Friday, April 17, 2015

Updated Hugo nominee list


There's been some changes to the Hugo nominee list due to a few people turning down their nominations as well as a couple that turned out to be ineligible.  The new list:

Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots)
  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
  • Skin Game by Jim Butcher (Roc Books)

Best Novella (1083 nominating ballots)
  • Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
  • “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, Nov 2014)
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Pale Realms of Shade” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “The Plural of Helen of Troy” by John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)

Best Novelette (1031 nominating ballots)
  • “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Cards InterGalactic Medicine Show, May 2014)
  • “Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner (Analog, Sept 2014)
  • “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Lia Belt Translator (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014)
  • “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn (Analog, June 2014)
  • “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra (Analog, Jul/Aug 2014)

Best Short Story (1174 nominating ballots)
  • “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014)
  • “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters, Baen)
  • “Totaled” by Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, July 2014)
  • “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)

Best Related Work (1150 nominating ballots)
  • “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
  • Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press)
  • Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts (Baen.com)
  • Wisdom from My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press)

Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots)
  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt (Marvel Comics)
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
  • Saga Volume 3 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
  • The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate by Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (1285 nominating ballots)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
  • Edge of Tomorrow screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Interstellar screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
  • The Lego Movie written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO Systems A/S Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))

Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (938 nominating ballots)
  • Doctor Who: “Listen” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
  • The Flash: “Pilot” teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW) (Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”, written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC) (GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV)
  • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)

Best Editor (Short Form) (870 nominating ballots)
  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Vox Day
  • Mike Resnick
  • Edmund R. Schubert
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Best Editor (Long Form) (712 nominating ballots)
  • Vox Day
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Jim Minz
  • Anne Sowards
  • Toni Weisskopf

Best Professional Artist (753 nominating ballots)
  • Julie Dillon
  • Kirk DouPonce
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Alan Pollack
  • Carter Reid

Best Semiprozine (660 nominating ballots)
  • Abyss & Apex Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Burtsztynski
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
  • Strange Horizons Niall Harrison Editor-in-Chief

Best Fanzine (576 nominating ballots)
  • Black Gate edited by John O’Neill
  • Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
  • Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Colin Harris and Helen Montgomery
  • The Revenge of Hump Day edited by Tim Bolgeo
  • Tangent Online edited by Dave Truesdale

Best Fancast (668 nominating ballots)
  • Adventures in SciFi Publishing Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward, Shaun Ferrell & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
  • Dungeon Crawlers Radio Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • The Sci Phi Show Jason Rennie
  • Tea and Jeopardy Emma Newman and Peter Newman
Best Fan Writer (777 nominating ballots)
  • Dave Freer
  • Amanda S. Green
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Laura J. Mixon
  • Cedar Sanderson

Best Fan Artist (296 nominating ballots)
  • Ninni Aalto
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Elizabeth Leggett
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating ballots)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2013 or 2014, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

  • Wesley Chu*
  • Jason Cordova
  • Kary English*
  • Rolf Nelson
  • Eric S. Raymond
*Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

Review: The Grace of Kings


The Grace of Kings
by Ken Liu




Format: Hardcover, 623 pages
Publisher: Saga Press
Cover Art: Sam Weber
Release Date: April 7, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1481424271



Synopsis:
"Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. 
 
Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice."
 
 
 
The Grace of Kings is the debut novel of acclaimed short fiction writer, Ken Liu, and is the first book in the Dandelion Dynasty.  I've been a big fan of his short fiction for a while now so I was eagerly looking forward to this book.  I was hoping he would be able to make the transition to a longer format and I have to say he succeeded wonderfully.

The setting is an island archipelago with many differing states that were conquered and unified in recent history by one of the other states.  The plot is loosely based on Chinese history of the fall of the Tang dynasty and the rise of the Han.  You can tell from the blurb there is obviously a rebellion, but what the blurb fails to convey is the scope of the story.  The friendship between the two main characters is the core of the novel, but it is not the only part.  The author has a lot to say about power, politics, friendship, tradition, class, and the roles of women.  Being epic fantasy there is a good deal of political manuvering as well as battles on land, sea, and air, from almost every land in the setting and over a long period of time.  However, it is the quieter moments that are most important. 

One of the things I really like about Liu's short fiction is that he is very good at creating emotional resonance with the stories.  A good example is "The Paper Menagerie", a heartbreaking story of a young man's ambivalence toward his Chinese-American heritage and his mother's small magics, which won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the WFA for novelette in 2012.  I'm happy to say that Liu managed to transfer much of this resonance to the novel.  Though the book is epic fantasy, it doesn't always feel like it because Liu often handles the big stuff quickly in chapters or paragraphs, almost like background, while concentrating on character moments.  Gary K. Wolfe of Locus magazine referred to this as a character-driven epic, which certainly fits.  As a consequence, there is a lot that happens in this book and it packs quite a punch.  Most other authors would need a trilogy or two to cover this much ground, while Liu does it one novel.

I do have one or two minor quibbles.  On occasion it feels like Liu isn't completely confident writing  longer fiction.  And towards the end of the book, the character moments become a little superseded by the plot so that it feels like more of a chronicle.  This was only a minor issue for me, but I thought it should be noted. 

I also want to add that there is a prequel novelette called "None Owns the Air", set some decades before The Grace of Kings, that tells about the development of airships.  It's not necessary in order to read the novel, but I think it's worth reading on its own. 

The Grace of Kings is a spectacular debut novel and I would heartily recommend it to everyone.

Rating: 9/10.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Eye on New Releases for April 14, 2015



Synopsis:
"Twenty years ago, feared general Cobalt Zosia led her five villainous captains and mercenary army into battle, wrestling monsters and toppling an empire. When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, she retired and gave up her legend to history.

Now the peace she carved for herself has been shattered by the unprovoked slaughter of her village. Seeking bloody vengeance, Zosia heads for battle once more, but to find justice she must confront grudge-bearing enemies, once-loyal allies, and an unknown army that marches under a familiar banner.

FIVE VILLAINS. ONE LEGENDARY GENERAL. A FINAL QUEST FOR VENGEANCE."

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: mini-reviews of Trigger Warning, Colours in the Steel, Jingo, and The Voyage of the Basilisk


Trigger Warning is Neil Gaiman's third collection of short fiction featuring his most recent work from the last few years.  It's a bit of a mix of both shorter and longer stories as well as poetry.  Gaiman himself says he usually prefers collections that more similar in theme and structure and I have to say I agree with him.  The poems were fine, but I had some trouble getting into the shorter stories.  The longer ones were better, maybe because Gaiman spent more time laying the groundwork for the story. 

Rating: 7/10.


I'm a pretty big fan of K.J. Parker, but had never gotten around to reading the author's debut novel, Colours in the Steel.  It's a pretty decent fantasy, though it does have some of the weaknesses of other debut novels.  The plot is a little light, like the story doesn't quite know where it's going.  Parker also hasn't quite fleshed out their style yet either.  On the other hand, the author's wry sense of humor is definitely present, as is the various commentary on human nature.  It's quite a decent debut novel and I will be reading the rest of the books in the trilogy soon.

Rating: 7.5/10.


I picked up Jingo not long Pratchett's passing.  I hadn't read any of his books for a little while so I felt it was time again to continue with Discworld.  This one is a satire on war.  It's a pretty good book, though it feels like it tries to do too much starting with a mystery for the Night's Watch, which then segues into the war.  Probably just a little too much plot for one book.  Anyway, on to the next! 

Rating: 7.5/10.




Voyage of the Basilisk is the third book in Marie Brennan's Lady Trent series.  This one follows the narrator as she makes a trip around the world to study dragons in various exotic locales.  In this book, we see many new locations and new types of dragons, though perhaps it feels a little too similar to the previous books.  If you've read the first two in the series, then you know how this is going to go; studying dragons and adventures followed by another important contribution to the political background situation.  It just starting to feel a little too repetitious at this point, and depending on your point of view that may or may not be a bad thing.   

Rating: 8/10.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Eye on New Releases for April 7, 2015



Synopsis:
"Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. 
 
Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty."

Sunday, April 5, 2015

2015 Hugo Nominees

The final nominees for the 2015 Hugos were announced this weekend.  There are a large number of unfamiliar authors and publishers on this as well as some rather, uh, surprising choices, mainly because of the Sad Puppy and Rabid Puppy slates by Brad Torgersen and Vox Day.

Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots)
  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Lines of Departure by Marco Kloos (47North)
  • Skin Game by Jim Butcher (Roc Books)

Best Novella (1083 nominating ballots)
  • Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
  • “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, Nov 2014)
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Pale Realms of Shade” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “The Plural of Helen of Troy by John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)

Best Novelette (1031 nominating ballots)
  • “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, May 2014)
  • “Championship B'tok” by Edward M. Lerner (Analog, Sept 2014)
  • “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn (Analog, June 2014)
  • “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra (Analog, Jul/Aug 2014)
  • “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)

Best Short Story (1174 nominating ballots)
  • “Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet (The End is Now (Apocalypse Triptych Book 2), Broad Reach Publishing)
  • “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014)
  • “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “Totaled” by Kary English (Galaxy's Edge Magazine, July 2014)
  • “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)

Best Related Work (1150 nominating ballots)
  • “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
  • Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press)
  • Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts (Baen.com)
  • Wisdom from My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press)

Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots)
  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt (Marvel Comics)
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
  • Saga Volume 3 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
  • The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate by Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (1285 nominating ballots)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
  • Edge of Tomorrow screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Interstellar screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
  • The Lego Movie written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO Systems A/S Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))

Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (938 nominating ballots)
  • Doctor Who: “Listen” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
  • The Flash: “Pilot” teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW) (Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”, written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC) (GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV)
  • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)

Best Editor (Short Form) (870 nominating ballots)
  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Vox Day
  • Mike Resnick
  • Edmund R. Schubert
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Best Editor (Long Form) (712 nominating ballots)
  • Vox Day
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Jim Minz
  • Anne Sowards
  • Toni Weisskopf

Best Professional Artist (753 nominating ballots)
  • Julie Dillon
  • Jon Eno
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Alan Pollack
  • Carter Reid

Best Semiprozine (660 nominating ballots)
  • Abyss & Apex Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Burtsztynski
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
  • Strange Horizons Niall Harrison Editor-in-Chief

Best Fanzine (576 nominating ballots)
  • Black Gate, edited by John O’Neill
  • Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
  • Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Colin Harris, and Helen Montgomery
  • The Revenge of Hump Day edited by Tim Bolgeo
  • Tangent SF Online, edited by Dave Truesdale

Best Fancast (668 nominating ballots)
  • Adventures in SF Publishing Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
  • Dungeon Crawlers Radio Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • The Sci Phi Show Jason Rennie
  • Tea and Jeopardy Emma Newman and Peter Newman

Best Fan Writer (777 nominating ballots)
  • Dave Freer
  • Amanda S. Green
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Laura J. Mixon
  • Cedar Sanderson

Best Fan Artist (296 nominating ballots)
  • Ninni Aalto
  • Brad Foster
  • Elizabeth Leggett
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating ballots)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2013 or 2014, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

  • Wesley Chu*
  • Jason Cordova
  • Kary English*
  • Rolf Nelson
  • Eric S. Raymond

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Review: Cold Comfort and Other Stories


Cold Comfort and Other Stories
by David McDonald

Format: ebook
Publisher: Clan Destine Press
Cover Art: ???
Release Date: December 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0992492557






David McDonald is an Australian speculative fiction author who has written several short stories and his first novel, a novelization of a Canadian movie, was released last month.  For full disclosure, the author is a friend of mine.  The collection, Cold Comfort and Other Stories, features three of McDonald's short stories, two reprints and one original.

"Cold Comfort."  This first story is an apocalyptic tale set centuries in the future where Earth is in the grips of an Ice Age and humanity is now confined to domed structures.  The main character, Vanja, is a woman trader who travels between the settlements bringing crafts and news, though her true passion is being an explorer and learning history.  After an attack by wild animals, Vanja comes across a dome that has not had a visitor for years and must deal with their backward preconceptions.  In the process, she learns the truth behind humanity's precarious existence.

"Cold Comfort" is quite a good story with good prose, competent writing, and an interesting main character.  The use of prejudice is well handled without overdoing it and so is the revelation of the reason for mankind's current existence.  I could easily see this expanded into a novel.  The only quibbles I have with the story have to do with a few elements of the world-building.  For instance, Vanja is a trader, however, she doesn't seem to carry anything except a small backpack's worth of items for trade, which to me would hardly justify her journeys.  Or at least, we the readers don't "see" the items; we're only told she has them.  So perhaps a little more "showing" instead of "telling". 

"Through Wind and Weather."  This story is the shortest of the bunch at just a couple of pages.  It's about a space pilot who teams up with a wacky A.I. to deliver badly needed goods to a planet and must survive solar storms to get there in time. 

There is a lot of good stuff in this story: solar storms, a bold pilot, an A.I. considered odd even for his kind, and a quick, tense plot.  While reading this I was thinking that this story really needs to be longer to really explore everything properly, until I got to the end and realized the story is long enough for what it is.  I can't reveal anything without spoiling it, but I have to say it feels strange that the story length is both just right and not long enough. 

"Our Land Abounds."  The last story is the original of the three and might be the most polished.  "Our Land Abounds" is set in the near-future where the world has suffered from shortages in food and other resources while Australia has manged to prosper by using its isolation to its advantage  The main character works in the government as an immigration officer who is hardened to his job, but still feels empathy with the people he deals with. 

I thought this was a good story dealing with immigration and scarcity, about what happens when people and countries do what is needed to survive.  The main issue I have is that it really isn't long enough.  The main character empathizes with an immigrant, but there isn't enough done with how he comes to feel that way and what he does with those feelings after. 

Cold Comfort and Other Stories is a pretty decent collection of stories from an up and coming author.  The stories aren't perfect so McDonald still has a little ways to go as a writer, but with more experience he will certainly make a name for himself.

Rating: 7.5/10.

Artist Spotlight: Todd Lockwood



This month's artist spotlight is Todd Lockwood.  He's been around for quite a while doing the cover art for books like Tobias S. Buckell's Xenowealth books, Tad Williams' Shadowmarch books, and more recently the Lady Trent books by Marie Brennan with accompanying interior illustrations.  Lockwood hasn't updated his website in a while, but you can still view a large part of his portfolio.  His website is here.  








Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Eye on New Releases for March 31, 2015




Synopsis:
"Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella's in ways both professional and personal.

Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella's life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: The Girl in the Road


The Girl in the Road
by Monica Byrne



Format: Hardcover, 323 pages
Publisher: Crown
Cover Art: Eduardo Jose Bernardino/E+/Getty Images
Release Date: May 20, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0804138840




"When Meena finds snakebites on her chest, her worst fears are realized: someone is after her and she must flee India.  As she plots her exit, she learns of the Trail, an energy-harvesting bridge spanning the Arabian Sea that has become a refuge for itinerant vagabonds and loners on the run.  This is her salvation.  Slipping out in the cover of night, with a knapsack full of supplies including a pozit GPS, a scroll reader, and a sealable waterproof pod, she sets off for Ethiopia, the place of her birth.

Meanwhile, Mariama, a young girl in Africa, is forced to flee her home.  She joins up with a caravan of misfits heading across the Sahara. She is taken in by Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who becomes her protector and confidante. They are trying to reach Addis Abba, Ethiopia, a metropolis swirling with radical politics and rich culture.  But Mariama will find a city far different than she ever expected—romantic, turbulent, and dangerous."



The Girl in the Road is the debut novel of Monica Byrne.  The writing is solid and competently written, thus fairly engaging for the reader.  The blurb however is a little misleading.  The book is billed as sort of a near-future thriller and adventure following two women as they flee their homes to Ethiopia, one headed west from India across the Indian Ocean and the other east from the coast of the Atlantic.  Instead it is more of a character piece, examining the women's lives and their emotional traumas as they make their journeys. 

So in a character piece the important thing is to make the characters relatable to the reader.  However, unlike the prose the characterization is a little under-par.  I just never connected to the characters at all.  Especially because, and I don't feel this is a spoiler because it becomes apparent quite early on, that both Meena and Mariama are somewhat mentally unstable.  I don't always mind this kind of plot device, but if I can't connect with the characters it just makes it all the more difficult.  It doesn't help that as the mental unbalances become more and more obvious, the story becomes even more nonsensical.   

The Girl in the Road is an intriguing, but frustrating read because I never connected to the characters and thus was ultimately unfulfilling.  On the plus side, the book is set in both India and Africa with Ethiopia the ultimate destination for characters who are both women of color.  For those that care about that element and can relate to the story, this may be a worthwhile book for you.

Rating: 6.5/10.