Learn about the United States: Quick Civics Lessons
by U Citizenship and Immigration Services (2016)
I spent the end of the year working, and study like crazy for the US naturalization interview. The study book that I was given turned out to be surprisingly interesting, and while many topics are covered very superficially, it still provide some interesting insight to the political structure of the United States of America. It did make me want to learn more about its history, and I am currently looking for good books on the topic. Any suggestion?
Started: Dec 03 2017 Finished: Dec 04 2017
The Jewel in the Toad Queen's Crown
by Jane Yolen (2013)
An interesting gaslamp fantasy story centered around the relationship between Queen Victoria end her prime minister Disraeli. The relationship is here fictionalized, and Disraeli uses the powers derived from his kabalistic studies to push his monarch towards what he believes to be the best course for his country. While this is a fictional story, I learned a little bit of real history though it, and I found it quite fascinating. In particular it was interesting to learn more about the extra struggles that people had to face in Victorian England because of their ethnicity.
Started: Dec 01 2017 Finished: Dec 01 2017
This World is Full of Monsters
by Jeff VanderMeer (2017)
People on goodreads seems to like this story quite a lot... but it really did not work for me. I am not a big fan of oneiric stories with a very thin and hard to follow plot, where things happen almost at random. I had a similar reaction when I read Lovecraft's dreamland stories, where at least the plot is a little bit easier to see and follow. Some other readers saw deep allegories and hidden meaning in what was happening, but I failed to do so, and I had an hard time to get to the end of it.
Started: Nov 26 2017 Finished: Dec 01 2017
by Neil Gaiman (2010)
While the story is entertaining and well written, it is definitely not the best one by Neil Gaiman. It is the story of somebody that discover himself not living, and decides to escape as far as he can from his so called life. Along the road a fated encounter with an anthropologist studying ancient zombies legends will bring our fugitive to New Orleans...
Started: Nov 23 2017 Finished: Nov 24 2017
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
Once in a while I realize that during my attempt to read Lovecraft's work in its entirety, I had missed one minor short story. This was one of them. It is definitely not one of the most interesting, a juvenilia with nothing really interesting or worth discussing. This is the story of the last descendant of an aristocratic family that is cursed to die on reaching the age of 32, and its discovery of what is behind it.
Started: Nov 23 2017 Finished: Nov 23 2017
Who Fears Death
by Nnedi Okorafor
A beautifully written and crafted story by award-winning Nnedi Okorafor, one of the lead figures of the Afrofuturism movement. A remarkable discussion about women rights, genocide, and xenophobia with a distinctive African perspective.
The story is set in a future Africa. The world has changed in many ways, yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different and special, she names her Onyesonwu, which means "Who fears death?" in an ancient language. It doesn't take long for Onye to understand that she is physically and socially marked by the circumstances of her violent conception. She is Ewu, a child of rape who is expected to live a life of violence, a half-breed rejected by both tribes. But Onye is not the average Ewu. Even as a child, she manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, and during an inadvertent visit to the spirit realm she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her. Desperate to elude her would-be murderer and to understand her own nature, she embarks on a journey in which she grapples with nature, tradition, history, true love, and the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and ultimately teaches her why she was given the name she bears: Who Fears Death.
Started: Nov 04 2017 Finished: Nov 22 2017
The Loved Dead
by C.M. Eddy Jr.
Some of the most interesting work by Lovecraft came out of collaborations with other writers... but not this time. The story of this necrophiliac narrator has nothing original, interesting to offer. It apparently shocked the people when it was published, so maybe the author aim was simply to get a reaction from the reader... but the story is quite tame in the eye of a contemporary reader. If you are new to Lovecraft, you are better off picking some of his other (better) stories.
Note: the only remarkable fact is that for once, there is nothing xenophobic in this story!
Started: Oct 29 2017 Finished: Oct 29 2017
by Peter Watts (2017)
This is the story of the early recruits for the military zombie program. Many of them are corpses scraped off various battlefields, booted temporarily back to awareness with jumper cables to the brain, and told Hey, you’re actually dead, but we can bring you back to life so long as you’re willing to work for us for a few years. Or if you’d rather, we could just unplug these cables and leave you the way we found you. As contracts go it’s pretty take-it-or-leave-it, but given the alternative would you walk away?
It's an interesting and entertaining story, with some interesting ideas and world-building. I just wish they were developed further.
Started: Oct 27 2017 Finished: Oct 28 2017
The Best of Subterranean
by William Schafer (2017)
As it is always the case with Ted Chiang
's stories, The Truth of Fact, the Truth of feeling
is extremely interesting and fascinating. This story in particular explores the impact of memory enhancing technologies on our way of thinking and of living, and on our culture.
The story is written by a fictional journalist in the near future explores the advantages and disadvantages of living with the wetware known as Remem. Remem monitors your conversation for references to past events, and then displays video of that event in the lower left corner of your field of vision. The narrator contrast and compare the Remem revolution with the one of the introduction of the writing system, a couple of centuries before, to Tivland, by European colonists and missionaries, through the eyes of young Jijingi.
: Oct 24 2017 Finished:
Oct 27 2017
by Max Gladstone (2017)
A definitely Lovecraftian plot, but in this story women have agency, and there are no xenophobic themes mixed in.
The narrator wants to be a playwrighter, but she has not made it yet, hence she supplement her income working as a model for painters. Her latest gig is for a rich and mysterious painter, Crispin. He turns out to be a very odd and demanding artist... that tries to capture the real eldritch reality that lies beneath the surface.
Started: Oct 22 2017 Finished: Oct 24 2017
The Future of Hunger in the Age of Programmable Matter
by Sam J. Miller (2017)
The story is set in a future where you can control and morph an amorphous blob of nanobots in whatever shape you want or need with your cellphone. Who need this special purpose tools, chairs, brooms, hammers, when you can just reprogram your matter to take any shape?
But this is mainly the story of Otto, a former addict, grateful and indebted to his lover Trevor that helped him to overcome addiction. Otto though is faced with temptation and the threat of disaster, but he’s fighting his very nature to stand to it.
I liked this story a lot, mainly because of the interesting, complex, and nuanced characters. It also made me feel very uneasy, as it explores Otto's and Trevor's relation, with honesty and without holding back.
I am looking forward reading more by this author. Also a shout out to Goñi Montes for the beautiful cover.
Started: Oct 20 2017 Finished: Oct 20 2017
Angel of the Blockade
by Alex Wells (2017)
I am happy to see a story written by a differently abled author featuring differently abled characters that are not object of pity, but that are fully comfortable in their skin and with agency. This is the story of Nata, the best smuggler the Imperial regime has never caught, that spends her time zipping through space in her ugly yet incredibly efficient spaceship. In this story she takes on an expensive mystery cargo, that turns out to be way more risky than anything she has dealt with before.
Started: Sep 21 2017 Finished: Sep 22 2017
by Cory Doctorow (2017)
This is the first time I read a story by this author, despite having heard a lot of positive things about him. He has definitely an interesting and original voice, and I can see why he defines himself as a writer and activist: as the title suggests, this story has definitely a political bent.
The story is set in a world where most of us are just surplus population, disposable, a resource to exploit and use to get richer. It's a scary word, where a capitalist society has morphed into something monstrous where profit comes first, and a huge part of the population has no hope for a better future.
Started: Sep 16 2017 Finished: Sep 21 2017
by H.P. Lovecraft (2017)
Our unnamed narrator travels to the far Philippines to nurse a brother dying of leprosy. Unfortunately he catches the disease, that was, at the time, a death sentence, a huge social stigma, and cause for deportation and loss of basic legal rights of personhood. That is to say that real history can be more horrifying than fiction. After the narrator returns home, his long-time companion and physician Marshall Andrews offers to help... but he may have some other motives after all.
The story would have been interesting if it did not have so many plot holes and if the narrator actions would make more sense...
Started: Sep 11 2017 Finished: Sep 12 2017
The Diary of Alonzo Typer
by William Lumley (1935)
Occult researcher Alonzo Typer disappeared in 1908. He spent much time in India, Nepal, Tibet, Indochina and Easter Island, but his last journey was less exotic, on the surface, being merely to a long abandoned manor house near Attica, New York. It was there than his diary was found, in the middle of the ruin of the collapsed house. The manor was built around 1760 by the van der Heyls, a family who left Albany under suspicion of witchcraft, and Alonzo find himself trapped into it, unable to get out.
As the one star rating suggests, I did not like this story at all. It managed to put me to sleep, it has nothing original or particularly novel. There are much better Lovecraft's story to read.
Started: Sep 10 2017 Finished: Sep 11 2017
The Library of Lost Things
by Matthew Bright (2017)
I liked a lot of the ideas in this story. I loved the idea of a Library of Lost Things, where the shelves are stuffed with books that have fallen through the cracks, from volumes of lovelorn teenage poetry to famous works of literature long destroyed or lost. They are all here, pulled from history and watched over by the Librarian, curated by the Collectors, nibbled on by the rats. I liked the characters, all mysterious, with a lot of unrevealed secrets. Unfortunately the plot is a little on the thin side, and I wish there was more going on.
Started: Sep 09 2017 Finished: Sep 10 2017
by Greg Egan (2017)
This is one of the best stories I read this year, and it is definitely going to be on my Hugo Awards ballot next year. It is also a story that is very hard to review without spoiling it, hence I will say very little, and I would recommend everyone to not read the brief intro to it that comes with it, because it gives away a lot of things that would have been more fun to discover along the way.
This story is set in a near future, where some technologies provide some options to live after death... even if what we leave behind is not necessary what we were, and sometimes by choice. Sorry for being so cryptic, I probably already said to much!
Started: Sep 07 2017 Finished: Sep 08 2017
The Drowning Eyes
by Emily Foster (2016)
The story is set in a word where some people have a special power to control the weather. Unfortunately the raw power is hard to master, and only through training and sacrifice the Windspeakers can control it. Unfortunately the Dragon Ships, a group of ferocious pirates ravaging the coast, has stolen the only tool that enable the Windspeakers to work their magic. Apprentice Windspeaker Shina must return her people's power to them before the Dragon Ships destroy everything . . . unless Shina destroys it by accident first.
I have been wanting to read this book for more than a year, and I am glad I finally got to read it. The story is memorable both for the characters and for the world-building. I really hope the author will write a sequel, or some other stories set in this fictional universe.
Started: Sep 04 2017 Finished: Sep 06 2017
The Martian in the Wood
by Stephen Baxter
This is an excellent alternative history steampunk novelette, set in England at the beginning of the XX century.
The story starts in the aftermath of the First Martian War, in the interim between it and what was to come later, when England seemed to once again become a green and peaceful place, if one haunted by the terrible events in Surrey that had happened in those early years of the century. Although people hoped and prayed peace had come, they were wrong. Across the gulf of space, plans were being drawn for a return, but before they could bear fruit a terrible discovery was made deep in Holmburgh Wood, one that would tear a family apart and shock the world.
This is the first time I read fiction written by this author, but I am looking forward reading more from him.
Started: Sep 04 2017 Finished: Sep 04 2017
The Martian Obelisk
by Linda Nagata (2017)
This is the story of an architect on Earth commissioned to create (via long distance) a masterwork with materials from the last abandoned Martian colony, a monument that will last thousands of years longer than the slowly dying human race. In the near future climate change, wars, and biological warfare has slowly chipped away the hope and will to survive from the human population. The decline is slow but steady, and the architect has dedicated all her life to leave something behind.
This is a very poetic and interesting story, and I am looking forward reading more by this author.
Started: Sep 03 2017 Finished: Sep 03 2017
These Deathless Bones
by Cassandra Khaw (2017)
A great short story, set at the border of horror and fantasy. It is the story of a woman that is chosen by the king to be the new queen after the death of his previous beloved spouse. This is not a marriage of love, and it comes with a spoiled, violent, vicious, and sadistic stepson to take care of.
Started: Sep 03 2017 Finished: Sep 03 2017
When the Devil Drives (Wild Cards, #23.3)
by Melinda M. Snodgrass (2017)
Another story set in the wild cards fictional universe, written by the series co-editor Melinda Snodgrass. We meet again Noel Matthews, once an assassin and spy, and now owner of a construction company specialized on destructing old buildings using aces superpowers. Noel is an ace himself, able to morph his intersex body into two distinct avatar forms: one able to teleport during the day, and one during the night. The sense of guilt about his past and his fear of being a bad example pushed him to abandon his ace wife and son. But one day a dead body is discovered on the job.
Started: Sep 01 2017 Finished: Sep 02 2017
The White-Throated Transmigrant
by E. Lily Yu (2017)
Winona Li is the daughter of a family of hard working immigrants. She has always worked hard, and expected little in return. When her job as an engineer for an oil company is terminated, she drive to anew place, looking for a new job. While she is driving a bird fatally collides with her car. The will change her life irrevocably.
The element of the story I found very compelling is the description of the various sources of discrimination Winona faces: first as an oil field engineer, and then as an American of non European descent.
Started: Aug 31 2017 Finished: Sep 01 2017
Bourbon, Sugar, Grace
by Jessica Reisman (2017)
I really enjoyed this science fiction novelette, and I hope to read more stories set in this fictional world in the future. This is the story of Fox, a young salvager living in a mining colony on an inhospitable planet abandoned by its owners once the mines were shut. Fox is hired to find an object lost in a recent accident, she finds it more than what she asked for... a mystery, an opportunity, and trouble.
Started: Aug 30 2017 Finished: Aug 31 2017
Shape Without Form, Shade Without Color
by Sunny Moraine (2017)
I probably should have not read this story when I was tired and half asleep, because I had serious trouble following it, and I am still not sure how to interpret it. Another goodread reader (Tadiana Night Owl) interprets it as the slow fall of the writer into mental illness. As readers we are left wondering if the described events are hallucinations or real supernatural events.
Tadiana summarizes the story as follows: "A young wife, recently moved with her husband into a new home, struggles with visions of flocks of starlings that flutter all around her and whisper with a thousand shadowy voices. She develops a mistrust of her apparently loving and concerned husband. [...] She feels totally unable to communicate with him or her friend about her troubled mind and heart. Meanwhile, a terrifying voice speaks to her of fearfully running through a cornfield, of monsters waiting for her and calling to her in the dark, and of debts owed."
Started: Aug 30 2017 Finished: Aug 30 2017
by Hanuš Seiner (2017)
What a clever and interesting story! I recommend it to everybody with a background in linear algebra, geometry, and cryptography. I will not say more on this to avoid spoiling it.
In the aftermath of the first alien contact, the narrator moved from the Juppiter colonies back to Earth. His new job is to guide cleared visitors into the deep buried bellies of the remaining alien ships. His newest client, a young woman named Janita, proves to be a member of the resistance carrying in her body what she describes as an alien civilization's gift to humanity. One story gives life to another,waiting all along...
Started: Aug 29 2017 Finished: Aug 30 2017
by Lucy Taylor (2017)
In a post-apocalyptic word, where climate change has caused the water to rise and the land to shrink, a small enclave of people barely survives along the new coast, helped by rare food drops coming from inland. Things are changing fast, including life on Earth, very quickly adjusting to the new conditions.
This is a hard to put down short story, and it works well despite the strange mixing of hard science with pseudo-scientific / fantasy elements.
Started: Aug 29 2017 Finished: Aug 29 2017
Prelude to Foundation (Foundation: Prequel, #1)
by Isaac Asimov (2012)
In 1988, 46 years after writing the first Foundation story, and two years after publishing the last chapter of the story, Asimov decided to delight his fans going back to that fictional universe. Instead of moving the story forward, he decided to go back in time, and shed some light on Hari Seldon, the founder of psychohistory, the invention behind the entire series.
In all those years the author, the science fiction field, and the entire word had changed quite a lot. It is not a surprise that the book is stylistically and thematically very different from the original work. The original novels has little to do with the characters themselves, and more to do with the social evolution of the galactic empire. This prequel is mainly focused on its characters instead. This does not prevent it from touching some social themes like gender and race. While the treatment of these themes is quite unsatisfying for a modern reader, it was probably in line with the discussions of the time.
It is a very entertaining story, even if it is very episodic and at times close to fanfic. It is probably one of the worst book of the entire series, but it is nevertheless quite enjoyable to get to see some of our beloved characters again.
After this one, Asimov managed to write a single Foundation book. I am looking forward reading it.
Started: Aug 16 2017 Finished: Aug 28 2017
The truth has got its boots on: what the evidence says about Mr. Damore’s Google memo
by Erin Giglio (2017)
A well-researched and well-exposed rebuttal to the infamous Damore's memo. What I particularly liked and what I found particularly intriguing is the introduction to a lot of the research in the field of behavioral ecology, and what science has to say (and what it does not say) about gender and its relation to personality traits. It also come with a long list of references and suggestions for further readings.
Started: Aug 22 2017 Finished: Aug 23 2017
Rereading The Handmaid’s Tale
by Natalie Zutter (2017)
In the thirty-plus years since the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale, the dystopia of Margaret Atwood’s Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning speculative fiction novel remains as relevant as ever. This book is an in-depth reread of the novel, as well as an examination of its legacy on literature and pop culture. It contains a lot of spoilers from the very beginning, so I would avoid using it as a reading companion for your first read. The text is interesting, even if I was a little disappointed by it: I was expecting a deeper exploration of some of the themes mixed with tidbits of the author's life, but there was not much of it in this reread.
Started: Aug 16 2017 Finished: Aug 22 2017
The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood (1998)
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...
What I found more shocking about his book, is that it was written 35 years ago. I found it shocking, because the future it describes is as possible and as credible today, as it was when it was written. What makes this story so scary, is that while Offred's future seems improbable at first ("it could never happen here"), as you learn more about how it came to be, it looks more and more probable.
Started: Aug 05 2017 Finished: Aug 15 2017
Dark Warm Heart
by Rich Larson (2017)
Dark Warm Heart is a quite interesting horror story, that leverages some ancient first nations legends. It is the story of a woman whose husband, a linguist that went to the icy North to study a vanishing culture and language, almost dies in a snow storm. He returns from the frozen Canadian North Territories changed and obsessed with texts he discovered there.
It's a great and entertaining story, I just wish the ending was less abrupt and sudden. I am looking forward reading more by this author.
Started: Aug 02 2017 Finished: Aug 02 2017
When Stars Are Scattered
by Spencer Ellsworth (2017)
A beautiful story, focusing on two communities all to ready to bring war to each other instead of working together to survive in an harsh new alien world. I would have given this story 5 stars if not for the ending, that was not as great at the rest of the story. Characters are very interesting, and the dynamics between the two communities are quite of interest. When Stars are Scattered is a moving story about alien contact and religious intolerance.
This is the story of Ahmed, a doctor working in a far flung outpost of humanity. His way was paid for by the leaders of his faith and his atheism is a guarded secret. His encounters with the "kite people" will cause him to doubt his whole worldview however when the aliens start dying and escalating tensions between religious extremists threatens to destroy the colony's peace.
Started: Jul 31 2017 Finished: Aug 01 2017
The Scholast in the Low Waters Kingdom
by Max Gladstone (2017)
An enjoyable fantasy story with an interesting pacifist theme. The scholast comes to a fictional word to bring a dire warning: the enemy is coming, and it will have technologies you have never seen before. Will the scholast be able to save humanity from war? Or is she destined to be a new Cassandra, preaching to a public all to eager to conquest and to leverage any advantage to steal riches from others?
Started: Jul 30 2017 Finished: Jul 30 2017
by Stephen King
Stephen King has described The Dark Tower series as his magnum opus, and many readers seems to agree. For years I wanted to read it, since I liked some of King's books, especially the one written in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. I was also hesitant to start it because of its length, and because of my dislike of the Western genre. I finally decided to give it a try...
This book introduces us to Roland of Gilead, the last Gunslinger. In his desolate world, which mirrors our own in frightening ways, Roland tracks The Man in Black, and tries to survive his many traps.
The story has a strong Western flavor at the beginning, but as it progresses, the fantastic elements take over. There is a lot of world-building, and very little is said, and much is hinted at. The plot itself is very thin and disappointing, but from what I read on-line, the following installments of the series are much better. I will keep reading, and see for myself.
Started: Jul 21 2017 Finished: Jul 27 2017
by Julianna Baggott (2017)
A very interesting story exploring theme like identity, identity expression, and family abuse. I just wish it was a little bit more polished and less confusing.
The narrator shed his identity to find the body that better much his real self while looking for the way back home after leaving to avoid more tragedies and assaults.
Started: Jul 21 2017 Finished: Jul 21 2017
Excerpts from a Film (1942-1987)
by A.C. Wise (2017)
This is the story of a young woman that escape an abusive home and who like many others, goes to Hollywood to become a star. On her way to success she is (literally) haunted by the murders of several other aspiring actresses. This is her story, and the story of her influence, rippling up through the years, on the man who discovered her.
Started: Jul 20 2017 Finished: Jul 20 2017
A Burden Shared
by Jo Walton
In a near future there has been a medical break-through in the field of pain management. While the pain still cannot be removed, it can now been shared. This is the story of a loving mother, that decided to share an heavy burden for the love of her daughter. A very interesting analysis of the impact of such a technology on families and society. I am left with the feeling that this could have been an even stronger story, if more space was given to it to develop.
Started: Jul 19 2017 Finished: Jul 19 2017
by Allen M. Steele (2017)
An enjoyable hard science fiction story, following two colonist spacecrafts on their way to Tau Ceti. As the passengers get slowly awoken from long term stasis (made necessary by the long distance between the Sun and the Star, and by the maximum limit of speed) the crew realize that the planet is already inhabited... and there is not enough fuel to go back. The story is enjoyable, even if the plot elements have been already seen before.
Started: Jul 19 2017 Finished: Jul 19 2017
by Julianna Baggott
In this apocalyptic story a strange new disease is spreading around the world, and killing people and animals. People are getting stuck in the past in mostly happy memories, they are straddling the line between now and then. Although the disease ends in death, the infected seem to go willingly. The epidemiologist seeks the answers to this viral mystery while she is falling in love and yet trying not to get infected.
While the story has some interesting elements, the mixture of philosophical reflections, apocalyptic viral disaster, and alien invasion did not really work for me.
Started: Jul 18 2017 Finished: Jul 18 2017
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)
by Becky Chambers (2014)
A very enjoyable and fun-to-read book. The plot is relatively thin, but the book still manage to be thrilling and interesting. The focus is on the fascinating world building, on the characters, and on their relationships. It has the same feel of the TV show firefly and the nice world building (but not the crazy political intrigue) of the expanse.
This is the story of a spaceship crew, contractor workers that builds space highways, i.e. wormholes. The crew contains many humans, but also a fair number of other alien species, each with their customs and culture. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, that only recently joined the Galactic Commons (a inter-species federation). A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she's left behind, joins the crew as they embark in one of the most ambitious, and potentially dangerous projects. But as I said, this is all in the background, the main focus is on the characters, their stories, and their relationships.
While the book is not groundbreaking, while it does not introduce never seen before ideas, it is touching, fun to read, and it has very memorable characters.
Started: Jul 07 2017 Finished: Jul 11 2017
Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire, #1)
by Yoon Ha Lee (2016)
I read Ninefox gambit as part of the 2017 Hugo awards read-a-thon. It is an intriguing and enjoyable story, set in a cleverly build fictional universe.
The hexarcate is at risk: the Fortress of Scattered Needles has fallen in the hand of the heretics. Kel Cheris is selected to retake it, and her rank elevated to the one of general. Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the immortal disgraced tactician Shuos Jedao, the one that has never lost a battle before being imprisoned after he went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao, because she might be his next victim.
I am looking forward reading the rest of the trilogy.
Started: Jun 28 2017 Finished: Jul 06 2017
Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota, #1)
by Ada Palmer (2016)
I read this as part of the Hugo Award finalist reading marathon, and it has been, so far, the most unusual and original entry. When I started it, I thought it was a very confusing, hand to follow, and pretentious book. As I continued reading it, my opinion drastically changed: the world building is breath taking in its complexity and scope, the complex plot is as full of intrigue as Martin's Game of Thrones, and the characters are multi faceted and definitely unusual.
Many other readers hated the old style English used by the author, but it was quite cosmetic, it does not impact the readability of the book, and it did not bother me. The part that I believe did not work out well is the attempt of the author of breaking gender stereotypes (in my opinion the stereotype end up being reinforced instead): this series story is set in a future where society and language is gender neutral, but the narrator assigns female pronouns to nurturing characters, and male pronouns to more aggressive ones.
The plot is very complex, and it is hard to say much without spoiling some of the plot twists. I will just say that the story is set in a future society where countries are no longer defined by geographical boundaries thanks to the availability of fast and affordable travel options. People can now elect which country they belong to, based on their political believes. But the intrigues between these new countries are as complex as the one in the European kingdoms few centuries ago. After long religious wars, the public practice of religion has been outlawed, its discussion kept private with sensayers, spiritual counselors.
Nested in political and family intrigues the book also offers tons of 18th century philosophy... that while it is not my favorite topic, it does add some interesting color to the story.
Started: Jun 07 2017 Finished: Jun 28 2017
All the Birds in the Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders (2016)
A deeply original work, at the intersection of science fiction, fantasy, YA, and fairy tales, with an interesting twisted spin. This is the story of two friends, Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead, both terribly bullied as a child. They are very different, Patricia a witch, Laurence a scientific genius, yet the circumstances, and their peculiarities bring them together. The story starts during their childhood, and follow them as they grow older, until... the apocalypse.
I loved this book, and I ended up staying up late at night few nights in a row to see what was going to happen next. This is clearly a worthy finalist for the Hugo Award for best Novel.
Started: May 29 2017 Finished: Jun 06 2017
by Ramsey Shehadeh
Ansel is a young man still grieving for his lost sister. He and his family are trying to come to terms with her unexplained disappearance. They continue to play the family favorite board game, a more complex version of clue. Ansel always use the green detective. His sister used to use the red one. As he tries to remember a detail that would help locating his sister, he steps into the world of their favorite board game, in a desperate attempt to find her.
A very interesting and beautifully written story, with an abrupt and disappointing ending.
Started: Jun 01 2017 Finished: Jun 01 2017
ぐり と ぐら の あいうえお
by なかがわ りえこ (2002)
にほんごを べんきょう します。それで このほんを よみました。これは ずいぶん むずかしかった です が、かわいかった です。
Started: Mar 15 2017 Finished: May 30 2017
Penric and the Shaman (Penric and Desdemona, #2)
by Lois McMaster Bujold (2016)
I read Penric and the Shaman
as part of my Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.Lois McMaster Bujold
is an established well-known award winning author, and this latest work does not disappoint. It is set on the world of the five gods, and it is best enjoyed if read after the previous book in the series, Penric's Demon
In this book Penric is now a divine of the Bastard’s Order as well as a sorcerer and scholar, living in the palace where the Princess-Archdivine holds court. His scholarly work is interrupted when the Archdivine agrees to send Penric, in his role as sorcerer, to accompany a Locator of the Father’s Order, assigned to capture Inglis, a runaway shaman charged with the murder of his best friend. However, the situation they discover in the mountains is far more complex than expected. Penric's roles as sorcerer, strategist, and counselor are all called upon before the end.
The novella is quite entertaining and fun. While it is not ground-breaking in the genre, I am growing fond of this character, and I am looking forward reading more books set in this world.
: May 21 2017 Finished:
May 26 2017
Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex
by Stix Hiscock
This short story was put on the 2017 Hugo award finalist by a group of reactionary fans as a form of protest, using a form of vote slating. Given that I am one of the fan jurors, I decided to go ahead and read it before casting my vote.
I assume this is intended to be an humor piece, mixing cheap erotica elements, and sci-fi tropes (I doubt anyone could find the sexual intercourse of a T-Rex and a green alien titillating). Read as such, it did manage to make me smile here and there. I was expecting something far worse based on the cover, and on the title. I am not sure what point the protesters were trying to make, and I am sorry that worthy contenders were pushed out from the finalist list by this, but at least it is a funny story to read.
Started: May 20 2017 Finished: May 20 2017
An Unimaginable Light
by John C. Wright (2017)
I usually like stories that explores complex topics like self-consciousness, and artificial intelligence. I also find stories that explore morality and faith and their relation to science fascinating. I should have liked this story, because it explores all the points I have just mentioned, and because it is a reflection on what makes humans humans. Unfortunately it is the worse of the Hugo nominees in this category, trying and failing miserably to derive theological creationist axioms through logic that is so flawed to be laughable. I also did not think that the sexual sadistic elements of the plot really worked as intended. Conclusion: more a religion-fiction story, than a sci-fi one, and quite a bad one.
Started: May 20 2017 Finished: May 20 2017
The Ballad of Black Tom
by Victor LaValle (2016)
A modern re-interpretation of a typical Lovecraft's story. While in Lovecraft's novels the horror was based on the deep xenophobia of the author, by his fears of immigrants, and African-American, in LaValle's story, the horror is the xenophobia itself, the endemic racism of the government, the police, and of the justice system.
This is the story of Charles Thomas Tester, that works hard to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping. A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?
Started: May 14 2017 Finished: May 19 2017
by China Miéville (2016)
This is a very interesting, and layered tale by China Miéville. The main character, a young boy, witness a profoundly traumatic event. After that he is left alone in a remote house on a hilltop with his increasingly deranged parent. When a stranger knocks on his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation are over... but by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? Is he the boy’s friend? His enemy? Or something altogether other?
The story is quite complex, and it requires the reader full attention to catch some just hinted details to fully appreciate it.
Started: May 06 2017 Finished: May 14 2017
The Jewel and Her Lapidary
by Fran Wilde (2016)
The story is told from two perspectives: the one of a travel guide, narrating events from an almost mythical, and vastly forgotten past, and from the point of view of the people that actually lived those events. This is the story of the end of a kingdom where jewels have tremendous powers that can drive people insane, and some humans, the lapidarys, have the power to bind them and their powers. The jewels, the nobility, bind the lapidarys. This is also the story of Lin and Sima, a princess destined to be married to a far away country, and her lowal lapidary. They get caught in a web of intrigue and deceit, and must find a way to escape the traps set by the past and save their kingdom.
It is a solid story, made remarkable by the world building. I do wish the author will come back to this world, and develop the character further.
Started: May 05 2017 Finished: May 06 2017
Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)
by Seanan McGuire (2016)
The premise of this clever dark fantasy novella is the following: children have always disappeared under the right conditions. slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. And those sent back have trouble adjusting back to the word they were born into. Miss West's home for wayward children is a safe haven for them. Nancy is one of those children. The things she’s experienced changed her. Each of Miss West's children is seeking a way back to her/his own fantasy world. But Nancy's arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it's up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
I really enjoy the story, it has a strong beginning, memorable characters, and an original plot. It just slow down a little bit before the end, and I am left wondering if it would have worked better as a shorter story. This said, I am looking forward reading the sequel!
Started: May 02 2017 Finished: May 05 2017
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 115 (Clarkesworld Magazine, #115)
by Neil Clarke (2016)
Months after mysterious aliens scattered their spacecraft across the globe, no one has a clue what they want. Then suddenly they open up, and people kidnapped at birth come out... without revealing what is happening. Until one day Avery gets a call... it appears that one of the aliens want a tour.
This is an entertaining story, with an interesting take on what an alien encounter may look like.
Started: Apr 29 2017 Finished: Apr 30 2017
Apex Magazine Issue 80
by Jason Sizemore
An interesting sequel of the award winning "Jackalope Wives". This is the story of grandma Harken, that liveson the edge of town, in a house with its back to the desert. Some people said that she lived out there because she liked her privacy, and some said that it was because she did black magic in secret. Some said that she just didn’t care for other people. Everybody agrees her tomatoes are great. One day her tomatoes start vanishing one by one...
Started: Apr 27 2017 Finished: Apr 29 2017
The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead (2016)
Publisher review: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Apr 16 2017
Abaddon's Gate (The Expanse, #3)
by James S.A. Corey (2013)
The pace picks up even more in this third installment of the expanse saga: I could not put the book down, and I found myself reading deep in the middle of the night. The characters and the plot are not as great as the one in the previous chapters of this epic saga: I am still unable to believe in some of the plot twists, and characters actions. Still, it is hard to be bothered by it while devouring the pages so enraptured by the story.
For generations, the solar system, Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt, was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark. Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.
Started: Mar 30 2017 Finished: Apr 16 2017
The Last Novelist
by Matthew Kressel (2017)
This is the (short, but quite enjoyable) story of an old science fiction writer living in a future where interstellar travel is possible, and internet has evolved to the point that humans are directly connected at the brain level. It is now possible to record experiences and feeling, and this new recordings are now the common form of entertainment, replacing writing. Our old writer is likely the last one in his profession, and knowing that he has a short time to live, he decided to move to a far away star, and to wrap up his latest book. Once there, he will encounter a young native, Fish, that will have a deep impact on his remaining days.
Started: Mar 30 2017 Finished: Mar 30 2017
A Brief History of Time
by Stephen Hawking (1998)
I had been wanting to read this book for a long time, and when I saw that a new and updated version was released, I decided it was finally the time to read it. The book is extremely enjoyable, I devoured half of it in a day, and I end up staying up late reading few nights in a row.
The book is very accessible to anyone, you do not need any scientific background to enjoy this book. A good half of the book covers high school physics, at a very high level. The other half, the most interesting one, goes beyond the standard curricula, and covers more recent developments in terms of quantum physics, time, and black holes. I found remarkably enlightening Dr. Hawking's proof that the thermodynamic time arrow, and the psychological time arrow must have the same direction.
While I loved the book (I really did!), I wish that the various topics were covered in more detail, even if that would require some math to be thrown in.
Started: Mar 26 2017 Finished: Mar 29 2017
by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
It was definitely not what I expected, and definitely not the typical post-apocalyptic novel. Instead, I discovered an audacious, dark, literary novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse. This is the only example of a book featuring a non linear timeline, a book where the narrative switch back and forth between the years before, during, and after the collapse, that actually works, and works very well. Station Eleven is the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them...
Mandel wavs a story with many threads, that adroitly cross each other when least expected, forming a breath taking tapestry. This is a really incredible book, that I strongly recommend to everybody.
Started: Mar 17 2017 Finished: Mar 25 2017
Red in Tooth and Cog
by Cat Rambo (2016)
What a beautiful short story! It is not a surprise that it was nominated for the Nebula award (unfortunately the author decided to decline the nomination, to leave space for less established new authors in the field).
The story is set in a near future, where all appliances comes with advanced AI, and are able to recharge themselves, and self-repair. One day Renee, taking a lunch break from work, decided to talk a walk in a nearby park, and eat her food outside. She sits on a bench, and she puts down her smart phone to open her food, when something grab her phone and run. Was it one a rogue appliance, one of those appliances that were discarded, but refused to be recycled, and ran away to live in the park?
This story explores the eternal question: what is life, in an original, and moving way.
Started: Mar 16 2017 Finished: Mar 17 2017
by Diana L.
The book is currently going through the last round of reviews. I promised the author to not leak anything about it... so I will replace this placeholder review with the real one, once it gets released. It is a great book! Stay tuned for more info.
Started: Mar 14 2017 Finished: Mar 15 2017
by Barbara Krasnoff (2016)
A beautiful short story, and Nebula award nominee, set in the America during prohibitionist, adroitly speaking about xenophobia, and the violence it triggers.
This is the story of Malka, the young daughter of a Jewish man, deeply involved in the labor movement, and of David, the son of a store owner, illegally selling alcohol during prohibitionist. David says he is dead, but Malka dismiss the claim as baseless: everybody knows that you cannot touch ghosts, and she has no trouble pinching David.
The encounter of the two young children, and the desire of Malka to introduce David to the customs of her ancestors, will bring the two men together.
Started: Mar 12 2017 Finished: Mar 14 2017
The Starlit Wood
by Dominik Parisien (2016)
This is the story of Tabitha, and Amira. Their stories, and their roles are the archetypal stories and roles of women in fairy tales. The same fairy tales that we still read to our children, often without realizing how misogynistic they are. One day, as Tabitha walks around the world to repent for having revealed to her mother she was a victim of abuse, she meets Amira. Their encounter will deeply change their lives, their way of thinking, and of living.
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 11 2017
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 117 (Clarkesworld Magazine, #117)
by Neil Clarke (2016)
A very interesting piece, touching very interesting topics like race relations, queerness, and otherness in America. The writing is quite good, the plot entertaining and interesting to read. I particularly enjoy how the two types of otherness, the one created by centuries of social discrimination, and the fictional blend and reinforce each other in the story. What I found troubling was MacReady's participation to a terrorist attack, and the fact that the author does not seem to see that act in a bad light. This stained what would have been otherwise an amazing short story.
Started: Mar 11 2017 Finished: Mar 11 2017
Lightspeed Magazine, March 2016
by John Joseph Adams
An hilarious "chose your own adventure" story, making fun of a future health care system that unfortunately is very similar, from many points of view, to our existing one.
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
Uncanny Magazine Issue 14: January/February 2017
by Lynne M. Thomas
I loved Leckie's Imperial Radch space opera, and I was eager to read more from who I consider one of my favorite authors. This story was very different from what I read before: it is not a science fiction piece, debating identity and colonialism. The Unknown God is a fantasy piece, set in a world of many Gods, where they can decide to walk among man. Aworo, Lord of Horses, god of the Western plains, decides to take human form, to try to understand why humans often do the unexpected... An almost theological reflection of life, that I really enjoyed, but for the ending, that was a little too unclear to me.
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
This is Not a Wardrobe Door
by A. Merc Rustad (2016)
A beautiful short story, written by somebody that grow up reading Narnia, and rebelling against the rule that prevents grown-ups to go through the gate. As other reviewers said, this is a nostalgic revisitation of an old trope, and a rebellion against it. Last, but not least, despite the short length of this work, the characters are well drawn and well rounded.
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
Come See the Living Dryad
by Theodora Goss (2017)
A sublime short story, something that reads like a memoir, and that sits between historical fiction and mystery. Come See the Living Dryad by Theodora Goss is the story of contemporary woman investigating the murder of an ancestor suffering from a rare disease who was a famous sideshow attraction in the nineteenth century. The disease, Lewandowsky-Lutz dysplasia, is unfortunately real, as was the exploitation of the sick and deformed in freak shows. The reader is left wondering how much of this story is fictional, and how much is real.
Started: Mar 09 2017 Finished: Mar 09 2017
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories
by Jason Sanford (2016)
Our future Earth have been saved from Human greed, and ecological destruction by a miracle that may be technological, or may be magic: the grains. The grains choose few humans, the anchor, to be their vessels to protect the land. The other humans are forced to wonder, forced to spend a life without a home, where each stop cannot last more than few days.
A magical and touching short story, with a solid and original world building, and memorable full rounded characters.
Started: Mar 08 2017 Finished: Mar 09 2017
by Yoon Ha Lee (2017)
While this novelette is part of a longer saga (The Machineries of Empire series), it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone story (as I did). I really enjoyed the world building, and I am left wanting to read more stories set in this fictional world.
If you are looking for a space opera, with entertaining character, and worlds with different cultures coming in contact, this may be a good pick for your next book.
Started: Mar 04 2017 Finished: Mar 07 2017
by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (2016)
The story is told by two narrators, both connected to the same place, the Orangery, a special natural preserve that shelters women that escaped from the abuse of men, turning into trees. One of the narrator is the guardian, living a life of solitude and isolation at the center of the orangery. The other narrator is the guide, bringing new people every day among the verdant residents. I liked the story, I liked how it borrows elements from the Greek mythology, and how they are used as allegories for the gender dynamics through history. If the plot has just been a little thicker, this could have been a little masterpiece.
Started: Mar 02 2017 Finished: Mar 04 2017
Losing Heart Among the Tall
by A.M. Dellamonica (2017)
This is the second short story set in the fiction world of Stormwrack, and I am starting to fall in love a little with its characters. The story is entertaining, and can be easily read as stand-alone without having read the book series (as it did for me).
The crew of the Nightjar find a merman of the fleet wounded and stranded in the ocean, and Gale and Parrish work to find out who would assault a member of the nation of Tallon's intelligence service. They soon discover a plot that could shake the foundations of the fleet.
Started: Mar 01 2017 Finished: Mar 02 2017
The Electric Executioner
by H.P. Lovecraft
I did not like this story, the characters, and their reactions, were not credible to the point that it was impossible for me to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the story. And I am not going to mention the usual xenophobic elements Lovecraft is infamous for.
The unnamed narrator of this story recounts his work as auditor and investigator for the Tlaxcala Mining Company. The assistant superintendent of its mine in Mexico's San Mateo Mountains has disappeared with the financial records, and the narrator is tasked with the job to recover the documents. He doesn't know the thief, Arthur Feldon, and has only "indifferent" photos to go by. Tracking Feldon won't be easy, for he may be hiding in the wilderness. The trip proceeds very slowly because of a series of train problems that cause huge delays. While stuck on the train, the narrator meets somebody clearly dangerous and crazy... Because apparently it is enough to look at somebody strange face expressions to decide that he is dangerous, and that's a good idea to shoot him.
Started: Feb 26 2017 Finished: Feb 26 2017
Uncanny Magazine Issue 10: May/June 2016
by Lynne M. Thomas
In a world where the dead are given to the sea, and once a year the sea gives them back for three days, the death horses rider have an important role: they need to guide the dead back to the sea before they transform from benevolent spirits, into ravenous blood thirsty creatures. The horse rider are carefully picked, and they need to follow tradition. All the signs points to Rowan to be the next one...
I am usually not fond of stories with a western flavor, but Alyssa Wong managed to write one I did like, and quite a lot. This is the story of Ellis, a young boy with a very deep connection with his land, the desert, and with mysterious powers. Ellis is being raised by Madame Lettie, the owner of the local brothel, and the second wife of his dead father. In the brothel, Ellis make himself useful with odd jobs, and sometimes as a ware for the not always straight customers.
The story starts three months after a mysterious incidents at the mines, that were the economical fulcrum of town, and three months after the violent death of Ellis' father...
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Feb 25 2017 Finished (first time): Feb 26 2017
Uncanny Magazine Issue 13: November/December 2016
by Lynne M. Thomas
For centuries the green knight challenge has been the same. The contenders arrive with the changing of the weather, ushered in by winter’s cold. Once a year, at the beginning of December, those silly boys who think challenging the green knight means that they are brave. All of them so eager to test their worth on the edge of the narrator husband's axe. Contender kings, and knights have been replaced by CEOs and venture capitalist, but nothing has changed... until this year.
A very interesting, and very fine example of message fiction, focusing on women rights, and rape. Given the brevity of the story, it is hard to say anything about it, without spoiling it. I would just say that it is a great piece from a Hugo / Nebula / Sturgeon / Locus finalist writer.
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Feb 16 2017 Finished (first time): Feb 16 2017
Forest of Memory
by Mary Robinette Kowal (2016)
In a near future, where an augmented humanity is always connected to the net, nobody is ever alone.
Katya deals in Authenticities and Captures, trading on nostalgia for a past long gone. Her clients are rich and they demand items and experiences with only the finest verifiable provenance. Other people's lives have value, after all. But when her A.I. suddenly stops whispering in her ear she finds herself cut off from the grid and loses communication with the rest of the world. The man who stepped out of the trees while hunting deer cut her off from the cloud, took her A.I. and made her his unwilling guest. There are no Authenticities or Captures to prove Katya’s story of what happened in the forest. You’ll just have to believe her…
Started: Feb 12 2017 Finished: Feb 14 2017
The Old Dispensation
by Lavie Tidhar (2017)
This is probably the best short fiction work I read this year, with incredible and fascinating world building. I really hope the author will write more stories set in this fictional world.
The old dispensation is a space opera adventure set in a universe controlled and run by Jewish religious authorities. An enforcer is sent to a distant planet where he discovers an android who changes his mind about what is right and wrong.
Started: Feb 10 2017 Finished: Feb 11 2017
The Pyramid of Krakow (The Mongolian Wizard, #6)
by Michael Swanwick (2015)
In this installment of the Mongolian Wizard series, Ritter is sent as a spy to Poland, recently conquered by the enemies. In there he will come in close contact with the horrors taking place behind enemy lines, and he will discover the source of power behind the Mongolian Wizard.
I really enjoyed this story, and it feels like the author is setting up the stage for an epic finale.
Started: Feb 09 2017 Finished: Feb 09 2017
The Night of the Salamander (The Mongolian Wizard, #5)
by Michael Swanwick (2015)
In this installment of the Mongolian Wizard series, Ritter is investigating the murder of Martel, a power field marshal, with the power to bent the will of everyone around him to the utmost devotion.
Angélique de La Fontaine, a powerful surgeon, joins Ritter in the investigation...
While I really like this series, and the role of Angélique in this story, this is my least favorite episode. The description of the homophobic society Ritter lives in, left me a little disturbed.
Started: Feb 07 2017 Finished: Feb 09 2017
The Phantom in the Maze (The Mongolian Wizard, #7)
by Michael Swanwick (2015)
Another entertaining story set in the world of the Mongolian Wizard. I was expecting this to be the last and final, but it is definitely not: while entertaining and well written, The Phantom in the Maze
does really little to advance the plot. In this installment of the series Ritter is sent to Scotland to investigate a murder taking place in a military research facility investigating time, and how to bent it...
(★★★)Number of times I read it
: 2Started (first time)
: Feb 09 2017 Finished (first time):
Feb 09 2017
Uncanny Magazine Issue 12: September/October 2016
by Lynne M. Thomas
An interesting story, that follows the structure and some of the plot elements of the classic fairy tales, but none of their sexist undertones, and morals. This is the story of a woman, escaped from a violent and angry family, that found power in witchcraft, and fell and sacrifice herself for an unworthy knight.
Started: Feb 07 2017 Finished: Feb 07 2017
The Greenest Gecko
by Ploy Pirapokin (2017)
While the story is set in a near future country of Pailand, it is very relevant in today world. The greenest gecko is a chilling reminder of how we all can be easily manipulated by the powerful.
After an unusual public incident in which the frail, elderly President is revitalized, geckos are now considered to bring good luck. At the Ministry of Merit, Fon is secretly in charge of building the next Gecko Mortar for the president for life family, to be deployed during the president's son's eightieth birthday. She is honored to be assigned this duty and works diligently to create and deliver this extraordinary machine.
Started: Feb 04 2017 Finished: Feb 04 2017
Life in Stone, Glass, and Plastic
by José Pablo Iriarte (2016)
A beautifully written, moving short story, dealing with love, memory, and Alzheimer.
An elderly man of South American descent, Sergio, is working two jobs to be able to support himself, and his dearly loved wife, that has been cognitively impaired (Alzheimer?) for years now. One day, he is asked to clean up a beautiful and very unusual graffiti on the side of the building. Sergio will try, but that graffiti will prove quite a challenge to remove...
Started: Feb 04 2017 Finished: Feb 04 2017
by Ellen Klages (2017)
Passing Strange is a moving love story, set in an historically accurate 1940 San Francisco, with a sprinkle of magic in it. While the story touches complex issues like xenophobia, homophobia, and the horror of wars, the main characters are women that stick together, and find happiness and love.
The city of San Francisco was, for the times, a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer "authentic" experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and places like Mona's, in the twilight world of forbidden love, where the discriminated, and persecuted outcasts from conventional society can meet. Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where mystery, science, and art intersect.
Last, but not least, kudos to Gregory Manchess, and Christine Foltzer, for the incredible cover, that is featured in the story itself.
Started: Jan 27 2017 Finished: Feb 03 2017
The Maiden Thief
by Melissa Marr (2016)
An exquisite dark fairy tale novelette about a teenager whose town is plagued by the annual disappearances of girls and young women. The young protagonist fears for her sister to be taken, and urge the town to take action. But her sister is taken next, and her father blames her for it.
Started: Jan 27 2017 Finished: Jan 27 2017
The Eye of the Swan A Tremontaine Story
by Kelly Robson (2016)
The Eye of the Swan, is a stand-alone tie-in short story by Kelly Robson, set in Tremontaine, a fictional world multiple writers are contributing to. In Tremontaine social advantage is best achieved through duels of wit and steel. Mind your manners and enjoy the chocolate in a dance of sparkling intrigue,
Started: Jan 27 2017 Finished: Jan 27 2017
A Place So Foreign and Eight More
by Cory Doctorow (2003)
A fantastic short sci-fi fiction centered around the concept of body hacking, written by somebody that must be a software engineer, entertaining and fascinating for everybody, but strongly recommended to all the software engineers in the Silicon Valley. This is the story of Murray Swain, one of the many computer scientist in the valley, devastated by the death of his best friend Liam. [spoilers removed]
Started: Jan 26 2017 Finished: Jan 27 2017
The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage
by Alix E. Harrow (2016)
An interesting alternative history novelette, set during the Westward expansion of the European Colonist, around the Mississippi area. Oona is born by the encounter of the Europeans with the First nation american, and she is despised by both as not belonging to either cultures. She has the power of the western people: by tracing rivers in ink on paper, Oona pins the land down to one reality, allowing the Europeans to settle the American land. This means betraying her people. Can she escape the bonds of gold and blood and bone that tie her to the Imperial American River Company?
Started: Jan 25 2017 Finished: Jan 26 2017
A Dead Djinn in Cairo
by P. Djèlí Clark (2016)
What a beautifully intriguing and entertaining alternative history novelette!
The story is set in a 1912 Cairo (Egypt) where somebody has perforated the wall between our world, and the supernatural one, opening the gates for djinns and angels to enter in our reality. The Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine. What starts off as an odd suicide case for Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha'arawi leads her through the city's underbelly as she encounters rampaging ghouls, saucy assassins, clockwork angels, and plot that could unravel time itself.
Started: Jan 24 2017 Finished: Jan 25 2017
The Virtual Swallows of Hog Island
by Julianna Baggott (2017)
In The Virtual Swallows of Hog Island, a programmer finds himself working for the self-proclaimed Bad-Boy of Virtual-Reality Therapy. While his boss is breaking new ground and breaking the rules and his coworkers are engaging in questionable uses of the latest technology, the lonely programmer is in a state of mourning over his deep personal losses and must figure out his own form of therapy.
I loved the premises of this story: a psychologist creating a virtual world to expose his clients to experiences to help them cope and conquer their problems. I was very disappointed by the story ending though (I will not say anything to avoid spoilers).
Started: Jan 25 2017 Finished: Jan 25 2017
The Atonement Tango
by Stephen Leigh (2017)
This novels is set in the Wild Cards world, a fictional universe that have been shared by many different authors for more than a quarter of a century. This and other stories can be fully appreciated as stand-alone.
In the "wild card" Earth, a virus has spread across the globe. The few survivors are often left disfigured, and with strange powers. There are called the jokers, rejected by society. Few lucky ones, the Aces, keeps the normal human appearance, but have extraordinary super powers.
This stories focuses on few Jokers, that have leveraged their unique physical traits, to create music. A single act of terrorism kills the majority of the band members, and changes the life of the surviving Michael “Drummer Boy” Vogali forever. Now without his band, Joker Plague, Michael must figure out a way to rebuild his life... and seek revenge.
Started: Jan 23 2017 Finished: Jan 24 2017
The Forever War
by Joe Haldeman
A horrifying cautionary tale about the machinery of war and its human cost. The Earth's leaders have drawn a line in the interstellar sand, despite the fact that the fierce alien enemy that they would oppose is inscrutable, unconquerable, and very far away. A reluctant conscript drafted into an elite Military unit, Private William Mandella has been propelled through space and time to fight in the distant never ending conflict; to perform his duties and do whatever it takes to survive the ordeal and return home. But "home" may be even more terrifying than battle, because, thanks to the time dilation caused by space travel, Mandella is aging months while the Earth he left behind is aging centuries. Despite the inaccuracies of his 1996 and 2007 projections, the book does not feel dated, and it is as relevant today, as when it was written.
Started: Jan 17 2017 Finished: Jan 23 2017
Microbiota and the Masses
by S.B. Divya (2017)
I really like this story, I wish it had a more satisfying endings. Moena is a scientist, that lives in a world of her own making, sealed off from the deadly pathogens of Bangalore in her own personal biome. But when she meets Rahul, a beautiful man working to clean up his city, her need for him draws her into the danger of outside. Will she risk her life work, her health, and her life, to follow her heart?
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 17 2017
by Karin Tidbeck (2013)
An interesting sci-fi short story, set in a future where space exploration has brought humans to the far reaches of our galaxy. One of the so many colonized world is the colony of Kiruna, a satellite orbiting around a big gas giant. The biologist Petr moves to this minor, half-abandoned colony, to follow his passion for lichens. While there, he meets the village outcast Aino, and he soon fall for her. But that's just the beginning, as he soon discovers, Kiruna has some very unique characteristics...
Great story, memorable characters, entertaining writing.
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
A Human Stain
by Kelly Robson (2017)
I usually am not too fond of Gothic horror novelette, but this one was adroitly written, and it features quite remarkable characters. Helen in particular is memorable, and I wish we could see more of her in the future (even if the ending precludes it). She is a colorful British expatriate at loose ends who is hired by her friend to temporarily care for his young, orphaned nephew in a remote castle-like structure in Germany. As you can imagine, the offer turns out to not be the good deal it initially appeared to be.
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Lightspeed Magazine, January 2017
by John Joseph Adams
A beautiful short story that reads like a fairy tale set in today world. The main character, Mara, is a young girl, raised by the ocean, by a single mother fond of fairy tales of mermaids, and fantastic sea creatures. The mother teaches Mara about the powers bestowed to women to calm or stir hurricanes, until one day, [spoilers removed]
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Infomocracy (The Centenal Cycle, #1)
by Malka Ann Older (2017)
An incredible, eye opening literary achievement. In this book, Malka Ann Older
, reflects on modern democracy, and the role of information, in a fictional, yet so realistic and so close to ours in too many ways fictional world. It's been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global micro-democracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything's on the line. With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain?
: Jan 08 2017 Finished:
Jan 16 2017
A Pest Most Fiendish
by Caighlan Smith (2016)
A steampunk short story, featuring Miss Pippa Kipling and her automaton companion, the Porter, in their (paid) quest to exterminate pests of the supernatural variety. What should be a typical job in your average haunted cavern soon derails in an inconveniently undead fashion. Even with the aid of her gadget collection and the Porter s prowess, this task may prove fatal for Miss Kipling or worse, rip her petticoat.
I really hope to see more of Miss Pippa and Ms The Porter in the future, they make up an entertaining duo.
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2013)
I am a big fan of Kai Ashante Wilson
. I particularly enjoyed his award winning The Devil in America
, and his story set in the Wildeep
fictional universe. I was eager to read some more by the author, and I discovered this novelette published by Tor. It is a good story, and I can see in it some hints of the themes, greatness, and craft of his later work.
It is the story of Gian, that returns to Sea-john from the Kingdom's wars certain that he has skills beyond killing, death and destruction. He needs to prove to himself that love is just as strong, if not stronger, than his hate. The Summer King gives him this opportunity.
: Jan 08 2017 Finished:
Jan 08 2017
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, #1)
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2015)
The Devil in America
is one of my favorite books, and I was thrilled to get a chance to read more by the same author. While not as good as his previous novella, this is a remarkable book. It is not a easy read: the plot is far from linear, and the style is an odd yet interesting mix of sophisticated and refined writing, main street talking, and scientific jargon. The grammar and the word choices are often unusual to force the read to go back and read the text multiple times to understand its meaning. Despite this difficulty, the style works, it helps in world and characters building.
This is the story of Demane, an earthbound demigod, also knows as the sorcerer, since he left his homeland. With his ancestors' artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight. The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive. The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive.
A very short story, set in the world of A Taste of Honey
, providing more information about the intriguing fictional world of Kai Ashante Wilson
. While interesting, the short length of the story limits its appeal.
(★★★★★)Number of times I read it
: 2Started (first time)
: Apr 18 2016 Finished (first time):
Apr 23 2016
Lightspeed Magazine, June 2016: People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue (Lightspeed Magazine, Issue #73)
by Nalo Hopkinson
Lightspeed destroy is an annual initiative focusing on the writings of traditionally underrepresented minorities. The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction special issue exists to relieve a brokenness in the genre that's been enabled time and time again by favoring certain voices and portrayals of particular characters. It brings forth a very diverse set of talented authors, some very well-established, and other very newm from around the globe to present science fiction that explores the nuances of culture, race, and history. People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! is 100% written and edited by people of color. It features twenty original, never-before-published short and flash fiction stories, plus five classic reprints, by the likes of Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler (believe it or not, I never had read anything from them before... I was blown away!). It also includes an array of nonfiction articles, interviews, and book reviews; and more than two dozen personal essays from people of colo(u)r discussing their experiences as readers and writers of science fiction.
Started: Dec 28 2016 Finished: Jan 06 2017