Monday, July 10, 2017

A Hugo Review: John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer - Laurie Penny

The Hugo packet includes four stories by Penny: Blue Monday, Everything Belongs to the Future (excerpt), The Killing Jar and Your Orisons May Be Recorded.

I wish I'd read these earlier, because I cannot yet tell if they will have a lasting impact on me... but if they do Penny would go up in my estimation. Every one of these stories hit me hard in a different spot, and while none of them fit my idea of incredible, all of them were very good.

Blue Monday involves mass production of internet videos. It's a somewhat logical progression of the current situation to the extremes presented in the story, which is what good fiction does. It's also a nice exploration of emotion and love and memory, from the point of view of someone who is definitely trying to be unlikeable. As a cat lover, I enjoyed this more than I probably should have.

Everything Belongs to the Future was the hardest to read - I just had difficulty working through it and found myself rereading bits to try to understand how they fit. Once I made of couple of connections, the whole story snapped into focus. But it wasn't a pleasant read for me. The concept is solid - what if there's a way to stop aging, but it's only available to the rich? What happens when the rest of the population starts to try to fight back? I think the result was slightly unsatisfying, however. Unfortunately, I can't pinpoint what bothers me about the story. If only I had read these stories earlier, I might have figured it out.

Moving on, The Killing Jar is possibly the most perfect of the stories by Penny in the packet. I would hate to spoil it, so I will avoid any talk about the plot itself. I'll just say that by the end of it I was cheering while I made a face of utter horror and disgust. And I will say, like I do with many of these tales, that I'm glad I don't live in THAT society.

I will admit that I had to look up the word "orisons" to understand the exact meaning of the title, although the context makes it fairly clear. I really had no idea that was a word, but I'm delighted that she used it so perfectly to disguise what the story is about until the reader clues in from the story itself. That said, the story itself was competent, but nothing amazing. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but I'm not sure I'll remember it a month from now.

I just wish I'd read these earlier.

Conclusion: I really have no idea where she'll be on my final ballot - first or second, I suspect.