316 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2015, 12:07 PM:

Lee & albatross: Possibly my favorite moment in TD&tB was the two old Topangans talking about how they're starting to believe the Fjbeq is proof against the enchantments of evil sorcerers...and coming to the terrible realization that that means they're going to have to believe in the evil sorcerers as well!

I wonder about the growing influence of magic. In DtF, there was basically no magic; Juniper's berserkergang moment and Rudi's Wiccaning were weird, but not unexplanably so, and nothing in the first three books really breaks that bar (especially since we see all the 'magical' moments from the POV of someone who believes in magic). These days, we've got magic swords that convert unabashed skeptics, transoceanic time-travel visions, and yes, evil sorcerers who turn into zombies when you kill 'em. I don't object--though I think Mike might've--but I wonder what prompted the, if you'll forgive the pun, change.

#317 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2015, 12:12 PM:

Finished The Just City. Loved it. Off to that conversation thread!

#318 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2015, 01:46 PM:

Carrie S. -- Mike would have gone with the flow, and laughed about it in private.

#319 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2015, 01:57 PM:

Carrie, #316: Well, it's not until the beginning of Rudi's arc that you see anything about the Prophet, either. I suspect that the increased emphasis on magical stuff came about when the focus of the story changed from "surviving the Apocalypse" to "hero's quest".

I think this subject is at least partially addressed in The Sword of the Lady, at the point where Rudi goes into the Nantucket Anomaly to retrieve the Sword. It's that specific artifact being brought into the world which fully unleashes overtly supernatural magic -- the kind of thing that non-believers can see. And we also get the background explanation for a lot of otherwise-puzzling stuff that's been going on for a while; it's more or less the equivalent of the war between the Shadows and the Vorlons in B5.

Mike, to me, is one of the most problematic characters in the series. He adapts, he learns to function in the Changed world, but he never really accepts it, and he continues to be limited by his insistence on reinterpreting everything thru a pre-Change filter. He's like the kind of dancer who causes white-water all the way up and down the contradance set. I'm not surprised that he was given a heroic death fairly early on in the time-line.

#320 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2015, 03:14 PM:


I think Mike's probably representative of a lot of the tougher survivor types who make it through the Change, maybe one of the main branches of survivors. These are folks who could hold onto most of their pre-Change worldview. Mike could and did prosper in the Changed world, but he was always going to be a child of the 20th Century USA. Even at the end, the terms in which he saw his fight with Norman were 20th Century USA cultural terms--working man vs intellectual hobbyist/geek.

From what we can tell, there are a lot of other people like that with a lot of power in the Changed world. General Thurston fits the bill--he spends his life trying to rebuild the old USA, which is exactly what someone with his beliefs and values and abilities would be expected to do. The CORA ranchers probably include a lot of people who are similar--their lives have changed a lot, but their fundamental way of looking at the world isn't all that different. I have the impression that the people in power in Iowa and Richland work the same way--they more-or-less kept their 20th century worldview and just tried to make it keep working. I get the impression much the same has happened in The Dominions, and maybe also in Deseret.

By contrast, the Cutters, the Dunedain, the PPA, the Mackenzies and McClintocks, the Norlanders and the Scouts and the Sioux all live in a very different worldview now. Even people like Tiphaine and Sandra that don't believe (until forced to by evidence) that the supernatural exists are still very much willing to adapt to the new shape of the world. Sandra is much more at home in the new world than Mike is, though she's no more inclined to believe in anything beyond human powers.

One thing that's a bit striking is that a lot of the people whose worldview is stuck in 20th century America really end up getting clobbered when faced with the realities of the Changed world. General Thurston would have been a lot more prepared for treachery within his own family if he'd been thinking in terms of kings and emperors and dynastic struggles, instead of presidents and elections. The governor of Iowa and the second president/general Thurston both were utterly unprepared for the kind of supernatural forces that they faced w.r.t. the Cutters. (Also, by the end of the quest's visit to Iowa, they'd begun to throw off the old titles and forms and take on new ones more suited to the times.) Deseret lost to the Cutters partly because they didn't take them very seriously--these guys are clearly nuts and are afraid of technology, how tough can they be?

Partly, this has to do with having the right kind of language in which to speak and think of the Changed world. Sandra and Tiphaine may not start out thinking demonic possession is a real thing, but they at least have the concepts in their heads so they can describe and understand what they're seeing. They are very adept at pretending to believe in such things as a way of fitting into a system that puts both of them up at the top of the pyramid, so it's probably much easier for them to actually think in those terms when they have to. It's hard to imagine Mike really every believing in such things.

The interesting sideline here is the Brits who show up in what will become Montival. They're all 20th century hardass/realist types, but mostly they get captured by the extremely powerful reality distortion fields surrounding Juniper and Astrid. You get the impression that Sam and Nigel never did change very much in worldview, but since they were caught up in the flow of Juniper Mackenzie and the Mackenzies, they were (perhaps like a lot of PPA people) willing to go along with this odd worldview where the supernatural was real and important in everyday life.

#321 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2015, 04:31 PM:

Chapelwood [NOVEL][2015], Cherie Priest.

TL; DR "Squee! Squee squee squee squee. Squee. Squee? Squee, squee squee squee. Squee."

This is the sequel to Maplecroft, the story of exactly why Lizzie Borden took an axe. It takes place 3 decades later. If you liked the first, you will most probably like this. If you didn't like the first, you probably won't like this.

As much as I love the Laundry books, and Chapelwood are probably the best recent retellings of the Cthulhu Mythos I've read.

#322 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2015, 05:59 PM:

Yesterday: Uprooted. Today: Ancillary Mercy.

Mercy was very good, and managed to stick a difficult landing - basically what Fade Manley said @303: both completely unexpected and yet somehow inevitable. And the Presger Translator is a joy. (Really alien aliens are hard to write convincingly, but I think Leckie manages it, even at one remove.)

Uprooted is right now the one I want to go back to and swim around in, though. There's so much there. I particularly loved the attention to the stuff of daily life - cooking, clothes, mess. Also the setting: it seemed to me entirely appropriate and deeply important that it's recognisably in a real place (in the way that Arthur's England is a real place) rather than a secondary world. On the list.

#323 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2015, 01:39 PM:

Re: Mike and the Emberverse

Stirling's having a bit of fun with us -- in Mike's tale he's ringing changes on the Matter of Britain. Picture Mike as Uther. (Signe -- Igraine, Juniper -- Vivienne, High Priestess of Avalon, Astrid -- Morgan le Fay,* Lot of Orkney -- Norman, the Lord Protector, Sandra -- Morgause...etc.)

In Rudy's tale, we've got a touch of Alexander added to Arthur, with a sauce of Fellowship of the Ring on top.

*of the Fairies, or should we say, Elves.

#324 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2015, 05:16 PM:

Finished The Traitor [Baru Cormorant]. Good stuff, but... bleak is definitely the word. Bleak is very definitely the word. Baru certainly earns her epithet - I think even Lord Gro of Goblin/Witch/Demonland would have been impressed.

Now started Ancillary Mercy. Dare I hope it will be more cheerful?

#325 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2015, 05:26 PM:

Steve Wright @324:

Dare I hope it will be more cheerful?

Hope away! It is. And when you're done, there's a spoiler thread.

#326 ::: Tamlyn ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2015, 12:41 AM:

I finished Uprooted and I very much enjoyed it. I think everyone else has already said why much better than I could.

Before that I read the Susan Coolidge's Katy books and have now started Anne of Green Gables. I love diving back into childhood classics, and they do a good job of getting me back into reading when I've jarred out for whatever reason.

From the library I have Lauren Beukes' Broken Monsters [2014] out now. I suspect it's not going to my sort of thing, but I'll give it a go. I've got Seveneves and The Court of Thorn and Roses coming from other branches too. Plus One Hundred and One Dalmations because I've never actually read it.

I've suggested to my library the latest Max Gladstone and October Daye books (er... author, series... perhaps I should say The Craft or McGuire) plus Ancillary Mercy. My library has never said no if they can get it so hopefully those will be in my hands soon! (They, alas, have had to say no to some things: I still want to try some Bujold, but I want to start from the start. The start is too old for my library to order :()

Now hopefully I'll do a better job of reading than I've been doing of late.

#327 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2015, 12:59 AM:

Tamlyn @ 326

What about ILL? Seems to be working for me for older books that my library does not stock anymore.

#328 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2015, 10:35 AM:

Tamlyn (326): By "the start" of Bujold, do you mean Shards of Honor? That's in print as the first half of Cordelia's Honor. Warrior's Apprentice (where I started) is in Young Miles, which is also currently available.

#329 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2015, 02:58 PM:

Daniel Abraham: The Dagger and the Coin. [NOVEL][2015], if I understand the rules about multi-part works correctly. Got into this because somebody on the Tor blog recommended part 3 (The Tyrant's Law, which I'm now hoping the library can find as I've finished parts 1 and 2 (The Dragon's Path and The King's Blood). Perhaps more conventional than his Long Price quartet in some ways (e.g., it's one novel published in 5 pieces rather than a tetraptych), but still interesting in the way he gives various WIBNIs a good shaking. (V'z abg unccl nobhg gur jnl ur znxrf bire gur chg-hcba areq vagb n cnegvphyneyl fghcvq glenag jvgu sne yrff rkphfr guna (r.t.) Evpuneq VV -- V'z abg pbaivaprq rira fbzrbar fb trrxl jbhyq unir fanccrq fb onqyl -- ohg vg'f va gur enatr jurer nethvat jbhyq-ur-jbhyqa'g-ur trgf hacebqhpgvir.) And as in LPQ, no easy choices.

[[I thought this had posted, but it's not here....]]

#330 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2015, 04:30 PM:

CHip@329: "Daniel Abraham: The Dagger and the Coin. [NOVEL][2015], if I understand the rules about multi-part works correctly."

Fifth book isn't out yet, is it? (check check check) Amazon says March 2016.

I've enjoyed the first four volumes a lot, although the pacing wobbles here and there and I *still* don't know what we're supposed to think of Geder.

#331 ::: Tamlyn ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2015, 07:18 PM:

I think I looked briefly at ILL, but the cost meant I may as well buy the book myself. I might ask again since I can't find any info on the actual library site.

Mary Aileen, yes, but my library can apparently only buy books released (including reprints) within a certain time frame. I asked about the omnibuses, but the librarian said she'd checked them and that even the latest reprint was too old.

#332 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2015, 09:05 PM:

Tamlyn @ 331

It is free in my library system (the fees if you delay a book are much more severe than the ones for books in the system but that's the only difference really) - well, there is a provision that you may need to pay if the other library requires it or something along this lines but it had never happened to me and they would first call to ask if I want it under those conditions). Worth asking a librarian?

Another option would be to see if the library is connected to any of the digital systems and then get an e-book instead?

Good luck!

CHip@329 - I really do not think that this is eligible in any way or form. No book was published in 2015, another one is coming in 2016 - so I cannot see the rules to be able to stretch for it... As for next year - who knows. I really do not like the ability of series to make it into the nominations but not my call obviously :)

#333 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2015, 01:31 AM:

I just binge-read Stand Still, Stay Silent[WEBCOMIC][ONGOING] and I have to say it's...really good. 90 years ago a virus(?) killed most of the mammals on Earth and the survivors. About a quarter of a million people scattered around Scandinavia are, as far as they know, the only human beings left. They have built a reasonably prosperous civilization and are painstakingly winning back the infected lands hectare by hectare, not without setbacks. The problem is that burning everything is part of the decontamination cycle. So a small team of explorers is out there in the post-apocalyptic wasteland looking for the greatest treasure imaginable: books.

Horror elements and other potentially nopey spoilery stuff in the ROT13.

Gur qvfrnfr, pnyyrq gur enfu vyyarff be fvzcyl gur vyyarff, xvyyf zbfg bs gur vasrpgrq jvgu n fgrnqvyl jbefravat enfu. Gur vasrpgrq jub qba'g qvr ghea vagb ubeevsvpnyyl qvfgbegrq zbafgref erzvavfprag bs Gur Guvat. Bayl pngf ner 100 creprag vzzhar. Arneyl nyy bgure znzznyf sebz zvpr gb junyrf orpbzr ivpvbhf pubzc mbzovrf. Gur rkprcgvbaf ner qbtf naq uhznaf, jub nygreangr orgjrra nggnpxvat naq orttvat sbe uryc--90 lrnef nsgre univat tbggra fvpx. Rkcrpg tber naq fcybepuvat naq guvatf gung fubhyq or qrnq znxvat fbhaqf.

Gur rkcyberef tb gb n qrnq pvgl gb trg obbxf sebz n pbzzhavgl pragre gung unf n fznyy yvoenel va vg, bayl gb svaq gung vg jnf ghearq vagb n znxrfuvsg ubfcvgny 90 lrnef ntb, vapyhqvat n oneevpnqrq ebbz va juvpu fbzr bs gur vasrpgrq jrer fgenccrq qbja nf gurl ortna gb punatr funcr. Qrnq sbyxf rireljurer.

Rhgunanfvn vf fubja bafperra, nf vf n fprar va na ryrzragnel fpubby jurer gur pynff treovy jnf arire vasrpgrq naq qvrq n fybj qrngu va vgf pntr, yrnivat vgf cvgvshy obarf sbe gur rkcyberef gb svaq. Gurer vf nyfb n uvag gung yvir vasrpgrq fcrpvzraf ner orvat hfrq sbe nagvivehf grfgf--vapyhqvat, cbffvoyl, qrgnpurq ohg "ivnoyr" urnqf bs vasrpgrq uhznaf.

Vprynaq vf gur bayl pbhagel gung qvq abg ybfr nal bs vgf greevgbel--orpnhfr gur Vprynaqref qrfgeblrq rirel nccebnpuvat jngrepensg onpx va Lrne 0. Jr trg gb frr n unccl ohapu bs ershtrrf jnivat purreshyyl ng na Vprynaqvp Pbnfg Thneq irffry gung vf nobhg gb oybj gurz hc.

Fbzr bs gur rkcyberef ner vzzhar gb gur vyyarff naq fbzr nera'g. Vg'f dhvgr cbffvoyr gung fbzr bs gurz znl qvr.

Jbb-nirefr ernqref gnxr abgr: Vasrpgrq yvsr sbezf ner qrfpevorq hfvat grezf sebz Fpnaqvanivna sbyxyber naq gurer ner gjb sbezf bs zntvp sebz fnvq sbyxyber gung frrz gb npghnyyl jbex.

#334 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2015, 01:33 AM:

Added to the above: The gore and violence pushed the boundaries of my tolerance hard, but I kept reading because it's pretty clear that the theme isn't "Kill the zombies RAH RAH US," but "This is awful, those poor wretches are pitiable, and sometimes we have to do some awful stuff to stay alive."

#335 ::: Phiala ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2015, 02:00 PM:

I am not sure if I'm going to finish TRAITOR BARU CORMORANT. I'm 2/3 through, and haven't been sure I was going to keep reading since the first quarter, but I'm still going. I did check a review site to see whether it ended as I expect, and it does.

After finishing LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR, I likened it to a drystone wall made by a master mason: all the bits fit together perfectly, nothing was left out, and there were no gaps. Everything I wondered about was resolved. Bleak, yes, but the end pulled it all together.

UPROOTED was also fabulous. SORCERER TO THE CROWN was fun, but didn't do as much for me as it did for many others.

I just haven't been reading as much fiction, which frustrates me no end.

#336 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2015, 06:10 AM:

I finished The Traitor Baru Cormorant, and it didn't punch me in the gut as hard as I was expecting. I think being spoiled for the ending in advance helped with that. Discussion of ending and spoilers: Vg zrnag V pbhyq frr gur raqvat pbzvat gbtrgure va n jnl V cebonoyl jbhyqa'g unir fcbggrq ba zl bja naq fb jnf jnvgvat sbe vg. V vzntvar gung vs lbh jrag va fcbvyre-serr vg'q or zber bs n fubpx. Vg fgevxrf zr abj gung Oneh'f ybat tnzr ntnvafg gur Nheqjlaav vf zveeberq va gur obbx'f fgehpgher naq gur engr ng juvpu vg (qbrfa'g) qvfpybfr cybg vasbezngvba; nofrag gur fcbvyre, gur ernqre svaqf bhg jung Oneh qvq ng gur fnzr gvzr gur Nheqjlaav qb, naq jung ybbxf n ybg yvxr n cyhpxl-haqreqbt-guebjf-bhg-rivy-pbadhrebef aneengvir noehcgyl snyyf gb cvrprf. V nccerpvngr gur pensg.

I did like that, while Baru has a measure of combat training and does have to use it occasionally, she isn't a warrior-hero. It's an administrator's war, and it's nice to see fiction that really engages with the extent to which large organisations, including centrally-run countries, rely on paperwork, and how much damage a bureaucrat with a grudge can do.

(I also liked the bit at the end of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August where the villain's world-ending project is (spoilers) oebhtug qbja abg ol n aboyr npg bs qrfgehpgvba, ohg ol gur snvgushy nqzva/ybtvfgvpf crefba dhvrgyl gnzcrevat jvgu gur cebqhpgvba fcrpvsvpngvbaf fb vg rkcybfviryl snvyf jura svefg npgvingrq.)

Also interesting to see a secondary-world setting which discovered its technologies in a different order. There's torpedoes of some variety, and submarine mines, but the ranged infantry weapon of choice is still the bow. The Masquerade have figured out scarily thorough behavioural conditioning and apparently fairly sophisticated surgery, but not steam power.

Short version: it's very well-written and I liked lots of things about it, but I'm still not sure whether I liked it.

#337 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2015, 06:12 PM:

Andrew Plotkin @ 330: correct; I misread/misremembered what I'd seen of the schedule. (Wikipedia says January -- but even if they weren't (probably) out of date the work wouldn't be eligible until 2016.)

Annie Y @ 332: As noted above, you're right about the timing. However, the WSFS Constitution , end of section 3.2.4, says "a work appearing in a number of parts shall be eligible for the year of the final part." I disagree with Charlie about Discworld as a whole being a single work (I note that Wikipedia describes 8 separate threads), and I don't think The Shepherd's Crown is Hugo-worthy by itself. However (as I said initially) tDatC reads to me (at least so far) as a single work in 5 volumes rather than an open-ended series that could in theory be nominated whenever the author dies (or sales drop off enough that the publisher gives up...).
      Note that the clause does not go on to distinguish series, either as I have or in any other way, from "a work appearing in a number of parts" (e.g., Lord of the Rings, the Amber sets, ...). My impression is that Hugo managers are expected to defer to the nominators in this as in other undefined areas (e.g., was Apollo 13 really SF?) -- but this is also undefined.

Craft @ 336: I hadn't remembered the tech shuffles; I wonder whether the author had justifications for them. I \might/ understand not harnessing steam even when its properties are obvious in every kitchen, but I wonder how explosives were discovered without anyone thinking of directing them.

#338 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2015, 06:35 PM:

It's worth bearing in mind that the 'work appearing in parts' rule applies across categories, and it doesn't trump the rules for individual categories; the rule for Best Novel says that it should be a story (of more than some number of words). So whether a serially published entity is eligible for Best Novel should depend on whether it is a story. This is certainly a woolly question in some cases (e.g. would the Ancillary series count, if two volumes hadn't been nominated already?), but in some cases the answer lies fairly clearly on one side or the other.

#339 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2015, 06:47 PM:


I said that I did not like that it is eligible not that it won't be eligible next year. :) So we are in agreement that the provision is there - I just do not think that it should be used for these cases. If enough people disagree - it will make the ballot.

#340 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2015, 05:54 AM:

CHip @#337 - it's entirely possible that some avenues of technical development are restricted or suppressed by the Masquerade, at least until they've got a plan in place for their development. Steam power, given that it can drive an industrial revolution, is the sort of thing they might well be very cautious about.

#341 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2015, 11:43 AM:

Steve @340: the Masquerade are thoroughly nasty but I didn't read them as being that far-sighted -- their bias is towards eugenics and imperialism (in the Marxist sense) rather than technology. I'm also puzzling the possibility that Dickinson's world is a far-future post-fossil-fuel one (with landlines changed by oceanic warming/rising) in which case there's no oil/coal to be had.

What I am most interested in knowing is when the sequel is going to turn up. Because that final chapter sort of demands one ...

#342 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2015, 02:50 PM:

Well, I found my thoughts turning to... I think it's a William Golding story, "Envoy Extraordinary"... anyway, the idea is that a Roman Emperor is offered some workable steam technology, and turns it down, because it will cause unrest by putting lots of slaves out of work. (Which, when one considers episodes of Roman history like the Servile Wars, is not so unlikely, at that.) I could see the Masquerade thinking along the same lines, and they certainly have the level of social control needed to squash inconvenient inventions.

I agree that the last chapter is calling out for a sequel! I'd read one. I might stock up on antidepressants first, but I'd read one.

(Having asked for recs for something more cheerful, I'm currently on Karen Lord's The Best of All Possible Worlds. Which has got to be optimistic, right? Right?)

#343 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2015, 04:52 PM:

"The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist is afraid the optimist is right." You're welcome to find an attribution for that quote, as lots of people have said it.

#344 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2015, 05:24 PM:

Craft (Alchemy) - I'm impressed by your sewing projects.

I'm also an alchemist, albeit for reasons of historical research.

#345 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2015, 05:52 PM:

guthrie @344 - Aw, thank you! The nym is a D&D joke; I've never done alchemy in the experimental sense, unless cooking is counted. (Possibly my mother's chocolate pudding recipe* qualifies, as I still have no idea how it works.) Although there is something rather magical about the before-and-after nature of sewing, converting a flat expanse of fabric into something as intricately 3D as clothing.

What's your alchemical research in/on?



Werewolf Loves Mermaid by Heather Lindsley [SHORT STORY][2015] which is sweet and very funny - a largely happy story that does exactly what it says on the title.

The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary, by Kij Johnson [SHORT STORY][2015] which is about things that live in apartments, some of them people, and which to me seemed to fall naturally into conversation with

The Practical Witch's Guide to Acquiring Real Estate by A.C. Wise [SHORT STORY][2015].


*(Alchemy's Mum's Chocolate Self-Saucing Pudding Recipe:

In a bowl combine:
150g self-raising flour (works well with gluten-free SR flour, too)
165g sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

In a saucepan, melt:
30g butter or marg
125ml milk, milk-equivalent or water
dash of vanilla

Mix into a thick, gloopy batter. Turn the mixture out into a deep, greased oven-proof dish.

In a bowl mix 150g brown sugar and 4 tablespoons cocoa powder until the lumps are out of the sugar. Scatter this evenly over the top of the batter in the dish. Measure out 425ml water and pour this carefully over the top of the powder layer - ideally over the back of a spoon or similar so it doesn't drill holes in the cake mix. Bake for 40 minutes-ish at 180C or thereabouts; can take a bit longer depending on the oven.

Somehow, I know not how, the layers invert in the cooking and you end up with a slab of really dense cake floating on a layer of bubbling chocolate lava. It's delicious, and its deliciousness survives intact when made vegan, gluten-free or indeed both.)

#346 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2015, 10:42 PM:

Craft (Alchemy) @ 345: That species of chocolate goo is what my mother called "chocolate upside down cake".

#347 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2015, 11:08 PM:

I've seen it called pudding cake. You can find recipes looking for that.

#348 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2015, 12:19 AM:

Jenny Islander: Thanks for the Stand Still Stay Silent recc! I tried it again yesterday, and this time I got far enough into it to get going.

The first time I looked at it, some time back, I got distracted and bounced off while I was still at the very beginning, where it seems to be random people wandering around involved in the minutia of their daily lives; I hadn't given it enough time to get to the stage where it gets clear that Something Bad is going on in the background. Even on that attempt though, I could see the art was spectacularly good.

This evening I'm about 200 pages in and well into the main story line and it's getting Interesting.

#349 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2015, 12:54 PM:

Craft Alchemy #345- yes, sewing is impressive, but so too is getting the right mix of colours together to make a picture, I've never been able to do that.

My alchemical research is based on practical alchemy of primarily medieval and 16th century sort, with some of earlier works. My blog url is in my name this time.

An upside down cake, thanks for the recipe, I'll try it some time.

#350 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2015, 07:20 PM:

I too have now read through the archives for Stand Still Stay Silent, so I'll add another round of thanks for that rec! I've seen it suggested a few different places, and it finally got enough critical mass on people telling me to check it out that I did. And I am glad that I did.

The long prologue is interesting in its own right, but so many characters! Which I think would've put me off if I hadn't already been warned about that. It's like the multiple prologues for Foreigner: I don't have to remember all these people, just what their events mean.

#351 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2015, 02:26 PM:

albatross, #320 (re Changed World): When I say that Mike is problematic, I'm not just talking about his attitudes about the Change. [SPOILER ALERT] I'm talking about things like:

- Mike demonstrates, by way of his internal narration, that he was both a jock and a bully in high school. He dwells lovingly on the memory of breaking the nose of a "pimply-faced geek", apparently for the crime of being different; he's still proud of having done that, 20-odd years later, when most mature adults would find that memory vaguely embarrassing. And, as you note, he continues to interpret a lot of the Changed World in the same mental framework. People who aren't willing to retain as much of a 20th-century outlook as possible are people he views with a mixture of contempt and disdain, even if he has to work with them.

- Mike also sets up the entire "hostility between the MacKenzies and the Bearkillers" arc because he's not willing to man up and TELL Signe that he had a one-night stand with Juniper. And yes, at the time he does it there had been no formal declaration between them, but that was the kind of hair-splitting technicality that even he knows isn't right; he's fully aware that Signe would consider what he's doing a betrayal, and he does it anyhow. And then he lies to her -- not a lie of omission, but a flat-out falsehood -- and then continues to let that lie stand for 10 years, until Rudi's resemblance to Mike becomes impossible to ignore, and by so doing makes the inevitable "truth will out" worse by at least an order of magnitude. This is not the behavior of an admirable or honorable man, but it is the kind of behavior engaged in by your average high-school jock/bully.

Mike may be one of the heroes of the story, but he's still problematic in ways which may be more significant to me than they are to you.

I do agree with your assessment of General Thurston. The possibility of putting the whole United States back together as a single unit went out the window with the loss of technological communications -- there's just too much area to make that practical -- and he should have recognized that. He was thinking so much about Roman history that he forgot the history of America in the 19th century, when we established the transcontinental railroad and telegraph barely in time to prevent the country from splitting into East and West America.

#352 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2015, 02:28 PM:

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#353 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2015, 02:43 PM:

@ Lee no. 351: I agree with your second point about Mike, but as for the first--wasn't that the same "pimply-faced geek" who was really creepy and killed his beloved dog?

#354 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2015, 03:11 PM:

He dwells lovingly on the memory of breaking the nose of a "pimply-faced geek", apparently for the crime of being different

The quote is "Beating me out with Shirley was one thing, but killing my dog..." That strikes me as...I have a vague memory of an episode of some crime drama where one of the characters (who works in law enforcement) goes on trial for having killed a guy in the line of duty, and the possible outcomes are "criminal", "forgivable"(?), and "justifiable". Breaking a guy's nose for having killed your dog strikes me as falling firmly into "forgivable" territory.

Which is not to say Mike's a perfect guy, and his actions over Juniper are eye-rollingly stupid--it wasn't honorable to sleep with her, and he should have told Signe about it the very instant he found out Juniper had gotten pregnant.

People who aren't willing to retain as much of a 20th-century outlook as possible are people he views with a mixture of contempt and disdain, even if he has to work with them.

I find the way he, and by extension a lot of the Bearkillers, treats Astrid to be tooth-grindingly horrible. As the John-Alleyne conversation in TPW notes, she may be barking but it's an extremely practical kind of madness, and it might be nice of Mike to keep in mind that the beginnings of her obsessions keep him alive on a couple of occasions right after the crash. "Elvish Elvish Elvish, means It's Astrid," oh screw you. She caught on quite a bit faster than you did, buddy.

Having just reread AMaC, I note with interest kid-Rudi's reaction to meeting Pope Leo, which is along the lines of "There's Something in there and it doesn't like us." Wonder if that was the Outsiders' first stab at the Americas, or if they planted several seeds at the same time; if so, what would have happened if Arminger's Protectorate had taken over the Pacific NW and then run into the CUT two decades later? Would they have fought it out, or merged?

As Fred Thurston notes somewhere in the Dakotas, his father was insane to think that something the size of the contintental US could be centrally governed under Change conditions. The Romans only managed a roughly equivalent feat because they were willing to let provincial governors be very, very independent.

#355 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2015, 04:04 PM:

Carrie, #354: I'd forgotten the bit about the dog -- which book is that in? I need to go back and re-read the scene and see if it still hits me the same way it did the first time. That may be a mitigating factor, but IIRC there was something else about it that just felt wrong to me. Or I may be getting it tangled up with other parts of Mike's internal narration about his past, which are all kind of "ew" if I think about them too closely.

Re Pope Leo, I think that was pretty clear foreshadowing. I also think that he hadn't been fully taken over by the time he gets offed; otherwise Mary Liu wouldn't have been such a surprise to the PPA higher-ups.

The Romans only managed a roughly equivalent feat because they were willing to let provincial governors be very, very independent.

Which is exactly the approach Rudi is taking with Montival -- as I noted upthread, more along the lines of the EU than of a single entity.

#356 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2015, 07:07 PM:

I'd forgotten the bit about the dog -- which book is that in?

It's in DtF, in one of the conversations he has with Signe--after the scouting trip, right at the end of Ch 21. He tells Signe that Max had his back broken and he had to put him down, but his narration makes it clear that he believed "Mr Me-So-Bad" had hit Max deliberately: I couldn't have proven in a court who did it, but then, I didn't have to.

(Then the conversation moves on to Juniper, Signe asks him what was up with that, and Mike tells her that there was "a mutual attraction, pretty strong on short acquaintance"--which is, I admit, technically true--but that they'd both decided they had commitments back 'home', insofar as Mike had a home just then.)

I also think that [Leo] hadn't been fully taken over by the time he gets offed

That or the Thing riding him saw that with Arminger dead the Protectorate wasn't going to be fertile enough ground for it, and left. Norman was happy to have the very worst of feudalism and medieval Christianity running loose; Sandra was smarter.

#357 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2015, 07:59 PM:


And Tiphaine did Leo in, too. At a guess, the dark powers are constrained to some extent by the belief structure they coopt--Pope Leo has been driven mad by his experiences, and that or his own choices left him vulnerable to possession, but it had to manifest within the beliefs Leo started with, so conversion by the sword and the Inquisition and burning witches all kinda fit with the history of the Church, but being turned into a black-eyed zombie isn't. Later on, we see the Haida able to do stuff the Cutters couldn't earlier, which seems consistent with this theory.

#358 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2015, 08:40 PM:

@Carrie S. no. 354: On the other hand, Astrid filtering her PTSD through her obsessions led to her valiantly charging a bear she probably had imagined into a troll...and leading it back to camp, where it attempted to remove Mike's face.

She's also a bit creepy. And I say this as a huge Tolkien nerd who had some Issues.

#359 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 12:29 AM:

Thinking about the immediate post-Change leaders, I can see three overlapping patterns:

a. Some people are natural leaders who started out without much real status, but they came into their own after the Change. Norman and Sandra, Mike, Juniper, all just have the gift for getting people all pointed in the same direction. One interesting feature of the Change books is that this is often, but not always, about physical strength and fighting ability. Juniper isn't any kind of great warrior, and Sandra never shows the smallest inclination to fight, and yet they're both extremely influential--they shape their societies by what they believe and how they act.

b. Post-Change, people are starving for a new vision of how to live. (They're also literally starving, which accounts for why they're looking for a new vision of how to live. Working as a sysadmin for the VA hospital and watching football on the weekends doesn't look like a workable life-strategy anymore.) That accounts for how the Mackenzies, McClintocks, Association, Bearkillers, and various other survivor communities are able to come together so quickly. I mean, if you look at CORA or Corvallis or Iowa, the society has changed a lot, but the pattern of the society has kept pretty similar to what it was--similar people and institutions in charge, similar expressed values, etc. But the first-generation Mackenzies are almost all people who went from being mostly (at least nominally) Christian high-tech Americans working in cubicle farms to walking around in kilts and practicing with the longbow when they're not dancing naked around a fire. And the first-generation Associates mostly went from being gang members or SCA members to living as feudal lords and knights. (And plenty more people in the Association end up as peons or peasants or slaves, early on--probably they don't think the new order from Arminger is working out all that well for them, but that's what the iron collars and reenforced-concrete castles are for.)

c. Strength of belief really matters in the post-Change world. People sometimes talk about someone with a very powerful personality having a "reality distortion field" where, while you're in their presence, you find yourself accepting their very strong vision of the world, even in places where later it doesn't make much sense. Juniper, Norman, and later Astrid all have that kind of powerful belief and vision going on. President Thurston and the original McClintock do, too. And that core of belief and vision can shape people around it.

Mike is a serious badass warrior, extremely smart and competent, and a natural leader. But he doesn't have that powerful vision or belief. Most of the really powerful vision comes from the people around him--Astrid and Signe, particularly. His original vision was great for making an effective fighting force and a troop of mercenaries, but he needed other people to make a kingdom. It's easy to see the Bearkillers as just another Bossman-dom, like they have all over the place in the Midwest, just with a few extra stylistic curlicues. There's no way you can squint and see the Association or the Mackenzies that way, or later the Dunedain that way.

#360 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 01:16 AM:

I'm now about two-thirds of the way through The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin. [NOVEL, 2015] At this point it's not so much "will she stick the landing", it's "will (can) she bungle the ending badly enough to knock this off my Hugo nominating ballot?" (From what I've seen other people say about the book, I'm guessing that she does in fact stick the landing.)

There's just been a lovely moment in which one single well-placed word makes clear how two of the three narrative strands fit together, and sparks a direct extrapolation into a pattern that includes the third. It's almost stratigraphic, really: like how a geologist might look at layered terrain and work out its history. Very appropriate for a book in which earth movements play such an important part.

#361 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 09:58 AM:

I recently finished The Better Part of Darkness[NOVEL][2009], by Kelly Gay.

Pretty interesting urban fantasy / police action (I'd love to say "procedural", but this was so far outside sane police process that, well, the best comparison would be Barefoot in the SkyscraperDie Hard) book and setting, with interesting and at least mainly non-cardboard characters. I have purchased the immediate sequel.

#362 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 11:33 AM:

I just finished The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher [NOVEL][2015].

On the one hand there are lots of women characters doing interesting things, and I enjoyed the cat quite a bit (though in a couple of places it was just *this* side of being annoying, a line that other people might draw in other places.) I enjoyed the steampunk aspects and got the sense that there was a lot more world behind the world being shown, which I like.

On the other hand the sexual politics (for lack of a better term) while less noticeable than I usually find with Butcher, were not entirely absent.

And of (depending on how I count) four or five major plot arcs, only one is wrapped up in any kind of satisfactory way, which annoys me a bit.

#363 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 11:45 AM:

I posted earlier when I was halfway through Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman.

I finished it. I plan to reread it soon, because I liked it quite a bit, it sticks in my mind, and I'm sure I missed details in my drive to see what happens.

My daughter (early 20s) also read it and liked it quite a bit. She asked for recommendations for "books like this," which in further discussion turned out to be books that have female protagonists, adventure, not too much angst, and not too much romance. She's not a big SF fan, prefers fantasy. Any suggestions for her?

#364 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 11:56 AM:

OtterB, I've been meaning to post about Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon [Novel, 2015] for a while. I don't think I'll be Hugo-shortlisting it, but it's fun, engaging, emotional, and humane.

Brief plot summary: there is a Dark Spooky Castle in need of a Master. Its residents (a variety of horror-movie stock characters, only painted in full depth and as individuals) are nervous that the place might be decommissioned and sold for subdivisions if they can't get one.

A twelve-year-old girl turns up on the doorstep claiming to be their new Wicked Witch, and actually does a pretty good job of it -- but she's hiding something about her past and eligibility that may jeopardize the castle's survival.

Full of jokes but also deeply real and true in the way Pratchett got us so fond of.

#365 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 12:09 PM:

Koko Takes A Holiday [NOVEL][2014] goes in the "guilty pleasure" category for me.

#366 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 12:54 PM:

OtterB, #363: The Toby Daye books by Seanan McGuire certainly fit her first two criteria. I don't know if she'd consider them too angsty or too romantic; there is certainly a fair amount of the former, but most of it eventually gets resolved -- nobody really wallows in it (not for long, at least, because Something Else Always Happens if they try). The romance arc is mostly a parallel plot, not by any means the focus of the stories. There are a number of well-drawn female characters, and some equally well-drawn male ones. The second book in the series is the weakest, but it's worth pushing thru that to get to the others.

#367 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 01:04 PM:

Elliott Mason @364, I love Castle Hangnail but hadn't thought of suggesting it to my daughter. I'll do that.

#368 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 01:05 PM:

Lee (366): The second book in the series is the weakest

That one was one of my favorites. As always, mileage and taste varies. I second the recommendation for the series, with the warning that some pretty terrible/bleak things happen along the way.

OtterB (363): She might like the Change series by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown (first book Stranger [Novel][2014], second book Hostage [2015], at least one more planned). Very post-apocalyptic YA fantasy, with magical/psychic mutations among people and environment. Told from alternating points of view of a variety of young people, at least half female. A bit of romance, but it's not the focus. My biggest problem with Stranger was that each viewpoint character gets their own font, of varying readability; the ebook of Hostage didn't have that problem.

#369 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 02:46 PM:

Currently reading: Faux Paw [Novel][2015], the latest in Sofie Kelly's Magical Cat Mysteries*. I don't normally care for animal detectives, and the description makes these sound too twee for words, but they're actually quite good. Small town librarian keeps stumbling over dead bodies and investigates with a little bit of help from her two cats. They are very plausibly catly, but Owen can make himself invisible and Hercules can walk through walls.† There is a bit of romance with the lead detective, who keeps yelling at Kathleen for interfering in his cases. If you like cats at all, and cozy mysteries, and are looking for something light, I recommend these.

The author also writes as Sofie Ryan; her Second Chance Cat series doesn't have any fantastic elements but is also good.

*I would definitely classify them as Mystery (cozy sub-type) not Fantasy, although I did buy at least one of them from Larry Smith.
†in other words, just like real cats ;)

#370 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 03:24 PM:

Mary Aileen @ #369:

I think the main "animal detective" books I've read are the Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries. I should probably re-read them at some point.

#371 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 04:27 PM:

[trying to shake loose an Internal Server Error]

#372 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 04:32 PM:

[Hmmm, my comment seems to have been eaten by a grue. Reconstruction below; apologies if this double-posts.]

Ingvar M (370): I didn't get very far with those, or with the Cat Who... books. The only other animal detective mysteries that I've liked are L. A. Kornetsky's* Gin and Tonic series.

*aka fantasy writer Laura Anne Gilman

#373 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2015, 07:59 PM:

Well, The Fifth Season turns out to be one of those. It doesn't so much "not stick the landing" as end in midair. The Inheritance Trilogy was three separate complete novels; it seems that The Broken Earth will not be.

It's still excellent, but fair warning.

As to whether it stays on my Hugo ballot, well, we'll see. Stuff with an ending gets priority.

#374 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2015, 09:51 PM:

Charlie @ 341: steam can go some distance with wood (not even charcoal); cf Twain's description of how rapidly a bargeload of wood disappears into the hold of a steamboat. It may not be energy-dense enough for general use -- but it could improve imperial communications enough to be useful to the power structure.

Craft @ 345: I suspect the flour swells enough to reduce in density, leaving the liquid to trickle through. Others have noted the packaged ingredients available as "pudding cake", which I remember from <50+ years ago. (The thing I most miss about a local restaurant that closed last year was their lemon pudding cake with huckleberry sauce....)

#375 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2015, 06:36 AM:

CHip @ #374:

The energy density of charcoal is roughly the same per kilo as that for mined coal. However, mined coal is about twice the density. So depending on if volume is or isn't a constraining factor, charcoal may well be about as usable for steam transport as coal.

#376 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2015, 10:01 AM:

Re: charcoal. I have a dumb question.

Something that's bugged me over the years, and probably has a perfectly good, simple explanation... why does partly burning wood INCREASE its value as a fuel? I'd've thought that a significant part of the energy would be lost that way.

I mean, obviously there's a benefit, or charcoal burners wouldn't have been able to make a living. I just don't understand how it works.

#377 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2015, 10:53 AM:

@CHip, 374 I was going to do geek math on "how far you could get a steamship on a ton of wood" but if you could point me to that Mark Twain passage it might answer the question more easily.

#378 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2015, 11:11 AM:

Cassy B. @ #376

Wood is mostly cellulose, which is a carbohydrate (carbon, hydrogen & oxygen in proportions of 6 carbon, 10 hydrogen & 5 oxygen atoms). When you burn it, you get a lot of water driven off (as it breaks down to multiples of 6 carbon atoms and 5 water molecules and the carbon is burnt to produce CO2). The water part is not only deadweight, it takes energy to break it away from the carbon and then evaporate it off.

So by part-burning wood to charcoal (by restricting the amount of air that can be used by the combustion process), you get rid of the water (and a lot of the weight) and end up with moderately pure carbon that burns well as a fuel.

#379 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2015, 12:04 PM:

Charcoal is a lot lighter weight than wood for the same volume.

#380 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2015, 01:45 PM:

@Cadbury Moose and PJ Evans, ok, that makes a lot of sense. And it's obvious in retrospect. <sheepish>

I'm one of the Lucky 10,000 today. Thanks.

#381 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2015, 02:59 PM:


Part-burning cellulose to charcoal is exothermic if I'm doing the math right, even after taking into account the energy required to evaporate of the resulting water. There are several advantages to charcoal: the higher energy/weight ratio mentioned by Cadbury Moose and the evaporation of the actual water in the biomass (even "dry" wood has a few percent moisture) are two. But the third is that you can get a much higher temperature from burning charcoal than from burning wood, and you can use that for BBQ'ing and blacksmithing. If you are blacksmithing with charcoal, you need a LOT of fuel.

#382 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2015, 06:50 AM:

Sandy B @ #381:

Making charcoal is exothermic indeed (the main problem is controlling oxygen inflow, once lit the pile will burn out, leaving ash and charcoal in some proportion). If the classic pile develops too much of an air inflow, it'll flare up and become a bonfire. Modern charcoaling seems to be "heat wood enclosed in almost airtight metal, for added bonus redirect the outgassing to heat the reactor".

Charcoal or mined coal, you're looking at about he same mass for any given blacksmithing, but charcoal will be roughly twice the volume. It might be possible to do blacksmithing with wood (rather than charcoal), but...

#383 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2015, 05:40 PM:

While I did not get an answer to Sandy B.'s question @377, searching Google for that question landed me on Senate Hearing Transcripts from the Panama Canal era which is fascinating in its own right, and so I pass along to everyone else who may be interested. Notable differences (and similarities) appear in the transcript and modern Senate Hearings such as the waving of telgraphs and the use of "Posed question as really a pointed political statement instead of an actual question."

#384 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2015, 04:45 AM:

Back to books: I'm currently about 60% of the way through "Vermilion" by Molly Tanzer and I'm seriously considering updating my Hugo nom list as a result. It's a Weird Western a la "Karen Memory" by Elizabeth Bear, or Cherie Priest's oevre; deftly assembled and speaking to issues of gender and ethnic exclusion without getting preachy while telling a ripping yarn; our protagonist is a psychopomp in 1870s San Francisco -- something of a pariah because in addition to seeing ghosts she's half-Chinese and wears male attire -- who gets pulled out of her comfort zone when a dead boy's body turns up in a crate from a sanatorium out east and her mother asks her to investigate just why he came home as a vampire. Quirky, charming, and surprisingly insightful when it's not downright macabre.

#385 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2015, 08:56 AM:

Back to books: I'm currently about 60% of the way through "Vermilion" by Molly Tanzer and I'm seriously considering updating my Hugo nom list as a result. It's a Weird Western a la "Karen Memory" by Elizabeth Bear, or Cherie Priest's oevre; deftly assembled and speaking to issues of gender and ethnic exclusion without getting preachy while telling a ripping yarn; our protagonist is a psychopomp in 1870s San Francisco -- something of a pariah because in addition to seeing ghosts she's half-Chinese and wears male attire -- who gets pulled out of her comfort zone when a dead boy's body turns up in a crate from a sanatorium out east and her mother asks her to investigate just why he came home as a vampire. Quirky, charming, and surprisingly insightful when it's not downright macabre.

#386 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2015, 07:57 PM:

Vermillion sounds right up my alley from that description! ...though given some highly recommended books of late, I immediately want to ask what its glee to grim ratios are like.

#387 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2015, 08:43 PM:

I finished The Fifth Season today. I think it's just brilliant: solid, carefully considered world-building, well-developed characters, an engaging plot unfolding with a perfect sense of pacing....

Future releases would have to be very good indeed for me not to nominate it for the Hugo.

#388 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2015, 11:23 AM:

I've managed to get a little reading done lately.

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie [NOVEL][2015] was an excellent and fitting end to the trilogy. It ties up the current story in ways that completely make sense, and continues the exploration of all the themes from the previous books. Other people have gushed about this one here and in the spoiler thread, so I'll just say that this series is probably one of the best I've read in a long time.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor [NOVELLA][2015] was alternately wonderful and frustrating to me. The writing style is lovely. Binti is from an African tribe who are brilliant mathematicians and engineers, but remain within their village. She has the opportunity to go to a great university on another planet, which she takes, even though it will take her away from home, family, and everything she knows. The senses of excitement and loss, of keeping one's traditions and yet changing, of still belonging to a tribe and yet never quite being able to go home again are powerful and true. And yet... Some of the things that happened in the story were too magical for my tastes in a science fiction story, and there's a bit of literalized metaphor running loose. There are things that Binti does without knowing why she does them, and some things that seem to turn out a bit too conveniently. I liked the feeling, and I liked the writing style, but it always felt like I was butting up against reminders that I was reading a story. As you can tell, I'm conflicted about this one, but I don't mean for this to be a negative review. has an excerpt available.

Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute by Jonathan L. Howard [NOVEL][2013] is the third book in the series. In this one, Cabal finds himself engaged to guide some people through the Dreamlands. I've been enjoying the series tremendously so far. Humorous, dark, and fun, with some lovely turns of phrase. There's plenty of comedic sociopathy, so definitely not for everyone. If you enjoy the BOFH, you might like this series.

He Said, Sidhe Said by Tanya Huff is a short story collection. Some are light fluff, some are more deep. The collection is named after the story where the fairy queen takes a skater boy as a lover, and what happens when she finds out just how unsuitable the match is. The story that still stands out the most in my mind is one where a Girl Guide leader winds up with a group of actual brownies. Even if you don't like one story or another, there's always another. Overall, I really enjoyed this one.

Up next is the Welcome to Night Vale novel. That should certainly prove to be interesting.

#389 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2015, 03:35 PM:

Sandy B. @ 377: Chapter 16 of Life on the Mississippi, search for "wood-boats in tow". Twain says the boats hold 30 cords, but not how far between fuelings.
      Note to anyone: scrolling down a few pages (into chapter 17) gets one of my favorite bits of Twain, in which he deduces the length of the river in other times.

#390 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2015, 04:18 AM:

I have just finished The Aeronaut's Windlass [NOVEL][2015], by Jim Butcher.

It is an interesting world. However, the glibness with which rape is discussed by military personnel does not fill me with extravagant glee. Saying that, two or three of the major protagonists are female (Bridget, Gwen, not sure if I am counting Folly as a major character or not), and one is a highly intelligent cat.

There's plenty of things going on, most of which is not resolved in this volume (leaving that for follow-on volumes, one assumes).

In a short while, I shall write my second account of what I thought of the book, elsewhere.

#391 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2015, 08:30 PM:

Just seen The Martian [BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM)] [2015] a couple of days ago, and will heartily recommend it.

It has its flaws, but they are mostly the sort of thing that always gets done to make the story more exciting, if less plausible, so I can forgive them.

One omission stood out, because here in NZ it is that time: did Watney not know to earth up his potatoes?

J Homes.

#392 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2015, 09:23 PM:

J Homes (391): earth up his potatoes

Wouldn't that be mars up?

#393 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2015, 10:10 PM:

J Homes: Since he was having to make all his 'earth', it's possible he literally couldn't.

#394 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2015, 10:20 PM:

I'm not sure burying them in loose soil would save them from three days of near-vacuum exposure.

#395 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2015, 09:19 AM:

J Holmes @391:

I have not seen the movie. In the book, he did Earth up his potatoes, mainly with the intent of increasing his yield.

#396 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2015, 12:02 PM:

... or for the temperature dropping to -70 Celsius and the pressure going to 0.006 atmospheres.

I'm actually kind of surprised that the potatoes didn't explode.

#397 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2015, 10:40 AM:

just in case anyone's still following, this semi-off-topic: has anyone else been reading the crime novels of Robert Galbraith? I picked up The Cuckoo's Calling on a recommendation; I'd read and forgotten the ado over this title and so was a bit surprised at the leftward lean (not unheard-of in crime novels, but not common IME) -- until I found a reminder that "Galbraith" was actually Rowling. I found this and The Silkworm interesting: not as check-your-privilege as The Casual Vacancy and possibly hitting some people's gore triggers (especially in the 2nd one), but worth reading.

#398 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2015, 04:01 PM:

Sandy B. @ 377 and CHip @ 389

thanks CHip for the link, thought it would be in that book.. my favorite passage,
"The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book .. And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day. There was never a page that was void of interest, never one that you could leave unread without loss, never one that you would want to skip .. There never was so wonderful a book written by man; never one whose interest was so absorbing, so unflagging, so sparklingly renewed with every reperusal."

On the wood-burning question remember the steamboats were mostly burning cottonwood, which is a terrible fuel. A couple of pieces of African ironwood will burn for four or five hours, a similar fire of cottonwood needs a whole basket of logs.

#399 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2015, 06:19 PM:

I'm currently reading The Library at Mount Char [NOVEL][2015], recommended by a number of people up-thread. Recommendations seem to be well merited so far!

Next up looks like it will be Gateway to Fourline [NOVEL][2015] by Pam Brondos, another one pre-released in the Kindle Firsts programme... looks like YA-aimed fantasy, and it's the first of a trilogy: I will dive in and see if it's any good.

#400 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2015, 07:21 PM:

[BEST RELATED WORK][2015]Spectrum 22, the latest in a series of annual collections of "contemporary fantastic art" is available starting tomorrow. I have it on order and it should arrive in a couple of days. If it's anywhere near as good as Spectrum 20 and 21 it's definitely a candidate for nomination.

I understand there's also a companion volume to some obscure fantasy series out tomorrow. It's possible that some people here may even have heard of it. :-)

#401 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2015, 10:59 PM:

Recently read...

_Linesman_, S.K.Dunstall [NOVEL] [2015] -- I didn't get into this. It had the sort of sad-sack protagonist who's possibly crazy and nobody listens to him -- Cherryh used to do this, but Cherryh got away with it and this book didn't. At least not for me. As a result I didn't pay attention to the political machinations, and the book is built around those, so it was a loss.

_Dreams of Shreds and Tatters_, Amanda Downum [NOVEL] [2015]. Partially successful? It's a King-in-Yellow story, with Lovecraftian (Chambersian?) horrors leaking into the contemporary world. It does the magic-as-dream, magic-as-fever, magic-as-drug-delirium very well. The plot felt out of focus, though, as if extra characters were dropping in from other books to say hi.

_Johannes Cabal the Necromancer_, Jonathan L. Howard [NOVEL] [2009] (or maybe 2010). Following Charlie Stross's rec of the series above. Fun! Will keep reading.

_Maplecroft_, Cherie Priest [NOVEL] [2014]. Another Lovecraftian riff, this time with Lizzie Borden (and her axe). Atmospheric but thin -- more of a (pilot) TV episode than a novel. Or maybe that impression comes from an epistolary novel where most of the viewpoint writers die or go insane, leaving only a couple of "regulars" for the series to hold with. Also, I was unconvinced by the blend of magic and biochemistry. Sorry -- there's a sequel and maybe that ties it together better, but I'm probably not buying in.

_The Brakespeare Voyage_ by Bucher-Jones and Dennis; _Against Nature_ by Lawrence Burton. These are two Faction Paradox books, aka "Doctor Who fanfic with the numbers filed off and then melted down and cast into a mold for completely different numbers". I love the idea of this series and I wish I'd liked the books better. They are *fantastic* as a vision of what "Time Lords" and a "Great Time War" would *really* be like, unconstrained by BBC production and the need for popular accessibility. The plots, sadly, aren't very engaging.

Just started: _The Flux_ by Ferrett Steinmetz. I liked _Flex_ a lot.

#402 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2015, 01:45 AM:

Gene Mapper by Taiyo Fujii, translated by Jim Hubbert [NOVEL][2015]. It was originally self-published in Japanese in 2012. It became a best-seller and was picked up by a traditional publisher. Now it is available in English. It is a cyberpunk thriller about rice. A thrown together team of unlikely sorts must counter a mysterious threat to the world's food supply. The novel is full of ideas and it can get very technical about Augmented Reality (AR) and genetic engineering. But it doesn't take itself too seriously. The ubiquitous use of AR creates an constant undercurrent of unreality. Sometimes it leads to paranoia. Sometimes it leads to situations of absurd visual humor. It reminded me of Philip K. Dick. It is a geeky, cartoonish, gentle, funny, sad and hopeful book. I'm glad I read it.

#403 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2015, 02:31 PM:

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor [NOVEL][2015]. I didn't really know what to expect with this, to be honest. I mean, I knew I was going to get more of Welcome to Night Vale, which I enjoy, but there was always the question of how it would cross media from weird podcast to novel. Pretty well, it turns out. The novel doesn't focus on Cecil (the host of the podcast/radio show), although there are interludes from the radio show from time to time. Instead, it focuses on two of the town's residents, and fleshes out some of the other minor characters from the show. It actually winds up being a coming of age story for one protagonist, and figuring out how to be a better parent for the other. Both protagonists are women, and many of the secondary characters are as well. It passes the Bechdel Test handily, and there's queer representation. The writing style does have some of the show's odd rhythm, so depending on how you read it might not be as easy to skim through as some. Overall, I quite enjoyed this.

#404 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2015, 04:31 PM:

Just finished re-reading Stirling's The Desert and the Blade after having gone back and re-read the two books immediately preceding it in the series.

The thing that really jumped out at me this time, which I didn't notice the first time thru, was that the community which has actually retained the most of its pre-Change lifestyle and modes of thought is Topanga. Iowa still looks like a bunch of Midwestern farmers, but they were slowly groping their way toward a quasi-feudal structure even before the Questers came through. CORA has retained most of their customs because the way they have to live hasn't really changed all that much, but their modes of thought have been drastically altered by (1) the switch from guns to knives and bows and (2) running up against the rest of the Northwestern communities. Most of the other groups we've encountered are very different from anything you'd have seen in the pre-Change world.

But Topanga? They were a Walden-style hippie enclave before the Change, and they still are. Even the ongoing conflict with Chatsworth hasn't really changed the way they think, and I suspect that this is partly because they were already used to not thinking the way everyone around them did. Especially to their elders, the various societies which have evolved since the Change don't feel quite real. That will shift as the pre-Change survivors die off (and with more regular contact with the rest of Montival), but it's going to be a slow process.

#405 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2015, 08:41 PM:

Yesterday I read Wooden Feathers[SHORT STORY][2015] by Ursula Vernon. As is typical of her adult fiction, it's deep, and detailed, and sometimes wryly humerous, and very fantastic. I recommend spending the time to read it.

#406 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2015, 09:53 PM:

By an odd coincidence I too read "Wooden Feathers" yesterday. I didn't actually weep, but I certainly sniffled a bit.

Today (just now, in fact) I read Points of Origin, by Marissa Lingen, a delightful story about biological family and chosen family set on a future Mars. [SHORT STORY][2015]

#407 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2015, 09:57 PM:

(And while it's true that the story was edited by one of Our Gracious Hosts, and written by an acquaintance, I genuinely feel that I would be recommending it just as much had it been written and edited by complete strangers.)

#408 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2015, 12:55 AM:

Buddha Buck @ 405 and David Goldfarb @ 406:

Thirding the recommendation of Ursula Vernon's "Wooden Feathers". Excellent and evocative.

#409 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2015, 01:26 AM:

David G., #406: Add me to the list of people recommending "Wooden Feathers".

Read "Points of Origin" and found, when I reached the end of it, that I seem to have been expecting a novel (or at least a novelette) about the Oort Cloud culture and the story of the childrens' attempts to find and return to the family who were "not recognized as family". IOW, a good story but it feels like the first chapter of a longer work more than a complete work in itself.

#410 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2015, 01:27 AM:

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#411 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2015, 06:00 AM:

Likewise on Wooden Feathers
Disagreeing mildly with Lee @409 re Points of Origin. I thought there was plenty of room in the world that was built for a continuation of this story into a novel, and I would like to see it, but I found a sufficiently-completed story arc in this piece. It's a domestic story, with the emphasis on people and how they live their lives rather than on the large-scale sweeping movements of politics and history. I like that and don't see enough of it.

#412 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2015, 09:25 AM:

I think all the people who've mentioned the Stirling Change series are: Lee, albatross, Lori Coulson, and Jenny Islander. Are any or all of you interested in doing an email swap so we can have a discussion group? I've been rereading and I have Thoughts. :)

#413 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2015, 09:50 AM:

I finished Sorcerer to the Crown this past weekend, which is good, because I'm interviewing Zen Cho tomorrow night at Eschacon, my local independent bookstore's new in-store speculative fiction festival.

I enjoyed it, particularly jura gur gbja pybja gheaf bhg gb or n qentba. It tickled my Heyer funnybone in a lot of ways. But like Sumana @154, I was struck by some of the tensions, pains, and accommodations of the characters to British society and the prejudices they faced. (As well as the illegitimate character.) And the scene where Mnpunevnf guvaxf nobhg orvat fbyq njnl sebz uvf cneragf, naq gur cebfcrpg gung gurl jrer fbyq ncneg sebz bar nabgure yngre ba. Gur nzovinyrag tvsg bs Fve Fgrcura'f nqbcgvba. That read as real, and painful.

#414 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2015, 01:23 PM:

Carrie S. @412:

I'm in! A chance to discuss the Emberverse is always welcome.

#415 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2015, 01:34 PM:

If it weren't for the fact that I have way too much Hugo-novel-reading to do, I'd be interested. Especially since I stopped reading the Emberverse for whatever reason around book four or so. But, alas, I don't have time to re-read....

#416 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2015, 02:49 PM:

Cool! Anyone who's in, mail me at the un-rot13'd version of wrnargrsbk at the mail of g, and I can start making us a list.

#417 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2015, 05:18 PM:

OtterB, #411: We're not disagreeing as much as you think. Yes, it came to a nice ending point; I wasn't intending to imply that it was a cliffhanger or anything like that. I think what happened is that I got severely hooked in by that phrase "not recognized as family", and then the story went in a different direction than I was expecting and there was a certain amount of "clang" as a result. But the issue was between the story the author wrote and the story I thought the author was writing, not anything wrong with the story itself.

I'd still love to see the story I thought the author was writing! It hooked me in pretty hard.

Carrie, #412: Done.

#418 ::: alisea ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2015, 03:11 PM:

Just finished reading Saturn Run [NOVEL][2015] by John Sandford and Ctein. Great story and great characters, and very satisfyingly strong female protagonists. At one point I was struck that a secondary character I hadn't been paying attention to coming to the front was also a woman ... shows me my own assumptions about space travel being a primarily male field.

In some aspects the story reminded me of Seveneves, playing in a similar timeframe and technology level and having realistic space travel front and center.

#419 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2015, 04:14 PM:

Lee @417, I misread your original post as saying that the story was unsatisfying because of not pursuing the other lines, and I wanted to present the other side for people who might be considering reading it. It does sound like we are pretty much in agreement.

#420 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2015, 05:14 PM:

[Novella] [2015]
Got a new candidate for Best Novella: "The Four Thousand, the eight hundred" by Greg Egan in the December issue of Asimov's (excerpt here). It's hard SF, Mundane SF, a story of civil war in the asteroid belt that's more about the lives of the people caught up in it rather than big explosions. Egan's one of the finest writers of hard SF today and this tale reflects that.

#421 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2015, 05:24 PM:

I have the issue but haven't read that story yet. I'm certainly hopeful it'll make it onto my nominating ballot.

#422 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2015, 01:12 PM:

April and the Extraordinary World [BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM)] [2015] (trailer in French) won for best feature film at this year's Annecy International Animation Film Festival, and it's easy to see why. Gorgeous visuals, a talented voice cast (I hope they find worthy equivalents if it's dubbed into English), a satisfying story, and 105 minutes of sheer delight.

#423 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2015, 02:52 PM:

Finished The Library at Mount Char, as recommended in this very thread. Would also recommend it myself. It's described as very grim, also in this very thread. I can't disagree there, either. But I think the grim bits are justified, and the story is imaginative, and beautifully constructed.

Also read: Gateway to Fourline by Pam Brondos [NOVEL][2015]. It's eligible, but I don't think it's particularly worthy. Not that there's anything actually wrong with it.... It's apparently YA fantasy (not that there's anything wrong with that either) with a female college student protagonist getting a job in a fancy-dress hire business, and discovering that her co-workers are refugees from the fantasy kingdom of Fourline, and need her help to get back safely to their own world and overthrow a usurping tyrant. Pros: strong, sympathetic, realistic protagonist with a well-realised personal background. Cons: very much Volume 1 of a trilogy (things left unexplained, plot threads left dangling for book 2), much of the background and many of the characters feel a bit routine (grouchy mentor, stock exiled prince and evil tyrant), some flaws in the world-building (for example, language is never an issue - the people of Fourline apparently just speak English, and nobody comments on this.) It's not bad, really, it's just a bit by-the-numbers. This is a debut for Brondos, so she's got plenty of time to improve. (Come to that, that makes her Campbell-eligible, too.)

Currently reading: The Chimes by Anna Smaill [NOVEL][2015]. This came up on File 770's comment threads, and got a strong dis-recommendation from one commenter... which is enough to get me to take a look at it, at least. It was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, so the Hugo might be a bit small beer for it. So far, though, I'm finding it distinctly interesting. The setting is a dystopian post-apocalyptic London where people live in a sort of enforced amnesiac state... enforced by music. Sounds peculiar? So far, it is. But I think it's peculiar in interesting ways.

#424 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2015, 06:10 AM:

Finished Anna Smaill's The Chimes [NOVEL][2015]. This starts out as a haunting, evocatively written book, set in a dystopian ruined London where everyone is amnesiac, music has replaced writing, and life is dominated by a round of ritual centred on the titular Chimes, a daily performance created by the ruling Order on their magical instrument, the Carillon.

It's lovely writing, to be sure, and it's got interesting things to say about identity, and love, and how to hang on to both in a world where memories are evanescent, fading and fleeting. And the way music is woven into the language of the story is fascinating, in itself.

It's just rather a shame that the actual story underneath it all is a completely bog-standard one about a young farm boy who discovers he's the chosen one of a group of valiant rebels opposed to the brutally oppressive Order, and he has to go on a long journey to launch a couple of proton torpedoes into the Carillon's unguarded thermal exhaust port. (And even in these terms, the ending is contrived, unsatisfactory, and horribly rushed.)

Oh dear. I think the problem is that the undeniable power of the writing and the fascinating detail of the setting... wind up writing checks for the story that it can't cash. It ended up reminding me very strongly of Edmund Cooper's The Cloud Walker (1973), which is another tale of young-man-challenges-oppressive-cult-in-postapocalyptic-England.... only an unpretentious one.

:: sigh :: I would have liked to recommend this one, but I fear I can't.

#425 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2015, 06:31 PM:

I finished Telltale Games/2K's Tales From the Borderlands last night. It's a good new-fashioned point-and-click (which is to say it's a point-and-click with some actiony moments) which hinges largely on matters of conscience. You play two characters, Rhys the Company Man and Fiona the Con Woman, in what's essentially a space western. Rhys wants a promotion and to defeat his terrible co-worker; Fiona wants to get rich and build a life for herself and her sister Sascha, and maybe escape Pandora, the lawless hellhole of a planet they live on.

There's a Macguffin. There's a robot. There are tough decisions. There is the single best shootout scene I've ever played in, which is weird because it's really not a shooter, unlike the Borderlands games it's based on (they are the shootiest of shooters, turned up to eleven).

It made me cry. I'm a longtime aficionado of the Borderlands series, and I can't tell whether it will have quite so much of an impact without all of the associations I already have, but I think it would stand up pretty well by itself. The universe it's set in is a compelling one, if slightly ridiculous. If anyone's played it by itself, I'd be very interested to know what you think.

#426 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2015, 07:00 PM:

#402 ::: TomB

Thanks for recommending Gene Mapper. I'm not going to say it's the best thing ever, but it was pleasant, and it had one geeky detail I'm extremely fond of.

Gurl unir "qvfgvyyrq" perngherf-- gur fgrc orlbaq trargvp ratvarrevat gb shyyl qrfvtarq betnavfzf. Vg'f cbffvoyr gb vapyhqr cebtenzf va gur trarf, fb jr unir n zvyvgnel qrfvta juvpu vapyhqrf znyjner gb uvg n pbzchgre juvpu gevrf gb trar znc gur betnavfz.

I have no idea why this makes me so happy.

#427 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2015, 08:53 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #426: Um... ouch. Unfortunately, that's a major plausibility goof, unless their computers are operating on seriously different principles to ours. ROT-13 for those who don't like buzzkill:

Vg'f n pbashfvba bs rkrphgvba pbagrkgf. Trarf ner "cebtenzf" sbe ovbybtvpny qrirybczrag naq zrgnobyvfz. Gung znyjner pbhyq bayl jbex vs vg pna fbzrubj oernx vagb gur znccre'f rkrphgvba pbagrkg, r.t. ol rkcybvgvat n xabja (naq hayvxryl) oht va gur znccre'f fbsgjner, be vs gur znccre vf nhgbzngvpnyyl rkrphgvat nal pbqr vg svaqf va n znccrq trabzr. Obgu pnfrf unir orra hfrq ntnvafg pheerag-ren fbsgjner; gur sbezre ntnvafg vzntr ivrjref naq fhpu hfvat ohssre biresybjf, gur ynggre ntnvafg jbeq cebprffbef naq CQS ivrjref, ohg univat fhpu n ihyarenovyvgl va trar-znccvat fbsgjner jbhyq erdhver Pevpugba-yriry fghcvqvgl be jbefr.

#428 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2015, 02:24 AM:

David Harmon @427: Vg vf jvguva gur ernyz bs cbffvovyvgl gung gurer jvyy or mreb-qnl rkcybvgf va QAN frdhrapref gung pna or gevttrerq ol znyvpvbhfyl pensgrq QAN. Gurer pbhyq nyfb or onpx-qbbef. Ab zvkvat hc bs QAN naq znpuvar pbqr vf arprffnel. Ubjrire, rira gung vf cbffvoyr. Gurer vf frevbhf erfrnepu vagb hfvat QAN gb fgber qvtvgny qngn.

#429 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2015, 10:00 AM:

TomB #428: Still iffy... Zero-day exploits are generally for when you can send them to the target before they get patched. And they depend on knowing your target software really well. It might work if the mappers are standardized to the level of a modern OS, and also their users are prone to mapping everything they come across....

#430 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2015, 10:16 AM:

Sorry, ROT13-fail at #429

Nyfb, mreb-qnlf, orpnhfr bs gurve yvzvgrq pbirentr, ner hfrshy sbe gnxrbire be qrfgehpgvba, abg fb zhpu sbe qrsrafr ntnvafg gur pbqr (trabzr va guvf pnfr) orvat ernq.

#431 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2015, 11:51 AM:

David Harmon @430: I know. Please note that your comments have evolved from "Crichton-level stupidity" to "It might work". I agree it's unlikely, but if it happened, we'd all be talking about it. In the book it is just one of many ideas that are out there pushing the limits of plausibility but not quite to the breaking point. A few of the ideas should be thought about seriously.

Can you recommend some recent geeky fun SF books that you like?

#432 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2015, 12:45 PM:

TomB #431: That's "It might work if... <unlikely stuff>", which is a little different.

I haven't been reading too much new stuff lately, but I did just discover Sandman Overture in my local comic shop -- mostly a prequel to the main series, but it messes with time a lot (indeed, Time appears as a character). Much less linear than the main series, with more general wierdness. (And utterly gorgeous art!)

Warning: It being a prequel, Dream is still a twit... but that gets lampshaded at one point, and he's dealing with players who don't actually have to indulge him. ;-)

I've been picking out books from my own collection as birthday gifts: The younger nephew (13) got Tailchaser's Song, The Misenchanted Sword, and Panshin's Rite of Passage.

I'm currently picking for the 11-year-old niece: So far I've got Jirel of Joiry, Best of Eric Frank Russel, and Lackey's The Fairy Godmother. I'm still not sure about Jirel... Possible swap-outs include Rocannon's World or one of my Andre Norton books, but I don't remember them as well.

If you hadn't guessed, both kids have way above average intelligence, and are already into SF. This is complicating choices, because they already have a lot of the classics and commons (I already turned my niece on to Tamora Pierce, and she's been Reading Them All on her own.) I might yet buy a volume or two.

Unfortunately, I'm at a thin point where I've given them a lot of my appropriate books already, while others (Butler, Valdemar¹) need to wait a few years for the niece regardless of intelligence.

¹ That dratted rape in Arrows...

#433 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2015, 12:51 PM:

Once I've accepted "distilled organisms" which have been designed from scratch, I'd say I'm no longer in the realm of hard science fiction. For that matter, I don't find a fully designed web all that likely, either.

Today's xkcd.

This being said, I suppose it's still legitimate to nitpick the details. If your space ship can do ftl which will take it to the other side of the galaxy in a year, it still needs enough supplies, and it's not as though it can get to other galaxies in a moderate amount of time.

#434 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2015, 01:02 PM:

Fair enough. Re: the XKCD¹, I suppose he had to make up for the 24-ohm snake. ;-)

¹ Randall, get out of my head!

#435 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2015, 01:13 PM:

The 24-ohm snake had me ROFL!

#436 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2015, 02:05 PM:

Currently reading list:

Rachel Hartman - Seraphina [Novel] [2015]. I'm tipping into the climax of this one, and I am VERY glad I was warned it's the first half of a two book story, and have the other half primed and waiting. The dragons are both unusual in many details - especially their relation to their shapeshifted human bodies - but are also recognizably dragons. (A problem I tend to have with a number of books that stray too widely from the standard dragon ideas; why call something a dragon that has so little relation to either Western or Eastern myth?) And I quite like the main character.

Ann Leckie - Ancillary Justice [novel] I read the first chapter of this then all of Sword before this year's Hugo voting, but then it had to go back to the library. And Sword stood up well enough not to suffer for it. But I rather thought I should get to it before Mercy. So far so good, though I keep wishing it would switch time periods more slowly - every second chapter instead of every one. With shifts like this, that's usually a good sign, in that I am invested in both.

Elizabeth Bear - Karen Memory. About halfway. So far I am liking the voice, which some found a bit much. I've had more misses than hits with Steampunk, but so far this is a hit, though, as some have said, it's more straightforward than most of Bear's novels, and I have not come to a conclusion whether more straightforward actually means "slighter fare".

Frank Herbert - Dune. Started but on pause while I finish Karen Memory, which is a library book, and possibly jump into Max Gladstone's latest because same. Liked what I read so far, though the politics are hardly the subtle I was expecting.

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame suffered a rather extreme fate about 1/3 or less in. It was lying on the shelf under our bathroom sink, and our (as of today, 4 year old) boy didn't make it to the toilet in time. So. First I acquire another copy before I worry about jumping back in, and frankly, it's low on the priorities. I wasn't that impressed as of yet. I liked some of the stories just fine, but nothing screamed Hall of Fame. I was trying to dial my expectations back to "THis was innovative then, even if it's spawned a lot of copies now" but many of them still seemed dryly written.

#437 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2015, 11:32 AM:

Lenora @ 436: I don't think there was much great writing in science fiction >50 years ago (the range of the Hall of Fame anthologies); ISTM that "brisk" (as in Russell's "...And Then There Were None") is about as far as they went. Poul Anderson's emo is a matter of taste, and other authors of that time are better read for ideas than prose; I loved Norton when I was in grade school but find her work very hard to get through now.

#438 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2015, 09:07 PM:

CHip: This was what I'd read so far:
A Martian Odyssey -- Stanley G. Weinbaum
Twilight -- John W. Campbell
Helen O'Loy -- Lester del Rey
The Roads Must Roll -- Robert A. Heinlein
Microcosmic God -- Theodore Sturgeon
Nightfall -- Isaac Asimov
The Weapon Shop -- A. E. van Vogt
Mimsy Were the Borogoves -- Lewis Padgett
Huddling Place -- Clifford D. Simak
Arena -- Fredric Brown

Of that, my favourite was Mimsy -- despite wanting to scream at the writer for asserting that "Children are not human" on the basis that they don't think like their forebears and can be taught things adults cannot. The general conceit and story worked just fine for me, but that line was like a punch straight in the gut. (It also came the closest to parity in female representation.)

Nightfall aspired hard to be the next best but failed in that it knocked me out of my suspension of disbelief on several counts (on which I have already been told I Am Wrong by someone).

Twilight was incredibly depressing but I thought contained some evocative passages. Huddling Place was similar.

Most of the others were good but not exciting.

I was hoping for an improvement in the middle, and outright looking forward to much in the last third based on the names and my impression of what readers have talked about more. Well, despite my reaction to Nightfall. Just not enough to buy another copy just yet.

#439 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2015, 10:20 AM:

[GENERAL][2015] John Scalzi posted on 11/18/15 at that he is taking himself out of consideration for awards for works written in 2015.

"Hey, any award you’re thinking of nominating work I put out in 2015 for? Don’t, please. I’ve decided I’d like to sit out the year, awards-wise."

#440 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2015, 11:01 AM:

Michael I @ #439:

In a similar vein, Annie Bellet has said (in a recent blog post:

I don’t wish to have my work considered for awards this year. I’d like to just have 2016 to get stuff done, worry about my readers and my career, and (hopefully!) not be involved in any award business. I’m not attending Worldcon 2016 either (I’ll be there for 2017 though, yay excuse to go to Finland!).
#441 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2015, 06:47 AM:

Just finished: Emma Newman's Planetfall [NOVEL][2015] - and I have to say I am thoroughly impressed by this one.

The first-person narrator is Renata Ghali, a genius-level 3D-printer engineer who is largely responsible for keeping a small colony going on an extrasolar planet. The colonists were led to the planet, decades ago, by Ren's friend and lover Lee Suh-Mi, and a religious cult now centres around the absent Suh and the gigantic alien artifact - "God's City" - that the expedition found. However, the history of the colony is also based on a long-standing lie, one that Ren is complicit in maintaining... and, when a stranger comes walking out of the wilderness into the colony, the lie starts to unravel, and Ren's life with it.

Despite a lot of high-concept SF stuff, this is primarily a character-driven novel, with Ren - who is brilliant but flawed, and likeable despite being deeply, deeply weird - at the centre of it all. The story of the colony, and what really happened, emerges gradually and naturally over the course of the book, and it's a human-scale tragedy that manages to include a cosmic-scale sense of wonder, too. It's compellingly told (I stayed up into the small hours of the morning to finish it, and I know I'm not the only one), and beautifully written, and it's very definitely proper SF and no mistake. In short: recommended. Very much recommended.

#442 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2015, 06:36 AM:

The Flicker Men, [NOVEL][2015] by Ted Kosmatka.

Let's start with "this book is surprisingly deep" and/or "this book is surprisingly disturbing". Our main viewpoint character is Eric Argus, former quantum dynamics researcher, now on the slow decline, alcoholic and suicidal. He's hired by a former co-student, for a four-month probationary role as researcher for an R&D lab.

He's intent on not doing any research into the deep end of reality, but ends up stumbling over a (the?) Feynman Slot Experiment set-up (this is essentially the classic "demonstrate the wave/particle duality setup"), sets it up and starts playing.

Thanks to the fact that one of his fellow researchers is trying to figure out a way of making assorted chemical additives safe for amphibians, he decides to see if there's any of them that would qualify as an observer, in the quantum sense. Then things start spinning out of control, in spectacular (but in some ways believable) fashion.

I can't say if I liked it or not, but I can say that I finished it fairly quickly, about 60 hours of wall-clock time from reading the first to the last word, with at least 24 hours of continuous "not reading" interspersed. It'll be on my re-read pile before nominations are due.

#443 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2015, 08:40 AM:

Recently finished Karen Lord's The Galaxy Game [NOVEL][2015], which I liked, on balance, but have some reservations about.

It's beautifully written, and Lord throws in a lot of tantalizing glimpses of a rich and complex interstellar culture (or, actually, several interstellar cultures all coexisting, not entirely peacefully). I'm sometimes maddened by how tantalizing it gets - I could wish to see more of these cultures and these people, and figure out how they work. I'm not sure if "too much richness of detail" actually counts as a flaw, though.

I am more worried about the way the rather picaresque (OK, it's lit-crit for "rambling") plot doesn't really settle on any one strand or character as the central one. It's nice, I suppose, that the story apparently regards one character's unreciprocated crush on another as being every bit as important as the open warfare between two planets that sends severed orbital towers crashing out of the sky. I just sort of wish it would pick one and commit, dammit. Nevertheless, I think this one's well worth a read.

(It's pretty much a sequel, by the way, to The Best of All Possible Worlds, recommended to me here as a unicorn chaser after The Traitor [Baru Cormorant]. Thing is, The Best of All Possible Worlds is held together, by its consistent first-person narrator, in a way in which The Galaxy Game isn't.)

#444 ::: alisea ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2015, 01:40 PM:

It took me a while to get through Kameron Hurley's "Empire Ascendant" [NOVEL][2015], but I finally managed to finish. I was held up because is some places I found the book so dark that I didn't really want to know what happens next. A lot of things about it are great, though, in my opinion: I admire the worldbuilding, the premise makes for every character having strong interests, and there's no truly "good" or "bad" character to be seen.

I think the book suffers a bit for being the middle part of a trilogy, and I'm not sure I will pick up the next book whenever it shows up, since I was already on the fence for getting this one.

Current unicorn chaser: Graydon Saunders' "The March North" [NOVEL][2015], which does the job marvelousyl well so far.

#445 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2015, 09:11 AM:

Flying short fiction rec: The Plausibility of Dragons by Kenneth Schneyer [SHORT STORY][2015]. A Moorish scholar and a female knight go hunting a dragon. But it's so much more than that. Holy shit.

(semi-spoiler) Vg vf bar bs gubfr fgbevrf jurer cnegjnl guebhtu fbzrguvat vf erirnyrq gung znxrf rirelguvat cerivbhf gb vg pyvpx vagb n qvssrerag nyvtazrag. Vg'f nyfb n oneorq zrgnsvpgvbany pbzzragnel (gung gvgyr ...) ba jung vf naq vfa'g pbafvqrerq 'cynhfvoyr' va snagnfl.

#446 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2015, 09:38 PM:

Nobody seems to have mentioned Kill Six Billion Demons in this thread yet. I don't know if it counts as "science fiction," but I suspect it is in the same way that Star Wars is fantasy.

#447 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 12:05 AM:

Copied from the Open Thread, Uncanny Valley.

A disturbing indie short exploring virtual reality games. it sets you up to think it's about one thing, and then....

#448 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 02:14 AM:

"Lost and confused" describes my reaction fairly well; I'm not at all sure what's going on past about the halfway point. I suspect that there are a lot of cues I'm missing because they're using video-game visual tropes, and I'm not a video-gamer and therefore don't know what to look for, or how to parse what I'm seeing. But it's well-done and the effects are good.

#449 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 02:44 AM:

I watched the video and made sense of it on the third time. Here's what I believe the plot is:

Gurer ner zra jub ner fcraqvat gurve yvirf ba IE jne tnzrf, naq trggvat fbzr xvaq bs jrysner orpnhfr gurl pna'g svg vagb fbpvrgl.

Gurl'er npghnyyl xvyyvat uhznaf ba qvfgnag onggyrsvryqf. Bar bs gur IE cynlref frrf guebhtu gur xvyyhfvba (n glcb gbb tbbq gb pbeerpg), naq xvyyf uvzfrys va tnzr gb trg bhg.

Bar bs gur tnzr ebobgf fubjf hc gb xvyy uvz va erny yvsr.

#450 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 02:48 AM:

That makes sense, thanks. And yeah, creepy as shit.

#451 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 04:05 AM:

Lee, it's creepy, but I don't think it's plausible. There's just no reason to use gamers to unknowingly run robots who are killing unarmored people.

I see the following as more likely: military robots run by soldiers who are aware it's a real battlefield, more-or-less autonomous robots used by one side, robot-vs.-robot battles.

I don't know, maybe plausibility isn't the point of that sort of sf.

#452 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 08:48 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #451: It's not meant to be a direct prediction of the future (SF rarely is). Ohg vg'f znxvat vzcbegnag cbvagf nobhg obgu IE, naq gur shgher bs jnesner; tvira gur uneqjner, gryrcerfrapr ebobgf ner n "angheny" rkgrafvba bs pheerag zvyvgnel qebarf.

Gur "Raqre'f Tnzr" gjvfg cebivqrf na Nrfbc, ohg nyfb ersyrpgf ba gur cbvag gung "iveghny ernyvgl" vf iveghny *svefg*; nal erny-jbeyq vasbezngvba lbh znl or trggvat vf jungrire gur pbzchgref naq gurve cebtenzzref unir pubfra gb tvir lbh, naq pna or znavchyngrq.

#453 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 09:10 AM:

Lee #448: For future readers, listing some key tropes:

The nose-rings are the VR equipment, miniaturized and simplified by the magic of movies. The "ghosts" resemble the zombies and other opponents of shoot-em-up games such as Doom.

The central transition is based on the trope that any inconsistency in a VR world (like a floating rock) represents a "crack in the world". Having already broken the user's acceptance of the "reality", the trope is that such a flaw can then be exploited to break and/or escape the world entirely.

#454 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 06:37 AM:

(Cross-posting from File 770 here, on the principle of spreading the love....)

I just finished reading The Elven by Bernhard Hennen and James A. Sullivan – translated by Edwin Miles, with a pub date for the translation of 2015, so [NOVEL][2015], I think? Anyway, eligibility notwithstanding, this thing is Epic with a capital E, possibly a Gothic capital E forged in the furnaces of the dwarves and quenched in dragon’s blood. It follows the fortunes of one Mandred Torgridson, the ruler of Firnstayn, a small village threatened by a monstrous “manboar”; when Mandred sets off to hunt the beast, he is drawn into a world of elves and sorcery and danger, and begins a quest that will last for hundreds of years. This book’s got everything – drunken centaurs, heroic elves, anthropophagous trolls (who can also be heroic), talking trees, crazed priests, monstrous golems, and more heroic stands against impossible odds than you could shake an enchanted runesword at. It’s even, if I recall one scene correctly, got a kitchen sink.

I suppose it’s got flaws – the whole thing is very Germanic (the authors are pretty much steeped in German folklore and German mediaeval literature), and so the prose style might seem a bit flat and clunky, at times, to people who didn’t cut their literary teeth on the Nibelungenlied. And, at the start, at least, I wondered where it was going… it seemed, initially, to be rambling from incident to incident in a picaresque but not exactly structured way. However, by the end of the book, all the various elements had been pulled together, and reached a resolution and a conclusion that was properly epic. And tragic. And Germanic.

Anyway, it’s worth a look, I think.... I've moved on from this to Catherynne M. Valente's Radiance - also [NOVEL][2015], but I think that's just about all it's got in common with The Elven. It's... definitely different, that's for sure.

#455 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 02:40 PM:

"The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn" by Usman T. Malik [NOVELLA][2015].

How to best summarize this? A Pakistani-American professor becomes obsessed with his grandfather's stories about the past, and goes to find the truth about them. Myth, magic, family, memory, old, new, and finding his place in the world.

There were a couple of places where the story looked as if it might go to the well of unhappy professor ruminates on his decaying relationship, but it didn't go there at all. In fact, the end is a celebration of life and the magic behind it.

Definitely Hugo-worthy.

#456 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2015, 02:18 AM:

mjfgates: Wowza! Kill Six Billion Demons is truly something else. Why was I not previously informed about this?

#457 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2015, 09:11 AM:

Finished Radiance (Catherynne M. Valente, [NOVEL][2015]), and am, aptly enough, dazzled by it.... Set in a retro-futuristic solar system that is unlike our own in several interesting respects, it's the story of Severin Unck, child of a legendary film director, and a respected documentarian in her own right. Although she's been surrounded by cameras and publicity virtually her whole life, there are still mysteries about her - principally, about her birth, and about her death.

The book explores her story in a sort of complex montage of film clips, interviews, and incomplete story treatments for a film about her life. It's fascinating, exuberant, exotic - and, like The Elven (possibly the only way in which it's like The Elven), it pulls more than one rabbit out of its hat to tie up all the threads of narrative into a deeply satisfying conclusion.

Cat Valente already had a lock on a novelette nomination from me (for "The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild"), but it looks like she could be sneaking onto my novels list, too. Anyway. Radiance. Well worth a read, if you ask me.

#458 ::: alisea ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2015, 10:05 AM:

Thanks to this Big Idea post on Whatever, I inhaled Carol Berg's Dust and Light [Novel][2014] and the newly released Ash and Silver [Novel][2015] over the holidays.

I don't meet many books that make me turn page after page these days, so this was a pleasant surprise. I have surely missed lots of interesting details because I was in such a hurry to find out what happens next - those two go onto the list to reread more leisurely.

#459 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2015, 05:58 AM:

Tales from Rugosa Coven [2013]-- Stories about pagans (various traditions) in New Jersey. It's funny and intelligent-- and about serious issues without being dystopian. I hadn't realized how much I wanted to read some fiction which is set in a society which basically works.

#460 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 03:48 PM:

Mike Glyer has already earned three [BEST FAN WRITER] Hugos, as well as six [BEST FANZINE] for File 770 (Wikipedia summary here), his long-running zine chronicling news of fandom and the SF world.

File 770 astonished me in 2015. It had always been good. Now, from the first moment the Hugo controversy erupted, Mike Glyer put immense effort into staying on top of the story, collecting and excerpting commentary from across the Web.

On the fandom beat, it was the story of the year-- no, the story of the 21st century so far-- and Mike did a superb job of informing readers who was saying what, and offering them links to original sources. Somehow, as the flames blazed, he continued to report non-Hugo-related news as well. Consider nominating Mike or his zine for 2016.

(The Hugo nominations were announced on 4 April 2015. You may find it interesting to go back and review File 770's entries from that week.)

#461 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 01:35 AM:

I'd like to thank TomB @ 113 for reminding me of the various books of the Raksura by Martha Wells. I'd been interested in checking them out ever since seeing the art on John Scalzi's blog, and TomB's post was enough to remind me to get up and do it. But, yes, one of the main reasons for checking the books out was the gorgeous cover art.

The books themselves don't disappoint, either. I started with Stories of the Raksura: Volume I, then backtracked and inhaled all the rest of them. Complex worldbuilding, multiple different non-human intelligent species and cultures, politics, scheming, action, adventure, humor, and excitement. In most of the stories, we learn about the Raksura through the character of Moon, who, owing to one thing and another, grew up among other races instead of the Raksura, and now has to learn how things work in a Raksuran court. The prose is clear and flows well, with some nice turns of phrase. There is a rather large supporting cast. I initially felt a little overwhelmed, but it didn't take long to sort the main characters out. In each story, the more minor ones are called out well enough to remember who they are, too, which is nice.

I'm not sure whether to recommend "The Dead City" or "The Dark Earth Below" [NOVELLA][2015] from Stories of the Raksura: Volume II for Hugo purposes. Both are excellent contributions to the series. Maybe I'll just throw both in and see what happens.

I'm eagerly looking forward to the new novel in the series that's due to be released in April. It looks like it'll be the first one to be published in hardcover, and I'm willing to pay that for this.

#462 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 02:20 AM:

Bill@460: It's also worth noting that starting with the Puppy roundups, and continuing into the current daily "Pixel Scrolls" a quite interesting commenting community has grown up. (I read noticeably fewer books last year than the year before, and starting to keep up with File 770 was a big part of that.)

I definitely intend to put File 770 in my Best Fanzine nominations.

#463 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2016, 11:18 PM:

Vaguely related rant:

I was in Montreal over Christmas and, shortly before the Great Unwrapping, we went to a bookstore.

Where I found five books I wanted (and could not buy for myself, because we're in blackout days)- three of which I had no idea existed. I bought one for my wife.

I go back to New Jersey where my choices are Bxxxxx and Nxxxxx or "internet order". I have been to three Bxxxxx&Nxxxxxes and they are ALL zero for five.

The problem isn't getting those specific books. The problem is that I can't buy books if I don't know they exist. I appreciate this thread, but it only goes so far.

Aside from sending a letter to the president of the company saying "Brick and mortar bookselling is hard, I sympathize, but FUCKING DO YOUR JOB AND SELL ME BOOKS", any suggestions for what I can do aside from seethe?

#464 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2016, 11:43 PM:

I sent a rant to the online comment page for that chain, telling them that while it's nice that their one store in my area has a wonderful selection of tchotchkes and bestsellers, their SF department looked (at that time) like the buyer got their recommendations from the rack at the supermarket: vampires and gaming-series novels. And that it was enough of a pain getting to the store that I probably wouldn't be back, seeing as they can't be bothered to put one close to the actual population center of the area. (They had one. They closed it. They closed the next nearest one. Maybe they think all their customers are from the high-income area where the one store is - but that tells the rest of us that our option is online or nothing. It's a great way to handle your customer base, if you want to go out of business.)

#465 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2016, 03:47 AM:

#463 ::: Sandy B.

Blackout days?

#466 ::: Stephen Rochelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2016, 09:30 AM:

Sandy B. @ 463:

My go-to reference is Suzanne Johnson's Fiction Affliction monthly summary at

#467 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2016, 11:30 AM:

Blackout days = "no buying any stuff, especially books, for yourself from Black Friday to Christmas". There's another blackout zone around individual birthdays.

#468 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2016, 12:58 PM:

A belated thanks to Fade Manley #37 for recommending the Wilde Life webcomic. I am following and greatly enjoying it.

#469 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2016, 09:06 PM:

Alisea: Re: DUst and Light and Ash and Silver.

Without spoiling the books otherwise, can you tell me if these books continue Berg's tendency to physically torture her heroes to extremes? I love her writing, I like her plots and worlds, and I adored the Lighthouse Duet (and the new series is the same world if I understand correctly) but the severity of the violence she does along the way is making me more hesitant to pick her up.

Fade Manley: We never had the term blackout days, but we definitely have the concept. And there is nothing more frustrating than seeing books you not only want desperately, but *didn't know to ask for and so probably won't get* in that stretch.

Bill Higgins and David Goldfarb: I think Mike Glyer did an astonishing job keeping up with the news. I was obsessing here and there through the kerpupple, but I wasn't sure File 770 would continue to be a place to go post-Sasquan. But the Pixel Scrolls and non-Puppy news have indeed grown a community, and I think contributed a large part to the neglect of my own blog.

#470 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 01:22 AM:

File 770 was the focal point fanzine of 2015.

#471 ::: alisea ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 12:10 PM:

Lenora Rose @469: Yes, there's definitely some of that, in the physical as well as mental department, more concentrated in the second volume, I'd say. You are right about those books being in the same world as the Lighthouse Duet (which is on my reading list right now).

#472 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 12:52 PM:

alisea: Thanks. I'll still pick them up; it's just better knowing it going in.

My relationship with how much hell a protagonist should go through is more complicated than "violence is bad". I have one manuscript of my own which rivals Berg for unpleasance, so I acknowledge that sometimes it's what the story needs. I think a problem is that I read her early work more recently than the more mature ones, and she didn't have the same control over her material, so it felt more arbitrary.

(seriously, her first trilogy was one excellent standalone book and two ... other books. I liked the additional worldbuilding details, but not what she did with it.)

#473 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 03:37 PM:

I love animated films, and there is one I must recommend for [BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM)][2015].

Back in 2010, I got excited about The Secret of Kells, directed by Tomm Moore herding a consortium of small animation studios in a number of countries. In a visual style resembling no other feature films I've seen, it told of 9th-century scribes creating a famous illuminated book and tangling with figures from Irish myth.

This film was good enough to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film, competing with films from much larger studios.

Well, Moore got the band back together. Last year I saw Song of the Sea, animated in the same charming style, again drawing on tales of Ireland's magical creatures, this time starring selkies. The studio's synopsis is good:

The story of the last Seal Child’s journey home. After their mother’s disappearance, Ben and Saoirse are sent to live with Granny in the city. When they resolve to return to their home by the sea, their journey becomes a race against time as they are drawn into a world Ben knows only from his mother’s folktales. But this is no bedtime story; these fairy folk have been in our world far too long. It soon becomes clear to Ben that Saoirse is the key to their survival.
It's just about as good as The Secret of Kells, even if it is handicapped by not being about book-making.

Again Song of the Sea earned an Oscar nomination, bumping bigger-budget productions from contention. In my opinion, it's definitely Hugo-worthy.

Song of the Sea is available on DVD. It's also available streaming on Itunes, Google Play, Vudo, Amazon Prime, and Sony Entertainment if not others.

If you like behind-the-scenes stuff, know that Tomm Moore blogged about the film during its production.

One quirk: It was "released" in Los Angeles for a very short run in December 2014, making it eligible for the Oscars in 2015, but was not generally available. At the time Hugo nominations closed in 2015, scarcely anyone in the U.S. had seen it. Regular Americans, say, I, needed to wait several months for the real release, perhaps driving two hours across Chicagoland in a hellish snowstorm to see Song of the Sea during the couple of weeks it was playing in an art-house theater. So I prefer to think that it's a calendar-2015 film, and eligible for a 2016 Hugo. Am I wrong?

#474 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 03:47 PM:

Bill Higgins @473: I think you can make a case that it did not have "general release" in 2014, but got it in 2015. The administrators would have to rule definitively on it; if you nominate it (and that's a general you, not a specific you!) put a note on it saying that you think it didn't get general release in 2014; if enough people do, then the administrators will look at what you say. "Enough" in this case may be just one person, BTW, depending on the person and the administrator....

#475 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2016, 11:23 PM:

A Murder Of Mages, Marshall Ryan Maresca [NOVEL] [2015] was a nice enjoyable book- the new inspector gets given the least-desirable partner, and there is magic and crime and action.

The heroes are doing the Sherlock Holmes thing of being the only people on the police force who actually try to solve the crime instead of close the case. It's set in a world with magic and crossbows that still feels kind of like Victorian London, but not irritatingly so. And the characters FEEL smart.

I wouldn't buy it for people (like I would with, say, The Martian or The Goblin Emperor) but I'd lend it to them.

In non-SF, Sister Mine (by Tawni O'Dell) had a whole lot of entertainment value, although I felt cast as the enemy. There's more character in one russian thug than in most entire TV shows. It's about an ex-cop single mother in a mining town. And stuff.

#476 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2016, 08:28 PM:

I just finished Wake of Vulture by Lila Bowen [NOVEL] [2015]. Mostly I liked it--an alt-historical fantasy about a black/Native American former slave who's assaulted by a vampire, kills it in self-defense, and goes on the run (afraid she'll be hanged for murder) only to get roped into a career as a monster hunter--and most of that in the first chapter? Great! Sign me up!

It was quite the page-turner--but, unfortunately, the author continually used the pronoun "she" in regards to the main character Nettie, who very much does not identify as female. Granted, Nettie also doesn't identify as male, and no character asks what Nettie's pronoun is, so the situation isn't exactly clear. But it seemed to me that in a book where the author is so clearly trying to present an atypical protagonist, it should have been clear, because the author should have had a character address it directly. (And I'm aware that the pronoun usage might bother others less than it bothered me. If you can ignore it, and this sounds like something you might be interested in, I'd encourage you to give it a try.)

#477 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2016, 05:28 AM:

johnofjack @476: I loved Wake of Vultures. The pronouns bugged me for a while, as it seemed obvious from early on that Nettie doesn't identify as female (he term I'd reach for is "trans man", but Nettie doesn't have that particular vocabulary item). But it came to make more sense to me as a stylistic choice as the book proceeded and it became clear how few people Nettie actually knew and how limited a knowledge of sex, sexuality & gender Nettie actually starts with. It seemed reasonable to me that Nettie would continue to self-*classify* as female for quite a while, and that the narrative voice would reflect that as it's in single-POV third person.

I thought the tipping-point was when Nettie gets to know Winifred a bit, and realises that here is a woman-assigned person who (while recognising that women don't have it great in the Old West) is entirely happy being a woman. From there Nettie seems to grasp that "living as a woman = miserable imposition" is not an immutable law but a personal experience - and therefore something can be done about it.

Lila Bowen was interviewed recently by io9 (part of a group discussion with several other authors of Weird West-type books) where she addressed this - most relevant quote:

"In book two, Conspiracy of Ravens, which I’m writing now, it was important to me that Nettie make the mental leap from thinking of herself as a woman to accepting himself as a man, and I was really excited to write that bridge and change his pronouns to he/him."

I am interested to see how it goes.

(I hope this makes sense. This book hit close to home for me. I am trying not to rationalise? But I think I recognise the thought process and the length of time it takes Nettie to think it through.)

#478 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2016, 09:14 AM:

#463 Sandy

If you find the book exists, march to the customer service counter in the B&N store and order it, or at least complain at them that the book is not in the store. Copies of of the book beyond one ordered by a customer, will often appear (and then several of them will sit on the shelf unsold, as by the tiem the book shows up, peole who wanted it and knew it existed, bought it online somewhere else already).

Something that hacks me off, is the number of copies of horrendously bad fantasy claiming to have nonfictional content to them, by hatemonger Media Personalities give lots of airtime by rightwing-pandering media businesses... those are books which I wish a) had never been publishes, and b) got -buried- or pulped rather than resources wasted delivering them anywhere except e.g. a trash-to-energy facility for conversion to -useful- power.

And I do NOT want any of those things showing up in my email as 'featured"/promoted books. The books I'm interested in, rarely get any publicity/promotion from chain stores.

It massivey annoys me that stuff by people I loathe gets preferential promotion and huge amounts of money/resources expended pushing their screed and bigotry and abusive memes, but books which debunk them and their propaganda, get shoved aside and not given even a fraction of the promotion... also that the promotion and attention that goes to the vile Media Personalities and their vile agenda, deprives other authors and books bookshelf space, promotion, attention, and any visibility.

#479 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2016, 07:12 PM:

Craft (Alchemy) @ 477: That is good news. I'd written the author on Facebook and she wrote back today saying much the same thing, also that there was a brief scene (which I either glossed over or misread) where Nettie/Rhett addressed pronoun usage, but she Rhett wasn't yet thinking of himself as a man, the author wasn't going to use the pronoun "he."

Also, I note that I used "she" even in the comment above complaining about the use of "she".... :-/

I'm glad the pronouns are changing in the next book.

#480 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2016, 07:13 PM:

but she Rhett

but since Rhett, I meant.... Le sigh.

#481 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2016, 09:27 PM:

The Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson[RELATED WORK][2016], a guide to the theory and practice of constructing languages for fictional worlds (and, for that matter, for other purposes; but the utility for worldbuilding is, to me, what makes this a Related Work instead of a Cool Work That Science Fiction Readers Will Like But Which Really Has Nothing To Do With Science Fiction). Meaty and brain-expanding.

#482 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2016, 11:00 PM:

Has anyone else read Modesitt's latest, Solar Express? A departure for him, as I think all of the recent Tor disputants would classify it as very hard SF, possibly so far as to bog down the story. Still worth reading (which for me is more likely true of M's SF than his fantasy), although I wonder whether he had it in mind before The Martian made such a splash.

#483 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2016, 07:41 AM:

Though it's not eligible for a Hugo, to anyone interested in conlangs I would preferentially suggest The Language Construction Kit and its sequel, Advanced Language Construction by Mark Rosenfelder. Much more detail on how languages in general work, as opposed to how the author's conlangs do.

#484 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2016, 02:58 PM:

Following Carrie S @483

Go here to find it.

J Homes.

#485 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2016, 05:22 AM:

About the Hugo nominations-- includes details about who can nominate and vote, and links for lists of recommendations.

#486 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2016, 07:52 PM:

Well, I just finished The Library at Mount Char [2015] a few nights ago, and I found it very dark indeed - as most commenters had said - despite some light at the end (readers may note one very specific sense for this.) But I think it's certainly Hugo-nom worthy. For one thing, I sat up until after 1:00am finishing it in a single session, despite being exhausted, and there are a lot less books I do that for in recent years. (I also had considerable trouble sleeping after that because I couldn't stop thinking about it.)

For me it has since been sparking a lot of thought in a couple different directions. Some unspoilered comments or thoughts below...

One of them, inspired by the "Buddhism for Assholes" subtheme of the book - not a slur and not a spoiler, it's a chapter title! - is in the general area of religion. I have been wondering if there perhaps are two very broad categories of religion - those which depend on a particular view of the universe's history and its construction, so to speak, and those which do not.

What I mean by this is that in the universe implied by The Library..., if one were to reveal its actual nature and history as we learn it to a fundamentalist Christian of some stripe, in such form that they had to believe it, I think they would find their faith entirely incompatible with it. However, though I am no judge of Catholic doctrine, my sense is that a modern Catholic could look at that and say "Well that may be, but it has essentially nothing to do with the Redemption and with my faith." Likewise for me as a Buddhist it seems to me everything I have learned from and about my religion would be unaltered by that background*. (Just as for [redacted] it doesn't interfere with their understanding of [redacted] and decision to [redacted].)

The other main thought is that it seems to have some things to say very very specifically to people with a history of personal trauma of one kind or another, about surviving it, about what different ways of surviving it may do to you, and then what it takes to survive the ways one became in order to survive. Not sure how much to go on about here, and I'm not sure my thoughts are very formed yet.


* Actually I can go further than that - in the Cula-Malunkyovada Sutra from the oldest Buddhist teachings, the Pali canon, the Buddha uses the metaphor of a man shot with a poisoned arrow to specifically teach that he has nothing to say about whether the universe is finite or infinite, eternal or not eternal, whether the soul and body are one or separate, or related topics, because they simply are not relevant to what he is teaching.

#487 ::: weatherglass ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2016, 11:00 PM:

Thank you to the people who recommended Stand Still, Stay Silent! I'm trying to get back into reading webcomics, and just read through the whole archive. I thoroughly enjoyed what's available so far. And it's so very pretty.

I don't think I've seen anyone recommend Ursula Vernon and Kevin Sonney's podcast The Hidden Almanac in this thread yet. Vernon writes the episodes and her husband Kevin Sonney reads them in the persona of Reverend Mord. Each episode is only 4-5 minutes long and consists of "this day in history" snippets for a fictional country and its neighbors, a description of a saint whose festival day it is (also fictional, and often quite wonderful; if you've seen any of Vernon's saints' portraits you'll have the flavor of it), and garden news. They're usually moore or less self-contained, but I recommend starting at the beginning, because you do get some continuity in the historical segments and in what Reverend Mord lets drop about himself and goings-on in the garden. It's been going MWF for several years now, so if you find you like it, there's a delightful amount available. It's definitely going on my Hugo nominations.

#488 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2016, 11:32 PM:

Over at Daily Kos, Mark Sumner posted the first installment of the novel he's writing.

#489 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2016, 03:22 PM:

I just finished The Fifth Season (N. K. Jemisin) and I really recommend it. I haven't liked her previous books, but this one worked for me. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

#490 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2016, 06:18 PM:

Right now my top five for the [NOVEL][2015] category are The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin, Ariah by B. R. Sanders, A Sorceror of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson (~43,000 words, just out of the novella category), Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, and Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon. I wouldn't be surprised if the latter two fall off the list; my to-read list before finalizing my ballot includes Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Planetfall by Emma Newman, The House of Shattered Windows by Alliette de Bodard, Sorceror to the Crown by Zen Cho, The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, and The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor. (Not sure how much of that list I'll get through, but I'd like to read them all.)

#491 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2016, 06:52 PM:

Someone just commented to me this afternoon that Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is eligible for a Hugo for 2015, in Novel. It finished its serialization last year. I have not read all of it, but it certainly got a lot of discussion while it was being published, and I think some people might want to nominate it -- though the "derivative works" questions its nomination might raise would make me very glad I'm not a Hugo administrator this year!

#492 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2016, 07:40 PM:

I'm reading Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, and I cannot help but wonder if Bujold deliberately set out to design a science fiction novel that would send a Sad or Rabid Puppy stark raving bonkers. Because she could not have done a more effective job. *grin*

#493 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2016, 08:38 PM:

Lizzy L (492): And, for added head-exploding, it's published by Baen!

#494 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2016, 01:24 AM:

Lizza, #492: Indeed! Not to mention sending me into at least 2 peals of laughter per chapter. She's in rare form on this one, and her fanfic roots are clearly on display.

#495 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2016, 04:45 AM:

Tom Whitmore @491: on the one hand, things in the Sherlock Holmes and Cthulhu Mythos 'verses have been nominated and (iirc) won before. On the other hand both are safely out of copyright and HP decidedly isn't, so ...

Re Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, everyone I've seen talking about it seems to think it's up there with Bujold's finest and quite possibly in the running for awards, but nobody seems entirely sure if it counts for 2015 or 2016. More fun for the admins!

My current [NOVEL][2015] longlist is The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Black Wolves by Kate Elliott, Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley and Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie.

I have no idea right now which ones won't make the cut, and I've got at least three other eligible things on my library list, and I'm going to trawl the Locus recommended list for more as soon as their website starts working again.

This is the first time I've done this Hugo thing. Does it get any easier with time?

#496 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2016, 10:43 AM:

Does it get any easier with time?

It would be much easier if I had time.

#497 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2016, 03:50 PM:

Steven DesJardins: There's a 5% or so flex rule for stories regarding the category word counts, and a lot of people have been pushing Sorcerer of the Wilddeeps as a better fit as novella, both for length and for details of plot and pacing.

It's on my TBR pile so I don't yet know whether it matters to me but it is a discussion I've been paying attention to in case it ends up mattering.

#498 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2016, 05:06 PM:

Steven DesJardins @ 490: I've read three of those on your yet-to-read list (Ancillary Mercy, Uprooted and of course most recently The Library at Mount Char) and I think all three of them are strong nominees. It sounds like I should read your current nominee list and see how it shakes up my list.

All in all I think 2015 seems like it was a very strong year for SF and fantasy.

#499 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2016, 06:32 PM:

I'm currently hacking together a list of novel contenders (for Ken Marable's recommendations blog), which at this stage involves raiding this thread, and my LJ, for novel reviews that I'm not typing out from scratch again....

First thoughts: my word, I have read a few good ones thus far. Second thoughts: my word, I still have a lot of good ones to read. (Or, at least, ones that come strongly recommended.) I have some idea of how I'm going to whittle the list down to just five... but I will have to be ruthless, absolutely ruthless.

(Like Clifton says, this is hardly the worst problem somebody could have.)

The last Hugo-eligible thing I read was Carolyn Ives Gilman's Dark Orbit, which I thought was going to be a fairly routine futuristic thriller at first, but which turned out to be a rather thoughtful book on the theme of vision - the plot hinges on ways of seeing, both literally and metaphorically. It's written in what I think is nice, plain, straightforward style, and it's definitely one to mull over.

#500 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2016, 11:17 PM:

The rules for relocating works in the Hugo categories are as follows:

3.2.7: The Worldcon Committee may relocate a story into a more appropriate category if it feels that it is necessary, provided that the length of the story is within the lesser of five thousand (5,000) words or twenty percent (20%) of the new category limits.

3.8.6: The Committee shall move a nomination from another category to the work’s default category only if the member has made fewer than five (5) nominations in the default category.

3.8.7: If a work receives a nomination in its default category, and if the Committee relocates the work under its authority under subsection 3.2.9 or 3.2.10, the Committee shall count the nomination even if the member already has made five (5) nominations in the more-appropriate category.

So if you nominate A Sorceror of the Wildeeps as a novel, and the Hugo committee decides that it ought to be moved to the novella category, they can do so, and your nomination as a novel will count as a novella nomination even if you've also nominated five works as novellas. OTOH, if you nominate it as a novella, the Hugo committee decides not to move it from the novel category, and you nominated five works in the novel category, then they can't and won't transfer your nomination.

My sense is that the Hugo committee will probably transfer it to the novella category if most of the people who nominate it nominate it as a novella, and they might transfer it to the novella category even if more people nominate it as a novel, if it won't make the ballot as a novel but it would as a novella. But the safest thing to do, to avoid wasting your vote, is to either nominate it in the "default" category (which, in this case, is Best Novel) or leave an open slot for it in the Novel category.

(Also, minor spelling peeve: my last name is desJardins, with an uncapitalized d. I know it's weird, but I was born with it and I'm used to it.)

Steve Wright@499: Thanks for mentioning Dark Orbit. I bought a copy a while ago, and it should have been on my to-read list.

#501 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2016, 12:24 AM:

Any chance of a spoiler thread for Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen? Because, wow.

#502 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2016, 06:53 AM:

Lee @ #501 (I thought it was Levi who had 501?)

Fifthed! Seconded.

#503 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2016, 12:19 PM:

I want to go back a bit in 2015 and remember that I wanted to nominate Robert Charles Wilson's THE AFFINITIES, a really-good "If This Goes On" story set in the near future. Complex, rich, and without answers, it examines where the social media revolution might be taking us. It's not flashy, and it's remarkable. I'd be happy to see it take a Hugo.

#504 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2016, 12:31 PM:

I see what you did there....

#505 ::: alisea ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2016, 01:31 PM:

Tom Whitmore @503: Thanks for reminding me of this one, I almost forgot I had read it sometime last spring, and I agree with you about it being special in some way. I need to go through my ebooks and make a list of what I've read, so I have an idea what to nominate.

#506 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2016, 10:09 PM:

I just saw Ex Machina and loved it. It didn't do what I expected it to; what it did was much more intelligent and much more perceptive.

#507 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2016, 04:36 PM:

Craft (Alchemy)@495:Easier is all relative. I like it when it is hard to choose from a number of really good candidates--having lots of good candidates is a good problem to have.

In the past (prior to the last two years), I haven't gone too much out of my way to fill in all five of the slots if I didn't have five good candidates in mind--I could generally feel that others would have perfectly fine candidates.

#508 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2016, 06:32 AM:

Lee and Cadbury Moose:

It's a couple of days since you requested it, but here ya go.

The introductory text is...well, without a clear image of Gentleman Jole in my head (not having read the book yet), it's kind of its own thing.

#509 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2016, 07:22 AM:

This weekend I devoured Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn and am therefore finally in a position to read Gentleman Jole ... Am debating whether or not to buy the hardback. Am suspecting I will give in.

Also I have begun filling in my nominating ballot, and found this bit in the guidelines:

"Books are considered to have been published on the publication date, which usually appears with the copyright information on the back of the title page."

This would seem to answer the eligibility question for GJ&RQ, I think? Its publication date is Feb 2016 on all the official listings. Apologies if this has already been discussed and I missed it ...

#510 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2016, 10:35 AM:

Craft@509: "usually" and "official" are doing a lot of work there. The issue is that an e-ARC, which is basically identical to the final published version, was made generally available for sale in October. Ordinarily, when a work is available to the general public, it's considered to have been published.

Speaking practically: If Gentleman Jole receives enough nominations this year to make the ballot, do you think the Hugo administrators ought to disqualify it based on the "official" publication date? If it doesn't receive enough nominations this year to make the ballot, but next year it does, do you think it ought to be disqualified based on the e-ARC publication date? If the answer to both questions is "No", do you think it's fair that a publisher can manipulate the system to give a book two years of eligibility?

I think it's reasonable to argue either side of any of those questions. This is also a new situation, with no exact parallels in Hugo history. And Hugo administrators rarely respond to hypotheticals. So of course it's controversial.

#511 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2016, 11:24 AM:

Thank you to everyone who recommended Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown-- I'm most of the way through, and having a lot of fun with it.

The story seems like a bunch of very stubborn people colliding with each other and a situation, rather than being shepherded by the author.

I didn't love Uprooted as much-- the nightmare imagery is excellently nightmarish, the action scenes are intense, and I loved the bits where the two magicians were in sync-- but it's a romance where I'm not that crazy about either of the principles. Also, I couldn't figure out (after several readings) quite why the wood was so hostile.

The Heartwood trees are the same color as mallorns (smooth gray bark, golden fruit, I'm not sure whether mallorns have white flowers), though not the same shape. I assume that even if this isn't a coincidence, it's more of a "that's an interesting way for a tree to look" rather than an actual reference.

#512 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2016, 01:29 PM:

Nancy, #511: IIRC (and I read it from the library, so I can't check the source), the Wood is hostile because it's all under the magical influence of a character who is hostile. This is a trope I've run into elsewhere, that when the Power at the heart of a piece of territory is warped, that leaks out and affects the physical territory as well.

#513 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2016, 07:36 PM:

Hasn't Baen been selling eARCs for awhile? Seems like the eligibility question would have come up before.

#514 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2016, 08:08 PM:

janetl (513): For there to be an eligibility question concerning the eARCs, there are two necessary circumstances:

1) the book and eARC must be released in different calendar years
2) the book must be Hugo-worthy

That particular combination is a rare one.

#515 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2016, 08:12 PM:

Baen doesn't publish many books that are serious Hugo contenders (the last time something from Baen not by Bujold and not pushed by a puppy slate made the ballot was 1997), and it's only an issue if the eARC and the official publication date come out in different years, so I'm not surprised this is the first time the question has gotten much attention.

#516 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2016, 09:08 PM:

I'm reading Ian McDonald's Luna: New Moon, and I really like it. I couldn't get through Sorcerer to the Crown. If I were putting an award slate together for 2015, Ancillary Mercy, Luna, GJ&TRQ, and The Fifth Season would be on the A list. I liked The Traitor Baru Cormorant but I think it's on my B list. Uprooted is also on the B list.

I want to read The Library at Mount Char.

#517 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2016, 09:52 PM:

I just finished reading The Raven and the Reindeer [2016] by T. Kingfisher. If you've liked other work by her, I recommend this one.

On another note, is there a resource available to get word counts on published works? My SF book club feels that in the days of electronic publishing and multiple print editions page counts are unreliable for judging length.

In this particular instance, I don't know if the book I just read is a novella or a novel.

#518 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2016, 11:14 PM:

According to the listing for The Raven and the Reindeer at (where I bought it), it's 56,280 words.

#519 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2016, 11:17 PM:

Oops, I clicked on the wrong link. 56,480 words.

#520 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2016, 10:40 AM:

Steven desJardins @510: in light of the language on the Hugo nominations page my personal answer to your two questions would be first Yes and then No; I would personally interpret the bit about publication dates as making GJ&RQ a 2016 publication, eligible for 2017 awards only. This would seem to me to be analogous to the rule about dated periodicals, whereby eligibility is determined by the date on the cover, not when the magazine issue actually becomes available for purchase.

However, as I said, this is my first time doing this and I'm still getting to grips with the nomination/eligibility rules, so I really appreciate the discussion. I apologise if I'm being dense ...

As a point of comparison, Jo Walton has just noted on Twitter that "SFWA have decided Bujold's Gentleman Jole & the Red Queen came out last year & is Nebula eligible only now, this year . How about for Hugos?"

#521 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2016, 10:43 AM:

Addendum to @520 (edit button, my kingdom for an edit button): link to Jo Walton's tweet.

#522 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2016, 10:46 AM:

Addendum to @520 (edit button, my kingdom for an edit button): link to Jo Walton's tweet.

#523 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2016, 01:20 PM:

Craft @520: Considering the question merely as an abstract philosophical debate, I'd agree with you. Considering the question pragmatically as a Hugo administrator, I think declaring something ineligible after the voters have nominated it is the nuclear option, best used only when the question is completely unambiguous.

Consider Mary Robinette Kowal's "The Lady Astronaut From Mars", which was disqualified in 2013 for reasons the administrators thought were sensible and most voters thought were nuts. The 2014 administrators allowed it on the ballot, but what if they'd said, "Nope, sorry, it's clearly ineligible because it was first published in 2012, doesn't matter what last year's administrators said"? If there's a genuine question which year something is eligible in, the tendency for administrators is to say, "Eh, if it gets enough votes, I'll let it on." A wrong decision letting something the voters are enthusiastic onto the ballot is better than a wrong decision keeping something the voters are enthusiastic about off the ballot.

The alternative is to issue binding advisory opinions, but Hugo administrators tend not to do so, in part because they don't have the authority to issue an opinion which binds future committees, in part because they see it as stirring up unnecessary controversy. Suppose this year's committee issues an opinion declaring it eligible this year, ineligible the next, it just misses making the ballot, and next year a bunch of Bujold fans say, "Wait, this is a 2016 book, how come you're telling me I can't vote for it?" The 2016 committee has just made a huge mess that the 2017 committee needs to address.

So, in practical terms, you can expect the administrators not to make a ruling unless they have to; the only situation where they have to make a ruling is if it gets enough votes to make the ballot, either this year or next; if it does get enough votes to make the ballot, they're probably not going to disqualify it.

#524 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2016, 01:26 PM:

Thanks for the twitter link-- I'm only mildly interested in GJ's eligibility, and more interested in finding out that I need to check on on the Crooked Timber discussion, but I'd never seen Jo's icon that large, and it's really gorgeous.

#525 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2016, 03:03 PM:

In regard to an SF book I want to read (Cyteen, by C.J. Cherryh), what's the best way to find a (legal) ebook? I've checked Amazon, I've checked B&N, I've even checked Closed Circle Publications.

The web turns up a few sketchy-looking sites with PDFs, but I strongly suspect they aren't legit.

Is the book just not available as an ebook?

#526 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2016, 03:30 PM:

I don't think there is an e-book.

#527 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2016, 03:55 PM:

As I slowly start to put together my nominations, here are a few more recommendations:

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik, an interesting tale of magic and science filtered through a Pakistani perspective. [NOVELLA][2015]

Sunset Mantle by Alter Reiss, a really enjoyable fantasy adventure about a soldier who enlists with a city-state facing almost certain defeat from powerful enemies, and discovers that not everyone in the city wants to win. As much political fantasy as military fantasy, with a tremendously appealing protagonist. [NOVELLA][2015]

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud. Huge, ambitious graphic novel about an artist who gains the power to magically sculpt things exactly the way he sees them in his mind, at the cost of having only 200 days to live. [GRAPHIC STORY][2015]

Widdershins: Green-Eyed Monster by Kate Ashwin. Fantasy webcomic in which spirits can be summoned to accomplish various tasks; each story arc revolves around a different member of the Barber family (usually) dealing with an attempt to summon one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Really fun, and the sixth arc is just wrapping up now, so this is a good time to dive into the archives. [GRAPHIC STORY][2015]

Astro City: Lovers Quarrel by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross. From issues #18-21 of the latest series. Quarrel and Crackerjack are unpowered superheroes who have been around since the series debuted in 1995. In this arc, it's twenty years later, they're slowing down, and they're looking for ways to stay in the game—while recognizing (or denying) that they can't keep it up much longer. It also deals with Quarrel's origin, her relationship with her father (the original Quarrel, a supervillain), highlights of her career, her up-and-down relationship with Crackerjack, and the place of heroes without powers in a superhero universe. I felt that the conclusion was a bit weak, but the story as a whole was a particularly strong entry in a consistently excellent series. [GRAPHIC STORY][2015]

#528 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2016, 04:46 PM:

Buddha Buck @525: Cyteen predates the ebook revolution, and I doubt there's a legitimate ebook version out there. There's nothing up on her ebook catalog, but there is a contact link there, and asking her and her partners about it might help create one. They're much more likely to know than I am!

#529 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2016, 06:16 AM:

Steven desJardins @523: Thank you, that makes sense. I had been thinking about it with the assumption that "eligible for 2017 only" was the safer option - after all, then anyone who mistakenly nominated in 2016 could nominate it again the following year, with the harm being confined to the waste of a nomination slot this year.

I had not considered the complicating factor of successive committees making different decisions or of committee N+1 having to deal with the aftermath of an unpopular and/or procedurally iffy ruling by committee N. Thank you for clarifying.

I will retreat to my previous position of being extremely glad that the final decision is not for me to deal with.

I suppose I shall have to buy and read Gentleman Jole before the nominations end, then. Alas, the trial. I am probably also going to buy Sunset Mantle on your recommendation and the linked excerpt, so thank you again.

#530 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2016, 12:15 PM:

Steven desJardins @ 523:

The problem in this case is that without guidance, there's only the confusion that's come up here and elsewhere, and voters won't want to commit. Assuming I want to nominate it, do I nominate it now, or wait until next year? If I nominate it now, will it be eligible, or could I have used my slot for something else? If I nominate it next year, did I just waste a slot because, oops, it was only eligible last year? If it's decided it's only eligible for this year and I haven't read it yet, do I take the time to bump it up to the top of my reading list or just give up, move on, and cause a potentially deserving work to not receive enough nominations to make the ballot?

I appreciate the quandary the Hugo administrators find themselves in, but there are only a few of them, and lots of nominators.

This is also why I'm not entirely happy with the notion of eARCs for sale in general. ARCs don't change the eligibility date for Hugos, but it's not really an ARC because anyone can buy it, but it's not really not an ARC because there's still the final editing pass to be done.

#531 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2016, 03:52 PM:

Back to things I've been reading.

The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher [NOVEL][2016] is a compelling story inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story of the Snow Queen. A young woman named Gerta goes on a quest to rescue what she thinks of as her true love. There's adventure, magic, unmagic, actual love, not love, a very real sense of place, plenty of humor, strong female presence, and strong queer representation. I love everything that Ursula Vernon's done, and this does not disappoint.

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold [NOVEL][20uh...][2015?][2016?][I bought it when it was officially released in 2016, anyway] is good, but not what I was expecting. It's excellent as a character study of Cordelia, Jole, and Aral. Good meditations on career, life, love, and the choices people make to balance those out. It wasn't nearly as unputdownable as other Vorkosigan books, and I think it's lacking something, but if I hadn't had expectations from other books in the series I might have liked it more. I'll have to re-read this one and think about it.

Earthrise by M.C.A. Hogarth [NOVEL][2013] is the first in a trilogy, and available for free as an ebook. It's about a freighter captain and her crew, and the adventures they get up to in trying to make ends meet. I enjoyed this well enough as fun, light reading, but not well enough to buy the remaining two.

This excerpt from Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire has me impatient for April. It starts with a school to help children who have been through Portal Fantasies recover. We'll see where it goes from there.

#532 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2016, 04:22 PM:

Seconding The Raven and the Reindeer. I really should know better than to either start an Ursula story late at night (because I won't be able to stop until I finish it) or to buy one late at night (because I won't be able to resist starting it). Three hours later, I knew it was up to her usual high standards, with some fascinating trope-inversion along the way. Definitely on my nominations list for 2017.

KeithS, did the snow-otters' speech patterns remind you of the Skins from Digger if they were on stims?

#533 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2016, 04:56 PM:

Lee @ 532: I can sort of see where you're coming from, but they mostly sounded like otters to me, if otters could talk.

#534 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2016, 04:50 AM:

People are talking about games eligible for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long) over at File770, which prompted me to check the release date of Sunless Sea. It was released for general sale on Feb 6, 2015; I'd been thinking it was earlier because I personally saw a version of it earlier (closed backer beta).

So it is eligible this year and it is very, very good - Failbetter's worldbuilding is extraordinary and their storytelling exquisite.

(Their other game in the same universe, Fallen London, is free to play in your browser and is also gorgeous.)

#535 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2016, 08:33 AM:

Just finished Brust and White's The Incrementalists [2014]. Interesting ideas - immortals changing the world, slowly, for the better . And then one of them gets killed.

("Sunless Sea"- I will be checking that out!)

#536 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2016, 08:43 AM:

Got this link via Natalie Luhrs' blog - an Atlantic article [RELATED WORK] [2015] which I had not previously seen by Jeff VanderMeer about his writing process for the Southern Reach books.

His description sounds like some sort of quasi-Lovecraftian tale about a writer being gradually consumed by their story, are they writing it or is it writing them, etc., and is a stellar piece of writing in its own right. I had a slot left on my Best Related Work section which this may just have filled.

#537 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2016, 11:02 AM:

I had not thought about Sunless Sea as an option for dramatic presentation, and now I'm charmed by the idea. It's a fascinating game, and it takes full, subtle advantage of fairly minimal graphics and sound to go with its text and mechanics for an atmospheric experience. And there are some very grim and distressing stories in there--but also options, at times, to reject the grim and distressing, to do something good, or to simply try to make the best choice available in difficult circumstances.

(I wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure game based on Sunless Sea for Yuletide this year, which I'm actually quite proud of. It's a very inspiring setting.)

#538 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2016, 10:44 PM:


All but one of the finalists for the Asimov's Readers' Award are now available to read for free.

#539 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2016, 06:27 AM:

Per Twitter, Delilah S. Dawson, AKA Lila Bowen, is eligible for the Campbell this year (her earlier works having not qualified her owing to being classed as Romance rather than SF/F.)

Fade Manley @537: Oo, a CYOA Sunless Sea story - link? This seems relevant to my interests.

#540 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2016, 01:08 PM:

I'm excited to read (though I haven't gotten it yet!) Nick Sousanis' Unflattening (2015, related work) -- a graphic nonfiction work about how graphic works communicate. It's being hailed as the next step beyond Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, by people who were blown away by McCloud. I'm mentioning it here because it may take people some time to find a copy, and I haven't heard any buzz about it in the SF community.

#541 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2016, 01:25 PM:

Craft (Alchemy) @539: The Virulent, as requested! Rated T for canon-appropriate dark themes.

Per a discussion elsewhere, I'm also contemplating video games other than Sunless Sea that came out last year and might go nicely on the Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) list, but that's probably a ramble for me to take to a different thread. But I'm now remembering to keep an eye out for them, as people suggest/mention them, and to add such things to my list for next year.

#542 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2016, 02:49 PM:

Too late for the Hugos, but I finally read The Hunger Games trilogy, and was very impressed (and somewhat delighted except for more character torture than I was up for towards the end). Any recommendations for good discussions of the books? I'm looking for the decisions which went into writing them, psychological issues, whether the last book is counted as military sf, landscape, current politics (what does Collins think of negotiating with Putin and/or Assad), etc. Or anything else which seems worth analyzing-- the books have a lot going on.

Also, I'm glad I read them basically unspoiled-- I'd seen the first movie, but that was somehow much less interesting than the book. What's courtesy on discussion of the books here?

Anyway, I was distracted from the last 75 pages or so of Sorcerer to the Crown by The Hunger Games, and SotC served as a badly needed unicorn chaser. The presidential campaign would be much improved-- or at least made more entertaining-- if it were conducted in Regency.

#543 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2016, 07:30 PM:


Although in a later tweet (about 12 hours after the tweet you linked to) Dawson concluded that she isn't eligible after all.

#544 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2016, 04:39 AM:

Michael I @543: Ah. Missed that one. Shame; I'd happily have nominated her. Thanks for the update.

#545 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2016, 10:11 AM:

I just finished The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins.
I enjoyed it quite a lot. As others have mentioned, it gets pretty grim in places but there is also a lot of humor and it fits together really well.

As near as I can tell, Scott Hawkins should be eligible for the Campbell.

#546 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2016, 11:12 AM:

According to the Hugo Nominees Wikia, Scott Hawkins is eligible for the Campbell, and I agree he deserves a nomination. The Library at Mount Char falls into the category of books that I respect and even enjoy but don't feel joy for having read and don't feel tempted to re-read: nevertheless, it's an impressive debut and it would not surprise me if Hawkins became a major figure in the field.

#547 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2016, 10:03 PM:

I finished reading through last years' issues of Clarkesworld, and found a few stories that will probably make my nominating ballot.

So Much Cooking is my favorite, a novelette in the form of a food blog about a woman quarantined in her apartment for weeks. Starts slow, builds. Warning: sadness.[NOVELETTE][2015]

The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary by Kij Johnson is a fun, oddball catalog of pets that don't exist but maybe should.[SHORT STORY][2015]

Cat Pictures Please is a cheerful story about an accidentally emergent AI and what it really wants, and how it tries to be helpful.[SHORT STORY][2015]

Asymptotic by Andy Dudak is a clever, ambitious, hard-ish time travel space opera.[NOVELETTE][2015]

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Xia Jia (translated by Ken Liu) is a quiet, barely sf-nal story about the quiet joy of discovering an obscure literary treasure.[SHORT STORY][2015]

#548 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2016, 09:48 AM:

I've just nominated (among other things) H. G. Wells's The Open Conspiracy for Best Related Work, The Thief of Bagdad for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form), and "Futurian War Digest" for Best Fanzine.

Retro Hugos are fun! (1941's Best Fancast, now, that's going to pose some problems.)

#549 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2016, 11:56 AM:

In that era, people did send wire recordings around to other fans so they could hear each other's voices. Would that count as a fancast?

#550 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2016, 12:03 PM:

Tom Whitmore, I think it would, but you'd have to actually find one to listen to.

#551 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2016, 01:16 PM:

Steven desJardins (547): "So Much Cooking" is wonderful! Going on my Hugo ballot, too. Everyone, go read it!

#552 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2016, 02:34 PM:

Cassy, #550:

"...But you'd have to actually find one to listen to?"

This problem did not seem to inhibit the 1939 Retro-Hugo nominators who landed the BBC's ephemeral 1938 television broadcast of Capek's R.U.R. on the ballot-- even though none of them could possibly have seen the work.

(Not that I approve.)

#553 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2016, 05:18 PM:

Well, in that case at least we could see the script. Which presumably wouldn't be possible with a 1940's fancast.

#554 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2016, 02:39 AM:

I wouldn't be at all surprised to find one or two wire recordings transcribed in various fanzines of the time. But checking all the fanzines of the period for that would be difficult.

#555 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2016, 10:18 AM:

I've read some more new novels since I posted in September, and most of the issues of F&SF for 2015, as well as a good bit of the short fiction recommended in this thread.

I'll second the recommendations upthread for Uprooted and Sorcerer to the Crown. I liked Karen Memory a lot as well, but I'm not sure it will wind up on my ballot. The other [NOVEL][2015] I've read are:

A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe. Clones of authors (with implanted memories from the original) are library resources; you can talk to them in the library or take them home, or request them from a library in another city. And if they aren't borrowed often enough, they're killed. The main character gets borrowed for the first time when a woman has a mystery to solve involving a rare copy of one his most obscure books that she inherited from her father; she thinks it contains a hidden message from him. This is as good as Gene Wolfe's last several novels, most of which I nominated for the Hugo, if not as great as the Book of the New Sun.

Pact by Wildbow, pen name of John McCrae, is a web serial that concluded in 2015. It's fantasy/horror set in a small Canadian town with some scenes in Toronto and in other worlds; the main character inherits his grandmother's magic, and her enemies along with it. Very dark, but with enough bright spots to keep me reading. It's not as good as his earlier serial Worm, but very few things are.

Musketeer Space by Tansy Rayner Roberts is another web serial concluded in 2015. As it says on the tin, it's a retelling of The Three Musketeers as space opera, with many but not all of the characters gender-flipped. It's not a pastiche of Dumas's style like Brust's The Phoenix Guards, but it's a fun read.

Polychrome by Ryk E. Spoor was an Oz sequel self-published via Kickstarter. It's not a pastiche of L. Frank Baum's style, which I was sort of hoping for, but if you go into it without that expectation and you like both Oz and epic fantasy you'll probably like it.

Short fiction: I'll second the upthread recommendations of "Cat Pictures Please", "Monkey King, Faerie Queen", and "It Brought Us All Together". I'll probably nominate Alison Wilgus for the Campbell based on "Noise Pollution" but I'm not sure the story itself is going on my ballot.


"Today's Smarthouse in Love" by Sarah Pinsker (F&SF, May/June 2015). A house AI falls in love with the house next door. The consequences for the residents of both houses are unfortunate.

"Telling Stories to the Sky" by Eleanor Arnason (F&SF, Jan/Feb 2015)

"A Residence for Friendless Ladies" by Alice Sola Kim (F&SF, Mar/Apr 2015)

"The Deepwater Bride" by Tamsyn Muir (F&SF, July/Aug 2015). A semi-Lovecraftian story about a family of prophets or precognitives who've kept records of their visions for centuries. Dark and funny and emotionally affecting at the same time, which is hard to pull off.

"Little Girls in Bone Museums" by Sadie Bruce (March/April 2015). Very dark story about a society where girls are made into living sculptures and sold to rich people.


"What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear" by Bao Shu, translated by Ken Liu (F&SF, Mar/Apr 2015). The life story of a man living in a world where history happens backward from our perspective, though life processes etc. happen normally. The stuff near the ned involving the Cultural Revolution may invite comparison to "The Three-Body Problem"; I thought the latter was well worthy of its Hugo on the basis of its ideas and plot, but "What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear" is better at characterization, especially of the female characters.

I'd also like to put in a good word for Naomi Kritzer's Seastead series, mostly novelettes (and short stories, maybe a novella or two as well?) that have appeared in F&SF over the last few years. The series as a whole is strong but I'm not sure I would nominate any particular story. (I might have nominated the first story in the series a couple of years ago, which stood alone better than most.) At least two installments appeared in 2015, "Jubilee: A Seastead Story" [NOVELETTE] (Jan/Feb) and "The Silicon Curtain: A Seastead Story" [SHORT STORY] (July/Aug). But they don't stand alone that well. I hope the series will be collected as a fix-up novel. ("The Silicon Curtain" might be the end of the series or at least the first arc, but I'm not sure.)


Some old favorites such as Galactic Suburbia and the Coode Street Podcast, but especially Fangirl Happy Hour, my favorite new podcast of the year. In a typical episode Ana and Renay each bring one book, movie, comic or whatever and they talk about them in slightly spoilery detail for 20-30 minutes each, then give some briefer recommendations at the end; some episodes go into more depth about one thing, or talk about the kerfuffles of the day.

I'm probably going to read Seveneves and one or two more issues of F&SF before I decide on the final content of my ballot. I don't know if I have time to get any more new-in-2015 books by interlibrary loan before the deadline.

#556 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2016, 10:29 AM:

I forgot to mention "The Galaxy Game" by Karen Lord -- for some reason I was thinking it was 2014. It's quite good, though not as good as "The Best of All Possible Worlds" or "Redemption in Indigo". I don't think it will quite make my ballot, but I'm vacillating between it and "Karen Memory" for fifth place -- or maybe "Seveneves" if it's better than I expect, or "Aurora" if it comes in from the library in time for me to read it before the deadline.

#557 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2016, 12:10 PM:

Soon Lee posted in the Hugo PINs thread to mention two Tumblrs collecting Hugo-eligible artists: and I haven't yet spotted anyone on there I want to nominate, but it did remind me of some other things I liked in 2015 - John Harrison's cover for Ancillary Mercy (/Sword/Justice) [PRO ARTIST][2015] and also Lays Farra's Weird Tarot illustrations [FAN ARTIST][2015] which I backed the Kickstarter for a physical copy of and which are spectacular.

I also recently read Quarter Days [NOVELLA][2015] by Iona Sharma, which I thought was beautiful and is going on my ballot. Her story Nine Thousand Hours [SHORT STORY][2015] is also eligible, and Sharma is in her second year of eligibility for the Campbell too.

#558 ::: Craft (Alchemy) has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2016, 12:11 PM:

Alas, I fear my last comment contained too many links. May I tempt the gnomes with some of the vegan jerky I brought back from the LARP fair?

#559 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2016, 06:57 PM:

I've read a bunch more stories over the last couple of weeks, and have a few more recommendations.

Two to Leave by Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #174) [SHORT STORY][2015]

The King in the Cathedral by Rich Larson (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #166) [SHORT STORY][2015]

Ballroom Blitz by Veronica Schanoes ( [NOVELETTE][2015], which is part of the Some of the Best from 2015 free bundle.

The Log Goblin by Brian Stavely [SHORT STORY][2015], also part of the bundle.

Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed, September 2015)

#560 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2016, 04:37 PM:


Seveneves by Neal Stephenson: I basically agree with some of the earlier posters. Part one was good, and part two was good in itself, but the transition between them strained credulity to the breaking point; I couldn't believe that the latter part of the novel was a plausible future consequent on the events of the first part. This one won't quite make my ballot.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson: Wow. I'd say this is the best KSR has written in some years, and it's going on my ballot. It's particularly good at treating just those hard science problems that Seveneves glosses over in a timeskip: how and whether it's possible to keep a small closed ecology going for a good long while. The characterization and the prose are also a lot stronger than in the Stephenson novel.

Vermilion by Molly Tanzer: A good Western adventure story, with strong characterization and plenty of surprises in the plot, but some annoying little flaws in the period dialogue (using anachronistic words or old words in a modern sense). It won't make my ballot but I recommend it.


"We're So Very Sorry For Your Recent Tragic Loss" by Nick Wolven (F&SF, Sept/Oct 2015). A woman's social media software condoles her on a "tragic loss", and advises all her friends, her mother, her employer etc. to handle her with kid gloves as she's emotionally fragile right now. But she can't figure out who she knows that's died...

#561 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 02:40 PM:

Unfortunately, I've left my nominations pretty late and I'm low on short fiction.

Would anyone care to recommend a thing or two they especially like?

The odds are better for me liking something if it isn't magical realism, which I think of as fantasy with little or no world-building.

#562 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 04:43 PM:

For novellas, I recommend The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik, The Bone Swans of Amandale by C. S. E. Cooney, Sunset Mantle by Alter Reiss, and Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.

For novelette, my top picks are So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld 110), Asymptotic by Andy Dudak (Clarkesworld 105), and Ballroom Blitz by Veronica Schanoes (

For short story, I like Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed), Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld 100), The Apartment Dweller’s Bestiary by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld 100), The King in the Cathedral by Rich Larson (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 166), Two to Leave and Variations on an Apple by Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 174 and, Crazy Rhythm by Carrie Vaughn (Lightspeed #62), and How to Remember to Forget to Remember by Rose Lemberg (Lightspeed #61, pay version only).

#563 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 04:56 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #561:

How about...

"The Great Silence" by Ted Chiang (e-flux journal)
"A Murmuration" by Alastair Reynolds (Interzone #257 Marc/Apr 2015)

"Our Lady of the Open Road" by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov's June 2015)
"The End of War" by Django Wexler (Asimov's June 2015)

"The Four Thousand, The Eight Hundred" by Greg Egan (Asimov's December 2015)
"Waters of Versailles" by Kelly Robson (
"The Citadel of Weeping Pearls" by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov's Oct/Nov 2015)

Some of my favourites made the Asimov's Readers' Awards finalists and are available free online, but not the Aliette de Bodard & the Greg Egan unfortunately. But maybe you'll find some of the other finalists nomination-worthy.

I also loved Ursula Vernon's "Wooden Feathers" (Uncanny Magazine) but I suspect it's too magic realism for what you've requested.

#564 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 09:49 PM:

Has anyone else read D. C. Palmer's Version Control? I foIlowed the rec from File:770 and found it an interesting mix: very near future that mostly reads like mimetic fiction, but he has some of the tools of SF down pat, including a cute throwaway (rather like the first scene of The Demolished Man) for the alert genre reader to pick up on. A bit wordy (and a bit stereotypical), but reads quickly.

#565 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 09:51 PM:

Don't panic -- neglected to say [NOVEL] 2016.

#566 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 11:05 PM:

I just found out about this Short Story [2015] - "Dave the Mighty Steel-Thewed Avenger" by Laura Resnick. The world needs more humorous short stories, and this one had me giggling...

#567 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 02:26 PM:

When people nominate computer games, are they typically using the "Best Related Work"? I'm finally filling in my nominations - last minute, of course - and I'd like to include Undertale but can't figure out what category a game best fits.

#568 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 02:27 PM:

When people nominate computer games, are they typically using the "Best Related Work"? I'm finally filling in my nominations - last minute, of course - and I'd like to include Undertale but can't figure out what category a game best fits.

#569 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 04:59 PM:

I've been using Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) for video games; if I came across a video game that could be played in under an hour, as some very focused high concept ones do, I might put it in Dramatic Presentation (Short Form).

#570 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 02:49 AM:

And Uprooted by Naomi Novik [NOVEL][2015] makes it onto my Hugo nomination list. Excellent book.

#571 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 03:32 PM:

I just remembered that Whispers of Ragnarok is eligible, presumably for long form dramatic.

It seems very unfair that it's up against The Martian.

#572 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 11:11 PM:

I am not sure how you would classify The Great Silence, but it's breathtaking.

#573 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 09:11 AM:

I am not sure how you would classify The Great Silence

Aaargh, yes. Short Story? Dramatic Presentation? Related Work (on the 'noteworthy primarily because of....' criterion)?

But also - the original installation was made in 2014. Does that count as publication? The copyright date is 2015, though.

#574 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 10:19 AM:

A heads-up for anyone who has Diana Pavlac Glyer's Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings on their ballot for Best Related Work; according to Dr. Glyer, the copyright date is 2016 so it's actually eligible NEXT year, not this year.

See Link.

#575 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2016, 05:15 PM:

Just as an aside, I have really been enjoying this thread, especially the links to so many wonderful SFF short stories. For various reasons, I've had a hard time coming up with the spoons to sit down and read a whole new book for awhile now, but I've often got a few minutes to read something shorter.

Most of my long-form pleasure reading lately has either been rereads of old comfortable books, or reading book N in a long series because the emotional activation energy is a lot lower for reading another book in the same series, than for reading a whole new book. Hopefully, things will become less chaotic soon, and I'll have the spoons to contribute more to this discussion, but I'm sure glad it's here.

#576 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 07:10 AM:

The hugoadmin has now sent me the email "Your 2016 Hugo Award and John W. Campbell Nominating Ballot" eight times.
This is harmless, but disturbing.

#577 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 10:50 AM:

Janet1, they'll send one for every time you clicked "save". Which, for most of us, was a lot of times...

And they have a huge email backlog because of that. I'm still waiting on my final ballot email; I'm getting them trickling in (all dated March 31), but haven't gotten my final ballot yet.

I'm hoping they improve the system next year so that you click "send me a confirmation" or something...

#578 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 11:21 AM:

Oh, my! I clicked SAVE many times.

#579 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 11:42 AM:

Janet1, if it makes you feel better, I saved a copy of my final ballot for my own records. I started to get worried, because the confirmations didn't reflect my final ballot, so I emailed my choices to the Hugo admins with my concerns. They checked my recorded ballot against my email and reassured me that the final ballot was correct. So even though I still haven't gotten my final ballot confirmation (just some interim ones), I know I'm good.

Which means that you're probably good, too. (Just brace yourself for lots of emails, not necessarily in chronological order.)

#581 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2016, 05:37 PM:

For the record, I e-mailed them early after the nominations closed about this... and since then have not gotten a single ballot update from the last 4-5 I expected. I intend to give them a few more days because I've heard people saying they were still receiving them as of today, then I will bug them again.

That being said, I like science fiction even without the Hugos to nominate for!

I finally got around to the Shepherd's Crown. It definitely didn't have the feel of a final Pratchett draft. I think, were it written ten years earlier, there are things he would have expanded on considerably, and points he would have hidden rather than making overtly, or said once instead of repeating, and several struggles raised but dismissed too easily that would have been harder.

What impressed me is how strongly coherent and solid a book it IS.

I didn't expect chapters three and four to be where I broke down and cried. I did expect it of the afterword.

#582 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2016, 07:57 PM:

I thoroughly enjoyed Seanan McGuire's Every Heart a Doorway from I think it clocks in as a novella for Hugo consideration? It's about what happens to the children after they come back through the portal from Narnia or wherever.

#583 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 09:38 AM:

janetl @ 582:

Seconded on Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire [NOVELLA][2016]. It was wonderful and very real, which is, admittedly, an odd thing to say about a fantasy. Automatic word count (which probably includes the front matter) clocks it at a hair under 40000 words, so definitely novella for Hugo purposes.

It looks like I'll have a few other things to list for 2016, but I need to read them first.

#584 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2016, 12:04 AM:

I also enjoyed Every Heart a Doorway, and it's on my memory list (which I will go back over next year when I'm nominating.) It had some richly-drawn characters (I particularly liked Sumi and Eleanor) and solidly workmanlike prose, plus it comes packaged with a parlor game / argument starter good for ages of fun.

I did have some problems with it.

V sryg gung Anapl jnf n ovg gbb cnffvir – fur jnf zber n ernqre'f ragel vagb gur fgbel guna n cebgntbavfg, naq fur ernyyl qvqa'g qb nalguvat ng gur pyvznk. Naq gura, fhqqrayl, bar jbeq bs jvfqbz tvirf ure rabhtu crefbany tebjgu gb trg onpx gb ure ernyz. Vg sryg gb zr yvxr gung unccrarq orpnhfr vg jnf gvzr sbe gur raq bs gur obbx, abg orpnhfr fur unq rnearq vg.

Nyfb V sryg gung gur pyhr sebz Ybevry'f obarf jnf whfg gbb oybbql boivbhf. V thrffrq vgf fvtavsvpnapr vafgnagyl. Fb vg uheg zl fhfcrafvba bs qvforyvrs gung gur bgure punenpgref qvqa'g haqrefgnaq vg hagvy gbb yngr.

#585 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2016, 08:22 AM:

David Goldfarb (584): Regarding your second rot13ed point, V qvq abg trg vg fgenvtug njnl; gur erirny jnf n ovt fhecevfr gb zr. Ohg gura, V'z irel onq ng cvpxvat hc ba gung xvaq bs guvat.

#586 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 11:15 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 585: Me, too.

#587 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 03:22 PM:

The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells [NOVEL][2016] is the latest entry in her Books of the Raksura series. As always, the characterization is wonderful, there is still so much world to explore, and none of the different species ever feels like a rubber-forehead alien. The only thing I can possibly fault this book on is that it ends on a cliffhanger, and part two won't be out until next year.

I think this was the first of her Raksura books to be given a hardback edition by the publisher, which hopefully means more people are starting to pay attention to them. This can only be a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan [NOVEL][2016] is the latest in her Natural History of Dragons series. It continues Lady Trent's memoirs of how she became a respected dragon naturalist, and many of the setbacks she faced, both natural and human-made. In this outing, she recounts her tale of visiting Akhia, which is part of her world's equivalent to our Middle East, to research desert drakes. The various inter-personal relationships that have grown and changed throughout the previous books continue to grow solidly here.

Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones [NOVEL][2014]. I have a confession to make: I initially didn't think this was really going to be my thing. I was wrong. (Heather Rose Jones: when you sold it to me at Sasquan, you could probably have seen the skeptical expression on my face. Please accept my apologies!) Alternate history historical fiction, with politics and intrigue, romance (lesbian romance, no less), an experimental approach to magic, and wonderfully-drawn characters. I wanted to read the whole thing at once, and chafed every time I had to put it down. The nearest thing to it I've read I can think of is Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner, but that story has no magic in the setting and a rather more dysfunctional romance than this. I'm definitely going to have to look into the next book.

#588 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 07:09 PM:

I have read and reviewed The Sands of Sarasvati by Risto Isomaki, tr. Owen F. Witesman.

Summary: It's an interesting read, although not quite the book I thought it was going to be when I started it. More details available here.

It may be hard to obtain outside of Finland, so if you're going to Helsinki and think it looks interesting, I would suggest picking it up while you're there.

#589 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2016, 02:39 AM:

So far my favorite story this year is This is a Letter to My Son by K. J. Kabza [SHORT STORY][2016], published in Strange Horizons, about a trans teenager whose mother died when she was a baby, and left behind a cache of video letters to the child she thought would be a son. At its heart this is an excellently done family drama, but there are some significant medical and social advances from our own time, making it clearly science fiction. Very good chance this will make my nominating ballot.

#590 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2016, 12:16 PM:

KeithS has been urging me to try the Raksura books for a while, so I finally got the first one (The Cloud Roads) from the library. I am SOLD, and have ordered the first two from my local independent bookstore. I will note that I've probably looked at the first one and put it back on the shelf before; the back-cover blurb makes it sound like a not-especially-interesting standard quest story. Well, it is a quest story of a sort, but not a standard one by any means, and the characters and setting are fascinating. I ended the book with all kinds of questions about the world and the people in it, some of which I assume are likely to be answered in the other books. I will second his recommendation of this series.

#591 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2016, 05:05 PM:

Lee @590, I am another big fan of Martha Wells's Raksura books and recommend them highly for the fascinating worldbuilding and the enjoyable characters.

She's got some excellent backlist available in e-books, too. I'm especially fond of Wheel of the Infinite, which has an older heroine with an attitude, in a world that is closer to fantasy-Thailand than fantasy-Europe.

#592 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2016, 09:57 PM:

Just plowed straight thru Seanan McGuire's Every Heart a Doorway [NOVELLA][2016]. It's magnificent and heartbreaking and bittersweet, and the first official entry on my list of potential nominations for the 2017 Hugos. The question it tries to answer is, "What happens after the portal story ends?"

McGuire's trademark snark is still present but a bit more muted than usual, and she provides her customary assortment of three-dimensional and engaging characters. It is also a murder-mystery crossover, so not all of those characters make it to the end intact. There is one throwaway paragraph that actually made me cry; I'll let you find it for yourself.

If there's anything unsatisfactory about this book, it's that I'd like to see more of it, and the ending is going to make it somewhat difficult to turn into a series. But I do wonder about what happens to some of the other characters...

#593 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2016, 10:04 PM:

Lee @ 592: It's on my 2017 Hugo nominations list.

#594 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 01:22 AM:

Lee@592: I gather that McGuire has plans for at least two more stories set at that school.

#595 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 02:23 AM:

David G., back up at #584: V qvq abg trg vg fgenvtug njnl; gur erirny jnf n ovt fhecevfr gb zr. Ohg gura, V'z irel onq ng cvpxvat hc ba gung xvaq bs guvat. (spoiler ROT13'd)

V unq nyernql orra guvaxvat, "jnvg, jung, arvgure grnz sbhaq ure, jurer vf fur naq jul ner gurl abg sernxvat bhg nobhg vg, fbzrguvat'f svful urer". V jnf unys rkcrpgvat ure gb or gur arkg ivpgvz, naq gura fur fubjf hc ng gur qbbe va bar cvrpr naq nccneragyl cresrpgyl erynkrq nobhg univat orra yrsg ba ure bja. Fb V nyernql unq gur srryvat gung fbzrguvat jnf tbvat ba gurer, juvpu znqr gur cbvagvat pyhr zhpu zber bireg sbe zr. Bgurejvfr V zvtug jryy unir zvffrq vg; sbe orvat n znwbe zlfgrel sna, V'z bsgra erznexnoyl qrafr nobhg cvpxvat hc gur rzorqqrq pyhrf.

#596 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2016, 09:25 AM:

Have just finished Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee [NOVEL][2016] (link goes to the review).

It is spectacular, a really clever, vivid and human space opera. Alastair Reynolds gave it a cover blurb and I've also seen it recommended by Ann Leckie; would probably please fans of both those authors. I loved more or less everything about it and it's gone on my list of Hugo potentials for next year.

#597 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2016, 07:51 AM:

Freefall: Chapter One [GRAPHIC STORY][2016]

I've been wanting to plug Freefall for Best Graphic Story ever since the category was introduced, but got stuck on the question of how to define the eligible portion of an ongoing webcomic where each plot thread flowed into the next. However, this week the creator announced "Thus brings us to the end of chapter one", so I guess that answers that question.

Freefall starts out as broad comedy but develops a deeper story about what it means to be human, featuring three characters who technically aren't (Florence is an uplifted animal, Sam is an extraterrestrial, and Helix is a robot) while still being very funny.

#598 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2016, 09:34 AM:

Paul A. @ 597:

And, for all the lightheartedness, actually reasonably hard SF to boot. I've been following it for years. I didn't even know Stanley had a plan to divide it up into chapters. It's certainly worth nominating.

#599 ::: SunflowerP ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2016, 12:35 AM:

Some old stuff this time:

I just finished reading John Varley's The Persistence of Vision [SHORT FICTION COLLECTION][1978, individual works variously '75-'78] (released in the UK as In the Hall of the Martian Kings, Wikipedia tells me). What I found especially striking was Varley's inclusion/handling of diversity (race, sex/gender/orientation, dis/ability)- I'm not sure if it was outright groundbreaking at the time, since there was quite a bit of '70s SFF venturing into these things, but it felt groundbreaking to me now, because forty years later, plus or minus, we're still breaking the same damn ground.

The collection as a whole won a Locus for Single Author Collection; the (US) titular novella scored a hat trick (Hugo, Nebula, Locus); and several of the other stories snagged nominations in their respective years/categories, and deservedly so. My socks may now hold a record for the number of space missions they've been on.

#600 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2016, 01:42 AM:

I've just read an advance copy of Peter Beagle's new novel SUMMERLONG: expect it to be an award contender. Bittersweet, wonderful portrait of what happens when springtime intrudes on an older couple. The age issues are really well handled, and Beagle once again makes an amazing story from classical roots. Very highly recommended. Coming soon from Tachyon.

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