2016 Hugo Awards: Novelettes

Novelette Reviews28251392

Finally finished reading those in-between length stories, the novelettes. The Rabid Puppies almost got a clean sweep of this category. Two of their nominees (Flashpoint: Titan and What Price Humanity) were from an anthology called There Will Be War Vol.X, which also contains the short story Seven Kill Tiger. Given how much I disliked Seven Kill Tiger and that the volume opened with editor Jerry Pournelle implying that the world was peaceful between the end of the Cold War and September 11, I didn’t have high expectations for the novelettes that were drawn from that. Suffice to say I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed all the nominees in this category, and ordering my votes will be difficult.

In the meantime, I better get back to reading. Voting closes on July 31st; so I only have four days to read five novellas. Wish me luck.

 

Flashpoint: Titan by Cheah Kai Wai

From There Will Be War Vol. X

A fun military SF story, with some nice space battles. The politics of space exploration were interesting and believable, and the inclusion of Kessler Syndrome (space debris making it impossible to leave orbit) as the new Mutually Assured Destruction was a powerful motivator for all the action. The action in this story is almost non-stop and full of tension. I also really liked that the combatants were Japanese and Chinese, with the Americans playing an important, but more passive role. Given the state of the three countries space programs, that seems realistic to me. My only criticism would be that there is little characterisation, with the captain of the Takeo being the only character to be fleshed out at all. It lessened the impact of the destruction of the final battle a lot.

 

What Price Humanity by David VanDyke

From There Will Be War Vol. X

Another good military SF story. After reading Seven Kill Tiger I didn’t have much hope for There Will Be War Vol X, but this story and Flashpoint: Titan have turned me around. What Price Humanity shines where Flashpoint flopped; the characters were amazing. I really connected with Vango as he tried to help his little crew figure out what was going on, and the ending was more powerful because of it.  This is a story about humanity in a war we can’t win, which asks the toughest question of all; just how far will we go to survive? Most of the story takes place inside virtual reality, and we get some interesting questions about reality while we’re at it.

 

23512999Obits by Stephen King

From The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Another fun story, about a journalist who discovers that he has the power to kill people by writing their obituaries. Kinda feels like what Death Note would have been like if Light Yagami had been a normal person who felt wrong about killing people, and if the ‘write about people and they die’ power didn’t have so many rules. The characterisation in this story was good, and the reaction the characters had to this power struck me as being realistic. However, I have often found myself coming away from Stephen King’s shorter fiction feeling unsatisfied due to the ending, and I got that again here. The story builds up, the stakes get higher, and then the ending completely fizzles out.

 

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang (translated by Ken Liu)

Read it here: http://uncannymagazine.com/article/folding-beijing-2/

A story with an obvious metaphor, but who cares about how obvious the message is when it is done so well. In this story, Beijing is divided into three cities called First Space, Second Space, and Third Space. Only one of these Beijings is active at a given time, while the other two get folded away underground with their population in suspended animation. Each Beijing is home to a different class, with different career opportunities, different hours they live through, and different rates of inflation. This story takes a good look at classism in China, and around the world. An interesting thing to note is that although the system is unfair and life is hard for our hero Lao Dao, the folding Beijing is portrayed as an uncomfortable world for those at the bottom, rather than a full blown dystopia. I don’t know if this is meant to be just a reflection of what our world is really like, or an expression of Chinese attitudes towards one’s place in society.

All in all, this was a really good story. The translation felt natural, and the language – particularly the descriptions of the city folding – was on point.

I have a few little nitpicks; mainly in wondering how the folding Beijing relates to the rest of the world and a few odd POV shifts, but over all, this was a fun story.

 

And You Will Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander

Read it here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/shall-know-trail-dead/

A gritty cyber-punk story, about a cyborg killer realising there might be more to life than just death and booze. Lots of violence and bad language. Characters were good, the language was beautiful. Well, maybe that isn’t the right word; the language was very dirty with lots and lots of swearing, but it described the scenes and the characters so well. It’s a bloody action-packed ride that manages to get some romance in too. There were a few points though where I found the action to be a bit hard to follow; not because there was a lot happening, but because that otherwise fun and awesome language got in the way a bit.

 

~Lauren

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2016 Hugo Award Short Stories

Short Story Reviews

 

I’m not going to get around to reading all the Hugo nominees. Considering just how many categories there were, that was never going to happen. But, there really isn’t any excuse not to read the short stories. Not only are they short, but some of them are available to read free online.

Of course, this is a category that got swept by the Puppies’ slate this year. At least originally it did; Thomas A. Mays withdraw his story The Commuter, and it was replaced by Cat Pictures Please. I will be reading and reviewing The Commuter in this post even though I can’t vote on it, because I admire Mays commitment to keeping the Hugos’ fair; plus the cover looks really fun.

Reading these stories – especially Seven Kill Tiger and If You Were an Award, My Love – really drove home the point that the Rabid Puppies are not a good thing for these awards. Hopefully next year we get a better range to choose from. Still, this has been fun.

 

Cat Pictures Please – Naomi Kritzer 

Read it here.

sunglasses squeak

I Love this story. An AI tries to help people and looks at lots of cat pictures. A cute story, that really reflects on the strange tendency of humans to purse self-destruction and/or ignore help. I suppose some of the AI’s ideas on what is good for us and its wish to let us give it control over our lives are a bit disturbing, but I feel that makes the AI a more believable character.

If there are any benevolent AIs out there that are looking for humans to help, then here is a picture of my cat Squeak with a silly outfit on. Isn’t he cute? Unfortunately, Squeak is no longer with us anymore, but he was such a photogenic cat.

It makes sense in context.

Asymmetrical Warfare – S. R. Algernon.

Read it here.

A good, really short story about aliens that are completely different to us. The narration is from the point of view of an alien leading an invasion of Earth. At first it seems they are a stereotypical Proud Warrior Race that just want to slaughter everyone, but as we learn more about their biology and their motivations, we see them in a different light. It is short, but it says all it needs to.

24453778Space Raptor Butt Invasion – Chuck Tingle

A guy gets fucked in the arse by a Velociraptor. In space. Written by the author of such classics as Pounded in the Butt by my Own Butt, Leonardo DiCaprio Finally Wins His Award and it Pounds Him in the Butt, Pounded in the Butt by my Book “Pounded in the Butt by my Own Butt”, Schrodinger’s Butt, and Pounded in the Butt by my Book “Pounded in the Butt by my Book ‘Pounded in the Butt by my Own Butt’.”  Funny stuff,  though not quite as silly and hilarious as I was hoping. It is nice and kinky, but maybe too silly to be a true erotic masterpiece.

The night I got this story I had some friends over and we played Bring Your Own Book .I used Space Raptor Butt Invasion for the game, and won quite easily. I see that there is also a sequel out, called Space Raptor Butt Redemption.

Sorry if you were expecting more from this review, but there just isn’t much to say. It is as ridiculous and dirty as one would expect from the cover and the blurb. Though I think I found the existence of this story and its spot as a Hugo Finalist funnier than the story, even if it was a troll move intended to damage the reputation of the Hugo Awards. Best of all, is that Tingle has counter-trolled the Puppies who are using his work for their own agenda. I’m not going to go into the details here, but you can read about it all on the Daily Dot, here.

If You Were An Award, My Love – Juan Tabo and S. Harris

Read it here.

Well, that was a waste of three minutes. I haven’t read the original story it is taking the piss out of (If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love by Rachael Swirsky) but I doubt that would make me appreciate this more. I mean, appreciate this at all. It’s just a bunch of whining about the Hugos and Social Justice Warriors. The comment section under this story does little to convince me of the good intentions or maturity of the Rabid Puppies.

Seven Kill Tiger – Charles Shao

Interesting concept, but very poorly executed. Characters aren’t that interesting, and even though the plot could have gone in many interesting directions, it ended up going no-where. Literally no-where; there was no action or drama, no tension, just these people talking about how they’re going to commit genocide. Might have worked as the beginning of a longer story.

The Commuter – Thomas A. Mays25517906

This is undoubtedly my favourite story on the Puppies’ slate, and possibly even more enjoyable than Cat Picture’s Please. Maybe I’m just saying that because I have just finished reading this story whilst Cat Pictures was read last week, but Commuter is fun and set in an interesting world. I love stories that have mobile phones and elves together. It’s funny and cool, and I really want to read more stories set in this world. For more information on this story and why it was withdrawn from the ballot, click here.

I’m still thinking about how I want to vote. I think I’ll refrain from placing a No Award over all Puppy nominations, though it is tempting. Puppies or no, I’m glad I started reading this list, since my short fiction diet last year consisted entirely of Analog stories. Not that there’s anything wrong with Analog; I wouldn’t be reading it so much if there was, but it’s nice to see what else is out there. Now I just need to keep up with this year’s crop of short stories.

Happy reading everyone.

~Lauren