May 31st, 2014

books

May Books

I'm pretty far behind with bookblogging at present. This has basically been the case since Worldcon commitments started to dominate my free time; I've also been trying to develop a policy of writing lots of bookblog entries at the weekend, and then publishing two every weekday evening, so as not to swamp friendslists of those who still use livejournal; I should be able to catch up eventually that way, though it hasn't quite worked yet. Anyway, I managed 27 books during May, more than half of them sf, more than half of those Hugo or Retro Hugo nominees (and most of those I actually bought; the voter packet only came out in the last few days). Next month will have Hugo non-fiction and graphic story nominees as well. Anyway, these are the books of May 2014:

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Best Novella Hugos 2014

This was one category this year where none of the stories quite grabbed me, and I feel a bit uncertain about my rankings. The fact that I read them all in one go lying outside in a hammock on a sunny day in my sister's garden in Burgundy may have diminished my concentration. So, more than usually, this is just an explanation of my own vote rather than advocacy for or against one story or another. I have also not yet decided where to place "No Award" in my ranking.

5) [May Books 14)] The Butcher of Khardov, by Dan Wells

This seemed to me a pretty standard augmented humanity superhero-type story, without any particular features that grabbed me one way or the other. The Russian setting was an original touch.

4) “The Chaplain's Legacy”, by Brad Torgersen

I'm not a lover of Torgersen's prose in general, but here at least there seemed to be a bit more smoothness in delivery, and quite an interesting setup - humans have been defeated in a war with atheist aliens, and it's now a decade or so later; counter-revolution and combat ensue. Having said that, the story then goes fairly predictably, and the aliens' prosthetic flying discs didn't really convince me (they never break down, except when they do; they just have enough power to get us to the next stage of the plot).

3) “Wakulla Springs”, by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages

This is the ranking I feel most ambivalent about. It's probably the best story on the ballot, a brilliant exploration of race, movies and (mostly) Florida, packed with references to sf and other classics; but it isn't sf itself, and I do like Hugo nominees to be visibly part of the genre. There is a short dream sequence, and a throwaway line at the very end, which could be argued to contribute (rather minimal) fantasy elements to the story, but otherwise the average Lovejoy novel has more sfnal content, and that is not very much. It will probably win despte my reservations.

2) “Equoid”, by Charles Stross

Another of Stross's Laundry stories, about a secret arm of British bureaucracy whose job it is to see off occult threats to the realm. There are lots of really fun references to pony stories and particularly to Cold Comfort Farm - this is a woodshed in which there really is something nasty - as well as to classic Lovecraft, and probably many others that I missed, with the usual frenetic pacing and some vividly gruesome description. It slightly loses its way, oddly enough, in a flashback sequence to Lovecraft's own life; it's as if the Cthulhu mythos and its creator don't actually mix all that well.

1) [May Books 15)] Six-Gun Snow White, by Catherynne M. Valente

An interesting retelling of the Snow White story, considerably altered and embellished, in a slightly fantasy Wild West setting, with the various tropes of fairy tale, Native American myth and frontier struggle colliding in a series of very short chapters. I rather bounced off the same author's Deathless, which did something similar for Russia, but liked this one sufficiently to put it top of my list, if slightly faute de mieux.

You can vote in this year's Hugos, and the 1939 Retro Hugos, by joining Loncon 3 at http://www.loncon3.org/memberships .

2014: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Related Work | Best Graphic Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist | Best Fan Artist
1939: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist