Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What Do You Mean They All Disappeared?

Kit Reed “Where” (Tor, 2015)

This is another of those Tor releases where it turns out that I just have an excerpt.  Sigh.  So what I have is the first few chapters.  

The basic concept here – everyone on a small island is transported somewhere else—is pretty cool, if not terribly original.  But I feel like the writing lets me down.  Rather than overcoming a rather middle of the road plot (it feels like something from an old SF novel that is just outside my memory), the writing brings down the concept, making it feel more like a special limited series coming to CBS (“Under the Dome” anyone?).

To make matters worse, I just don’t care about any of the characters.  Either blow me away with your writing & weirdness, or make me care about the characters.  Unfortunately neither happens here.

Since the only way I know to judge this is “do I want to read the rest”, I’m going to wait to catch the mini series.

What Does That Even Mean?

Hannu Rajaniemi “Collected Fiction” (Tachyon, 2015)

I have to admit that I don’t really follow the short story market.  I’ll read things here & there, but it’s primarily stories tied into worlds that I follow in novel format.  So I’ve never read any of Rajaniemi’s short fiction before.

This collection shows that his short work isn’t substantially different than his longer fiction.  It’s challenging, it’s original, and it’s under appreciated.  Each story comes from a different place, and with each story we must work to find out the rules and meanings of that world.  It doesn’t make for an easy read, but it is rewarding.  There are so many ideas and so much originality.  

If SF is really about pushing the boundaries of what is possible and getting us to think of things differently, then surely Rajaniemi’s stories work better than most writers in the field today.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

We are all of us only human

Ann Leckie “Ancillary Sword” (Orbit, 2014)

For this second book in the series, Leckie sets aside many of the toys that she used in the first volume.  Alien maguffins, distributed consciousness, etc take a back seat to a much smaller and quieter story.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is even better than the first book.  

I was surprised at how emotional and empathetic a story starring a zombie controlled by an AI could be.  At its core this is a soft and gentle story about how we treat others.

And as an ironic aside, for all the heat that Ancillary Justice has received this year, Ancillary Sword doubles down on the social justice issues.  Colonialism and exploitation are at the core of the narrative.  

What a wonderful book!  I can’t wait until the next volume!