the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for June 2013

This is the next part in my on-going series to read as much of the Hugo nominated material as possible. I don’t feel right about voting in a category if I’ve only read one or two items nominated, you know?

Earlier this week I reviewed the novelettes by Cat Valente and award winning Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt.  Today I’ll review Pat Cadigan’s The Girl-Thing  Who Went Out for Sushi, and hopefully soon I’ll have a post up for the two (holy cow, two in the same category?? damn!) nominated novelettes from Seanan McGuire.

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The Girl Thing Who Went Out for Sushi, by Pat Cadigan

(originally published in Edge of Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan, from Solaris Books)

What a wonderfully strange and completely out-there story! A few generations after the dangerous and sometimes involuntary “turning” procedures, Jovian space is full of sushi. That is, full of octopus and nautiluses and squid and jellyfish who used to be people. The title of the story is a pun on the slang term for going through the surgical transformation. The story is told through Arkae, who was one of the original generations of sushi. The only human on Arkae’s crew is Fry, the titular girl-thing. After sustaining an injury, Fry decides her best bet for staying out in Jovian space is to have the procedure.

Cadigan throws the reader in the deep end, with sly references to past events and lots of slang terms thrown about. For example, Jupiter is just “Big J”, and the different types of sushi have cultural terms for each other. It makes sense, I just wasn’t expecting it. I was completely hooked when I got to this portion, where Arkae is talking about the human disposition towards binary thinking:

“We let them have that their way, too, because, damn can they argue. About anything. It’s the way they’re made. Bipeds are strictly binary, it’s all they know: zero or one, yes or no, right or wrong. But once you turn, that strictly binary thinking’s the first thing to go, and fast. I never heard anyone say they miss it; I know I don’t.”

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I’m slowly making my way through more Hugo nominations.  The nominations for best novelette are:

  • “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
  • “Fade To White” by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  • “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
  • “In Sea-Salt Tears” by Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
  • “Rat-Catcher” by Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)

Today I’ll  talk about The Boy Who Cast No Shadow by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Dutch friends! Please help me with the correct pronunciation of his last name!) and Fade to White by Catherynne M. Valente.

boy who cast no shadow

The Boy Who Cast No Shadow by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Look is an especially odd child. He has no shadow. It’s not just that a shadow doesn’t form behind or under him, there isn’t one under his nose, or his chin, it’s that no darkness forms around him, as if the sun refuses to acknowledge his existence. He doesn’t have a reflection either, and can’t be filmed or photographed. The original invisible boy. Unless of course, you’re in the same room as him, and then there’s just a lonely child, seen by everyone but himself.

Look is the only weird kid at school until Splinter shows up and gives the bullies a new target. Splinter can’t help being the perfect fragile target for their verbal and physical abuse; he’s a boy made of glass, a child who reflects everything except himself.

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Last week I reviewed Love Minus Eighty, the new speculative fiction novel from Will McIntosh.  I might be new to his fiction, but McIntosh has already taken the speculative fiction world by storm, having won a Hugo for his 2010 short story Bridesicle, and his novel Soft Apocalypse (2012) is a multiple award nominee.  He’s been publishing short fiction and winning awards since the early 2000s, so I was over the moon thrilled when Mr. McIntosh agreed to answer a few questions about the new novel, movies, day jobs, and what’s next.

Hi Will, thanks for joining us today!

Thanks, glad to be here!

Love Minus Eighty is an expansion of sorts of your short story Bridesicle. What was the inspiration for Bridesicle?

Bridesicle started as a brief image that flashed as I was waking up one morning.  It was Mira, frozen in her crèche, and as these things usually go, for some reason I knew this was a dating center.  The story grew from there.  At first I wrote it from the point of view of Lycan, a clueless man visiting the center for the first time, but after getting feedback I ended up shifting the point of view to Mira.

Bridesicle has parallels to the world of Hitchers, but in Love Minus Eighty, we’re in a world with plenty of followers, but no actual, traditional hitchers. Why the change?

I wrote a post for the Far Beyond Reality blog that explains this in more detail, but in a nutshell, I decided giving people the ability to upload their consciousness into someone else lowered the stakes, because it allows people to become basically immortal.  It also makes for a really complicated story, if some of the characters are actually two, or five, or ten characters sharing one body.  Sometimes a technology that seems cool in a short story introduces all sorts of complications when you’re telling a longer story.

I read somewhere that Bridesicle was optioned for a film. How exciting! What was your reaction to that? Any thoughts on changes you’d like to see, or fear to see when Bridesicle or Love Minus Eighty makes it to the big screen?

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best stuff first:

The Best Video EVER.

Totally safe for work. Multiple award winner.   Watch it till the end.  Let me know in the comments if the video makes you crave a cup of coffee.

One of the best things about living in Michigan is that you can use your hand as a map.  it’s a total Michigander thing (as is calling Michigan residents Michiganders.). Anywhoo, we just got back from here:

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If you don’t live near the great lakes, the star on my finger is the Petoskey/Boyne City/Little Traverse Bay/Charlevoix area. Lots of local tourism stuff, skiing, fishing, hiking, shopping, some of the best restaurants I’ve ever been too, and lots and lots of water. Rolling hills, beautiful countryside, and fresh water as far as the eye can see.  Really freakin’ cold water.

and of course books were purchased!   See?

SAM_3314 Read the rest of this entry »

love minus 80

Love Minus Eighty, by Will McIntosh

published in June 2013 from Orbit

where I got it: received copy from the Publisher (Thanks Orbit!!)

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This review has exactly one spoiler. And the [spoiler] mentioned happens right at the beginning of the book, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

Insurance of the future has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with death. In the  future, the wealthy pay for extended freezing insurance, to be cryogenically frozen at the time of death, ideally to be thawed out later when their family can afford it. Even for those without the monetary means, the idea of being buried in the ground is distasteful.   Revival is big business, and one company has hit on a jackpot idea: allow wealthy patrons to speak with beautiful dead women at a dating center, and if a relationship develops, they can revive her and marry her. Sit down and think about that for a moment.  It’s like a futuristic version of The Bachelor, only worse. The “bridesicles” are only awake, only alive, for a few minutes at a time. Like a speed dating system from hell, she has five minutes to convince whoever has awoken her to visit her again.  Running the dating center isn’t cheap, wealthy patrons pay by the minute to speak with women who will do anything to stay awake, stay alive for just a few more seconds.

 

what would you do to stay awake, when awake is the only time you’re alive?

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hugo_smSo. I’m eligible to nominate and vote in the Hugo Awards this year. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the Hugos are basically the Oscars of the Scifi/fantasy community. it is a very. big. deal.

The nominating process was really fun. But now it’s time to look at everything in the voting packet and read as much of it as I possibly can. And it’s. . . intimidating. I’m slowly making my way through the “big” categories, short story, novelette, novella, novel, even Campbell award. I count myself very lucky that I’ve already read a few of the novels, two of the Campbell award nominees, and a two of the novellas. VERY LUCKY. Even with a head start, will I be able to get through everything I’d like to read by the end of July?

Let’s find out.

my voting plans will stay a secret, but as I get through categories, I’ll publish my thoughts, link to earlier reviews, and we can generally discuss.

There’s two really good reasons I’m doing short stories first. Actually, three really good reasons:

they’re all available online for you to read for free
they’re all pretty short
there’s only three of them

And the nominees are:

Immersion, by Aliette de Bodard
Mantis Wives, by Kij Johnson
Mono no Aware, Ken Liu
and here’s what I thought of them:

clarksworld deBodard

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Today is an amazing day.  Everywhere I look, something is making me smile, is making me feel good about the universe.  It’s a nice change of pace.

– Yesterday I reconnected with a good friend from high school, and also with a few other friends I haven’t heard from in a long time.

– I have a dinner date with my hubby later this evening.

but wait! there’s more!

Ready for a photo dump of everything else that’s got me smiling big today?

Went to the garden center to get a few more things for the garden, they had a carousel of topiary animals! I asked if I could take a photo and they said “we encourage it!” . It had a lion, a seahorse, a dinosaur and a horse.  how cool! And it’ll just look better as the summer progresses, because all the grasses and other plants will root and grow taller. by the end of the summer the animals will be completely green.

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So now my balcony garden looks even nicer with some trailing accent things. not so much dirt showing. I wish the basil would take off though.

Parsley,  Dichondra (I think), Basil,  Ivy, Zinnia w/Hypoestes and vine-y things.

Parsley, Dichondra (I think), Basil, Ivy, Zinnia w/Hypoestes and vine-y things.

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Today it’s my pleasure to be able to interview M. L. Brennan , the author of Generation V, a new urban fantasy that’s been all over the interwebs these last few weeks. M.L. took the time to answer my gauntlet of questions, and responded with some downright brilliant answers. Also, will you be at WorldCon later this year?

Scroll to the bottom for info on how to enter into a giveaway for this brand new book. note: Giveaway is open to residents of the United States only. Sorry, international shipping is killer, and not in that fun vampire way.

generation V

LRR: Did you always want to be a writer?

ML Brennan: Writing is always something that I’ve really enjoyed, going all the way back to a very young age, but I didn’t think about it seriously as a career path until late high school, and even at that point I came at it sideways. Thanks in a very big way to The West Wing, I decided that I wanted to be a political speechwriter, and I headed to college with the intention of going into writing and political science. I lost interest in going into politics around my second year, but at that point I was majoring in writing, so I decided that a better career option would be to become a lawyer. I pursued that all the way into my first year at law school, which was the point when I finally just gave in to the inevitable and realized that what I really wanted to do was write fiction. So I left law school and headed into an MFA program.

So I guess the short answer is that while writing has always been a big part of my life, the idea of actually being just a writer was something that I really struggled with and against – largely because I grew up in a household where money was very tight, so I’ve never had a very romantic view of the life of a struggling artist. I envisioned having a secure career and writing in my off-hours. That ended up not happening – my day job that pays the bills is pretty unreliable and the pay fluctuates hugely, but it does give me the time I need to write.

LRR: Who are some of your favorite writers?

ML Brennan: Gosh, that would be a very long list! Emma Bull, Brandon Sanderson, Anne Bishop, Sharon Shinn, Sheri S. Tepper, and Orson Scott Card are all longtime favorites. Lately I’ve really been enjoying Cassie Alexander’s Edie Spence series, and I got a sneak peek at debut author Django Wexler’s incredible military fantasy The Thousand Names, and I can tell you that I’m already dying for the sequel!

LRR: Give us the quick rundown on Generation V.

ML Brennan: Sure! The elevator pitch of my book is that Fortitude Scott has a useless degree, a minimum-wage job, a cheating girlfriend, and a roommate who stiffs him on the rent. And he’s a vampire… mostly. But when a little girl is kidnapped, suddenly he’s the only one who is willing to try and do something about it, so he teams up with a wise-cracking shapeshifter and heads off for a rescue mission that will very likely kill him.

A lot of what I was trying to do in this book was explore the ideas of heritage and responsibility – Fort is a vampire who doesn’t fit in with the rest of his family because of the empathy he has toward humans. He’s afraid of whether growing up will involve losing that empathy, but at the same time it will mean becoming stronger and faster, which right now are traits that he very much lacks and needs!

LRR: How can someone be “mostly” a vampire? Isn’t that something that’s fairly cut and dry?

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Rest in Peace, Iain M. Banks.  Creator of The Culture and changer of the world.

photo yanked from wikipedia

photo yanked from wikipedia

 

I started reading Iain M Banks just over  a year ago. So recently that I’m not even sure I can call myself a fan.  But fan I quickly became of the man who reinvented Space Opera. I was hooked a hundred pages into Look to Windward. A few books later, Use of Weapons (which shouldn’t be your first Culture novel) shattered me into a million peices and allowed me entry into a hallowed and secretive club of readers who had been equally shattered. We had each others help to put ourselves back together even though some pieces would be lost forever.

Mr. Banks, you have changed me. You have shown me a path towards what is possible, and for this Sir, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  A light has gone out in the Culture, and this time more than just a few Drones have taken notice. Imagine all those people on all those Orbitals, suddenly sad, and not knowing why. Of all the billions of beings in The Culture, why should one person matter? Because when you’re the one reading the story, or living the story, it fucking matters. that’s why. Your Culture books are more than escapism, more than transportive. They are simply more.

It’s only June, and I already feel like I’ve lost too many people this year. I didn’t have the chance to thank them, to tell them how I felt, to tell them what their works and actions meant to me. A grief counselor gave me a letter template, a self guided exercise to help us articulate why that person was so important to us. It’s a one-way conversation that helps you through the grieving process.

Lesson learned.  Nothing is forever. Sometimes promises are broken with no hard feelings. I need to tell people how I feel before it’s too late. I need to write those letters now, before it’s too late.

I’ll let you in on a little Use-of-Weapons-eque secret: this post isn’t really about Iain Banks.

this post is about how to cheat time.

Time steals everything from us, but more so because we willingly give it the power to. This is my request, to anyone reading this post: Write those letters now.  Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, do not wait.  Did someone have a positive influence on your life? Did someone unknowingly help you through hard times? Let them know.  I suggest writing a letter because I am shit at verbal communications, and a letter allows the person on the receiving end some time to process what you’ve just said.  Written communication means less awkwardness later.

This is not permission to start stalking someone. Do not mail people dead chipmunks as a token of your love, and I better not see any marriage proposals on twitter.  Just send them a letter or an e-mail. These are the people who deserve far more than “thanks for being there for me” or “omg I love your books, when is your next one coming out???”. Tell them WHY their existence in your life was important to you.  Cheat time.

calibans warCaliban’s War (book 2 of The Expanse series) by James S.A. Corey

published in June 2012

where I got it: gift from a friend, and it’s autographed! I have the bestest friends in the world!

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This is the second novel in James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse trilogy, so there will be spoilers, some major,  for the first book in the series, Leviathan Wakes (review here).  Ok, so spoilers is bad news. but the good news is, I think you could start with Caliban’s War first, and then read Leviathan Wakes, and be a-ok.

Picking up about a year after the events of Leviathan Wakes, the landscape of Caliban’s War is more a dark new world rather than a bold or brave one. Holden and crew are sitting pretty in their stolen martian warship, renamed Rocinante, and doing escort duty and pirate hunting for the Outer Planets Alliance. It’s boring, but safe. Relatively speaking. Holden is safe so long as he’s awake. Because when he sleeps, he dreams only of the horrors of Eros.  His relationship with Naomi has finally settled into something called a relationship, but she’s getting sick of the “new” Holden; The Jim Holden who shoots first and asks questions later, the one who acts too much like the late Detective Miller. But how could anyone come through the events of Eros unscathed?  I was fascinated by Holden’s tacit denial of how he’s handling what he went through by not handling it. His PTSD is the white elephant in the room. Maybe he’ll think twice next time before he decides to play hero. Yeah right.

Meanwhile, we watch as on Ganymede two seemingly unrelated events unfold: a handful of children go missing,  and a superhuman crerature slaughters  platoons of UN and Martian troops, leaving one survivor.

Unrelated my ass.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.