Book Review: “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (Three Stars)

issue13coverv2_large-340x510Book Review: “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar

Three Stars

“What’s strong is the shoes women are made to wear: shoes of glass, shoes of paper, shoes of iron. Heated red hot; shoes to dance to death in.”

Good story. Well-developed. A finalist for 2017 Hugo Award for short stories.

“Magic is magic is magic and there is always a stronger magic.”

Contrary to the tag, not a “gay” story. It’s a story “about two women reaching out of their respective tales,” the author says in her notes. “The enormity of what friendship means.” I try to read stories cold–that is, without reading liner notes, blurbs or other reviews–because I don’t want the opinions of others getting between me and the author.

“You climbed a glass hill by accident.”

Goodreads.com displays the cover art associated with another story is shown for this. I assume because both stories appear in the same issue of Uncanny magazine. It fit the other story better.

“She loved him for loving her as he loved no one else.”

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Book Review: “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong

Four Stars

“There was nothing phoenix-like in my sister’s immolation….”

Really intense inquiry into the nature of time and the possibility of alternate outcomes. Good development and manic pace. Best read at a single go.

“The chain frays, spread out like roots possibilities endless.”

Excellent stream-of-consciousness plot line. Go with the flow. Nice cover art.

“… looking for artisanal french fries.”

What’s the deal with all the charred bodies? Was there a hidden criteria that this year’s Hugo Awards, for which this tale is a finalist short story, had to involve death and destruction? Or is it just the world we live in?

“You can’t fix this. It was never yours to control.”

Book Review: “An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright

Four Stars

“We robots are meant to serve man, not destroy them. We and we alone labor out of pure love for mankind.”

Set in Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot universe, but takes human-android relations in a direction Asimov might not have conceived, though perfectly logical. As expected, deals with questions of sentience and life.

“Humans cannot stand near perfection. It makes men die.”

Good storytelling and development. The characters are vivid, if obvious. Justice and truth clash. Well done. Thought provoking.

“To utter certain types of truths is a micro-aggression. It creates a hostile environment we humans find uncomfortable.” “Your ancestors were more robust.”

Philosophically Platonic, dealing in independently true ideas. Make no mistake, Wright has a politically incorrect agenda. Since the Hugo Awards, for which this story is a 2017 short story finalist, is basically a popularity contest, I’m surprised this tale got this far.

“The robots are utterly logical, utterly benevolent, and utterly terrifying.”

Movie Review: Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins (Four Stars)

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theatrical release poster

Movie Review: Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins

Four Stars

“You have been my greatest love. Today you become my greatest sadness. Be careful, Diana. They do not deserve you.”

I grew up under a rock. I never read a Wonder Woman comic book, nor many others. So I don’t know what’s canonical and what’s blasphemy, but this is a cogent whole. For an action movie it’s pretty good.

“A pair of glasses, and suddenly she’s not the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen?”

Nice fish-out-water sub-theme about Diana in 1917 Europe. And also a moderately funny romantic subplot. Etta, I assume, is comic relief. Steve’s friends are the mixed bag expected of modern storytelling and, in the context, is not less believable than the rest of it. In contrast to other cinema superheros, Diana is positive and self-confident. She is a force for good and happy in that role.

“It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”

 

Book Review: “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong (One Star)

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Book Review: “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong

One Star

“Bad things happens to men who marry the desert.”

Spoiler: Horror. Zombies. Shape-shifters. No, thank you. Can’t imagine why so much horror among 2017 Hugo Award finalists. This is a novelette.

“One time isn’t a pattern.”

Well-told from the point of view of the young shapeshifter. Good writing.

“Don’t pin your hopes on dreams.”

The cover art is of the magazine this appeared in, and has nothing to do with this story.

“Don’t do anything stupid.”

Book Review: This Census-Taker by China Miéville (Two Stars)

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Book Review: This Census-Taker by China Miéville

Two Stars

“I knew that day that my father was feeding only the darkness.”

Short, pointless, poorly done. Expected better more from Miéville. At least it wasn’t offensive, an accomplishment among 2017 Hugo Award novella finalists. (Nice cover art.)

“Once I asked my father, ‘Why do you want me?’ I still think it was the bravest thing I’ve ever done.”

Talk about your unreliable narrator. Holden Caulfield syndrome. Mixed tenses–first, second and third–confuses the story. Big vocabulary and syntax change late in the story, presumably to indicate a shift in narrator maturity, but then wasn’t the whole story written by him?

“The more you know about people the better.”

Book Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Five Stars)


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Five Stars

“We don’t need better emotional communication from machines. We need people to have more empathy.”

The Two Cultures meets American Gods.

“Sometimes I wish I was crazy, it would make everything easier.”

The final war between magic and science happens in San Francisco. Seriously good fiction about magic, science, love and machines. Oh, and the end of the world.

“Children are adults who haven’t learned to make fear their hand puppet.”

Excellent character development and plotting. Drew readers in without boring us with four years of magic academy. Philosophic reflection over Continue reading

Book Review: Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien de Castell (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Knight’s Shadow (Greatcoats #2) by Sebastien de Castell

Four Stars

“Yes, I’m trusting our lives to that fat slug, and yes, of course, he’s going to betray us.”

A little grittier than the first in this series. Classic epic fantasy with a side order of humor. Not heavy reading nor great literature, but enjoyable. Interestingly, all the transformational characters are female. The men are who they are, though Falcio’s struggle is being who he really is.

“The truth that makes our courage fail and our hearts surrender. That we fear most is simply ourselves.”

The stakes are higher and the odds lower, and the protagonist has a one-liner for every occasion. Good story telling. Fun interaction between characters.

“Love isn’t a cage.”

Countless epigrams: some witty, some pithy, some memorable. Like the cover art.

“Happiness is … grains of sand spread out in a desert of violence and anguish.”

Book Review: “Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Three Stars)

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Book Review: “Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman

Three Stars

“They wanted to be left alone. Nobody believed it.”

Intriguing take on an old science fiction saw. Good character and story development. A fun read. 2017 Finalist for 2017 Hugo Award novelette.

“It’s your conscious mind that’s the slave master, always worrying about control. Your unconscious only wants to preserve you.”

Quibble: There is no way an RV could surreptitiously approach, load, and depart an alien structure in the District of Columbia. Dozens–no, hundreds of private, corporate, and governmental cameras would record it and track the RVs every move.

“They don’t live in an imaginary future like most people.”

Big behavior shift by protagonist at climax not well presented. Nice cover art, though it has nothing to do with the story.

“There’s no death if there’s no self to be aware of.” “No life either.”

Book Review: The Tomato Thief (Jackalope Wives #2) by Ursula Vernon (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “The Tomato Thief” (Jackalope Wives #2) by Ursula Vernon

Four Stars

“When someone in the desert asks for water, you give it to them. There weren’t many rules in the desert, but that was one of them.”

Good use of Arizona native and desert history and lore to add depth to this short story, a 2017 Hugo Awards finalist for novelettes. Another story with a mature–very mature–female protagonist. There must be a special on them this year. (They’re special every year.)

“There’d been a time, when she was young and immortal, when [redacted] she could have danced in the track that they left in the sand. She felt old and mortal now.”

Excellent slow slide from the mundane into the supernatural.

“‘I ain’t dying yet,’ and that may or may not have been a lie. She wasn’t quite sure.”