Previous Entry | Next Entry

Hugo Novelettes

Snoopy

Most of the Hugo-nominated novelettes are available online, and I’ve linked to them where I could. Attending and supporting members of Worldcon can read them all through the Hugo Voters Packet.

My thoughts on the short story ballot are here, along with links to the stories.

#

Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders. The opening line is, “The man who can see the future has a date with the woman who can see many possible futures.” I really like this setup, and the conflict it creates between the man who sees a fixed, unavoidable future and the woman who believes she has free will to choose from various possibilities. I love how Anders presents the characters, both of whom have known for a long time that this relationship was coming and how it would go, but who still stumble through the same awkwardness as the rest of us. I loved the details, like the game Judy plays with her friend, picking random destinations and predicting what would happen if they packed up and went there that very day. Anders’ characters are so very human, and the conflict between them — is the future really fixed (Doug), or can you choose your future (Judy)? — is thoughtfully explored.

The answer Anders gives to that conflict is simultaneously tragic and scary and hopeful, and felt right for the story. This is the first story I’ve read by Anders, but it certainly won’t be the last.

Fields of Gold by Rachel Swirsky. “When Dennis died, he found himself in another place.” While exploring the possibilities of the afterlife isn’t exactly new (really, what is?), I like a lot of the things Swirsky did here. Structurally, the things Dennis did and didn’t accomplish on his various lists of goals worked well, giving insight into his life and character. I particularly loved the celebrities who showed up, not as actual dead famous people, but as collective manifestations of the mundanes.

Overall though, the story didn’t work for me as well as it might have, because I didn’t really like the characters. They tended to be a bit too unpleasant for me. It’s a stylistically interesting and well-written story, but purely as a matter of personal taste, not my favorite.

The Copenhagen Interpretation by Paul Cornell. Instead of giving you the opening line, I’m going to jump to this bit about Isaac Newton:

“[O]ld Isaac’s in his garden, an apple falls on his head, he picks it up and sees this tiny worm crawling across its surface, and so he starts thinking about the very small…”

I read this as a key to the alternate history Cornell presents, one with carriages exploring the solar system, spies manipulating what act like tiny wormholes, and a very different and well-detailed present-day (I think?) world. Jonathan Hamilton is a spy who encounters a woman named Lustre Saint Clair, a woman he knew fifteen years ago…who appears no older than eighteen years of age.

This draws Hamilton into a plot involving twin arms dealers who have been exploring space, discovered the relativistic effects of near-light-speed travel, and made not-so-successful contact with aliens. (Though the ending calls all of this into question.)

I believe this is the third of Cornell’s stories about Jonathan Hamilton. I’ve not read the others, which might account for some of my disorientation. I love the ideas and the worldbuilding, but I felt a bit disconnected from the story. I may reread this one if I have time, to see if that helps.

Ray of Light ($1.49 on Kindle) by Brad Torgersen. “My crew boss Jake was waiting for me at the sealock door.” Max Leighton is one of the thousands of surviving humans who fled to the ocean bottom after aliens blotted out the sun for reasons we never knew. His daughter is part of the first generation to grow up never having seen the sky.

I liked the classic SF feel of this one. Torgersen does a nice job with mood, conveying the sense of desperation and desolation on the sea bottom. And I thought the idea of the children developing their own religion/cult, and setting out on a possibly suicidal mission to the surface ice, made for a good story.

But it wasn’t a great story. I think my main complaint was that it felt a little too easy. I didn’t feel the urgency, and the reward at the end of the story felt … unearned, if that makes sense. The weight of the setup didn’t match the weight of the resolution.

What We Found by Geoff Ryman. This story won the Nebula award for Best Novelette. Set in Makurdi, Nigeria, it presents two intertwined narrative threads. One of Patrick and his family, which includes a schizophrenic father, an abusive grandmother, and a brother I’d describe as a bit of a trickster. The other story shows Patrick as a researcher who discovers that stress and trauma are passed down from father to son. But over time, other researchers lose the ability to duplicate his results, leading to another revelation:

“Simply put, science found the truth and by finding it, changed it … Some day the theory of evolution will be untrue and the law of conservation of energy will no longer work … Atoms will take only 50 more years to disappear.”

The science is a fascinating game of “What if?” and also presents an interesting lens with which to examine family, whether we inherit the flaws and pain of our ancestors, whether recognition could give freedom from such inevitabilities.

#

Having read through the short stories and novelettes, I have a lot of respect for the ambitious stories, and for authors who push to explore new ideas and possibilities, even if the end result isn’t perfect.

For those of you who’ve read them, what did you think?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
akiko
Jun. 6th, 2012 01:53 pm (UTC)
I agree with your assessments almost exactly. I couldn't finish the Copenhagen Interpretation, because I had no orientation within the story and I just couldn't figure out what was going on.
jimhines
Jun. 6th, 2012 01:55 pm (UTC)
It was frustrating, because I got the feeling there was a lot of Really Cool Stuff going on that I just wasn't getting.

I suspect I'd get more out of it on a reread, but I don't know if I'll have time, given the towering TBR stack.
akiko
Jun. 6th, 2012 02:08 pm (UTC)
Yeah! I have too many other things to read for the Hugos to spend a long time trying to figure out what's going on in one story. Then there's the rest of my TBR pile that *isn't* for the Hugos...
jimhines
Jun. 6th, 2012 02:45 pm (UTC)
"Then there's the rest of my TBR pile that *isn't* for the Hugos..."

Oh, yeah. I owe a friend a beta read, I have several books I agreed to review, and then there's all the stuff I want to read just because I want to read 'em!
markbernstein
Jun. 6th, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
I mostly agree with you. My top two votes (order yet to be determined) will go to Ray of Light and Six Months, Three Days. I had the same sense of disorientation with The Copenhagen Interpretation, and felt that Fields of Gold failed as sf/fantasy because there were no rules of any sort, no world-building. It just tossed out a bunch of stuff on seeming whim.

I'm somewhat conflicted on What We Found. It's well written, with vivid, if unsympathetic, characters. My problem is that the science aspect felt completely peripheral to the story. You could have dispensed with it entirely and not affected the main narrative. Plus, I found the central, Heisenbergian conceit of the science awfully difficult to swallow.
jimhines
Jun. 6th, 2012 02:42 pm (UTC)
What was it about "Ray of Light" that pushed it into one of your top two spots?

ETA: I couldn't buy into the science conceit of "What We Found" either, if I looked at it as SF. Looking at it as more of a fantasy piece though, I thought it worked.

Edited at 2012-06-06 02:43 pm (UTC)
markbernstein
Jun. 6th, 2012 03:29 pm (UTC)
While I agree that Ray of Light isn't a great story, the straightforward storytelling and overall optimism appealed to me. It reminded me of the kinds of stories I grew up reading, which may be why the ending worked for me emotionally.
calico_reaction
Jun. 19th, 2012 01:55 am (UTC)
Ah, I can finally read this post! Just got my final novelette review up today, and I'm on to novellas. I think I'm going to have a tough time choosing between Anders and Ryman. I also agree with you on the other three, which didn't work for me for one reason or another, mainly due to the points you mention.

My listing of these reviews is here: http://calico-reaction.livejournal.com/308746.html
jimhines
Jun. 23rd, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)
I know a lot of people really liked it, but for some reason the Ryman just didn't click for me as well as some of the others.
calico_reaction
Jun. 23rd, 2012 03:05 am (UTC)
That's fair. And the thing is, with distance, I have to remind myself what Ryman's was actually about. With Anders, I remember easily, so that is likely the way I'll vote. :)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

Profile

Snoopy
jimhines
Jim C. Hines
Website

My Books

Tags

Latest Month

September 2014
S M T W T F S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930    
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow