Book Review: “That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn

Four Stars

“Since they were telepaths, they’d know the answer to that.”

How do you war against telepaths, or play chess for that matter? Or fall in love? A well-told short story about a logical conundrum. Well-plotted. Good point of view character.

“… took off their uniforms, they would look the same: naked.”

Short and to the point. One of the best of the 2017 finalist for Hugo Award short story.

“We are all of us wounded.”

No, I’m not going to tell. Read it for yourself.

“This is how you won the war.” “No, this is how we failed to lose.”

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.”

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.”

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: 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: “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 Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan

Four Stars

“It was time to shut up. For the first time in my life I was feeling another person’s pain like it was my own.”

Ah. A refreshing short story, which takes the reader deep inside a character in a recognizably near future. No fantasy; very little science, but pretty of good storytelling.

“What did fathers ever do for the world in any case, except saddle unsuspecting women with unwanted children?”

Another markedly feminist tale. This year’s Hugo Awards finalists include a host of socially-relevant (and some irrelevant) topics. This tale was among the best of them.

“When she goes, all her stories will go with her, the ones she makes up as well as the ones that happen to be true. Once she’s gone, I’ll never know which were which.”

Quibbles: Apparently Allan doesn’t understand what the deleted in depleted uranium means. There are issues, but not so dramatic as portrayed. “… ends with the doomed one taking off his or her helmet, making a quick and noble end of it.” It’s really, really hard to take off your helmet in a vacuum; if you bleed the air out you’ll be dead before you get it off.

“In leaving this world, she makes me feel more properly a part of it.”