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Hugo Reviews 2014: Best Novelettes

I've now read all the Hugo nominees for Best Novelette (a category I still think is an unnecessary insertion between "short story" and "novella"), and I was more impressed than I was by the Short Story nominations. That said, nothing stood out as something destined to be a classic of the genre.

Ted Chiang, Vox Day, Aliette de Bodard, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Brad Torgersen.




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Inverarity's reviews

Hey all (anyone still reading this),

This comm seems to be pretty much dead. For a couple of years now I've been posting my SF book reviews here, but as I seem to be the only poster and I suspect anyone still watching this comm is also watching bookish and/or bookshare, I don't see much point. I will continue to post reviews on those communities as well as on my own LJ.

Regards,

Inverarity
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Seven Against Mars, by Martin Berman-Gorvine

A Jewish Princess of Mars!


Seven Against Mars

Wildside Press, 2013, 242 pages



Trapped in the Warsaw ghetto in 1942, teenager Rachel Zilber escapes the horror by writing about the adventures of Zap-Gun Jack and Princess Anya of Mars. When her parents are captured by the Nazis, Rachel's transported into her make-believe world, but the danger is far from over. Together with Katie, a girl from the future, Rachel joins Jack and a rag-tag band of misfits to fight the evil Lord Ares III of Mars and restore Princess Anya to her rightful place on the Martian throne.


Jews and Texans on Mars — Oy vey!




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Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge

A Hugo-award winning post-cyberpunk novel by one of my favorite SF authors.


Rainbows End

Tor, 2006, 381 pages



Set a few decades from now, Rainbows End is an epic adventure that encapsulates in a single extended family the challenges of the technological advances of the first quarter of the 21st century. The information revolution of the past 30 years blossoms into a web of conspiracies that could destroy Western civilization. At the center of the action is Robert Gu, a former Alzheimer's victim who has regained his mental and physical health through radical new therapies, and his family. His son and daughter-in-law are both in the military, but not a military we would recognize, while his middle-school-age granddaughter is involved in perhaps the most dangerous game of all, with people and forces more powerful than she or her parents can imagine.


No, there is no punctuation error in the title. Just had to mention that. It bugged me too.

Also by Vernor Vinge: My reviews of A Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky, and The Children of the Sky.




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Nobody Gets the Girl, by James Maxey

Nobody is a hero. Nobody gets the girl. Nobody saves the world.


Nobody Gets the Girl

Phobos Books, 2003, 244 pages



Richard Rogers was an ordinary man until the super-genius Dr. Nicolas Knowbokov built his time machine. On the machine's maiden voyage, Dr. Knowbokov accidentally changes history so that Richard is never born. Now trapped in a world that has no memory of him, Richard is an invisible, intangible ghost to everyone but Dr. Knowbokov and the scientist's two superheroine daughters, Rail Blade and the Thrill.

Assigned the codename Nobody, Richard becomes the world's ultimate spy, invisibly battling the super-powered terrorist army run by the mysterious mastermind Rex Monday. The fate of the free world is at stake as the superhuman battles escalate, wiping entire cities from the map, threatening the survival of all mankind.

Who can save us from the looming apocalypse? Nobody!


Gleefully rolling in superhero tropes. Three parts awesome, one part flat.

Verdict: You can't ask much more from a superhero story than that it be fun and not terribly, terribly stupid. Nobody Gets the Girl is fun and (for the genre) fairly intelligent. The writing will not blow you away, but any superhero fan should find it enjoyable, and I liked it enough to put the sequel on my TBR list, even though it looks like the next book is a self-published effort.




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Move Under Ground, by Nick Mamatas

The Beats go on the road to stop Cthulhu in this Lovecraft/Kerouac mashup.


Move Under Ground

Wildside Press, 2006, 158 pages



The year is nineteen-sixty-something, and after endless millennia of watery sleep, the stars are finally right. Old R'lyeh rises out of the Pacific, ready to cast its damned shadow over the primitive human world. The first to see its peaks: an alcoholic, paranoid, and frightened Jack Kerouac, who had been drinking off a nervous breakdown up in Big Sur. Now Jack must get back on the road to find Neal Cassady, the holy fool whose rambling letters hint of a world brought to its knees in worship of the Elder God Cthulhu. Together with pistol-packin' junkie William S. Burroughs, Jack and Neal make their way across the continent to face down the murderous Lovecraftian cult that has spread its darkness to the heart of the American Dream. But is Neal along for the ride to help save the world, or does he want to destroy it just so that he'll have an ending for his book?


Lovecraft. Kerouac. Crackfic.

Verdict: Dense, sometimes almost turgid prose deliberately imitating the style of the first-person protagonist Jack Kerouac, Move Under Ground is deeply weird and succeeds at being exactly what it's supposed to be: the bastard lovechild of a Beatnik Shoggoth orgy, with seminal contributions from two very different generations of writers. The style may or may not be to your liking, but if you're a fan of either half of this bizarre literary cross-breeding experiment, it's short enough that you should consider it worth reading.

Also by Nick Mamatas: My review of Starve Better.




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When Gravity Fails, by George Alec Effinger

Neuromancer in the Middle-East.


When Gravity Fails

Orb Books, 1987, 288 pages



In a decadent world of cheap pleasures and easy death, Marid Audrian has kept his independence the hard way. Still, like everything else in the Budayeen, he's available for a price.

For a new kind of killer roams the streets of the Arab ghetto, a madman whose bootlegged personality cartridges range from a sinister James Bond to a sadistic disemboweler named Khan. And Marid Audrian has been made an offer he can't refuse. The 200-year-old godfather of the Budayeen's underworld has enlisted Marid as his instrument of vengeance. But first Marid must undergo the most sophisticated of surgical implants before he dares to confront a killer who carries the power of every psychopath since the beginning of time.

Wry, savage, and unignorable, When Gravity Fails was hailed as a classic by Effinger's fellow SF writers on its original publication in 1987, and the sequence of Marid Audrian novels it begins were the culmination of his career.


Another cyberpunk classic that has lost its luster thanks to imitators.




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Apollo's Outcasts, by Allen Steele

A fresh Heinleinesque juvenile, a boy's adventure on the Moon.


Apollo's Outcasts

Prometheus Books, 2012, 311 pages



Jamey Barlowe has been crippled since childhood, the result of being born on the Moon. He lives his life in a wheelchair, only truly free when he is in the water. But then Jamey's father sends him, along with five other kids, back to the Moon to escape a political coup d'etat that has occurred overnight in the United States. Moreover, one of the other five refugees is more than she appears. Their destination is the mining colony, Apollo. Jamey will have to learn a whole new way to live, one that entails walking for the first time in his life.

It won't be easy and it won't be safe. But Jamey is determined to make it as a member of Lunar Search and Rescue, also known as the Rangers. This job is always risky but could be even more dangerous if the new US president makes good on her threat to launch a military invasion. Soon Jamey is front and center in a political and military struggle stretching from the Earth to the Moon.


Teens in space! Maybe YA isn't hopeless after all.

Verdict: A damn fun novel for anyone nostalgic for old Heinlein juveniles. Highly recommended for anyone fond of YA SF, or looking for some good YA for boys.

Also by Allen Steele: My review of Coyote.




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