This has been a busy month with a writing contest, wedding prep, how busy work has been and trying to contribute to Camp NaNo.
So I’m going to just quickly rush through my thoughts on all the remaining works.
John C Wright’s Nominated Works packet: One Bright Star To Guide Them opens with a drunk guy picking up a cat and listing off his long past history with a similar looking cat from when he was a kid in one of the strangest bits of dialogue I’ve ever read. But hey it turns out the exposition he drunkenly vomited all over the cat makes sense as it is the same cat and he has a magic key that they used to go on magical adventures with. Then we get the scene where he tries to convince another childhood friend that they’re needed again and they their own CS Lewis adventures from childhood were real. At that point the friend asks if what they did was real than nothing they did as adults would matter at all. That’s a great line and could’ve lead to an interesting story that delved deeper into what it means to be an adult after having saved magic kingdoms as a child, and what it would mean as an adult to try and face those same dangers again with a more complex moral structure than seeing everything as black and white.
That’s not what we get though. Instead the friend has already been corrupted by the evil bad guys and the good guy has to flee. The book comes back to the character along the way as he continues his battles against evil forces, often explaining the nebulous time in between parts in great detail and recapping action that’s all held offstage, which is a shame because all of it sounds far more interesting than anything that happens during the present tense parts of the story and are robbed of any tension by explaining it as a thing that happened already. It all wraps up in a clunky way full of over exposition and poor explanations.
And that was the best of his novellas. The Plural of Helen of Troy is a mess. It takes place in a city out of time run and has historical figures who’ve been pulled out of time as part of its population. Oddly this also appears to include completely fictional characters as a character from Moby Dick is in there as a side kick to the private eye the story centers around. There are small problems everywhere, like the main character worried that a character is holding a flintlock pistol wrong, only he knows a page later that the pistol has been adapted to be an automatic pistol. Which makes his earlier concern pointless. Helen in this story is an archetype and not the real Helen of Troy, she’s actually Marilyn Monroe. Only at one point she cites something that happened in the battle for Troy like she was actually there. The entire story revolves around a current JFK trying to prevent an older JFK from coming back in time and raping a young Marilyn Monroe. Current JFK can’t stop future JFK from raping Monroe even though he loves Monroe, doesn’t want to hurt her, knows it’ll lead to his future death and so on because future JFK is obsessed with raping or something. Like One Bright Star it ends with an awkward explanation to the protagonist about a higher order than what they know.
Pale Realms of Shade is another attempt at a noir detective story mired in an avalanche of prose and nonsense. It opens with the protagonist who is a ghost whose former wife is trying to get him to convince the police that he was murdered when he was shot seven times in the chest instead of it being a suicide. It’s not address how a person might commit suicide in this why, why the police would ever consider it a suicide or why they’d take the word of his ghost for it(assuming spiritual testimony is valid in whatever world this is supposed to be). The ghost must still have some hormones running through it because there are long graphical descriptions of how hot his wife is. The ghost is angry because it turns out his wife was the one that killed him and was cheating on him, only she can’t remember it because every time she cheated on him and after she shot him she’d drink elf juice of forgetfulness (so would her lover and the ghost’s partner at his private eye agency). Then the ghost almost goes all poltergeist because he can’t get over the fact that his former wife and partner are together after he sees how well their doing together and damnitall his former wife is his property. So he almost allows an evil spirit to help him kill his former partner, but then sees his partner tip his hat to an old lady and knows that his partner is a good man now and can’t go through with it. Then he goes off to try and find redemption.
All of these feel like rough drafts of work that might be alright with polishing, but not nominees for best of the year.
Flow by Arlan Andrew I thought was okay but it didn’t really have much of a plot or a point aside from world building. Much like Journeyman: In The Stone House this felt like a middle portion of a longer tale that we don’t get to see the beginning or end of and doesn’t really work well as a self contained narrative. It didn’t feel like this built towards anything and when I got to the end I was left thinking, what, that was it? I thought it was perfectly acceptable writing, if a bit forgettable. Nothing I’d consider in contention for best of the year however.
Of the novels The Dark Between The Stars was mediocre and I like some of Anderson’s work. Skin Game by Butcher was fun but not among the best Dresden Files books, much less best of the year. It excelled at what Butcher does best, provide an entertaining read within his worlds. Then again I’m more critical of the more recent DF books as it has built to a ridiculous level of gods and world-in-danger schemes when I preferred it when it was more personal or on a smaller scale. 3 Body Problem I thought was fantastic and stuck in my head in the way the best Sci-Fi books do, with puzzling over different ideas and themes presented that I enjoyed just thinking about. The complaints I’ve seen about I understand as well though, one of the characters barely exists even though they’re a major character in the book for example. But I thought the ideas presented through the story made up for any faults in the structure of it. The Goblin Emperor was a complete 180 to the type of story 3BP was. The main character isn’t a cipher, we’re right inside of his skull through then entire ride. The story goes in a different direction than many others would, and made day to day court politics interesting somehow. Where I connected with the ideas and theme of 3BP, I connected with the character and story more here. I consider them both fantastic books and I’d be happy to see either win. Ancillary Sword is the sequel to Ancillary Justice and while I know many love the books, I didn’t enjoy the first and had a hard time connected to the sequel because of it. Unlike others who felt AJ was stronger, I think AS is the better of the two as it has a more clever plot that doesn’t rely so heavily on deus ex machina. That’s just like my opinion man. It was interesting in the themes and ideas presented though so I’m throwing it into 3rd.
Aside from that I read Fan Writer and Related and I’m a-ok No Awarding both. Fan Writer appears mostly connected to Sci-Fi/Fantasy through a fictional battle with poorly constructed enemies referred to as SJWs or Glittery Hoo-Ha’s. There’s a sliver of Sci-Fi/Fantasy material outside of the culture war rhetoric, victim blaming and poor use of both analogy and math. Related has some basic work along with Transhuman and Subhuman, a collection of essays by JCW that I could go on about pointlessly. I’ll just say that he and I are in complete agreement about The Hobbit movies. Everything else in his essays though I felt was poorly reasoned and his definition of what he consider Sci-Fi/Fantasy to be I find shallow and narrow-minded, though it really does give a better understanding to his novellas. It makes sense to me more why I bounced off his stories, he and I have a completely different view of the genre, what it means and what the purpose of it is. This category also has Wisdom From My Internet, a poorly formatted series of out of context tweets. I don’t know if the title is meant to be parody or if this was meant to be serious. If there’s Wisdom hiding in there it’s doing a better job than Waldo because I didn’t see any.
All the movies are ones I enjoyed. Of those Captain America: The Winter Soldier was my favorite. I liked all of the comics aside from the tediously derivative Zombie Nation. I did not have enough time to check out the podcasts or fanzines or the TV episodes.
I’ve been reading and writing a bunch so haven’t been as focused on the Hugos as I’ve already dropped in my vote.