Friday, May 26, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Novelette - "Touring with the Alien", by Carolyn Ives Gilman

"Touring with the Alien", by Carolyn Ives Gilman is about an alien invasion and a woman who drives for a living.

As soon as I finished this story, I felt the same as I did after reading Meteor Men - a sort of melancholy and wistfulness. The stories are not the same, but I definitely got the same vibe - an alien we truly do not and cannot understand, but must meet halfway (or more). And an ending in which nothing can ever be the same, but perhaps it won't be as bad as we're afraid it will be.

The good: Avery is likable, and it's interesting how she meets with three different type of men during the story - her brother, the agent, and the alien translator. While most of the interaction is with the translator, the other two tell us a lot about her character.

The bad: There are a few plot holes. We never learn how the aliens arrived, how they abducted and taught the translators, nor what their long-term goal actually is. While Avery is temporarily shocked at the notion that she's helped an alien invasion, if she'd thought about it at all she would know it didn't matter - they were already there. What exactly she's expecting from the end, I can't tell. Does she really think the government is going to let her just do that? For that matter, what happens to the translator? Is he stuck, or can he go back, or what? The amount of insanity the two are in for is glossed over. Then there is the alien invasion itself... why only a dozen spots over North America? Why not India, or China, or anywhere else in the world? I'm left with a lot more questions than answers, and not in a good thought-inspiring way.

Conclusion: While it's not a bad story, I really can't get over the bits that just don't make sense to me.

So, my ballot will most likely have "The Tomato Thief" at the top, followed by "The Art of Space Travel". I'm not sure about the final three, but at the moment I've got them listed as "The Jewel and Her Lapidary", "You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay" and "Touring with the Alien" last... but I think that may change. As with the short stories, none of these are bad and I won't be disappointed if any of them win.

Best Novelette: I've read all the entries in this category I intend to read. Check them out in my Reviews of 2017 Hugo Finalists