Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Sunday Review

The Just City
Hugo 2016 novel review: The Just City by Jo Walton.

Another recommended book I jumped into reading without checking too much about it first. I was able to figure out that this was the first of a series before I started, so I wasn't going to end up shocked by the end. Well, at least not shocked because it's the first of a series...

First up: the completely non-spoiler review. Take a group of philosophers from all throughout time who have read Plato's Republic and want to make it a reality. How are they going to do it? How closely must they stick to Plato's original concept? And how can that concept survive the harsh realities of life that Plato didn't have a clue about? To say the ideas in this book are amazing is to praise it too faintly. The execution of those ideas? Well, I found the descriptions of sex to be unsettling, although understandable in the context of the story. Beyond that, almost everything odd in the tale is attributable to the situation.

Ok, Spoilers ahead (use rot13 to read). Nal fgbel gung pyvznkrf jvgu n qrongr orgjrra Nguran naq Fbpengrf unf gb unir fbzrguvat tbvat sbe vg, evtug? Bx, V ernyyl jnfa'g rkcrpgvat gur qrongr gb raq gung jnl, ohg V fhccbfr V sbetbg fbzr bs zl qrgnvyf nobhg ubj Nguran naq gur Terrx tbqf graqrq gb npg jura gurl ner hcfrg.

Univat abg ernq Cyngb erpragyl, V jnf hapregnva ubj pybfr gur znfgref jrer fgvpxvat gb gur grkg rkprcg jura gur obbx vgfrys zragvbaf vg. V pbafgnagyl sryg yvxr V fubhyq or erernqvat zl napvrag grkgf gb xrrc hc jvgu gur fgbel, ohg gurer jrer rabhtu pyhrf vg jnfa'g erdhverq... vg whfg frrzrq yvxr vg zvtug unir znqr zber frafr vs V qvq.

Fvzzrn vf n vqrny yvggyr punenpgre, nyzbfg n Znel Fhr va znal jnlf. Fur unf ure unat-hcf, ohg V fhfcrpg gung zbfg bs gur tveyf jbhyq gnxr gb gur pvgl orggre guna gur oblf, naljnl. Sebz gur svefg cntrf Fvzzrn znxrf vg pyrne gung vg'f gur npgvbaf bs gur znfgref bs gur pvgl gung pnhfrq ure snzvyl gb or xvyyrq naq ure gb orpbzr n fynir, juvpu vf bar bs gur ovttrfg synjf bs gur pvgl vgfrys. Gur znfgref qvqa'g ernyvmr gung gurl'q frg gurzfryirf hc sbe snvyher jvgu gurve pubvpr gb erghea rnpu lrne sbe zber fynirf, frggvat hc n qrznaq. Ohg va Fvzzrn'f pnfr, fur sbetvirf gurz sbe vg, juvpu znxrf ure n yvggyr vqrnyvfgvp. Jura nyy vf fnvq naq qbar, fur qbrf frrz gbb tbbq gb or gehr.

V jvyy abgr gung Fvzzrn'f qrfpevcgvba bs ure cbfgcneghz qrcerffvba fgehpx ubzr sbe zr. Ab, V'ir arire unq n onol, ohg V xabj qrcerffvba, naq V erpbtavmr gung srryvat bs abguvat orvat erny. Juvyr V jnf qryvtugrq gung fur jnf pherq, V fbeg bs jvfurq rirelbar jub fhssref sebz qrcerffvba pbhyq or fb rnfvyl pherq.

Ncbyyb'f cynpr va gur fgbel vf zhpu orggre ernyvmrq. Uvf jvyyvatarff gb orpbzr uhzna naq rkcrevrapr rirelguvat sbe uvzfrys vf terng. Nf gur fgbel cebterffrf, ur tebjf nf jryy, va jnlf gung ner ernyvfgvp rabhtu gb znxr uvf cneg bs gur gnyr haqrefgnaqnoyr naq pbzcryyvat.

Birenyy, V jnf zvyqyl qvfnccbvagrq va fbzr nfcrpgf bs gur fgbel ohg zbfgyl vagevthrq ol gur vqrnf, juvpu vf jung gur fgbel vf nyy nobhg naljnl: vqrnf naq ubj gurl genafyngr vagb ernyvgl. Vg'f nyy nobhg gur vqrnf. Guvf vf abg gur orfg obbx V'ir ernq guvf lrne, ohg vg'f sne sebz gur jbefg.

In conclusion, this is on my maybe list. I might read the sequel, already out, "The Philosopher Kings" to find out what happens next. If it's better than this one, I might nominate it instead.

Hugo 2016 short story reviews:
  • "Sea Change" by Kimberly Unger is about adaptation in the face of drastic change. In this case, it's a bit of technology meant for a particular purpose that has to decide what sort of adaptations it is allowed. I found the setting mildly confusing at first, then the clues filtered in and I began to understand the world and its people. A very nice little story, worth checking out. Note: the direct link may be active for a limited time.

  • "Robot Boss" by Erick Melton is about the limitations and screw-ups of modern technology. It's a fun little story about a guy troubleshooting through a nasty little problem to get both a decent answer and more. I enjoyed it a lot, but I'm afraid I wouldn't put it on the top of my list of short stories of the year.

  • "Mightier Than The Sword" by Arlene F. Marks is a powerful little superhero tale, told quickly and completely in the form of an interview with a hero called Ultraman. The story is about how all superpowers aren't obvious, and how that could be very dangerous if a child seems normal among other children who have outward signs of power. An interesting tale, but there's a plot hole or two, and a tiny bit of cliche as well. This one is good, but not likely to be on my ballot.

  • "Endgame" by Barry Charman is about artificial intelligence, and how it might be measured. Or not. It's a little sneaky, this story. There's an undertow in it ready to pull you along if you think about it. Quite enjoyable for an extremely short story.

Hugo 2016 novelette reviews:
  • "Brigas Nunca Mais" by Martin L. Shoemaker is about duty and its conflict with young romance. The story is set at a wedding, with the happy groom telling a tale about his superior officer to his bride. The ending was almost predictable, but the final words were the bit that break the heart and make you want to cry a little. A powerful little tale. Definitely worth reading.

  • "Sacred Cows: Death and Squalor on the Rio Grande" by A.S. Diev. I really feel for Maria, and part of me wished she'd walked away a bit faster. As for the rest... whew. Yeah, a horrible future, showing what genetic manipulation in the hands of people who have too much money and too little concern for human life can lead to. Overall, a nicely plotted story, if depressing in its implications and slightly stereotyped. I can't even say the ending is sad... tragic, of course, but I'm not sure about sad.

Hugo 2016 novella review:
  • Entrepreneurs by Robert Grossbach. Is the story of a man whose had a few failures in life and a few problems, but accidentally runs across an opportunity of a lifetime. Which, of course, doesn't work out exactly as planned. It works out, eventually, and that's the fun of the story. It's not a story about failure, but there's a lot in there about how much it takes to succeed. Plus, aliens. Awesome little aliens. And even a sort of homage to Douglas Adams. Overall, a very fun little tale.

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:
  • Aug 5th
  • Green Lantern #43 - Wow, Hal is really annoying. As is his ship and his guests.
  • Batman Beyond #3 - So Batman gets out of a jam, only to land himself in a bigger jam? That sounds like the BB I know. Too bad it's not actually Terry.
  • Flash: Season Zero #11 - Basically a history of Captain Cold and Heatwave, not a lot to recommend it, really. Not heavy on story, not heavy on plot. It's kind of meh, all in all.
  • Big Game Hunters #2 - I wish the art was a little less... um... decorative. It is too busy for me. Otherwise, I'm enjoying the story. I just feel like there are too many bits where the art detracts instead of sustains it.
  • Big Game Hunters #3 - And in the same week, the final issue also arrives. Again, the art is a problem. It just needs some minor tweaking here and there to make things more clear, and it wouldn't be a problem. As it is, this isn't a great series, but I enjoyed the characters.
  • Mage Inc. #2 - Good artwork mixed with an amusing if slightly incomprehensible story, told from the point of view of a character who is nearly as clueless as the reader, and it comes out to be a pretty good book overall! I'm definitely enjoying this one.
  • UFOlogy #4 - And we're getting close to finding out just what's going on here. The whole situation is difficult, but the kids are handling it very nicely compared to the adults. This is one I'm going to have to reread once it's done to figure it out, but I'm actually looking forward to that.
  • This Damned Band #1 - So, a 1970's band that has the evil persona of having sold their souls to the devil... doesn't realize they've actually sold their souls. The idea is sound enough, but I'm curious to see how far this goes. Not my favorite book of the year, and definitely not for children.
NOTE: For Hugo purposes, the books to keep an eye on from this week's review are Mage Inc., UFOlogy and This Damned Band. Mage Inc has interesting characters but the art is a little unfinished, so I'm not sure it's quite there. UFOlogy is a complex tale that really needs to be read at once, but might have the chops, it depends on the ending. This Damned Band promises to be complex and odd: but I've never been disappointed by the ideas in a Paul Cornell comic, just sometimes stunned by the execution of said ideas.