by Doctor Science
Delayed again, this time because the AC needed fixing and my brain melted. Now we're back in relative cool so I can do my roundup.
Non-Hugo reading: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. One thing I learned: I can no longer read paperbacks, at least ones not by major publishers, because the fonts are consistently too small to be comfortable for my aging eyes. Aggravating, because sharing e-books with family is difficult.
The cover makes "Ninefox Gambit" look like a bog-standard interstellar MilSF, but it's anything but. The world-building is very dense and complex, and it's never really explained: you're just dropped in, and have to be prepared to go with it, piecing together a picture of the world without any As-you-know-Bob explanations. A lot of what goes on is more or less magic -- but it's Clarke's Law Magic: controlled by mathematics, studied with simulations. Or is it all supposed to be Quantum, But Not As We Know It?
The plot, too, is complex and multi-layered -- and of course it's the first part of a trilogy, "The Machineries of Empire". This is the third book after "Lovecraft Country" and "Too Like the Lightning" to have nailed a place on my longlist for next year's nominations.
Novelette: Well, I read "What Price Humanity" to the end, and I'm very sorry. I should have quit when the one (1) black character is described and immediately named "Token".
"And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead" by Brooke Bolander: I guess I can see why some people like it, but no. Too many of these stories are basically about video games, and not terribly interesting ones, either.
"Obits" by Stephen King: Suitable as a gripping introduction to a longer story. OKish in current state.
"Folding Beijing" by Hao Jingfang: the only one of these stories that really deserves to beat No Award, as far as I'm concerned.
I'm not reading "Flashpoint: Titan" unless one of you tells me I really, *really* ought to.
I finally started Seveneves, and guys, I just don't know if I'm going to be able to do this. On the third page:
the word "Agent" ... [t]he closest match for how the word would be used forever after was the sense in which it was used by fencers and martial artists. In a sword-fighting drill, where one participant is going to mount an attack and the other is to respond in some way, the attacker is known as the agent and the respondent is known as the patient. The agent acts. The patient is passive.WTF? I double-checked with Mr Dr Science, a fencer (competitor, teacher, referee) and he's never heard this terminology, though he thinks it possible it might have been used in the 18th century or earlier.
These days, fencers almost invariably say "attacker" and "defender" -- and the defender is by no means passive. Mr Dr & I wonder if Stephenson is thinking of Japanese seme and uke -- except the uke is only truly "passive" in really bad yaoi fanfic.
Ugh. The third page. I don't know if I'm going to make it to the part with genetics, which is almost certain to enrage me to the point of book-flinging.
Speaking of things I won't read, in Lisa Goldstein's discussion of "Seven Kill Tiger" (Short Story nominee) I commented:
Because humans are native (only) to Africa, Africans have more genetic diversity than all the rest of the world put together. There are plenty of genes that only show up in people of sub-Saharan African descent -- but no genes that show up in *all* of them, and not in the rest of the world.
This story is the opposite of realistic. ugh. I don't have to read it, do I?
I was having so much trouble getting into "Seveneves" that I picked up The Fifth Season, to see if the trouble was book-specific or a more general "don't want to do homework" feeling. It's definitely the former: I read "The Fifth Season" almost straight through, only stopping reluctantly for meals, sleep. (note: though I was reading the paperback, I had no trouble with the font.) It's *definitely* getting my first-place vote for Best Novel.
I agree with those who found it not really depressing, but more *angry* -- in a completely justifiable way. I guessed the Big Reveal at the end quite early on - starting with the "think about what you're not noticing" Interlude in the middle. And I anticipated why some sections are in second person, which I've only seen well-done in stories (fanfic) about characters with complex or conflicted identities: Ozma, Methos, Clark Kent/Superman/Kal-El, etc.
What I wasn't expecting was that "The Fifth Season" has [rot-13 spoilers] gur fnzr cerzvfr nf frirarirf, n jbeyq jvgubhg gur zbba. Jnf gurer n punyyratr tbvat nebhaq? Na negvpyr gung tbg n ohapu bs crbcyr guvaxvat nobhg gur vqrn? GSF vf fb zhpu orggre guna gur ovgf bs Frirarirf V pbhyq trg guebhtu gung V qba'g guvax V'yy rira obgure jvgu gur Fgrcurafba (fbeel qhqr) (abg fbeel).
As with "Ninefox Gambit", I don't find TFS to be so much "epic fantasy" (as it says on the cover, wtf) as "Clarke's Law-Level SF". The fact that the Science in this SF is geology of course fills me with great glee -- it's one big reason I don't find the book as grimly dystopic as I feared. Like one of the characters, I am distractible by SCIENCE.
We've had an interesting discussion about the differences between SF & fantasy on File770. I said:
I'm not at all sure that [TFS is] any less science-y than, say, the Imperial Radch series. Which would make it space opera, only with less space.and microtherion replied:
Given the emphasis on geology, wouldn't that make it… rock opera?ba-dump CHING!
The only nominee that's remotely Hugo-worthy is Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer, so that'll be getting my vote. It's cute, charming, and makes you feel basically good, so I particularly recommend it for days when you need that sort of thing (which is a lot of them, recently).
I read Chuck Tingle's "Space Raptor Butt Invasion", and wow. That's pretty hilariously bad, both as a story and as gay porn. Aren't there any dudes writing *good* gay porn out there? This is just silly.
But at least it *intends* to be funny, and Chuck themself is proving such a masterful performance artist that I'll put it on my ballot below No Award. None of the other stories deserve even that much respect.