… and now we get a little controversial…
As mentioned previously, I decided to read all the Hugo nominations. Because.
The novellas: I am… more torn than I have been previously.
“Big Boys Don’t Cry,” Tom Kratman: an AI battle-ship type thing, who is gendered female because of her call sign, is nostalgic for the Good Old Days when she had real soldiers instead of drones (*cough* Leckie *cough*). She is especially nostalgic because she so liked to cook for them… ?!? I’m sure it’s meant to ‘humanise’ the AI, but STILL. Anyway. The rest of the novella is Maggie (the ship) reminiscing as she’s torn apart for scrap. Hard to keep timelines straight, harder still to care about the characters; not Hugo worthy.
“Flow,” Arlan Andrews: actually kinda clever; young man goes on a journey and dicovers that the world isn’t as he always assumed it was. Andrews has done a passable job of thinking through some of the issues of not knowing about the sun and moon (our hero lives under a perpetual cloud bank). But the story itself was nothing of interest, the attitude towards women was decades old, and I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters.
“One Bright Star to Guide Them,” John C Wright: I didn’t hate the premise (this is where I start getting controversial, FWIW). Yes it’s using CS Lewis and maybe some Susan Cooper; no it’s not especially original (there’s even a lion, for eye-rolling astonishment). It’s too long, and definitely drags in the middle. As a story, I don’t actually mind it. But is it worth a Hugo? Sometimes, pastiches or homages are. I don’t think this one lifts enough, or gets different and interesting enough, to fall into that category.
“Pale Realms of Shade,” John C Wright: again, I actually didn’t mind the premise (ooh, see me keep on being controversial!). Told from the perspective of a dead PI, it’s a ghost telling its own story about figuring out who done the deed and why. It’s a story of self-discovery and repentance – maybe a bit late when you’re dead, but oh well. I imagine that some readers got peeved at the religious aspects; this is not a problem for me. As with the previous story I found it quite passable… spoiled by this line: “There were no steeples in that future, no church bells, just thin, wailing cries from thin, ugly minarets.” Uh. No.
“The Plural of Helen of Troy,” John C Wright: ready for me to get actually controversial? I’m not sure about this one.
That’s right. I actually liked this story and would consider putting this on my ballot. But it was published by Castalia House, and that sound you just heard? That was my politics running smack bang into my reading enjoyment.
The story is told backwards; another PI, this time working in a city outside of time somehow – I’m generally quite capable of reading time travel stories without the paradoxes doing too much to my brain, as a rule, although I know that’s not possible for many readers. (What can I say, it’s a gift. Like reading Greg Egan science.) He’s contracted to help a man whose girlfriend (?) is apparently going to be attacked by someone, and they have to stop it. Of course things get messier than that, and there are iterations and variations as the story progresses (…which means going backwards…). There are some neat moments – I was quite amused by the realisation of who the man and the ‘Helen’ were, and some funny enough moments of these people completely out of their times living together. Including Queequeg. QUEEQUEG LIVES.
Anyway. Now I have to figure out how to vote in the novellas and it HURTS. I’ve got a couple of weeks, right? I can figure it out in that time…