Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Sunday Review

The Fifth Season
My book this week was The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin.

Another recommended book, another hit. I am running a pretty good record following the advice of various folks. This is another book that is the first in a series, but it didn't feel like it ended as abruptly as Beasts of Tabat, which I reviewed last week. This one felt like it came to some conclusions before it ended, which means I feel satisfied.

First up: the completely non-spoiler review. This is a solid book with an interesting scientific premise that, once you catch on makes such perfect sense it's hard not to read the whole thing in one sitting. At least, that was the situation for me. The fifth seasons were fascinating to read about, seeing as I live near a volcano and was around when it blew up in 1980, and vividly remember quite a bit about it - including the faces wrapped in whatever fabric handy to keep out the ash. The book is the first of a series, but doesn't quite end on a cliffhanger. There's a beginning, middle and end to this telling - but also an opening for the next phase. There are quests unfulfilled, events yet to meet - but there's also a sense of ending. Definitely a contender for my Hugo ballot.

Ok, Spoilers ahead (use rot13 to read). V erpbtavmrq evtug njnl gung gur guerr punenpgref jrer nyy gur fnzr crefba ng qvssrerag cbvagf va ure yvsr, nygubhtu gur aneengbe jnfa'g pyrne gb zr ng nyy. Gur frpbaq-crefba zrgubq bs gryyvat Rffha'f fgbel znqr vg qenzngvp naq vzzrqvngr, juvpu urvtugrarq gur grafvba. V jbaqre vs fur'yy rire svaq ure qnhtugre, be vs gur birenyy nep jvyy or zber vzcbegnag. Guvf vf n jbzna jub unf orra guebhtu n ybg, V trg jul fur sryy ncneg jura ure fba jnf zheqrerq.

Nynonfgre vf bar urpx bs n anfgl cvrpr bs jbex. Ohg pbafvqrevat uvf bevtva naq jung ur'q orra chg guebhtu ol uvf inevbhf znfgref, vg jnf nznmvat ur unq gur jvyy gb yvir ng nyy. V ernyyl jnagrq gb ernq zber bs gur frperg uvfgbel bs Fnamr nf gbyq ol Nynonfgre, ohg jr qvqa'g trg arneyl rabhtu.

V ybirq gur zvk bs arj naq byq grpuabybtl. Guvf vf n jbeyq gbea ncneg ol trbybtvpny sbeprf, univat vafgehpgvbaf sbe fheiviny jevggra va fgbar vf n terng vqrn. Gur snpg gung zrgny qbrfa'g ynfg jbhyq arire unir bppheerq gb zr, fb V'z ybivat gur jnl vg vf cbegenlrq nf n sbbyvfu guvat. Gur bofvqvna xavirf ner nyfb arng gb ernq nobhg. Gur jubyr jbeyq bs guvf obbx vf whfg nznmvat.

Gur fgbar rngref ner rkgerzryl perrcl. Cneg bs zr xrrcf frrvat gurz nf jrrcvat natryf. Cneg bs zr nf Terrx tbqf. Va nal pnfr, gurl ner n phevbfvgl. Jurer qvq gurl pbzr sebz? Jrer gurl znqr? Sbe gung znggre, ubj qvq gur bebtrar qrirybc? Gurer'f n ybg bs hanafjrerq dhrfgvbaf va guvf obbx, bayl znqr rnfl gb orne orpnhfr gurer'f zber pbzvat riraghnyyl. V'z ernyyl phevbhf nobhg gur boryvfxf naq gurve bevtva, nybat jvgu gurve ebyr va gur qrfgehpgvba bs gur zbba. Naq lrg V'z irel cyrnfrq jvgu gur fgbel fb sne, naq vs V arire trg n punapr gb ernq gur frdhry, V'z unccl rabhtu jvgu gur obbx. Gung'f n ernyyl tbbq guvat. Guvf obbx jbjrq zr, juvpu qbrfa'g unccra arneyl bsgra rabhtu.

In summary, this is one that is definitely in contention to be on my Hugo ballot, though I have to see what else I can read in the next few months before the nominating starts. I can recommend it without hesitation, with the warning that it is the first in a series and you will want to find out what happens next.

I also read a novelette this week:
  • "Ether" by Zhang Ran, translated by Carmen Yiling Yan and Ken Liu, this week. I had already figured out most of the twist long before it was explained in the story. Unfortunately, the way it was finally explained was a bit of a clumsy info-dump, not as good as the previous plot. This one is kind of an "eh" for me - the ideas were good but the execution could have been better. Probably not on my Hugo ballot.

I've also read short stories:
  • "Headwater LLC" by Sequoia Nagamatsu takes an ancient myth and brings it into the modern world. It's also a good story about youth and the mistakes made in it. I liked it a lot, but I was fairly depressed at the ending. I need more happy stories in my life! Despite how depressing it is, I enjoyed the use of folklore and the modern twists, and this one has a decent chance at my Hugo nomination ballot.

  • "Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 14, Written Two Weeks Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind" by Erica L. Satifka is a frivolous story on the surface, but there's a lot of hints and terror in there. In fact, reading between the lines, I think this might be one of the scariest stories I've read in quite some time. There's also some interesting questions raised by it. Who found the list? What really happened to all mankind? I don't hate the story and maybe it'll go on my Hugo list... but it's not a happy story, and I'm beginning to get a little desperate for a happy story of some sort.

My Hugo Suggestions were likely recommended in the comment sections on File 770, Renay's Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom, or the Hugo 2016 Wikia. For my current list of Hugo 2016 readings, check out my Hugo 2016 Posts page.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Jul 22nd
  • Aquaman #42 - I hate to say it, but the book is moving too slowly. We should have already gotten the full backstory by now and be moving on into possible resolutions. Instead, this gave us a tiny piece we already could have gotten from context in the last issue, then introduced a handful of characters. Not a sterling start. I'm also less than impressed with the new design of Aquaman and his now perpetual five-o'clock shadow. It doesn't make him look tough, sorry.
  • Harley Quinn & Power Girl #2 - I never thought I'd be agreeing with Harley, but yeah, who NAMES those places?!? Anyhow, this is a hilarious and not at all serious book that twists from moment to moment to make something that's somehow incredible and odd. I love it.
  • Sinestro #13 - If you do something good for the wrong reasons... well, Sinestro is still a nasty villain and Soranik is not in a good place at all. But I'll keep reading just for Soranik, the only character worth reading about in this book. She's enough to make the rest of it just barely tolerable.
  • Batman '66 #25 - Um. Wow. Ok, so we start with the official intro of Harlequin, who is considerably better in many ways than the Joker. I was happy to see an appearance of Matches Malone in there. Then we get a story with Barbara Gordon, who gives us the reason supervillain team-ups often don't work. Overall a fun issue, with the Harlequin story a significant bit better.
  • Fables TP #150/Vol 22 - The final issue of the series is its own trade paperback, and most of the pages were definitely needed to get all the stories packed into this. There are a lot of characters in the series and many of them finally get their "final" tales related in this book. Personally, I enjoyed it. It was a nice final issue, and yes, I'm going to consider it for the Hugo. Is fantasy allowed in the Hugo Awards? Should I nominate the series as a whole, or just the final volume?