Sunday, September 06, 2015

A Sunday Review

My book this week was Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.

This is another recommended book that I'd heard about a long time ago and considered reading. Until I decided to try nominating for the Hugos, I really wasn't sure if I would read it, but the instant I got my membership for Sasquan I put it on hold at the library. I finally got it, and it took me a solid week to read.

First up: the completely non-spoiler review. This is one of those books that makes you think hard about what is important in life and in the world. It's a very bleak story at the start, with plenty of descriptions of technology and ingenuity. There are heroes and villains, unexpected moments of this and that, and multiple scenarios played out along the way. It's a big book, and it's very interesting, but it has flaws.

Ok, Spoilers ahead (use rot13 to read). Guvf vf n obbx bs gjb znva cnegf. Gur svefg gjb guveqf bs gur obbx vf n qvfnfgre fgbel bs gur tevzzrfg glcr. Bs pbhefr, gur svefg cneg vf qvivqrq vagb gjb cnegf: gur qvfnfgre vgfrys naq gur cbyvgvpny znarhiref nsgre nzbat jung'f yrsg bs gur uhzna enpr. Gur svany cneg bs gur obbx gnxrf cynpr 5000 lrnef yngre naq srryf yvxr n pbzcyrgryl qvssrerag fgbel... naq lrg gur svefg cneg jbhyqa'g or pbzcyrgr jvgubhg gur frpbaq naq gur frpbaq jbhyq oneryl fgnaq nybar jvgubhg gur svefg.

V'z ernyyl tynq Qbbo tbg gb frg sbbg ba Pyrsg. Orlbaq gung, gubhtu... jbj, jung n qrcerffvat "raq" gb gur uhzna enpr. V shyyl rkcrpgrq zber crbcyr gb znxr vg gb gurve arj ubzr. Jura gur fgbel mvccrq guebhtu gubfr guerr lrnef naq gurer jrer bayl 20-fbzr crbcyr yrsg, V jnf fubpxrq. Ohg ng yrnfg V svanyyl tbg gur zrnavat bs gur gvgyr bs gur obbx jura gurl tbg qbja gb frira. V ungrq gung Whyvn jnf bar bs gurz. Juvyr V unq n ivfpreny ernpgvba gb gur arj ivyynva, V qvqa'g svaq ure nf zranpvat nf Whyvn.

Jvgubhg Whyvn, n ybg zber crbcyr jbhyq unir fheivirq. Gur obyvqr fgevxr gung xvyyrq fb znal jbhyq unir orra hayvxryl gb uvg, orpnhfr gur flfgrz jbhyq abg unir orra pbashfrq ol gur snxr obyvqr, naq gur fjnez jbhyq abg unir tbar bss ol vgfrys gb qvr fybjyl. Sbe gung znggre, gur Znegvnaf? Gurl jbhyq unir yvirq nf jryy, nffhzvat gurl qvqa'g znxr vg gb Znef, n snpg gung vf arire ernyyl nqqerffrq, nygubhtu vg vf rkgerzryl hayvxryl.

V sbhaq zlfrys trggvat n yvggyr oberq ol nyy gur grpuavpny vasb-qhzcf. Lrf, gurl ner snfpvangvat naq vg'f avpr gur nhgube fcrag gvzr guvaxvat nobhg ubj guvatf jbhyq npghnyyl jbex, ohg nsgre gur svsgu be fvkgu gvzr gur fgbel vf vagreehcgrq ol na vasb-qhzc ba gur grpu, V whfg jnagrq gb fnl, "Trg ba jvgu gur sernxva' fgbel, nyernql!" Fbzr bs gubfr grpuavpny ovgf jbhyq unir orra terng nf na nccraqvk sbe crbcyr jub ernyyl jnag gb ernq gurz. Fbzr jbexrq va cynpr. Ohg birenyy, gurl qenttrq gur fgbel gb n unyg, ercrngrqyl. Ol guvf gbxra, guvf obbx naablrq zr nf zhpu nf gur Guerr-Obql Ceboyrz, juvpu nyfb xrcg orvat qenttrq gb n unyg ol bire-rkcynangvba. Ybbx, V ybirq Gur Znegvna, naq vg'f nyy grpuab fghss, ohg gurer unf gb or n onynapr, naq V guvax Frirarirf sryy ba gur "gbb zhpu vasbezngvba" fvqr bs gur fpnyr n srj gbb znal gvzrf.

Gur bgure fheivibef jrer n ovg bs n fhecevfr gb zr. V sryg, fgbel-jvfr, gung Qvanu'f snzvyl unq gb fheivir gur qvfnfgre, ohg znlor abg gur ragver 5000 lrnef. V jnf yrff fher bs gur fhoznevar perj. Ohg vg jnf cerggl pyrne gb zr gung jura Xngu Gjb fnj gur fgenatre, gung jnf Qvanu'f eryngvirf, ubcrshyyl abg vaoerq. Gur sbyx bs gur frn jrer n uhtr fhecevfr, ohg gur rkcynangvba sebz gur cubgbf jbexrq sbe zr.

Gur obbx qrcerffrq zr. V ernyyl sryg gur cbjre bs gur qvfnfgre fgbel, naq V'z abg fher ubj ybat vg'yy gnxr zr gb trg bire vg. Jung jbhyq V qb vs V unq gjb lrnef gb yvir? Uneq gb fnl. Uneq gb pbzceruraq. Vg qvqa'g dhvgr tvir zr avtugznerf, ohg V qvq guvax nobhg vg n yvggyr gbb zhpu.

In conclusion, this is a thought-provoking and powerful work, dragged down a bit by too much technical information. Like the Three-Body Problem, I'm sure many people loved it much more than me, but, like TBP, I probably won't nominate it for a Hugo or vote for it if it makes the ballot: because reading it sometimes felt like a chore of plowing through too much techno-speak to find the story underneath.

I also read a novelette:
  • "Tasha's Fail-Safe" by Adam Troy-Castro is a solid little stand-alone story about a terrifying method of protecting a person's secrets. I wasn't aware until after reading the story that one of the characters has appeared before, although that little factoid cleared up a couple of lines in the novelette that hadn't made much sense. I enjoyed the story enough I might just look up more of the character in the future. As for the Hugo nominations, I don't know. It's good and it sticks with me, so it has a chance.

I've also read short stories:
  • "Find a Way Home" by Paul Cornell is a story I couldn't resist reading for personal reasons. Many years ago I was in an online discussion group with Paul, and he ended up Tuckerizing me in a Doctor Who novel. That said, I've followed his career with much interest ever since, especially enjoying his connections to Fortean society. This is a very Fortean story. A young man sees a UFO... then events continue from there, including na ENS enqne bcrengbe qbvat jung znal crbcyr wbxr nobhg gur zvyvgnel qbvat ertneqvat HSBf. This is a fun and somewhat happy story, and manages some character growth in just a few pages, which is impressive. Not bad at all. Hugo-worthy? I'll see if it sticks with me before I decide.

  • "Hic Sunt Monstra" by Brian Trent is a story about echoes, and echoes of echoes. Reading it, you may take awhile to figure out exactly what is going on, but eventually you find the sense of it. Only, have you taken that sense to its logical conclusion? I found it surprisingly chilling once I got to the final line and was hit on the head by the obvious. This is a strong contender for my Hugo nomination ballot. note: the link directly to the story may be for a limited time.

Here are some items for consideration for Related Work:
  • Where's the Beef? by George R.R. Martin is a piece that demolishes the idea that a cabal of "social justice warriors" has been controlling the Hugo Awards and blocking conservative writers from having a chance at honors. While I still think the related works award should go to works directly about science fiction or fantasy, this is definitely worthy of a look for its mentions of great and deserving works along with its analysis of Hugo voting over "recent" years. I don't know if I'll nominate it, but I think people ought to read it. And it's blessedly short.

  • The Future’s Been Here Since 1939: Female Fans, Cosplay, and Conventions by Erica McGillivray makes me want to get my costume ready even more. This piece covers the history of Cosplay, which started at the first Worldcon in 1939 and finally got dubbed as "cosplay" in 1983, and the more recent backlash against it. There's also a strong argument made for how the female side of fandom has embraced masquerades even more than men, which has also resulted in a backlash. There are some great links in here that give more background, but the piece itself is enough to get a person started on looking at cosplay and its history. Definitely worth a read.

My Hugo Suggestions were most likely recommended in the comment sections on File 770, Renay's Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom, or the Hugo 2016 Wikia. I've also been getting various magazines and/or visiting their websites to look for good short fiction. 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 29th
  • Hoax Hunters 2015 #5 - I really hope when I gather these all together and read them all at once that they'll make more sense. As it is, this issue is nearly incomprehensible. The colorist is still making everything too dark and murky, as well. I love the concept and enjoyed the first few issues, so I'm continuing to read... but if this doesn't improve I'm not sure I want to keep up with it.
  • Doctor Who 9th #3 - Lucky Rose will have to continue to be lucky to get out of that cliff-hanger... I have confidence in Captain Jack and the Doctor, though. I'm still waiting to find out exactly what's going on in this, but at least we got one reveal in here.
  • Doctor Who 10th #13 - I'm still curious about Cleo, but I really like some of the other characters. Dorothy's change is interesting, and I hope it's not nearly as tragic as it feels like it's going to be. This will read much better all at once in a collection, but that's been the case with most of the Doctor Who comics.
  • Doctor Who 12th #10 - More of the thinly disguised Rat Pack and Clara, just hanging around together. I like the Doctor's not-at-all subtle discussion with Sonny about his life. The whole thing wrapped up ok, if a little cheesily. Not a bad issue.