Reading the Hugo nominees

I’ve plowed thru much of the Hugo nominees in the last couple weeks, thanks to the great deal to get them all in ebook form.

* Novels: “Cryoburn”:amazon by Lois M. Bujold. At first I thought, well, this story has been written before. But ended up feeling like very compelling. “Blackout”:amazon by Connie Willis. Eh. Gave up. Vaguely ridiculous plotting. “Feed”:amazon by Mira Grant. Read this earlier in the year, it is a great tide. My vote. Still two more to read tho.

* Novellas: The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang. Interesting speculation on the maturation of artificially intelligent programs, a little mechanistic but interesting. The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window by Rachel Swirsky. A nearly immortal sorceress thru the ages, good but not great.
The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon by Elizabeth Hand. Fanciful, touching, not really my taste. Troika by Alistair Reynolds. Russians exploring a uniquely russian alien spacecraft, yawn. The Sultan of the Clouds by Geoffrey A. Landis. Very nice tale of a far future Venus, where the atmosphere is settled by humans. I like the Landis tale.

* Novelette: Eight Miles by Sean McMullen. Steampunk, an exiled martian and balloonist partner up. The Emperor of Mars by Allen M. Steele. A touching story of a Mars colonist dealing with incredible grief. The jaguar House in Shadow by Aliette de Bodard. Intrigue in a modern day Aztec empire. Nice atmosphere, would love to read more. That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made by Eric James Stone. A Mormon missionary in the sun, reaching out to plasma beings — original.
Plus or minus by James Patrick Kelly. Disaster strikes a cargo hauler on way from asteroids, some quality characters. Both the de Bodard and Stone stories are memorable.

* Short Stories: Amaryllis by Carrie Vaughn. Life on a resource-constrained world. Lots of characterization in a short story, could certainly support a longer tale. Ponies by Kij Johnson. Wow, super nasty dark story about kids and cliques. The Things by Peter Watts. The thing, told from its perspective — Nicely done. I really like the Watts story

Recent Books — Matter, The Creator's Map

* “Matter”:amazon by Iain M. Banks. Solid far future science fiction set in the author’s Culture universe. First I’ve read in this setting, interesting characters tho mostly dead by bookend. I admire an author who can kill off their main characters in furtherance of the plot and emotional impact of the book.
* “The Creator’s Map”:amazon by Emilio Calderon. At first I feared this was one of the legion of Da Vinci Code clones, but it is really a spy and love story twisted together. And a deep look at 3 characters who experience the same events, but have profoundly different experiences based on their own issues and emotions.

Recent Books

  • “Vacuum Diagrams”:amazon by Stephen Baxter. A pastiche of short stories, many in classic pulp style, strung together with some connective narrative to make into a somewhat interesting whole.  Diverting but ultimately kind of hollow, the main character is pretty thin.
  • “Meat Market”:amazon by Bruce Feldman. Nonfiction, Bruce sits inside the Mississippi team for a year following primarily their recruiting travails under (now former) head coach Ed Orgeron. Life on the margins of bigtime college football is tough for the players and the teams, gives me new appreciation for coaches that are able to lift programs up from the doldrums.
  • “Nothing To Lose”:amazon by Lee Child.  Another Reacher tale, this one is one of the weaker in the series, or maybe I am just Reachered out.  This book starts to feel like it is heading toward Stephen King territory with Apocalyptic cults which seem to have possessed whole towns.
  • “The Watchman”:amazon by Robert Crais.  A Joe Pike thriller, this one is far more satisfying than the Reacher tale above.  Characters are more human, and thus resolution of plot is far more satisfying.

Recent books — Bonk, Weber, Dauntless, Travel

* “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex”:amazon by Mary Roach. Moments of interesting info but a lot of tedium about the crazy ideas people have had about sex research and the crazy methods used. A little bit is titillating, a book worth is off-putting.
* “By Schism Rent Asunder”:amazon by David Weber.. Solid nautical adventure. Incomprehensible if you didn’t read first in series.
* “Dauntless”:amazon by Jack Campbell. A space officer revived after 100 years and thrust into a leadership role. He is isolated by the responsibilities thrust onto him and by the differences between his values and those of the current society. The character development of every other character is paper thin, which oddly works to support the feeling of isolation. I’m not sure I’d read more in the series but oddly effective.
* “Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?”:amazon by Thomas Kohnstamm. Well this travel writer is sure going to hell based on the life of debauchery he has led. Interesting insight into the quality of research that goes into travel books.

June Books

* “We Disappear”:amazon by Scott Heim. Drug addict son returns to small-town childhood home to care for dying mother and unwrap the mysteries of her life. Some bizzare david-lynchian moments. Just ok, never really hooked me.
* “Free Lunch”:amazon by David Cay Johnston. Central premise about corruption, government subsidies abuse. Some solid examples but way too much diatribe. One good prescriptive recommendation — 100% public funding of all political expenses, no gifts whatsoever. Oh and I hate the “the rich are taking ever more of the pie” argument — this may well be true but the analysis is terribly incomplete — there is no discussion of globalization, of the incredible advantages the US had post-WWII that are finally being whittled away, there is no discussion of the fact that a growing economy naturally will create more spread at the high end of the income distribution.
* “A Fine Balance”:amazon by Rohinton Mistry. Strap on your hard hat because this is a relentless and long tale of tragic injustices and disasters battering away at every character in the book. No one ever achieves a balance, tragedy rips away at their joy. No one comes away untouched, many die. If this book is truly reflective of India in the 60s and 70s, man that was a tough time.
* “Altered Carbon”:amazon by Richard K Morgan. A real ripsnorter. Nanotech, virtual tech, multiple layers of conspiracy, a hard-bitten anti hero. My second read of Morgan and both have been great fun.