My Mini-Quest for a Retro Hugo Holy Grail

Misty Midwest Mossiness

Earlier this month, I began the process of finding all the Retro Hugo Finalists short fiction selections in various anthologies through my wonderful local libraries and the miracle of the modern world commonly known as inter-library loan (ILL for short).  I requested the majority of the anthologies through my local home library in Lansing but the one I thought would have the least chance of fulfillment I requested through my other favorite library, the Kansas City Public Library.  Two of the short stories finalists for the 1943 Retro Hugo were only available in an anthology which was last printed in 1980.  I searched various websites that sell used books but as I suspected, any copies of Asimov’s The Great SF Stories 4: 1942 were hard to find and priced accordingly.  I should not have been surprised when I received an email from KCPL letting me know my ILL was…

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Book Review: “A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad

(Four Stars)

“All known forgeries are failures.”

Hilarious short story about a bio-forger in way over her head. Help comes from an unlikely addition to her “staff.”

“The trick is to not get ambitious.”

Well-developed short story with the reader learning bits as the plot progresses.

“There are so many ways for a forgeries to go wrong, and only one way it can go right.”

(2018 Hugo Award short story finalist. Illustration is cover of magazine in which story appeared; has nothing to do with story.)

Book Review: Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear (Two Stars)

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Book Review: Stone Mad (Karen Memory #2) by Elizabeth Bear

(Two Stars)

“Overkill is something of a personal defect.”

The subtitle tells it all: recycled. Not a bad story, but neither the story nor the characters are half as complex and engaging as in Karen Memory. Bear tried to compensate with the interplay among Karen’s female friends, but that felt forced, too. Even the antagonist is sympathetic and not very threatening.

“Deciding you know something when you don’t is about the deadliest thing a person can do.”

Lots of preaching, which also rehashes much of the first novel. Karen’s awkward syntax lacks the originality of the first opus, too.

“The advantage of being elderly is you don’t have to make the same stupid self-defeating decision the same way a second time.”

Book Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells (Five Stars)

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Book Review: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells

(Five Stars)

“I am not a combat murderbot, I am security.”

Another of the plethora of AI stories this Hugo year. This novella is marked by the great inner voice of a robot who has hacked his own command module and spends too much time watching the entertainment feed. Nice cover art.

“Lowest bidder. Trust me on that one.”

Since the entire story is told from the robot–cyborg, actually–point of view, Wells only gives the reader clues what’s really going on. The reader sorts it out alone with our protagonist.

“When I do manage to care, I am a pessimist.”

(2018 Hugo Award novella finalist)

Movie Review: Ready Player One, produced and directed by Steven Spielberg (Five Stars)

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Movie Review: Ready Player One, produced and directed by Steven Spielberg.

(Five Stars)

“Maybe we should stop talking about it and start showing it. If you all want to reach under your seats, you’ll find there’s nothing there.”

Spielberg hasn’t lost his touch. Great fun; better than the book. A trip down memory lane for people of a certain age, a smash up of many pop culture references for others, and a heart-warming team action adventure for others. Lots of video images, violence and unreality because it’s about a virtual reality world.

“She wanted to go dancing, so we watched a movie.”

The inventor of the fictional Oasis mass multiplayer universe may be Continue reading

Book Review: “The Secret Life of Bots” by Suzanne Palmer (Five Stars)

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Book Review: “The Secret Life of Bots” by Suzanne Palmer

(Five Stars)

“I serve”

Short, sweet, and hilarious. Well-conceived and -written short story from the point of view of an obsolete (maybe) nano-sized repair robot. Nothing spectacular, but well done.

“… turning space into something that would give Escher nightmares.”

Read and enjoy.

“We’ve got a long trip home.” “But we are home.”

(2018 Hugo Award novelette finalist. Illustration is cover of magazine in which story appeared; has nothing to do with story.)

Book Review: “Wind Will Rove” by Sarah Pinsker (Two Stars)

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Book Review: “Wind Will Rove” by Sarah Pinsker

(Two Stars)

“There aren’t new things in history. That’s why it’s called history.”

A well-told short story about life on a generation space ship which has lost all its records of Earth. Nice story, but never made a point. Perhaps that’s why the younger generation couldn’t see the point.

“Maybe we failed these children already if they thought the past was irrelevant.”

(2018 Hugo short story finalist. Illustration is cover of magazine in which story appeared; has nothing to do with story.)

Book Review: “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Three Stars)

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Book Review: “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience” by Rebecca Roanhorse

(Three Stars)

“Tourists don’t come to Sedona Sweats to live out a [expletive] battle, especially if the white guy loses. They come to find themselves.”

An engaging tale about a young man who facilitates immersive native American experiences for non-native Americans: “pretendians.” What could go wrong? Plenty. Well-conceived and written.

“Tourists aren’t all bad. They’re just needy.”

(2018 Hugo finalist short story)

Book Review: New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Three Stars)

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Book Review: New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

(Three Stars)

“People are blind to a bubble they are inside.”

On the Waterfront meets A Christmas Carol as told by Karl Marx. A cautionary science fiction extrapolating an ocean level rise exceeding fifty feet. Well-developed ensemble of characters with interwoven plots. Lots of preaching. Three hundred pages of excellent story hidden among another three hundred of repetition and bombast. Lots of quotable epigrams.

“You think what you see is the totality.”

Make no mistake: Robinson has an agenda. Cynical view of almost everybody: politicians, cops, investment bankers, lovers, water rats. No, kind of soft toward the water rats. The humbler the character; the more sympathetic the portrayal.

“Everyone’s leveraged, right? More loans than assets?” “If you’re doing it right.”

Quibbles: Lots of nits keep knocking the reader out of the spell of the story, starting with Continue reading

Book Review: Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

(Three Stars)

“Friends don’t keep score.”

Well-developed steampunk with engaging characters. It’s as much parallel universe as alternate timeline, but it mostly works. Good weaving of historic and imagined elements. Good storytelling.

“Don’t tell me I’m better off for being an orphan.” “No more so that I’m better off for having been a slave.”
Most of the primary characters are social outcast for no reason of their own. Their bonding works, if a bit idyllic.

“These feelings ain’t nohow sensible. They just is.”

The narrator and main character has twisted syntax in order to contrast her native wit with Continue reading