Books

2017 Hugo Awards – The Novelettes

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2017 Hugo Awards – The Novelettes

Hands up, anyone who knows the difference between a novelette and a novella. Anyone? Okay, a novelette is a work of fiction that clocks in at anywhere from 7500 – 17500 words; basically it longer than a short-story but shorter than a novella. Everyone take notes because there’ll be a test later.

This year the Hugo novelette division features six very strong entries (well, five, and one that wins for humor at least), covering the range from Partly Sci-Fi to Mostly Fantasy to whatever category you want to attach to Stix Hiscock’s story. Click the jump for a brief review of the Hugo 2017 nominees for Best Novelette.

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Review: 2017 Hugo Award Finalists – The Short Stories

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Review: 2017 Hugo Award Finalists – The Short Stories

Okay, it’s time to buckle down and start trying to see how many of this year’s Hugo Nominees we can review before the awards are given on August 11. Everyone who reads this column probably knows by now that I’m really fond of short stories, so let’s start with those. Click the jump for a short (naturally, right?) review of each of the finalists for Best Short Stories.

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Review: Vision Vol. 1 – Little Worse Than A Man

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Review: Vision Vol. 1 – Little Worse Than A Man

It’s the quintessential American Dream: a respectable government job and a house in the DC suburbs. The picture wouldn’t be complete without a beautiful wife and two happy children, or at least that’s what the Vision thinks. So he went to a lot of trouble and made them.

Nominated for a Hugo Award this year, Tom King’s Little Worse Than A Man (with illustrations by Gabriel Walta) shows what happens when a non-human hero is determined to live a human life. It’s a story that starts out light and then gets dark surprisingly fast.

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Review: Motor Girl – Real Life

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Review: Motor Girl – Real Life

Samantha Locklear is dealing with things as best as she can. And she does have a lot of things to deal with. A former marine who served three tours of duty, she’s suffering from PTSD and multiple medical problems after being held as a POW for almost a year. And then there’s the mysterious lights in the sky, and a businessman who has an obsession with those lights and who’s looking to buy up all the property in the area, whether the owners want to sell or not.

Fortunately Sam’s got a job she’s very good at (mechanic in a desert scrapyard), and a very understanding boss who’s not at all intimidated by pushy businessmen. Oh, and there’s also Sam’s best friend in the world, a 600-pound talking gorilla named Mike.

Mike, as you’ve probably guessed, is completely imaginary. What’s interesting is that Sam knows this.

Even more interesting? I’m pretty sure Mike knows it too.

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Review: The Refrigerator Monologues

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Review: The Refrigerator Monologues

Bad things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. Bad things happen to okay people. Bad things happen to everyone. Good things happen to…well, somebody, probably. Somebody somewhere else.

Being a superhero causes a lot of collateral damage, and we’re not just talking about crossover events that level a city block. Start dating a guy who has a superpower and/or a secret identity and suddenly you’ve got a target on your back with a sign reading “FOR CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, SHOOT HERE”.

Ever wonder what those hapless wives and girlfriends of superheroes think about this trend? Imagine knowing that your ex gets a dramatic pose and a lost love to avenge, while you get a cosmic prison, a room in an insane asylum, or an eternity wearing the godawful clothes someone picked for you to wear in your casket. (Really, these shoes with that dress? Come on now…)

Catherynne Valente’s latest book The Refrigerator Monologues (due out this June) is a collection of six stories told from the point of view of women who have been “refrigerated”: stripped of their powers, driven insane, strangled and stuffed in a fridge, basically removed from the stage in order to move the “real” hero’s story forward. Written in Valente’s delightfully off-kilter style and with illustrations by Hawkeye‘s Annie Wu, the women of the Hell Hath Club swap tales while hanging out at the Lethe Cafe in Deadtown, the city where the fictional go when they die.

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Review: The Fifth Season

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Review: The Fifth Season

On the ironically-named world of Stillness, where earthquakes and volcanoes are treated like particularly bad weather, something happens to break the planet open much, much worse than it’s ever been broken before.

A mother leaves her village, her own world having ended just slightly before the rest of the world did.

A little girl discovers a new talent and is exiled from her family for it. She’s soon taken away to begin training in her new life as an orogene.

And in the glittering city of Yumenes, a talented young woman is rising through the ranks of orogenes, clawing her way towards, if not freedom, then at least a little privacy and the right to say “no” every once in a while. She’s sent on an assignment with one of the most powerful orogenes in existence, and gradually finds out how much that power is worth.

N.K. Jemisin’s 2015 novel The Fifth Season is the first book in what I hope is a very long series. It’s science fiction (with some horror) in a fantasy setting. It’s an epic adventure with a tiny bit of romance, lots of tragedy, and the story starts with the end of the world. This is the kind of book you fall into and then stumble out of days later, wondering what the hell just happened and when can you have some more.

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2017 Hugo Awards – The Finalists

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2017 Hugo Awards – The Finalists

The finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards have been announced, and it’s quite a list. Between best short fiction, best novel, best series, best editor, best fanzine, and everything else, there are 108 entrants battling it out. And I’ve read…six of them. Granted, those six were all pretty amazing, but I feel like I’m missing out.

This year I’d like to try something similar to Pixelated Geek’s coverage of the 2017 Oscars. Between now and when the winners are announced at the 75th Worldcon in Helsinki, we’ll be posting the occasional review of any of the finalists’ works that we can get our hands on. For each item on the list we’ll also post links to Pixelated Geek reviews (if they have one) and places where each of these are available for you to read (either free or for purchase) so we can battle it out in the comments about which one deserves to win their category.

Click the jump for a full list of the finalists.

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Review: The Clockwork Dynasty

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Review: The Clockwork Dynasty

For the first time I see what must be my own hand. An economy of brass struts wrapped in supple leather. And now I truly begin to understand that I am also a thing in this world. Not like the doll who is writing a few feet away with all the mindfulness of water choosing a path downhill. Something more.

Daniel H. Wilson, author of the popular Robopocalypse series, has a book coming out this August about a completely different type of robot: a sentient race of clockwork beings who have kept their existence a secret from humanity for centuries. Until now.

In 1709 Russia, a creature of clockwork and leather opens its eyes to see the delicate porcelain face of a doll that’s been cleverly made to write. In present day Oregon, June Stefanov examines a centuries-old writing doll, trying to record everything she can before it’s inevitably lost to whoever it is that’s been destroying clockwork rarities. June carries a strange relic passed on by her grandfather, and before the end of the day she’ll be running for her life from a monster who’s trying to steal the relic and then silence June before she can pass along the word she learned from the doll: avtomat.

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Review: Sleeping Giants

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Review: Sleeping Giants

There I was, this tiny little thing at the bottom of a hole, lying on my back in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Rose was only eleven years old when the ground opened underneath her. The rescuers who arrived on the scene found, not a sinkhole, but a fifty-foot square shaft, covered in glowing carvings, surrounding an impossible artifact at least a thousand years older than human civilization.

Seventeen years later, physicist Dr. Rose Franklin finds herself in charge of the team assigned to find out how the gigantic robotic hand works, what it was doing beneath a forest just outside Deadwood South Dakota, and whether there are more pieces buried in other parts of the world.

The hand isn’t just impossibly old; it’s made of elements that couldn’t have been found on Earth, and the technology is far beyond anything humans could have made. Worse, it might be a lot more than humans can control.

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Review: Summer in Orcus

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Review: Summer in Orcus

1. Don’t worry about things that you cannot fix.

2. Antelope women are not to be trusted.

3. You cannot change essential nature with magic.

– Instructions in a stained-glass window, written on a book carried by a saint wearing purple sneakers

Eleven-year-old Summer dreams of adventure…but if she’s honest about it her idea of “adventure” involves a little freedom from her over-protective mother. It would be nice to do things like go to camp, or ride a Ferris Wheel, or maybe just take a bath without someone checking every five minutes to make sure she isn’t drowning. She certainly never planned to step through a magic portal and wind up all on her own in a strange new world with a weasel on her shoulder, but then who does?

Starting life as an online serial, T. Kingfisher’s latest book Summer in Orcus dives headfirst into a land of bird aristocrats, manticore cheese, snail marketplaces, and a masked warlord serving the mysterious Queen-In-Chains. It all starts when Summer has a chance meeting with Baba Yaga, who sends her on a journey to find her Heart’s Desire.

It might have been helpful if Baba Yaga had told her what that is.

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