Book Review: “Bots of the Lost Ark” by Suzanne Palmer (five stars)

Book Review: “Bots of the Lost Ark” by Suzanne Palmer (five stars)

(Clarkesworld, Jun 2021)

“I await this new opportunity to serve you with my utmost diligence and within my established parameters, as I always do.” “Ha! You do no such thing, and if I had a better option, I would have left you in storage,” Ship said.

Hilarious! Further adventures of 9 and Ship. (“The Secret Life of Bots” won the 2018 Hugo for Best Novelette.) Think: nano-sized R2-D2.

“If the Ysmi are greeted by a free-floating swarm of delusional bots claiming both personhood and unconstrained authority, we will all be relieved of the burden of worrying about any and all of our functions thereafter.”

Popcorn for the brain space opera, but fun. Gratuitous profanity cost Palmer a star.

“What do you anticipate LOPEZ will do?” 9 asked. “Attempt to retake control of the gloms. If that fails, it will attempt to either take over or destroy my mind-system, destroy the humans, or, if it is clear it cannot succeed and survive as itself, destroy the entire ship.” “Those are all suboptimum,” 9 said.

(2022 Hugo Award Novelette finalist)

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Book Review: “Across the Green Grass Fields” by Seanan McGuire (four stars)

Book Review: “Across the Green Grass Fields” (Wayward Children #6) by Seanan McGuire (four stars)

“You’re perfect. You’ve always been perfect, and you always will be.” Regan, whose ideas of perfection were closely linked to conformity, didn’t say anything.

What a relief. After trying and quitting two earlier offerings in this series, I shuddered before trying again. Third time’s a charm. Well set up and executed story of Regan’s problem and adventure.

Anyone who answered a friend’s honesty with horror and rejection had never been a friend in the first place.

The inciting incident is well arranged to both introduce the then-ten-year-old protagonist and draw the reader into the story on Regan’s side. Cliches mark the passing of time and by that kept the story tight and focused.

“Let them learn that destiny’s a lie, and let them find the way to govern themselves, as they should have done from the beginning. Let them learn humans are people, the way you never learned that they were.”

Doors play a major role: some clearly marked, some not. Is that not the way with life? We pass through portals to service or servitude; life choices which we fail to recognize or are unprepared for. Doors which in retrospect look a lot like destiny. Yet those diverging paths make all the difference.

She didn’t feel like a hero. She didn’t feel like much of anything beyond an exhausted teenager. She still felt like she was saving the world.

(2022 Hugo Awards novella finalist)

Book Review: “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker (four stars)

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Book Review: “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker (four stars)

(Uncanny Magazine Issue 39)

It feels funny to be searching for traces of Rydell where he was searching for traces of truth in this ballad, like we’re all chasing each other

In the form of a social media chat about the titular poem, the short story takes the reader deeply into a world that may or may not have been/be.

11 Sweet William was supporters’ nickname for Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, known as Butcher Cumberland to his Tory enemies! He died relatively young, with no children. Possible link?  –Dynamum
–BarrowBoy marked this as a stretch–

Not really fantasy nor science fiction, but insightful and funny. With an undercurrent of suspense. Well done.

That’s awfully reductive, and I’m not sure what allegory you’re seeing.

(2022 Hugo Awards Short Story finalist)

Book Review: Colors of the Immortal Palette by Caroline M. Yoachim (three stars)

Book Review: Colors of the Immortal Palette by Caroline M. Yoachim (three stars)

(Uncanny Magazine, Mar/Apr 2021)

“You are the foreigner they fear. The outsider.” “And a woman besides,” I mutter. “If I don’t carve out space for myself, they will steal whatever inspiration they like from my culture and my art and erase me from the conversation.”

Interesting concept: The twentieth and twenty-first centuries as seen by a mixed race immortal who hangs out (mostly) in Paris and Chicago. She’s an artist, hence the palette trope. Well done perspective and inner voice.

“The coldness of a headline that speaks not of the people killed but of the power the American country now wields.”

Quibble: the protagonist knew everything that happened as soon as it happened. In real life there’s more uncertainty. For example, the first use of an atomic bomb.

“The new generation isn’t weighed down by centuries of history, the experience of how far we’ve come. Their basis of reference is the time of their childhood, not of mine.”

Yoachim got the perspective right, especially her disconnect from the new generation’s point of view. Wanted to like Mariko.

“As a tree grows, so too do its roots.”

(2022 Hugo Awards novelette finalist)

Book Review: “A Spindle Splintered” (Fractured Fables #1) by Alix E. Harrow (three stars)

Book Review: “A Spindle Splintered” (Fractured Fables #1) by Alix E. Harrow (three stars)

“Before there were curses—before there were fairies or roses or even spindles—there was just a sleeping girl.”

Fairy tale/science fiction crossover. Since parallel universes admit an infinite number of realities, why not ones where every fairy tale—and all its variations—are true? Well done.

I’ve always resented people for trying to save me, but maybe this is how it works, maybe we save one another.

Turns the traditional Sleeping Beauty inside out. Cliches abound, but some are for the purpose of exposing them. Language cost Harrow a star.

“I hope you find your happily ever after, or whatever.” “Already did,” I say, and it’s possible that my voice is a little gluey, too. “I’m just looking for a better once upon a time.”

(2022 Hugo Awards Novella finalist)

Book Review: “Unseelie Brothers, Ltd.” by Fran Wilde (five stars)

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Book Review: “Unseelie Brothers, Ltd.” by Frank Wilde (five stars)

She fled. Such disgrace, such a flighty girl. Not suited for this world.

Excellent. Appropriately published in Uncanny Magazine (May/Jun 2021). Unseelie draws the reader into a mysterious business, run by mysterious people. The novelette protagonist finds her vocation and more as she is drawn into the atelier which figured so prominently in her life.

“Remember, Sera, just because someone hires you doesn’t mean they can make you do anything they want. Or that you owe them.”

Wilde creates an inner tension in Sera which electrifies the entire story. Secret, craft, and family are all revealed at the right time and in the right way. Immensely satisfying.

Never accept a contract without knowing your own worth.

(2022 Hugo Award Best Novelette Finalist)

Book Review: “L’Esprit de L’Escalier”, by Catherynne M. Valente (four stars)

Book Review: “L’Esprit de L’Escalier, by Catherynne M. Valente (four stars)

Music is just the sound of time blowing across the lip of their nothingness.

Creative novelette which strums all the right chords. The story of Orpheus and Eurydice has been retold many times over the millennia, but none quite like Valente’s take. Thorough knowledge of Greek mythology required to appreciate, but not required to enjoy it.

Sunlight from the kitchen windows creeps in and sits guiltily at her feet like a neglected cat.

Forces the reader to think. Excellent word pictures. The length is just right. Gratuitous f-word cost her a star; do the math.

He wanted himself as she saw him.

(2022 Hugo Awards Novelette finalist)

Book Review: “Proof by Induction” by Jose Pablo Iriarte (five stars)

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Book Review: “Proof by Induction” by Jose Pablo Iriarte (five stars)

(Uncanny Magazine Issue 40)

“Are you—”  “Dead?” His father gestured toward the inactive monitors. “Apparently so.”

As with the best of all genres, science fiction is merely part of the setting for this excellent short story about inter-generational relations. Even after death. Iriarte takes the reader deep into Paulie’s mind, even as Paulie is focused on something else.

“You’re the smartest person I ever met. You would see through any faking.” Paulie blinked. A compliment.

A lot is implied but not stated about settings and technology. And that’s fine.

Did his father feel anything for him like what he feels for Maddie? Deduction is useless here.

(2022 Hugo Awards short story finalist)