the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for July 2013

and by “meant to be”, I mean voiced over in all your favorite cartoon characters and other famous character voices.  They did it at the Emerald City ComiCon a few years ago.

Darth Vader as voiced by Bubbles the Powerpuff Girl or Princess Clara from Drawn Together? Yes please!  how about Luke Skywalker voiced as Dr. Zoidberg or Toot Braunstein, Uncle Owen voiced by Stimpy, Aunt Beru played by Twilight Sparkle, R2D2 in the style of Ozzy Osbourne, Obi wan Kenobi in the voice of Cartman or Inspector Gadget,  or Princess Leia in the voice of Vincent Price or Rosie Perez, or Han Solo in the voice of Kif or Twilight Sparkle? Also, there’s no such thing as too much Captain Kirk or too much Christopher Walken.

are you ready?

it’s too long to imbed, so click HERE to watch.

emerald city comicon

Also, I’ve developed some new celebrity crushes.

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I have returned from California! sleep has been had, coffee has been drunk, contact lenses have been replaced and hair has been washed.  now I just need to check with HR and see if I can take all of next week as vacation.

note to self:  do not take the red-eye next time. it’s just not worth it.  who would have thought that a Sacramento to Minneapolis red-eye would have been overbooked? is that flight really this popular? the big guy sitting next to me fell asleep on my shoulder (not cool), but I got to watch a thunderstorm from the sky (super cool).

While I was gone, an obscene quantity of books showed up at home.  Husband nearly flipped out as the stacks grew. He says I’m on book buying probation until I cull some of my collection.  I really can’t argue with him. Warning: photo dump starts. . .  NOW.


my shipment from Borderlands Books:

The Weird, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer

Makers by Cory Doctorow

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner

Declare by Tim Powers

Edge by Thomas Blackthorne

Fearsome Journeys, edited by Jonathan Strahan


I’d never heard of Thomas Blackthorne before, but how can you say no to this minimalist yet  effective cover art?


these showed up too:

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Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold

published in 2012

where I got it: Hugo Voter’s Packet










The umpteeth entry in her famous Vorkosigan saga, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance takes place very late in the Vorkisigan chronology, in fact, we only briefly meet the famous Miles Vorkosigan, and he’s semi-retired and chasing toddlers. Never read a Vorkosigan novel, or only read the first one? Have no fear, you really jump in (or back in) at this one.  Bujold does her world building in my favorite way – through interactions between characters.  Relatives and friends show up from time to time to let everyone know how things are going back home, which also lets the reader know about “back home”, and how it fits into the chronology. There’s no infodumping, just characters have an easy going and often inadvertenly funny conversation.

Right off the bat we meet Ivan Vorpatril, and his buddy Byerly Vorrutyer. These young men are effectively rich wastrels – extra heirs in a hierarchical militaristic society. They have wealthy parents, a title, and maybe some inheritance, but no one expects much from them because they’re so far down the line from the throne. Ivan spends his free time chasing women and promising his mother he’ll settle down one day, and Byerly uses his reputation as an idiot cad to his advantage in his career. It’s easy to think at first that these two playboys are exactly what they seem.

Ivan does a favor for Byerly, and ends up tied to a chair in a beautiful woman’s apartment, while the real kidnappers are breaking through the window.  The beautiful woman, Tej, happens to be the on-the-run daughter of a deposed Major House of Jackson’s Whole, a planet on the other side of the wormhole.

In a last ditch effort to protect her from the local authorities, Ivan offers her instant entry into High Vor society, via becoming his wife (in name only of course, with a promise of a divorce once he’s seen her safely to her destination).  A few hastily spoken sentences later, and poof: Tej is now Lady Vorpatril.  She’s only know Ivan a few hours, but he seems earnest in that he’s just interested in helping her.  And besides, if he tries anything (which he swears he won’t), Tej’s blue skinned companion will beat the shit out of him.

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I’ve been reviewing a lot of the other big Hugo categories recently, and now it’s finally time for the nominees for best novel.  It’s a nice varied group, including a fantasy adventure from a debut novelist, a nostalgia/homage humor piece, two space operas and a post apocalyptic thriller. An author who wins this award will forever be known as “So and so, author of the Hugo award winning Such and Such! let’s give them a big round of applause!”  Future printings of their novel will forever say “Hugo Award Winner”.

yeah, it’s sort of a big deal. You can learn more about the Hugo awards here.

This years nominees for Best Novel are:

The links above go to the novels I reviewed earlier this year, and I’ve got a review for Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance going up in a couple days, hopefully shortly followed by a review of Blackout by Mira Grant.  My voting will remain secret, but if you read the reviews carefully I’ll bet you can figure out what I liked the best.


In the meantime, which of these novels have you read? What did you think of them?

I’ve already tortured you with my #idiottourist photos of the beach and of (zomg!) Borderlands books. We wandered around the Mission district of San Fransisco and then went to JapanTown where we went to what might be the coolest Sushi restaurant in the country.  TwoDudes, I’m counting on you to give us more info on JapanTown!

Arrrr, this creative sign down the street from Borderlands cracked me up. Sorry to hear about the store tho.


I’m not sure if this was graffiti that had guerrilla artwork over it, or what, but it made me smile. Yes, this is a super crappy attempt at a panorama.

mural sort of

And then we went to JapanTown! This is an indoor shopping mall/mecca of all things Japanese. There was plenty of kawaii, j-pop, Ghibli, kite-painters, Japanese bookstores, Japanese food, drink, and clothing, and all sorts of amazing things (including some kitch).

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A quick break in Hugo nom’d reviews for this short commercial break. Warning: this post includes way too many pictures. it might take a while to load, but there’s good stuff at the bottom for you.

Not sure if I mentioned it, but I’m in California for work for most of July.  For those of you keeping score, I’m an hour south of Sacramento. low humidity? it never rains? This mid-west girl is in heaven!  We’re setting up new locations and training new associates, and i have never worked so hard in my entire life.

What did I do my first free weekend? Go to San Francisco, of course! A very good friend from high school lives here now, so he gave me the tour.  First stop, lunch at a Ramen shop in San Mateo, where residential rents are easily more than I make in a month. I am obsessed with Ramen, and this was the most amazing bowl of Ramen I’ve ever had in my entire life.

SAM_3345 small

Can’t you just smell that divine porky broth? Miso Ramen is heaven in a bowl.

Next stop, THE BEACH!  I’d never been in the Pacific Ocean before. . .

SAM_3347 small

About 10 minutes after this photo was taken, fog began rolling in. . . .

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This closes out my series on reviewing the Hugo Nominated Novellas. For those of you just joining us, here are the other nominees, with links to my reviews:

On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress
The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson
The Last Stand of the California Browncoats    by Mira Grant


On  an alternate earth on the brink of technological change, the holy books have always told people that six thousand years ago The Increate touched the Earth in eight places, and in those places mankind flourished. But photography, larger telescopes, electricity, and the telegraph, have made their appearance. In a society very uncomfortable with chance, a society where history and religion are pretty much the same thing, I imagine this would be more than a little traumatic.

A might happen anywhere, every so often a heresy awakes, something about humanity being older than six thousand years, or having originated elsewhere, or aliens having built the pyramids. You know, all sorts of nonsense. Nonsense which will not be tolerated by either the religious or the secular leaders of the planet. In this, the two groups work together to squash damaging heresies.

Doctor Morgan Abutti, however, has been researching the same section of the sky for years. He’s not sure what he’s found, he just knows it shouldn’t be there. He presents his paper to the the Planetary Society, abruptly shocks his older and more experienced peers out of their chairs, and as one could expect from a scientific society that is ruled by religion, he is summarily thrown out and brought before a treason judge.

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I’m working my way through the Hugo nominated novellas! click back a day or two to see my thoughts on the others.


Having escaped the war zone, Magistrate Linh travels with a ship full of refugees to Prosper Station. She has distant relatives on the station, and hopes they will take her in. Of course they will, she’s family, and her mem-implants will prove it, should anyone question who she is. And if they should insist on questioning her Linh is quite used to staring down underlings. She should certainly be able to handle a few cousins who have never even seen the capitol, let alone passed their exams.

On Prosper Station, Administrator Quyen has far more important things to worry about than finding quarters and a job for Linh, and the two women immediately begin to get on each other’s nerves, especially when Linh beings a friendly relationship with a male cousin who is already an embarrassment to the family. Quyen and many members of her family have been left behind on the station, while their more educated spouses have been forced to join the war efforts elsewhere. Quyen and Linh are opposites in every way, and they are both used to be being in control.

But Quyen isn’t alone in her leadership of Prosper Station. She’s aided (or perhaps it’s the other way around) by the Honoured Ancestress, the AI Mind who runs the software and interfaces of the station. The Honoured Ancestress was born to a human woman, but she was never human, she was always designed to be what she is: timeless and in complete control of herself. Except when she isn’t in control. Sometimes she ignores Quyen, sometimes she is silent when Quyen calls for her. Linh hasn’t much experience with AI Minds, but she has her own honored ancestors, those who live in her Mem-Implants, the uploaded minds and memories of her ancestors. They are a connection to her past, honored elders who guide her and remind her of proper manners and mannerisms.

Taking place on the edges of de Bodard’s Xuya universe, “On a Red Station, Drifting” touches on many traditions of China and Vietnam, including bloated and bureaucratic governments, ancestor veneration, and strict social protocols. I found the dichotomy and balance found between futuristic technologies and ancient traditions absolutely beautiful. Quyen is hearing an AI’s voice in her head, yet her home is steeped in tradition, in places quite literally engraved with ancient poetry. I read so much futuristic science fiction where the past is left behind and completely ignored, it was refreshing and comforting to meet characters who live in the future, but keep their deep connections to their past and to their traditions. A perfectly balanced dichotomy.

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Let’s talk about some Hugo Nominated novellas!  click back a day or two to see the whole list, and to click on novellas I’ve already reviewed.  Ready for the zombie apocalypse?

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, by Mira Grant

California browncoats Grant

What do you get when you mix a Comic-Con with the zombie apocalypse? You get Mira Grant’s San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats.  If you’re not familiar with Joss Whedon’s breakout show Firefly, fans often refer to themselves as Browncoats in reference to the long brown coat the main character wears in honor of his military service. If you’re not familiar with what a Comic-Con is, we got bigger problems. But that’s another blog post.

A long brown coat, like that!

A long brown coat, like that!

It almost sounds like the beginning of a comedy – cosplayers and merchants attend Comic-Con, and give the zombie apocalypse a beat down! But Grant’s novella is anything but a comedy. This is what Mira Grant does: she grabs you by the feels, and does horrible things to you.

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats is a stand alone novella that can be read as a prequel to her Newsflesh Zombie trilogy (the third book in that series, Blackout, is nominated for best novel this year). You don’t need to have read any of the Newsflesh books to enjoy The Last Stand . . .

The Last Stand . . . is mostly told as a flashback.  It’s thirty years after the event that irreparably changed the world, and journalist Mahir Gowda is interviewing an aging Lorelei Tutt, the only survivor of the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con. She doesn’t want to talk about what happened, but he needs her memories. They talk about other footage from the event, other evidence, and what she witnessed.  Along with Lorelei’s story in flashback, we get the POVs from an ensemble of characters who are attending San Diego Comic-Con, including a television actress, a blind journalist, some merchants from the dealer room, and  a couple on their honeymoon, among others.

No one is the wiser when Lorelei is sulkily helping her parents and their friends unload merchandise for their booth in the dealer room at the Comic-Con.  Fed up with her attitude, her parents send her back to the hotel to have a nap, or a bath, or whatever teenagers need to stop being total brats. The rest of the adults continue setting up the booth and trading geek culture quotes back and forth, and generally annoy their less good natured neighbors.

Elsewhere on the Con Floor, actress Elle Riley is desperately trying to get to her panel, with or without the help of her idiotic handler.   Fans ask for autographs, squee at celebrities, compliment costumes, shop for fake weapons, whine about the lack of wifi, try to find the bathrooms. Just a regular day at Comic-Con, right?

Until someone starts coughing. And then someone starts screaming, because the biting and chewing has begun. And then the lights go out. Lorelei’s parents are able to contact her via walkie talkie, but it gets harder and harder to insulate her from the worst of what’s happening inside the locked down convention center. Things get bad, and then they get worse, and then they become unimaginably horrific.

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and. . . .  we’re back to Hugo stuff!

The nominations for best novella are:

  • After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
  • The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
  • On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
  • San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • The Stars Do Not Lie by Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)

Those links will let you read an excerpt of the novellas.

Boy did I get lucky! I’ve already read and reviewed After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall and The Emperor’s Soul! (Those links will take you to my reviews)

Over the next few days I’ll be posting my reviews of the others.

In the meantime, two conversation prompts:

1. Have you read any of these novellas? what did you think of them?

2. Do you find novellas difficult to access? I meant that in a few ways. Novellas are tough for me because there’s so little time. As soon as I find myself immersed and invested, the story is over. They are super duper short novels.  And they are tough to find! Every issue of Asimov’s and most of the other magazines have a novella each month, and many anthologies or author’s collections will feature one or two novellas. But if you don’t read the magazines, or pick up the right anthologies or collections, how else will you get to read novellas?

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FTC Stuff

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.