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Hugo Awards

This year is the first year I signed up to be a Hugo voter. I had read most of the nominated novels, some of the short stories, and had some strong opinions about the new award this year–Best Series.

I had forgotten that a few years ago they added “The Hugo Voter Packet”, where many of the publishers send copies of the Hugo-nominated works to the Hugo voters.

As part of this, DAW authorized sending every single word in the October Daye-verse to every Hugo voter. I have read all the novels already, but there are dozens of short stories. I get the newer ones through Patreon, but not having to track down where each of the older ones are published is… I don’t even know. Priceless.

Anyway, I’m ridiculously excited to be able to vote in these awards!

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Reading

“Ninefox Gambit” by Yoon Ha Lee

I really, really enjoyed Ninefox Gambit. I’m an experienced reader but I had difficulty getting into it at the beginning.

It’s about a universe where they discovered that strict adherence to holidays and calendrical events can influence reality, and allow “exotics”, or extremely powerful and weird weapons. It’s about a woman with another personality implanted in her–a traitor, but one who has never lost yet.

If I had to compare it to anything, I’d say, “Too Like the Lightning“, even though they’re extremely different.

My only complaint is that it does not feel like a complete story. The sequel is coming.

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Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty is a closed-room murder mystery in space with clones!

I got hooked on this! As the characters discover their situation, and all the weird things that are going on, I knew that Mur was going to stitch them all together so it made sense by the end–and WHO DID IT?!!?!!

I appreciate that Mur Lafferty is getting better and better with each book. This one is quite good–but it is not perfect. There were maybe three or four times I thought something was hokey or silly–and all but one of those times it was crucial to how the the plot works out, so stick with it. (I think that one of the characters was so good at a skill of hers that it was almost a superpower.)

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“Too Like The Lightning” by Ada Palmer

Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer is ambitious, complicated, excellent, and only half a story.

If I had to compare to any other work, I’d say it’s closest to “The Book of the New Sun” by Gene Wolfe.

The narrator plays with us. He addresses the reader, as Dear Reader, and the delivery and reveal of information to us as readers is extremely deliberate–even though it’s a relatively chronological story set over only a few days. At one point, he mentions that it’s silly that the word “visor” isn’t spelled with a z, because visors are futuristic. Chapters later, he spells it vizor.

The sequel comes out any day now, and I’m really excited to read it.

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“Every Hidden Thing” by Kenneth Oppel

I really like Kenneth Oppel’s work–I had previously read the Airborn novels and loved those, so when I saw he had a new book out, I picked it up.

I went in completely cold–I knew nothing about it. I actually thought it was going to be science fiction-y! It is not–but it is an absolute delight,

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel is a sweet book about two teenagers working with their fathers to find dinosaur fossils during the “Bone Wars” of the 1800s. It’s been described as “part Romeo and Juliet, part Indiana Jones”. I’m not sure I’d describe it as that. Kenneth Oppel has always done a good job with youth romances, and he did a great job here, again.

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“Islands in the Net” by Bruce Sterling

“Islands in the Net” is a 1988 novel by Bruce Sterling. I really like Bruce Sterling’s stuff, in general, but there are a few novels of his I don’t really care for. “Islands in the Net” is one of my favorites of his.

I have a six-week old, and read this in the last few weeks, so this review will be a little scattered, but this book has stayed with me enough I want to write even more about it.

Some parts of it are really, really dated, which is to be expected from an SF book from nearly 30 years ago. He mentions faxes, and while there is a worldwide computer network that people use to share information with each other, it’s mostly pre-recorded things–like video recordings or text files, and he nearly completely missed realtime interactions. On the other hand, some parts fly right by without notice. Drones, maybe even quadcopters, that are basically toys, with guns attached as a terrorist tool? Good portions seem like they were written during the 2016 presidential campaign, or at least, certainly after 9/11–but nope, the Berlin Wall was still up when this book was published.

What’s my favorite part? Technovoodoo, or the rewilding with the iron camels, or Rizome, or “The Lawrence Doctrine and Post Industrial Insurgency” by Jonathan Gresham, or ‘Net-burned’, or this song?

Listen, people of the Kel Tamashek,
We are the Inadin, the blacksmiths.
We have always wandered among the tribes and clans,
We have always carried your messages.
Our fathers’ lives were better than ours,
Our grandfathers’ better still..

Once our people traveled everywhere,
Kano, Zanfara, Agadez.
Now we live in the cities and are turned into numbers and letters,
Now we live in the camps and eat magic food from tubes.

Our fathers had sweet milk and dates,
We have only nettles and thorns.
Why do we sufffer like this?
Is it the end of the world?
No, because we are not evil men,
No, because now we have tisma.
We are blacksmiths who have secret magic,
We are silversmiths who see the past and future.
In the past this was a rich and green land,
Now it is rock and. dust.

But where there is rock, there can be grass,
Where there is grass, the rain comes.
The roots of grass will hold the rain,
The leaves of grass will tame the sandstorm.
But we were the enemies of grass,
That is why we suffer.
What our cows did not eat, the sheep ate.
What the sheep refused, the goats consumed.
What the goats left behind, the camels devoured.
Now we must be the friends of grass,
We must apologize to it and treat it kindly.
Its enemies are our enemies.
We must kill the cow and the sheep,
We must butcher the goat and behead the camel.
For a thousand years we loved our herds,
For a thousand years we must praise the grass.
We will eat the tisma food to live,
We will buy Iron Camels from GoMotion
Unlimited in Santa Clara California.

(After finishing this, I *definitely* need to re-read The Caryatids!)

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“Tactical Awareness” by Marcelo Rinesi

I recently read “Tactical Awareness” by Marcelo Rinesi.  It’s a free collection of a hundred SF short stories, each a hundred words long.  There are no common characters, or common settings.  There’s a few common themes–unintended consequences, maybe? or

Realistically, the closest thing they were like were 100 microepisodes of “Black Mirror”.  Some were so-so, many were good, and a few were really, really great.  Few were happy.

Highly recommended.

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“Getting Things Done”

A decade or so ago, David Allen published a book called “Getting Things Done”. It’s a relatively short book, detailing how he organizes the projects and tasks in his life to enable “mind like water”, where he can relax and feel confident he’s doing what he should be doing at any moment. (This doesn’t just mean work.) It also describes project planning, and while it focuses on the nitty-gritty day-to-day task-by-task process, it discusses “bigger picture” planning a bit too.

It was a life-changer. The book, however, assumed you were a business professional, working in an office with a lot of paper.

In 2015, David Allen re-released the book. I just read it this past month. I’ve been living this life for a decade, and I can say the re-release is awesome. It doesn’t assume you’re a business professional. It isn’t nearly as paper-heavy as it was before (although I think he still talks too much about file folders for me…).

Anyway, if you haven’t read it, or tried before and it didn’t seem to talk to you, it might be time to pick up the re-release.

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“Loot” by Jude Watson

I really enjoy heist movies, and con movies, and it definitely leaks over into which types of books I like to read. Whenever I see a good heist for kids book, I put it on my list.

Last week, I finished Loot by Jude Watson. I know her work from the 39 Clues series. Loot is a pretty good kid’s con/heist book. It isn’t my favorite one–that honor currently goes to The Great Greene Heist, but it’s pretty good.

The plot revolves around a boy who travels the world with his jewelry thief father. It opens as the boy’s father plummets to his death, with the boy watching, during a heist gone wrong. He gives the boy a few cryptic sentences, and the story begins!

It isn’t as dark as this makes it sound, but it’s not super light either.

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“The Steerswoman” by Rosemary Kirstein

“The Steerswoman” by Rosemary Kirstein is great. It’s the first book in an ongoing series that is great.

The series follows Rowan, a “steerwoman”, in a vaguely medieval setting. Steerswomen wander the world, making maps, collecting knowledge, and figuring things out, until they get too old to travel–at which point they go back to the Archives and help organize and train.

A Steerswoman must answer honestly any question asked of her. However, anyone who lies or refuses to answer a question that a Steerswoman asks is placed under the “Steerswoman ban”, which means no Steerswoman will ever answer your questions again.

The Steerswomen are well-liked, and everyone considers them helpful and good, except for the wizards. All the wizards are under the ban, because they refuse to discuss how their magic works.

At the beginning of this novel, Rowan decides to investigate these flat purple and silver jewels that have started to show up. Before long, the wizards are hunting her down. WHY?! WHY?! YOU’LL HAVE TO READ IT TO FIND OUT.