I'm a well read grad student who's bluntly honest about all things, although I try to be most honest about myself.
Getting a shout out because it had fandom. And robots. It was cute and I loved it so, so much!
So note: because of the page counts in this and short stories, I am super confused. What makes a novelette versus a short story?
Anyway, here's the novelettes:
Extracurricular Activities: Young Jedao - whom I love from Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem. Watching him blush as another dude flirts with him openly - and he's flustered because he can't sleep with another Kel, particularly someone who is his subordinate. (Before formation instinct, so he won't get executed for it, but still... He should not be doing these things and he knows it. I remember him being all about the girls, so I was a little surprised by his going for the dudes - and he was so into this dude - but then I remembered that people have multiple people marriages with multiple wives and husbands, so it's a little more fluid.) Anyway, this was funnier, more lighthearted, but that made sense: the situation is far worse in the novels, and going back this far takes us back to a time before all that heaviness sets in and allows it to be so much lighter.
I loved this. I probably wouldn't have loved this as much if I hadn't read the first two novels, but I had. My number one choice, no doubt.
A Series of Steaks: Fascinating take on 3D printing and falsifying foods, like beef. The character interaction was one reason that this was so compelling, too. Just a lot more fun than I expected.
The Secret Life of Bots: So, shocker here. I was predisposed to give this number two because bots, but it fell flat for me. The writing felt a little flat, a little lifeless, to me, and none of the character interaction between the humans particularly compelled me. Instead, I'd say it felt a little flat to me, too. However much I loved the bots, they didn't have all that much personality, and nor did the Ship - the ships AI. So all in all, nothing worked out for this to me put it above my first and second choice. The ending? Pretty spectacular, though.
Wind Will Rove: So, another low scoring one by the author of my fifth choice for novellas, And Then There Were N(one). I think she's got a good style and some good ideas, and it's more a 'if not for these better choices' type of scenario. The whole fiddler angle didn't catch my attention all that much, either.
Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time: So this story made me sad, and I couldn't understand the main character when they just rolled over and accepted certain things or came to peace with them more quickly than I thought possible. Especially given how he agonized over them. I didn't buy a lot of it, but I appreciated the ideas. I've been toying with DNV (Do Not Vote)-ing this one and swapping it out with Children of Thrones, Children of Water. May or may not happen.
Children of Thrones, Children of Water: Felt that it dragged a little, and had a hard time getting into the high fantasy concepts. Would have appreciated more explanation of how the angel magic worked, although it was hard to do since it was from one of her enemies point of view. (Second person point of view, but focusing/from her enemies point of view, too.) Another case of beautiful writing, but didn't like it enough to place one two four and as I said before, I keep waffling on the fourth and fifth positions. I'll change it on my main Hugo list if this changes.
This category was harder than I suspected, as well.
But All Systems Red: Wells handles Murderbot and his introvert-ness ably, and creates a character that is compelling and amusing. Her prose is clean and simple, a style I'm finding I adore. The world is rich, but I'd argue that Murderbot is the richest, fullest thing about this world - and I love him so much.
Binti: Home: I read this after getting it signed. And I love it. I fell in love with Binti, and before All Systems Red? This would have been, no doubt, my number one choice. I was conflicted when I saw these both on the ballot, because I felt, at times, that I loved them equally.
But... Murderbot. When I closed my eyes and had to make a split second decision, it was Murderbot. I did this for a couple days and I always ended up with Murderbot. So apparently I love All Systems Red more, but just slightly and the fact that there was a bot in there didn't help.
Binti: Home has a different feel than Binti in many ways, but I also felt very deeply connected to this character and world. It's got some mythos that Binti didn't have, based on Nigerian customs and beliefs, and I got to hear about them from the author herself which made me feel more connected to this story.
River of Teeth: man-eating hippos. Because it's cowboys - with hippos. I don't even know what to say about this: it's weird, I loved most of the characters - except the dicks who were written to be dicks, so they served their purpose - and it was weird and hilarious and you should read it. Alternate history is something I usually steer clear of, but this? I'm so glad I read this. Have to check out the sequel as well!
Down Among the Sticks and Bones: So... I loved this until the end, and I was like WTF, what's going to happen? It was a nerve wracking ending and it obviously made me feel, but ugh, I don't know? I was so super 'meh' about the ending I almost knocked this out of a voting position completely. I dunno? I still enjoyed most of this more than the next story and I think the ending makes sense, just not when it ended if that makes sense. There was no conclusion, no resolution that made sense to me, and that? That left me feeling adrift. I think the ending would have been perfect had we known what happened after that last scene.
And Then There Were (N-One): I thought I'd enjoy the meta, especially since the author has a convention of multiple Sarah Pinkser's - her own name - but the mystery in this ended up lagging for me after a while.
I simply didn't enjoy it as much as most of Down Among the Sticks and Bones, so here we are.
Black Tides of Heaven: Another high fantasy - silk punk - that didn't do it for me. I wanted to enjoy it because the writer really has talent, and it deals with gender and sexuality in a very, very progressive way that interested me. The main plot, and the characters, however didn't grab me enough to even read the excerpt of the next novella. The writing was more clean and direct than Jemisin's, which was much more flowery. Since I simply enjoy the direct style more than the flowery, I ended up enjoying this enough to make it through one novella. I in fact started the excerpt of Black Tide's sequel and really couldn't get into it enough to convince myself I'd want to finish, so I dropped it and decided this wouldn't get my vote this year.
I wouldn't hesitate recommending it to a reader who enjoyed this type of fantasy, however.
So someone asked me if I'd read the previous Jemisin books in this series, and I have not. The only reasons I pushed through Ninefox Gambit before Raven Stratagem was I could tell I'd be lost without it, and I was just really loving the start to Raven.
That being said, I may come back to Jemisin if I have the time. It's high fantasy - I think? - and I found the writing itself tiresome. I did not get very far into the excerpt. I should add that, obviously, tiresome to me. She's making it as a full time author and that's amazing! Obviously her writing resonates with a lot of other people and that is amazing too. She's not a poor writer: that is, she understands language, syntax, and all the things that make a great writer. Her style clashed with me. Much like some other items I've read for the Hugo, it's not a matter of it being bad, but rather of me not enjoying the thing.
Because it was the writing style that was at least partially tripping me up, I'm not sure I'll get back to this, although I own at least one of her books as an e-book.
This was one was tough, too. I bounced back and forth, and I'm still struggling through Provenance. It's one that I find better in small chunks: I'm enjoying it until I'm not, and then I have to take a break. It's likely going to be three, and if not, Collapsing Empire will be and this will be four.
To be honest, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed both Ninefox Gambit - the first in Machineries of Empire - and it's follow up, Raven Stratagem. To the point that I'm worried about the series hangover when I finish up Revenant Gun. That ended up as a clear winner, twisted in all the ways I like. I ended up not being able to get enough of Raven. Yoon Ha Lee has become a favorite author with these two books.
And in July I will have all three in the Machineries of Empire trilogy signed.
Six Wakes: it has an AI, but I was more into the AI than the mystery. I got more into it as the book moved along and IAN, the AI, played a larger role than I suspected at the beginning. So I ended up simply enjoying this more than Provenance, which I suspected would be my number one choice before reading anything. Go figure, huh?
Provenance - I'm still in the middle of this, but there would have to be a massive shift for this to move into four, and I'll just update it if I do in my large Hugo list, which is a Pages document right now. It's a little bit of a struggle, but more in a I'm thinking about this way, and it gets to be too much all at once, kind of way. I'm enjoying it overall more than Collapsing Empire.
Collapsing Empire - Much more fun than I expected, but I didn't get the whole feudalistic type of social structure, and I didn't enjoy it. I did, however, love the plot and the plotting of the characters, and I love one foul mouthed, blunt character - and her even more blunt mother - in particular. When she wasn't on page, I found some parts lagging.
New York 2140 - Ugh, I just found this a huge slog. DNFed, which I promised I wouldn't do at the start! I just wasn't interested in either characters or plot, and there wasn't anything about the writing style that was compelling enough to keep reading. I found myself wincing as I opened this one up to read more, so I quit.
The Stone Sky - DNF for now, unlikely I'll come back to this excerpt. I kept daydreaming while I read this: I had to read paragraphs multiple times because I simply wasn't interested and my mind kept wandering. I am not a big high fantasy fan, though, and I feel like the style of writing can be very high fantasy - like this. Skilled, imaginative author who many of my friends adore. I feel comfortable recommending her as a high fantasy author based on knowledgable friends reviews, and their good taste in books. She may not be for me, however.
But I'm not sure what to say about my next, Raven Stratagem, right now, so I'm going to break down each category of the Hugo voting that I've finished, and why I'm voting the way I am. I may go through how things changed, too.
I'll continue reading because my doctor told me to try some medicine that made me feel like shit again and I'm worried. I say told me, but it was more like mutual agreement.
Anyway, yeah, I want to push through some more Hugo reading before I seriously review much more.
2018 Hugo Awards Finalists
Best Short Story
Best Related Work
Best Graphic Story
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form
Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form
Best Editor – Short Form
Best Editor – Long Form
Best Professional Artist
Best Fan Writer
Best Fan Artist
2018 Associated Awards (not Hugos)
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) Award for Best Young Adult Book
1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards Finalists
Best Fan Writer
Best Professional Artist
Best Editor – Short Form
Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form
Best Short Story
Incredibly satisfying ending!
And the goose fat. I'm going to giggle if anyone ever brings up goose fat to me again!
I'm tired, and going to sleep. I have a couple reviews to catch up on, but I've been reading mostly stuff that isn't in the system for the Hugo awards, and I don't particularly want to add them.
I also wanted to finish this before I, ugh, try the medicine that may make me incredibly sick tomorrow. Wish me luck! I wanted to finish this before that, so I wasn't in pain when I finished. I knew I'd love this, as it was about Jedao and I just love him so much.
The fact that Jedao says he has a devotion to weapons makes me love him more.
He's one of those characters I want as a bf, so it kills me that he's meat.
Can I give this all the stars? No, only five? Okay, then.
So I think that the lazy/sloppy world building reviews kept me from finishing this. I thought they were rational and well thought out arguments, and they make me think about how I approach and read books. And how others will approach them differently.
Because you know what? I don't get so much of this book. Like a lot of this. This book makes me feel like a big 'ol dum-dum, and so do some of the reviews where I am like 'you clearly understood something I didn't.' I frown-y face at myself so much for being dumb enough not to really get so much of this book. I actually am not sure I disagree with the reviews, although I have a different take on the world building: I think that things, like how the calendars work and influence the fighting, and the math of it all, were left vague on purpose, and for two different reasons.
The first is twofold in fact: the math it would take to come up with the way the calendars actually worked, and implement them, seems to be, I dunno, so much work it would make me want to curl up in a corner and weep. More than that, if that much math is involved in such a complicated calendar, do you really want to read that? I mean, I'm sure many math-oriented people would geek over it, but I personally didn't want to read that much math, thank you very much! I think Lee realized that nine-tenths of this book would be 'and this how the calendrical fighting system worked' if he were to properly explain it. (And I probably still wouldn't get it, and I would feel like the largest dum-dum ever, so thank you, Lee, for not letting my ego take that blow!)
Secondly, I don't think it's that important. So did it bother me at first? Yup. And even when I saw those reviews, I tried to read it and was like, nope, don't get it, and got frustrated. I figured with those reviews, why bother? But when I started reading Raven Stratagem for the Hugo voting, I realized I kind of needed the backstory, and hey, I owned a signed copy! (A signed copy that came with me to rides on Universal Studios, FL, by the way.)
So I grit my teeth, started reading, and I just let go of needing to understand. Once I realized the world, or part of it, was incomprehensible, I allowed myself to appreciate the nuance of the political system, those who rebelled against it, and the characters' interplay and growth.
And I found that I loved this: I didn't care that this book made me feel stupid, massively, epically stupid. I didn't care that I didn't get so much of it. I just wanted more.
Of course, this book has loads of the kinds of angst and mind-fuckery that I just love, so it filled a hole in my soul. And I even sent the author a note saying that after the shitshow of a wedding and my grandfather's passing that these books kept me trucking.
He sent me back a lovely e-mail that said he was glad they brought me comfort. I own this as an e-book - and an audiobook. I'm probably going to listen to the audiobook soon and may invest in the second and third, if I can get over Jedao's voice. The problem with audiobooks is that often times the characters voices don't match the voices in my head, and I listened to a bit of Ninefox Gambit earlier tonight. Jedao's voice might kill this trilogy as audiobooks for me, to be honest.
I was worried that IAN, the AI, wouldn't play much of a role given the excerpt of this novel given out for the Hugo packet. So I took it out of the library, and quite frankly blew through this. I disagree about the flashbacks. I say disagree, and what I mean is I read at least one review about how great it was to learn about them in the past.
I was far more interested in the present, and while I didn't particularly mind the flashbacks, I found a couple a bit too drawn out and I found myself starting to get bored.
However, this is a minor complaint. This is a mystery set on a spaceship in a universe where people can clone themselves, put their memories in the new bodies, and voila, new life. When you die and wake up in a new cloned body, it's called a wake. (And you can only wake in your own body; in this universe, there are issues in going into other bodies, those issues being going crazy.)
Criminals are chosen to go on the first ever generation ship: they will be cloned as much as needed until they get to a new body, and then clone their crew. The proper memories will be put in the proper bodies, and hey, new colony. And the criminals will no longer have to live as criminals on this new world.
But just in case something goes wrong, the super sophisticated AI, IAN, will run the ship and be able to protect the criminals from, well, their criminal tendencies. And it all works, until they all wake up in a bloody room. They've been killed, someone has thrown the emergency switch that will clone them and wake them. IAN is malfunctioning, and their cloning tech has been destroyed. Their memories of the twenty five years they've been on the ship have been erased. These are their last lives, unless they can manage to fix IAN and fix the tech, or at least find a way around it.
It's a pretty tight mystery and a fun book as they try to figure out which of the crew members is the murderer, as well as worrying about how much time they have left. And IAN comes into play pretty heavily in the end, so I was super into that part. Especially since I didn't see how he was going to play into the story until it was revealed: I was pleasantly surprised by his origin story, so to speak.
Knocked down one half star for feeling like it lagged a bit during the flashbacks. They wouldn't stop me from rereading this, but they bothered me enough to knock off a half a star.
At least, Optimus Prime and a small group of Autobots do. I wasn't a big fan at first read, but I'm coming to appreciate just how brilliant a move this was: the focus stays on the Cybertronians, not the humans, and even then? Thundercracker adopting a dog and becoming the worst screenwriter ever is just hilarious.
Somehow, even when he's mangling screenplays and writing in general, Thundercracker just wins me over. Like completely over.
Loved this, and read it early on in the month, right before the Hugo packet hit.
I am, surprisingly, not enjoying this much.
So far, the Series of Steaks has been my favorite - but I'm leaving Yoon Ha Lee's story about Jedao for last as I suspect it'll be #1 in the end.
I'm exhausted, so I'm going to nap for ten minutes.
I'm not sure how I feel about that: the way it handled the trans issue felt... weird to me.
I'm also not sure how I buy how the main character deals with some revelations, especially as they cling to the main character who's the vampire who turns them.
I'm not sure how this will rate, but I think it depends on how the other novelettes pan out?
Read a bunch of Provenance, finished this, and mostly felt too sick to do much more.
Changing my Shabbat habits. It will be about relaxing, but I relax online a lot - so I will be doing that.
I'll try to limit stress, though.
Here's the first page of the commercial the bot then wrote for Olive Garden.
I have no idea what's happening. But I laughed so hard, it still hurts and I felt like puking and I couldn't stop reading or laughing.
But Olive Garden. When You're Here, You're Here may just be the truest statement ever about Olive Garden.