Tuesday, May 19 2015

Hugo voting packet now available

I just downloaded the voting packet for this year’s Hugo Awards, and unlike the folks who’ve sworn to vote in lockstep against anything that was nominated by wrongfans, I intend to read the whole thing before casting my votes.

Updates as I read them.


Graphic Story

I’ve read the four Graphic Story entries in the packet (The Zombie Nation Book #2 was not included). None of them are even half as good as any Astro City collection, but it wasn’t nominated, and they were, so I’m tentatively going with Ms Marvel. It starts off with a whiff of pre-emptive outrage, as if the creators are daring Hatey McWhiteHate to jump on the Haternet and start ranting about brown people and evil mooslims stealin our white blonde superchicks, but fortunately they get over it, and go on to tell a half-decent origin story that’s saved from mediocrity by an excellent heroine and a well-drawn 2.5-dimensional family. If they keep the focus on heroine and family, it will be pretty good. I plan to buy a physical copy.

Saga is imaginative and has nice art, but all I knew about it before reading volume 3 was a vague memory of controversy over the graphic depiction of childbirth in an earlier issue; the story didn’t grab me, but it’s well-done. Rat Queens is straightforward RPG grrl-power fantasy; meh. Sex Criminals feels like it was written 20 years ago and drawn today, and it’s not as titillating as the creators think; also meh.

The Zombie Nation is a webcomic, but I suppose I’ll have to poke around to find out what’s included in book 2, to evaluate it properly.

Novel

Skin Game has an early lead, on the grounds that I’ve already read it at least five times. People unfamiliar with The Dresden Files may have difficulty getting into book 15, but while there’s a crapton of context, I think it actually does a pretty good job of establishing the universe and characters for a new reader.

I’m just starting Ancillary Sword, and between the terrible blurb on Amazon, the clunky exposition on the first few pages, the fact that it’s book 2, and the names that were generated with a set of Boggle dice, it’s not grabbing me. The publisher supplied a hundred-page excerpt, and I’ll give it a fair shot, but I’d have already put it back on the shelf if I’d found it in a book store. (Update: finished the excerpt, managed to adjust to the awkward prose style, not really interested in any of the characters or what happens to them)

Nominally the first book in a trilogy, The Dark Between The Stars is completely impenetrable unless you’ve read the previous seven books and kept detailed notes. There are at least a dozen vaguely-connected point-of-view characters (9 in the first 10 chapters!), and I’d already forgotten the first three when I reached chapter four. I see no reason to continue. The editor should be smacked for not insisting on an intro, given that even for a loyal reader, it’s been six years since the previous book set in this universe.

The Goblin Emperor is a court intrigue drama set in a lightly-sketched fantasy world. That is, the protagonist goes through a series of experiences that happen to take place in a world that has races called elves and goblins, a world that you learn very little about. It is slow and well-mannered, and the protagonist faces no serious challenges or setbacks; he merely accepts his place in the world and performs his duty, while surrounded by characters whose personalities remain as unexplored as his world. It is neither exciting nor boring, and yet I managed to finish it, setting it above Ancillary and Dark. I would not give it an award, and had I been its editor, I would have told the author to use it as the backstory for an actual fantasy novel about the priest-detective who solves the murder mystery that put the protagonist on the throne. He at least gets to live in the world that the emperor rules.

I’m now 58% (Kindle) of the way through The Three-Body Problem, and I am completely baffled by Theresa Nielsen Hayden’s claim that “If they’re participating because they love the genre, and they’re into old-fashioned SF virtues, then surely they’ll have nominated The Three-Body Problem”, because I’ve yet to encounter anything resembling SF in the book (oh, wait; there’s the thing with the timestamp that’s forgotten almost immediately in favor of playing the dullest online game in history). In fact, it reads as if the author was told that SF consists of making frequent references to science and scientists in a contemporary novel. Browsing spoilers, it appears that there is actual significant SFnal content coming up, but if true, the only award this novel deserves so far is The Buried Lede. Seriously, in promoting this (on their web site and apparently nowhere else), Tor.com promised: “A covert military project. A secret war revealed as the worst fight that humanity has ever faced. Baffling mysteries. A series of ultra-science weapons, each more powerful and fantastic than the last, including one technology described as more important than nuclear bombs. Aliens that may be saviors, or invaders, or both.” At 58% I’ve got a military project and baffling mysteries, and none of the rest; some guy in a bar has claimed that there are aliens, but he’s an idiot. I can’t recall any classic SF that took this long to get to the point, but perhaps TNH can enlighten me. (update: I just read chapter 30; this book is horseshit)

Novelette

The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale is a breath of fresh air after slogging through TBP. It’s not just a good yarn filled with crunchy SF tropes, it’s unapologetically optimistic about humanity.

Short Story

Totaled isn’t bad. I didn’t find it particularly compelling, and it’s a bit rushed, but not bad. I’m not terribly optimistic about any of the others, so while it would set a pretty low bar for “award-winning”, I won’t No-Award it; I’ll just leave it off my ballot. Actually, I refuse to No-Award anything this year, because it’s become a weapon to shout down Wrongfans.

A Single Samurai suffers from lengthy as-you-know-Bob exposition delivered in an affected style that might work for people who only know samurai from subtitled movies. I lost interest fast.