A pretty good issue, with a couple of my favorite authors returning with new stories, and good stories from authors I'm not all that familiar with as...moreA pretty good issue, with a couple of my favorite authors returning with new stories, and good stories from authors I'm not all that familiar with as well. In fact, I enjoyed each story here, to varying degrees.
From the title, you might never guess that "Water" was about a future in which people use cybernetic implants... Ad-supported cybernetic implants. It's pretty amusing story with some trenchant observations, which I read on my ad-supported Kindle. :)
I've enjoyed all of Carrie Vaughn's previous Harry and Marlowe stories, and "Harry and Marlowe and the Intrigues at the Aetherian Exhibition" is quite likable, though I'm not sure how well it would work for those who haven't read the duo's previous exploits, since this one is more claustrophobic.
It's a mark of how high Ken Liu has set the bar for himself that when he writes a merely good fantasy, such as this issue's "None Owns the Air", one feels disappointed it wasn't totally brilliant. But it was totally engaging, and almost a rarity in being a semi-traditional fantasy.
"So Sharp That Blood Must Flow" was a short but engaging alternate, darker view of The Little Mermaid that was nicely executed.
Swirsky's "Detours on the Way to Nothing" was as much a short mood piece as anything else, told with an odd narration style (which I think is first person giving a second person narration.)
Wilson's "Fireborn" is a "reprint" from the Rip-Off anthology, taking off from the first line of a Sandburg story.
"Love in Another Language" was an interesting contemporary short story, sufficient so that I hardly notice that it didn't seem to have a fantasy element (or science fiction element, for that matter.)
And finally, the novella "Hellhound" was a very enjoyable supernatural adventure reminding us you never know what you'll get with a rescue dog from the pound.
Connie Willis has a wonderful writing style, engrossing prose and a wonderful sense of detail and character. Whether she's writing science fiction or...moreConnie Willis has a wonderful writing style, engrossing prose and a wonderful sense of detail and character. Whether she's writing science fiction or a ghost story, it's always the human element she explores.
This issue was a mixed bag for me. I definitely enjoyed the short stories more than the novelettes.
I really enjoyed "The Plantimal", but then it would...moreThis issue was a mixed bag for me. I definitely enjoyed the short stories more than the novelettes.
I really enjoyed "The Plantimal", but then it would be big news if Ken Liu wrote something I didn't like. This personal and again emotional story ask questions about "what's human", or at least "what's sentient".
"Drink in a Small Town" was quite short but amusing, one of those old-school sci-fi stories that didn't worry over much about character but just had a simple anecdote to tell.
"Solomon's Little Sister" was also pretty good, a futuristic sci-fi with an ample supply of replacement bodies.
"The Redemption of Kip Banjeree" was a lot of fun with a futuristic parkour courier service, sort of Mirror's Edge plus cyberpunk hacking.
And lastly, "Through Portal" was mostly interesting, though I am not sure I grokked what transpired exactly on the far side of the portal, the near side was good enough.
The longer stories, I enjoyed "Declaration" the most, a virtual reality revolution of sorts. (I previously read - or I guess I should say listened to - this is part of the "Rip-Off" audiobook anthology audible gave away as a promo last year.)
"Walking Gear" was depressing rather than edifying. So, for that matter, was "All the Pretty Little Mermaids". The latter was especially disappointing because it was the cover article, so I have to feel the editors forwarded a really good story, but at the end it just left me with a puzzled expression on my face wondering what the point of all that was. (Seriously, if you understood the purpose of that story, tack on a comment and clue me in.)(less)
John Scalzi offers a deleted chapter from "The Last Colony" is a little web freebie for fans. Strictly of interest to intense fans of his "Old Man's W...moreJohn Scalzi offers a deleted chapter from "The Last Colony" is a little web freebie for fans. Strictly of interest to intense fans of his "Old Man's War" universe, it offers a small insight into the creation of the alien Conclave and human/CDF response to it, mostly political. Interesting but not essential.(less)
The action story continues, picking up where The Darwin Elevator left off. Fast-paced action and heroics, inscrutable alien devices, and more plot com...moreThe action story continues, picking up where The Darwin Elevator left off. Fast-paced action and heroics, inscrutable alien devices, and more plot complications from human infighting. All in all an enjoyable light adventure read (though I wish the physics of orbital mechanics was a little better rooted, it's not terribly important to the plot.) Oh, a cliffhanger ending requires immediately readingThe Plague Forge.
A solid ending for the duology, though not as striking as the first volume. The storyline splits into a dozen threads, mysteries are explored and fina...moreA solid ending for the duology, though not as striking as the first volume. The storyline splits into a dozen threads, mysteries are explored and finally explained, and it all reaches a conclusion of universe-wide importance. Perhaps a little too fond of metaphysics and a few resolutions via new players not previously in evidence, but overall a very well-written story with some distinct and memorable characters.(less)
A likable enough sequel to the previous trilogy (that began withLeviathan Wakes).
The story jumps ahead a few years as humanity begins to push through...moreA likable enough sequel to the previous trilogy (that began withLeviathan Wakes).
The story jumps ahead a few years as humanity begins to push through the gates (opened as part of the previous book, Abaddon's Gate), and already the Earth UN and belter OPA are squabbling over a few square miles of real estate on a newly discovered, apparently habitable planet. New worlds, new alien surprises, same old stupid human race. And once again Holden & crew are in the thick of it.
I didn't find the storyline as interesting as Abaddon's Gate, mostly because several of the major characters are far from nuanced. But it's a good read, and has some nice dialog, and overall I found it quite enjoyable. The authors are pretty clever at inventing new obstacles and surprises for their characters to overcome.(less)
I listen to this audio book freebie without benefit of having read the Star Force novels of which is a part. In the introduction, the author says this...moreI listen to this audio book freebie without benefit of having read the Star Force novels of which is a part. In the introduction, the author says this explains events on earth in parallel to the 4th book, but involving a different character.
Bjorn, who may or may not be a regular in the series, is a super-soldier assassin, his body equipped with nano-machines that make him stronger, faster, better healing, yada yada... And this story is pretty much 100% action as he kills, runs, kills, hides, kills, yada yada... A pretty well-written action story.
The novella doesn't give much in the way of exposition concerning the major parties, but if you're willing to let the general idea of an alien invasion wash over you without asking too many questions, the basic story is quite accessible.(less)
A few highlights: I thought "The Museum of Errors" was humorous enough to make me laugh a few times. And "For All of Us Down Here" was an interesting...moreA few highlights: I thought "The Museum of Errors" was humorous enough to make me laugh a few times. And "For All of Us Down Here" was an interesting Singularity story.
A depressingly significant number of stories left me thinking, "huh?" at the end. "In Her Eyes" was an example of a decent, well-written story that drew my interest but then took a odd turn at the end it just left me hanging. I guess I'm just too old to appreciate stories without easily comprehensible endings.(less)
Given an infinite number of alternate earths to play with, the authors throw out a couple of interesting ideas for alternate ecosystems. But the multi...moreGiven an infinite number of alternate earths to play with, the authors throw out a couple of interesting ideas for alternate ecosystems. But the multiple plots here are all over the place, with shallow parallel storylines, and the whole "war" theme just kind of sputters out. Unlike the "Long Earth" universe, the characters have very limited dimensions. There are some vague hints of mysteries to be seen and doubtless sequels to be written, though I don't think I'll hang around for them.
Lightweight, quick read, none of the multiple plots or characters are especially engrossing.(less)
I thought "Schools of Clay", a hive-alien worker rebellion story, and "The Long Happy Death of Oxford Brown", a virtual afterlife story, were both ent...moreI thought "Schools of Clay", a hive-alien worker rebellion story, and "The Long Happy Death of Oxford Brown", a virtual afterlife story, were both entertaining.
Of the Short Stories, "Ask Citizen Etiquette" was my favorite.(less)
I thought "Dead Fads" was the best of the stories. The story of an artist in a world where the dead can be returned to an undead...moreA mostly wasted issue.
I thought "Dead Fads" was the best of the stories. The story of an artist in a world where the dead can be returned to an undead post-life. McHugh has something to say, and I hope will be hearing from her again.
"Invisible Planets" the runner-up. The collection of unusual alien civilizations presented as teaching tools (rather than reality).
Neither of those was so awesome it could save the issue.
"Leaving Night" was a quick, glossy overview of future history based on the unusual premise of a single, incomprehensible supernatural intervention in human affairs that separates the religious believers from the unbelievers.
Which reminds me that half the "science-fiction" section of this issue could have been termed fantasy.
"Power Armor: A Love Story" convinced me I was right not to buy the "Armor" is anthology. When I think Power Armor, I think Starship Troopers and Forever War, not a romantic comedy intended to star George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones.
I didn't finish any of the Fantasy stories, even the short ones. Yard sales, bartenders, everybody wants to write contemporary fantasy like Neil bloody Gaiman. What ever happened to wizards, swords, heck I'd settle for a witch or a vampire at this point. (less)
An excellent book, the first half of a duology (not a self-contained story.)
This introduces seven characters who are taking an urgent pilgrimage to a...moreAn excellent book, the first half of a duology (not a self-contained story.)
This introduces seven characters who are taking an urgent pilgrimage to a famous anomaly, The Time Tombs of planet Hyperion, one never understood by science and the subject of a major religion. Each of them gets a major (novella-length) backstory, many of which could be full-fledged novels on their own and all of which are fascinating. At the same time, the novel introduces the future universe of interstellar travel, planetary alliances, aliens and AIs; and it sets up a conflict between two empires that seems to have its origin in the Time Tombs. The latter to be resolved in the next volume.
Well written, and very imaginative. Both the pros and the story it tells draw you into each of the backstories in turn.(less)
A high action space opera/romance in a universe with interstellar travel and a couple of alien civilizations, too. Power suits, little guns, big guns,...moreA high action space opera/romance in a universe with interstellar travel and a couple of alien civilizations, too. Power suits, little guns, big guns, lots of stuff blowing up, weird monsters, secret agendas, intrigue, sex and even an alien space fleet.
The hero is a big bad-ass mercenary taking a new, high-risk job to burnish her impressively lethal résumé. At least so were told. I'd be more impressed if she didn't lose every single fight she got into in this book, going 0-3 (0-4 if you count some martial arts sparring.) Really, every fight ends with Devi needing to be rescued by dreamy Rupert (the other half of the romance part) so she can wake up in the hospital having her broken bones reassembled (fortunately a much quicker healing process than present.)
The story, action sequences aside, is the first part of a trilogy that continues with Honor's Knight. "Fortune's Pawn" raises far more questions and mysteries than it answers, revealing conspiracies and lots of people who aren't what they pretend to be (maybe they aren't even people), and leaving the reader wondering who the good guys and bad guys really are, assuming there are good guys somewhere. I found it intriguing enough to want to read the sequel to find out.
Because so many of the characters are undercover, none of them are well revealed, except for the hero, Devi, who loves guns, power armor, shooting things, and, of course, Rupert — the one man in the universe she can't have.
This is one of those "one long story broken into three books" trilogies, the next book picking up as just the next chapter, so its futile to read just this book. (less)
A bit disappointing compared to the rest of the Expanse novels.
This story concerns David, a Martian teenager about to get the Martian equivalent of a...moreA bit disappointing compared to the rest of the Expanse novels.
This story concerns David, a Martian teenager about to get the Martian equivalent of a college assignment. More or less as a lark, he's using the school's chemistry lab to cook drugs in his spare time, which he sells to a fellow named Hutch. When David gets the hots for Leelee, one of Hutch's other underlings, his efforts to "rescue" her will lead to complications.
The story is short, yet the early going is still rather tedious. The plot runs in a fairly straightforward fashion. I just didn't find David a very interesting person.
The story's main tie to the Expanse universe is Bobby Draper, a gunnery sergeant in the Martian Marines, who was one of the main characters in book 2, Caliban's War. Here she has a small role as David's aunt who's on leave from the Marines following events in Caliban's War.
Since all three of the Expanse novels out so far (at the time of this writing) take place in space or on small, low-gravity asteroids (Ceres, Ganymede, etc.) or in deep space, this offers the first example of life on Mars in this universe. But it's not very detailed.(less)
A pretty interesting entry in the Expanse space opera series that began with Leviathan Wakes. Some familiar characters return, and several new charact...moreA pretty interesting entry in the Expanse space opera series that began with Leviathan Wakes. Some familiar characters return, and several new characters join the story. An intriguing premise starts to look at the alien "whatever" the first book left on Venus. A couple of the new characters had some interesting points of view, especially Anna, a preacher from Earth, who provides a rational and compassionate counterpoint to the occasional violence that the Expanse provides.
Then, it's clear this is going to be a long series, as we've already teased the set up for future adventures.(less)
This was an excellent issue. How could it not be with stories by Kress & Bodard? And there's more!
Kress's "The Common Good" was excellent (and the...moreThis was an excellent issue. How could it not be with stories by Kress & Bodard? And there's more!
Kress's "The Common Good" was excellent (and the longest story in this issue.) 60 years after aliens trash the planet, a backwoods survivalist teen sets off to meet his ancestors nemesis. In some ways, this echoes the thought processes of her Nebula Award-winning novella from last year, "After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall". Can anyone save mankind from itself?
In "Memorials", Bodard returns to the universe of Xuya, and another clan of the displaced civilization in her future galaxy. Again, it's about facing consequences and recognizing obligations. It's very good, and I really need to read more of Bodard.
Jablonsky's "Static" is a thoughtful piece on foreknowledge, as some sort of passing space phenomena gives the Earth's electronic devices some random insights into the future (with maybe some echoes of "Flash Forward".) Is all that inevitable? And are we responsible for what our future selves will/might do?
Collin's "Primes" holds up well as a dramatic futuristic crime story in which implant connections directly to the Internet bombard us with commercial messages all day long.
Tem's "The Carl Paradox" is an amusingly clever time travel story. Short, light, funny.
McHugh's "Extracted Journal Notes for and Ethnography of Bnebene Nomad Culture" gives us an interesting tale of a human anthropologist studying an really different alien culture.
I was prepared to dislike Lovett's novella "Music to Me", since it's a sequel to a series going back to 2007 of which...moreA solid if not spectacular issue.
I was prepared to dislike Lovett's novella "Music to Me", since it's a sequel to a series going back to 2007 of which I have no recollection. But after a bit, it's AI protagonist and narrator began to grow on me, and by the end I thought it was a pretty good story (though definitely now needing the sequel which I suppose will take another three or four years.)
"Determined Spirits" was an interesting story in space, one of those disaster movie type plots. It was engaging.
"Mousunderstanding" was a wry kind of old-school space story with a meeting of two alien cultures. Reminded me a bit of Ensign Flannery stories.
"Just like Grandma Used to Make" was very short and to the point, a satire just slightly longer than a political cartoon.
"The Problem with Reproducible Bugs" was short and amusing in a small-scale way.
"Technological Plateau" and "This Quiet Dust" are similar in their subject and viewpoint, both involving planetary exploration seeking new life forms and finding worlds with surprisingly strange ecosystems. Both managed to be intriguing.
"Wine, Women, and Stars" is one of those stories where the real story is (mostly) buried in the flashbacks, some competition and professional jealousy. It's Gray's Anatomy in space...
"Racing Prejudice" was very short and to the point, using an AI in some kind of metaphor that got murky.
"The Tansy Tree" novelette strives for an emotional connection, but to me it got lost in all the odd jargon.
I haven't started on the Serial yet. Waiting for all the parts.
In summary, an issue worth reading if not quite worth raving about.
"Stone and Glass" is an enjoyable, light fantasy story of a thief, a wizard, and a law man. A sort of crime caper that made for a...moreOn the positive side:
"Stone and Glass" is an enjoyable, light fantasy story of a thief, a wizard, and a law man. A sort of crime caper that made for a fun story. Liked it a lot.
"Hard Stars" was a contemporary sci-fi story with an interesting premise and characters. Liked it.
"The Soul in the Bell Jar" was a thoughtful fantasy story that I somewhat enjoyed.
"Baba Makosh" was a decent fantasy tale. I usually don't go for stories involving gods, but this did it pretty well.
"Sing Pilgrim!" Was very short and mildly cute.
On the really disappointing side:
I should've stopped reading "Success" early on, as it soon felt like one of those stories that would end and leave me scratching my head and staring at the last paragraph wondering what the heck it was all about. Should have followed my instinct.
In "Hell for Company", the author makes Mark Twain a character who tells the story. Writing in Mark Twain's voice is a bit of hubris.