Marco's readings

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I have finished reading in 2016.
This page is built leveraging the goodreads.com API.

A Taste of Honey
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2016)
My review: An interesting version of a classic coming out story, set in the beautiful and fascinating world that Kai Ashante Wilson introduced us to in The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. I will not say much to avoid any spoiler, but I loved reading this story (even if I was a little disappointed by the ending).
Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods. Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. in defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 25 2016 Finished: Dec 28 2016
Everything That Isn't Winter
by Margaret Killjoy (2016)
My review: An impossible to put down short story, set in a post-apocalyptic near future, getting ready to bloom into civilization, after many years of violence. Will this upcoming renewed world still have a place for those who only know how to destroy? While defending a tea-growing commune in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, one person seeks an answer. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 24 2016 Finished: Dec 24 2016
Traumphysik
by Monica Byrne (2016)
My review: A very interesting story set during world war II. It is the story of a brilliant young physicist, one of the first women in STEM, that after excelling in her study in the face of gender based discrimination by her peers, enlists to defend her country during the war. She ends up alone on a Pacific atoll, with tons of time to spare. She there decides to chronicle the laws of motion that govern her dreams.
(★★★)
Started: Dec 24 2016 Finished: Dec 24 2016
Reverse Documentary
by Marisela Navarro (2016)
My review: Dino is a documentary filmmaker, haunted by the ghost of his ex-girlfriend who was killed in a car crash while with another man. As Dino shoots his latest documentary on the vandalism occurring in the woods of his hometown, he tries to move on from her unexpected death. But when his life starts to look up, the ghost encroaches on his property. The focus of the film begins to blur as the lens of the camera shifts onto Dino, the director succumbing to his ghostly obsession. (★★)
Started: Dec 24 2016 Finished: Dec 24 2016
Dragons of Tomorrow
by Kathleen Baldwin (2016)
My review: After the collapse of civilization Nora and her family live a quiet life in the Midwestern Plains until a great fiery god of the sky descends and makes her an irresistible offer, an offer that will take her away from those she loves forever. (★★)
Started: Dec 23 2016 Finished: Dec 23 2016
The Loud Table
by Jonathan Carroll (2016)
My review: This is the story of four elderly men who regularly hang out. One of the men is worried that he’s getting Alzheimer’s, but the truth might be even more discomforting. A nice piece of fiction, with a small touch of science fiction in it. (★★★)
Started: Dec 23 2016 Finished: Dec 23 2016
Caligo Lane
by Ellen Klages (2016)
My review: A short story set in Franny Travers' fictional universe. It can be enjoyed (and I did enjoyed it) as a stand alone story, but I am left wanting to learn and read more about this memorable character. Franny is a cartographer of exceptional ability. From her house high above the cascading hills of San Francisco, she creates maps that, when folded properly, can transform space. This is her gift. These temporary new alignments of the world open improbable passages, a last resort when politics or geography make escape impossible. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 22 2016 Finished: Dec 23 2016
The Thing About Growing Up in Jokertown
by Carrie Vaughn (2016)
My review: An entertaining short story set in the George R.R. Martin's Wildcard universe. It is intended as a prequel of another, longer novel, but it can be enjoyed as stand-alone. The story focuses on 3 young jokers, living and growing up facing discrimination in New York City... An enjoyable short story full of hope. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 23 2016 Finished: Dec 23 2016
Breaking Water
by Indrapramit Das (2016)
My review: This story really shook me. The premise of the story is simple: suddenly dead people come back, not as zombies, but as brainless shells. The protagonist of this story is Krishna, a young man that is quite unsettled when he bumps into a woman's corpse during his morning bath in Kolkata's Hooghly River. Initially he declines to do anything about it, after all, why should he take responsibility for a stranger? But when the dead start coming back to life en mass, he rethinks his position and the debate around how to treat these newly risen corpses gets a lot more complicated. The book presents an unsettling portrait on how society deals with our dead. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 21 2016 Finished: Dec 22 2016
The Forest Girl
by L.E. Modesitt Jr. (2016)
My review: I am not familiar with the acclaimed novels of L.E. Modesitt Jr, but this story can be read and appreciated as stand-alone (even if I suspect that fan of her work would love it even more). It is an entertaining novelette, the origin story of Alyiakal, that is to became a historical figure in this fictional world, before he became a legend to be feared, and respected. (★★★)
Started: Dec 20 2016 Finished: Dec 20 2016
The Story of Kao Yu
by Peter S. Beagle (2016)
My review: The Story of Kao Yu is a beautiful short story set in ancient China. It is the story of an aging judge traveling through rural China, and of a criminal he encounters.
While the story was written by a Western author, Peter Beagle, it mimics the style of old West Asian fables and legends. Of the story, Beagle says it "comes out of a lifelong fascination with Asian legendry, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Indonesian, all drawn from cultures where storytelling, in one form of another, remains a living art. As a young writer I loved everything from Robert van Gulik’s Judge Dee mysteries to Lafcadio Hearn’s translations of Japanese fairytales and many lesser-known fantasies. [It is intended as] a respectful imitation of an ancient style, and never pretends to be anything else. But I wrote it with great care and love, and I'm still proud of it". (★★★)
Started: Dec 19 2016 Finished: Dec 20 2016
Those Who Watch
by Ruthanna Emrys (2016)
My review: I am particularly fond of Ruthanna Emrys Lovercarftian stories, and I was not disappointed by this one.
This is the story of a young librarian that finds a job in a beautiful and mysterious library, with many ancient and forbidden tomes, hidden in the middle of Louisiana. She soon find herself literally marked by a strange and ancient book in the collection... (★★★)
Started: Dec 18 2016 Finished: Dec 19 2016
Clover
by Charlie Jane Anders (2016)
My review: This short story is set in the world of All the Birds in the Sky, and answers what I am told is the question that readers continue to ask the author: what happened to Patricia's cat? I have not read the book yet, but I enjoyed this short story quite a lot, and I now want to read it.
This is the story of a cat that brings luck to its owners, a young couple that receive it as a gift from a mysterious visitor. But the lucky cat, may not be a cat after all, and the young couple must learn to thrive, even without the magic feline luck. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 17 2016 Finished: Dec 17 2016
The Evaluators: To Trade With Aliens, You Must Adapt
by N.K. Jemisin (2016)
My review: In a future where space exploration has put humans in contact with alien civilizations, Aiuha is tasked to deal with one of the just encountered xenospecies, the Manka, to set up trade and commerce.
Jemisin uses a very fascinating storytelling technique, that reminds me of Afrofuturist 419 by Nnedi Okorafor: the story emerges from different snippets of recording of different conversations, each providing a different stroke to what end up being a fascinating, and creepy, short story. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 16 2016 Finished: Dec 16 2016
Black Swan Green
by David Mitchell (2007)
My review: I loved David Mitchell's previous book, Cloud Atlas, and when I saw this book I just picked it up without even looking at the book synopsis. While the book is beautifully written, it is a partially fictionalized memoir, and I am not fond of the genre, hence I did not enjoy it as much. This said, it is the best memoir I have ever read.
Black Swan Green tracks a single year in what is, for thirteen year old Jason Taylor (a fictionalized version of the author), the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the thirteen chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. The story mixes boys' games, tabloid-fueled thrills of the Falklands War and its human toll, bullism, young love, and divorce.
I particularly enjoyed the cameo of one of Cloud Atlas' characters, Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, that re-appear here as an elderly bohemian emigre'. (★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2016 Finished: Dec 14 2016
The Weather
by Caighlan Smith (2016)
My review: This incredibly short story, has many interesting, yet just sketched out ideas. It also has a nice narrative voice and interesting characters. Unfortunately it reads as an incomplete draft, as a set of notes for something that could turn into a good story. I can tell that the author is definitely very talented, and I am eager to read more of her, but this story needs some more work. (★★)
Started: Nov 30 2016 Finished: Dec 01 2016
Blue is a Darkness Weakened by Light
by Sarah McCarry (2016)
My review: I liked this story, a sarcastic take on young adult supernatural romantic novels, with some moment of depth mixed in. The main character is a talented woman, moving to the city hoping to make it as an author, and finding herself working as an assistant to a literary agent. She did not find love as many of the heroines of the books she has to read, but she became friend of a real vampire who comments on the book she is reviewing. Its weakest part is the ending, that is a little underwhelming, after what it was a solid story. (★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2016 Finished: Dec 01 2016
meat+drink
by Daniel Polansky (2016)
My review: A very dark vampire short story, written through the eyes of a young vampires girl. No, this is not the usual romantic young adult supernatural story featuring trendy hot supernatural beings. It is the story of young human forcibly turned into a life of constant hunger, constant fear of being discovered. A life spent hiding, trying to get enough food to stay alive while avoiding unnecessary exposure. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2016 Finished: Dec 01 2016
Discards
by David D. Levine (2016)
My review: WildCards is the name of a book series edited by George R.R. Martin, written over the years by many different writers. In the wildcard world a new virus appeared, leaving the majority of the survivors, disparagingly called jokers, very deformed. Few lucky ones, the aces, are left with super human powers.
While I am not fond of super hero stories, I liked this novella, that is the origin story of one of this lucky survivors, the Brazilian ace "Recycler". It is the story of a young kid, living in poverty until he is abandoned by his mother. He end up living in a shack in the middle of a favela, earning few dimes each day foraging for recyclables in a landfill. And when he starts to think he has reached the bottom, he gets sick, and he lose even the little he previously had... (★★★)
Started: Nov 29 2016 Finished: Nov 30 2016
Till A’ the Seas
by H.P. Lovecraft (11)
My review: An interesting story describing the end of the human race in a slowly warming world. It would be even better if not for few xenophobic missteps (as often the case in Lovecraft's stories).
The book is broken in two parts. The first describes the events that took place on Earth from a few thousand years to a few million years after the present day. The climate on Earth is getting warmer and warmer, oceans are slowly disappearing. [spoilers removed] (★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2016 Finished: Nov 30 2016
Burned Away
by Kristen Simmons (2016)
My review: Burned away is a standalone story that introduce us to the world of Metaltown, that will be further described in the homonyms book released in September 2016 by Tor. It is the story of Caris, a sixteen year old young woman, dreaming of following her mother path becaming a good reporter. When rumors of an uprising in Metaltown’s factories hits Bakerstown, Caris knows she's found the story that will finally prove her worth to the Journal.
It is not a bad story, but I have never been a big fan of young adult romantic fiction, and as a result the story did not really work for me.
A shout out to Goñi Montes for the stunningly beautiful cover. (★★)
Started: Nov 29 2016 Finished: Nov 29 2016
Recalled to Service
by Alter S. Reiss (2016)
My review: A remarkable standalone short story set in Alter Reiss' Shoesi fictional world. It is the story of Ao Laiei, that has the necromancer power to bring back the dead. She resurrected the great revolutionary war hero Uroie Aei, but to her surprise he vanished and she does not know what happened to him. She intends to find out, and she is working hard to track him. Finally, a clue from an unlikely information source, the confusing art of dream-diving, enables her to be present for a surprising strike against an academic aligned with the revolutionary government. Laiei quickly discovers that it is not the physical target she is concerned with, but his field of study, which may unlock the secret of what mysterious deeds the elusive Uroie Aei has been up to since his disappearance... (★★★)
Started: Nov 29 2016 Finished: Nov 29 2016
Once More into the Abyss (Stan, #3)
by Dennis Danvers (2016)
My review: Once More into the Abyss is the third and last installment of the "Stan" series, started with Adult Children of Alien Beings, and continued with Orphan Pirates of the Spanish Main.
The entire series is made by short sci-fi novelette, where the sci-fi element seems is more a narrative expedient, or a delusion of the main character. This third book regains some of the magic of the first part, that was lost in the second, and close Stan's saga with a touching (yet a little disturbing) ending.
Stan's wife get a new job, that brings the entire extended family to the mysterious abyss where their parents either perished or went back to their alien home among the stars. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 28 2016 Finished: Nov 29 2016
Orphan Pirates of the Spanish Main (Stan, #2)
by Dennis Danvers (2016)
My review: Orphan Pirates of the Spanish Main is the second installment of the "Stan" series, started with Adult Children of Alien Beings. As for the previous book, while this is a science fiction novelette, the sci-fi element seems to be more a narrative expedient, or a delusion of the main character. But while the first story is very original, adroitly written, and often funny, and touching, this second installment is much less so: a lot of the unique magic and incredible nuances of the characters are gone. Despite that, it is still a quite enjoyable story.
In this book Stan and his brother Ollie, the children of alien (or just crazy human) parents, receive a mysterious postcard from their father, who with their mother, disappeared decades earlier into the "Abyss" in New Mexico. Along with Stan's new wife, they decide to travel again to the abyss, looking for them. (★★★)
Started: Nov 27 2016 Finished: Nov 28 2016
Foundation and Earth (Foundation, #5)
by Isaac Asimov (2012)
My review: 30 years after the publication of the original Foundation trilogy, Asimov decided to revisit one of his most famous series, and extend it further with a two part sequel. Foundation and Earth is the second book of this new duology, following Foundation's Edge.
After reading the entire robot-empire-foundations series, I had very high expectations about this book, that is the end of such an epic saga. I was disappointed. The series highlight has never been its characters, but the ones in this book are particularly flat and uninteresting. The plot, and the ultimate conclusion, are also not as good as some of the ones of the previous books. This said, Foundation and Earth is fun to read, and quite enjoyable.
Councilman Golan Trevize is wondering if he was right to choose a collective mind as the best possible future for humanity over the anarchy of contentious individuals, nations and planets. To test his conclusion, he decides he must know the past and goes in search of legendary Earth, all references to which have been erased from galactic libraries. The societies encountered along the way become arguing points in a book-long colloquy about man's fate, conducted by Trevize and traveling companion Bliss, who is part of the first world/mind, Gaia. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 21 2016 Finished: Nov 27 2016
Lullaby for a Lost World
by Aliette de Bodard (2016)
My review: In this (very) dark fairy tale, Charlotte died to shore up her master's house. Her bones grew into the foundation and pushed up through the walls, feeding his power and continuing the cycle. As time passes and the ones she loved fade away, the house and the master remain, and she yearns ever more deeply for vengeance. (★★★)
Started: Nov 20 2016 Finished: Nov 21 2016
Freedom is Space for the Spirit
by Glen Hirshberg (2016)
My review: A very interesting novelette, that mixes fairy-talish, fantastic, and folk / traditional elements, with historic events, and political commentary.
This is the story of a middle-aged German, drawn back to Russia by a mysterious invitation from a friend he knew during the wild, exuberant period in the midst of the break-up of the Soviet Union. Upon his arrival in St. Petersburg, he begins to see bears, wandering and seemingly lost...
Freedom is Space for the Spirit made me wish I had a better understanding of recent and contemporary Russia history to better appreciate it. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2016 Finished: Nov 20 2016
There Will Always Be a Max
by Michael R. Underwood (2016)
My review: I was not aware that this short story was part of a series, set in the "Genrenauts universe". This have in all likelihood impacted my ability of fully appreciate it: there are many references to some characters and backstories I did not know.
This said, I still enjoyed this short mad-max story, where the main character makes himself a Max, a bringer of hope at a time of despair. (★★)
Started: Nov 20 2016 Finished: Nov 20 2016
Seven Birthdays
by Ken Liu (2016)
My review: Beautiful short story, that despite being part of an hard sci-fi, it also has interesting character development, and very touching moments.
It is the story of the life of Mia, from her toddler years forward, told as 7 time snapshots taken during 7 of her birthdays. It reminded me of another short story by the same author, Memories of My Mother. (★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2016 Finished: Nov 19 2016
The Mighty Phin
by Nisi Shawl (2016)
My review: A remarkable short story, set in Nisi Shawl’s Amends universe, but enjoyable as a stand alone (I never read any of her work before, and I had no problem enjoying The Mighty Phin). The story is set in a cyber prison, where the prisoner bodies has been destroyed, and they have been upload in cyber space. Over there they are forced to attend mandatory virtual therapy sessions with the artificial intelligence Dr. Ops.
This story shares some of the themes (identity and what makes somebody human) with Ann Leckie's Ancillary Series. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 18 2016 Finished: Nov 19 2016
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 122 (Clarkesworld Magazine, #122)
by Neil Clarke
My review: A very twisted short story, that mixes audio and text in an experimental and interesting way. It is a satirical of the famous Nigerian scam, with a science-fiction spin. What sets the story apart is the underlying satirical commentary of modern society, and its deep xenophobia. (★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2016 Finished: Nov 19 2016
The Weight of the Dead
by Brian Hodge (2016)
My review: I have never read anything by this author before, but I was pleasantly surprised by this novelette, an interesting mix between post apocalyptic sci-fi and fantasy. The story takes place in a dystopian future, years after a huge solar storm has fried all electronics and civilization broke down. It is the story of two siblings living in a surviving enclave with their father, who's about to be punished for a crime in a brutal and cruel way, prompting the rebellion of his daughter. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 17 2016 Finished: Nov 18 2016
Red as Blood and White as Bone
by Theodora Goss (2016)
My review: A delightful and dark fairy tale, that mixes history with ancient folk stories and traditions. This is the story of Klara, a poor girl, raised by severe nuns after her father decided he could not raise a daughter without his just deceased wife. Her only escape from the dark reality is a book of fairy tales, forbidden by the nuns, and treasured by the young Klara. She is sent to work as a kitchen girl for a local noble, when one day she discovers a ragged and beautiful woman outside the castle during a storm. She is certain that the woman is a princess in disguise, and decide to take her in... but nothing is as it seems, not even in a fairy tale. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 18 2016 Finished: Nov 18 2016
The Girl with All the Gifts (The Hungry Plague, #1)
by M.R. Carey (2014)
My review: It is hard to review this book without giving away major plot points and spoil the story, hence I will not say much. This is a thrilling, extremely fast paced, impossible to put down book. While reading it may not change your life, it will surely help you spend few nights enthralled in its pages. It's a great book, with a well-crafted satisfying conclusion. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 13 2016 Finished: Nov 17 2016
A Colder War
by Charles Stross (2002)
My review: A Colder War is an alternate history novelette by Charles Stross, a modern sequel to one of the most famous Lovecraft's stories (At the Mountains of Madness): a follow-up expedition to the pole has occurred, and the Cold War is fought with monsters from the Cthulhu Mythos.
This story pre-date the atrocity archives, the first of the laundry series books, by 4 years, but it contains many of the ideas and themes that will be expanded in the series that catapulted Stross to fame.
(★★★)
Started: Nov 12 2016 Finished: Nov 13 2016
The Horror at Martin's Beach
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This novelette is well-known because it is one of the best collaboration of H.P. Lovecraft and his soon-to-be wife Sonia Greene. It was written during their courtship. It is not a bad story, even if some of the tropes it employs are a little stale for a modern reader.
A huge monstrous sea creature is captured in the sea, and placed on display inside a boat at Martin's beach. Few days later the boat vanishes mysteriously... and that's just the beginning of the troubles that will hit the Ocean town. (★★★)
Started: Nov 12 2016 Finished: Nov 12 2016
Rappacini's Daughter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne (2003)
My review: A very interesting Gothic novelette, with very modern and actual themes (e.g. creation and manipulation of life forms). The main character is Giovanni Guasconti, a student at the University of Padua, that discovers a garden of the most exquisite beauty next to his rented appartment. In it abides a young woman, perhaps the most beautiful Giovanni has ever seen; yet as he looks out from an upstairs window, he soon learns that the garden, and the matchless Beatrice, are not the work of Mother Nature but rather the result of monstrous scientific creativity. (★★★)
Started: Nov 10 2016 Finished: Nov 11 2016
The Night Ocean
by H.P. Lovecraft (2012)
My review: Lovecraft and Robert Barlow were close, and co-wrote many stories together until Howard's death (he committed suicide when a [deplorable] student threatened to out him as gay). This is considered one of their best.
The tones are definitely different from a standard Lovecraft's story: a lot is hinted, very little is seen here. The story did not age well though, the pace is too slow for modern readers (well, at least for me). (★★)
Started: Nov 10 2016 Finished: Nov 10 2016
The Horror in the Burying-Ground
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Sophie Sprague lives in the shuttered house, a recluse since her brother Tom and her admirer Henry Thorndike died. Crazy Johnny Dow, the graveyard loiterer, often shouts at her that something’s coming to get her. Tom Sprague was a big brutish fellow and a heavy drinker, who cowed his sister with threats. He hated Thorndike, a city man who'd studied medicine but settled for becoming an undertaker (an occupation that enabled him to read strange old tomes, and conduct strange experiments on animals). Things escalate when a drunk Tom comes back home to find his sister in the company of Thorndike...
While I am not a big fan of Lovecraft's stories, this one is quite decent. Working on this story with Hazel Heald helped a lot, making Sophie an interesting female character with agency, instead of just a chess piece and a victim, as it is often the case in Lovecraft's solo writings. (★★★)
Started: Nov 09 2016 Finished: Nov 09 2016
Shoggoths in Bloom
by Elizabeth Bear (2008)
My review: A beautiful modern re-interpretation of the classic Lovecraft's mythos, that ends up being far better than the original. While Lovecraft projected his horror for the immigrants into cosmic invading aliens, in Shoggoths in Bloom, Elizabeth Bear investigates race relations in the United States of America between the two world wars without any trace of xenophobia.
The story is set in 1938, when Professor Paul Harding has come to Passamaquoddy, Maine, to study Oracupoda horibilis, common surf shoggoths, known to locals as "jellies". He finally finds a fisherman willing to take him out on the bay, where dormant shoggoths bask atop exposed rocks, blooming, that is, exuding indigo and violet tendrils topped with "fruiting bodies" from their blobbish sea-green masses. Though shoggoths can engulf and digest grown humans, in this torpid state they're safe to approach. The trip out is uncomfortable. The fisherman doesn’t fancy conversation with a highly educated black man, first he's ever met. Ironic, Harding thinks, that they probably both served in WWI, though of course not in the same units. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 09 2016 Finished: Nov 09 2016
The Challenge from Beyond: The Classic Horror-Fantasy Round-Robin
by C.L. Moore (2009)
My review: Five authors (Frank Belknap Long, C.L. Moore, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt) work together in one of the oldest literary games: round robin writing. The story comes with all the ills of this style of writing (there is often little consistency in style and plot development), but it somehow sort-of works.
The plot can be summarized as follow: a strange fragment of quartz carved with eldritch symbols sends its finder on a cosmic quest across space and time to face horrors unknown.
(★★)
Started: Nov 06 2016 Finished: Nov 07 2016
The Fall of the House of Usher
by Edgar Allan Poe
My review: Roderick Usher is the head of the ancient house of Usher. He reach out to an old friend, the narrator. Once the unnamed narrator arrives at the ancient manor on the countryside owned by the family for many generations, he realizes that his friend is afflicted by hyperesthesia, hypochondria, and acute anxiety. He also learn that Roderick's twin sister, Madeline, is also ill and falls into cataleptic, deathlike trances.
While the story may have been original at the time, it is not as intriguing for a modern reader. Some of the plot points (that I will not reveal to avoid spoilers) are now common tropes, and fail to inspire horror or surprise. (★★)
Started: Nov 06 2016 Finished: Nov 06 2016
The Crawling Chaos
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This story is a collaboration between Winifred Jackson, and H. P. Lovecraft. The idea behind the story is quite simple: drugs are gateway to the world of (possibly prescient) visions. After "establishing" the fact quoting previous work by renown artists like Baudelaire, the narrator starts telling his story. He never used drugs, but once, during the year of the plague, an overworked doctor administer him an (unintendedly large) dose of opium that triggers prescient vision of the end of the world.
I was not impressed: the pace is slow, there is not really much plot to give the story any substance, and the "visions" turns boring soon. (★)
Started: Nov 06 2016 Finished: Nov 06 2016
Stories of Your Life and Others
by Ted Chiang (2010)
My review: Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of the first 8 fictional publications by Ted Chiang. I would classify the book as hard sci-fi: the stories are all build around a theorem, or a scientific or philosophical theory, and the plot is then used to explore their impact and consequences. This said, the best stories in the book also focus on human relationships, and their feelings. The best example is probably "Stories of your life", the story of a linguist tasked to learn an alien language, while also raising a daughter. The science and the human elements are woven together adroitly, each thread strengthening and giving depth to the other.
Overall it is a great book, and I am looking forward reading more by this author (even if he unfortunately does not publish much). (★★★★)
Started: Nov 01 2016 Finished: Nov 06 2016
Death's End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #3)
by Liu Cixin (2016)
My review: Death's End is the conclusion of the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy by world acclaimed author Liu Cixin. The first installment of the series won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel.
I finished reading the story a couple of days ago, but it is still stuck in my head. More I think about it, more I come to realize how adroitly woven it is. All the elements, themes, concepts from the three books fit together perfectly at the end, giving birth to a logically self-consistent, scientifically sound (and deeply terrifying) cosmology.
I also like how this third book manages to color what would have been an otherwise plot-driven hard sci-fi book, with very human, emotional, moments. Cheng Xin ethical struggles, and Yun Tianming love are some of the best elements of the story.
The story begins during the fall of Constantinople, and then moves backs to the event of the previous novels: after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to coexist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent... (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 22 2016 Finished: Oct 31 2016
The Dispatcher
by John Scalzi (2016)
My review: I never listen to an audio book before, but this was free, it was from an author I like (John Scalzi), and it is not available in print, so I decided to give it a try. I REALLY liked it. I usually hate detective stories, even in sci-fi settings. This is why I was not crazy about Scalzi's locked in or Asimov's robots series. Despite that, I really enjoyed this audio book. The first chapter is intriguing, and some moments toward the end very moving and touching.
The audiobook premise is the following: one day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone - 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don't know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 24 2016 Finished: Oct 26 2016
La beauté sans vertu
by Genevieve Valentine (2016)
My review: La beauté sans vertu is a harsh swipe at the fashion industry as certain disturbing trends are amplified in this fictional near future and a famous fashion House prepares for an important show. This is an interesting satirical piece, denouncing some of the ills of modern society and its obsession for unnatural and unattainable bodies. (★★★)
Started: Oct 21 2016 Finished: Oct 21 2016
Tom, Thom
by K.M. Ferebee (2016)
My review: Young Tom is being raised by his mother, a widow because of the big war, working hard washing clothes to support her family. He is afraid of wolves, which everyone knows do not exist anymore in England. One day he goes out for a log from the woodpile, and when he returns, there is another Tom, like him, but other. Was this other Thom left behind by the faerie folk? But if so, why didn't they take the real one? An interesting story, with a little disappointing conclusion. (★★★)
Started: Oct 20 2016 Finished: Oct 21 2016
Typecasting
by Harry Turtledove (2016)
My review: An alternative history short story, set in the (fictional) state of Jefferson, in a world where Bigfoots and Yetis are real, and mix with people. The Governor of Jefferson is one of the tall people, tring to help his daughter, an aspiring actress, to get the role she worked so hard for. (★★★)
Started: Oct 18 2016 Finished: Oct 19 2016
Through The Eyes of a Bluebird
by Laura Lam (2016)
My review: This story is set in a near feature San Francisco bay Area. Biotech has made perfection the norm, but there are exceptions. The Hearth is a little commune just outside the city, resisting the evils of modern technology, that is isolated from the rest of the world, but for one day a year, where an outsider is allowed to spy on its mists.
The writing is exquisite, and the world-building quite effective. Unfortunately Through The Eyes of a Bluebird does not really work as a stand-alone story, and I was not surprised to learn it is intended to be a tie-in for a longer story (False Hearts). (★★★)
Started: Oct 17 2016 Finished: Oct 18 2016
The Pigeon Summer
by Brit Mandelo
My review: This beautiful short story follows J., that recently loss the most important person in hir life. Si tries to escape hir pain and the world, looking hirself up in an apartment with a huge pile of food to avoid having to get out and face the reality. In hir sorrow, si starts communicating with a ghost in writing, and looking after some pigeons just hatching outside hir window. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 16 2016 Finished: Oct 17 2016
Dune Time
by Jack Nicholls (2016)
My review: A very interesting short story, that mixes very modern elements (technology, and unrest in the Middle East and Northern Africa), with traditional ones (Islamic lore, legends and folk-tales) with quite interesting results. This is the story of Hasan, that is sent to help his brother in a remote area by the desert, to stay low and avoid the police. The brother is working on a filming project for BBC, that requires patience and time. During this time the two brothers discuss politics, religion, and old legends that may turn out to not be just old folks tales. (★★★)
Started: Oct 16 2016 Finished: Oct 16 2016
The Cold Flame
by Joan Aiken (2016)
My review: This is a very intriguing and original story, set in a world where the dead can get back in touch for us to ask us to wrap up their unfinished business. In the case of Patrick, recently dead falling inside the caldera of a volcano, the unfinished business is getting his poems published. He asks his friend Ellis to take care of it, but it warns her that it is going to be hard because his estranged mother is going to be on the way. The mother is a remarkable villain, adroitly crafted and described. I was left unhappy by the conclusion, that I have to admit, it is quite clever and really fit the rest of the story (and I will not say more, to avoid any spoiler). (★★★★)
Started: Oct 16 2016 Finished: Oct 16 2016
Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #3)
by Ransom Riggs (2015)
My review: The end of an original and peculiar series, that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I enjoyed the previous two books in the series, but I was a little bit disappointed by this one. While it is entertaining and enjoyable, there are few elements of it that grates me: first of all the revelation that Caul's objectives were not the ones previously described feels like an abrupt and unplanned turn in the story. Also, the previous books are set during the horrors of world war II, and help creating a particular feel, that is not found in this third installment. Last but not least, the peculiar vintage photos that are so central to this series, are often very loosely connected to the plot, and it feels like the author run out of photos, and had to start fishing from the discard pile. As a result Library of Souls does not fit well with the rest of the trilogy.
In this book, Jacob, Emma, and Addison are desperately looking for the kidnapped Miss Peregrines and the rest of her peculiar children. They end up in the labyrinthine alleys of Devil's Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. (★★★)
Started: Oct 08 2016 Finished: Oct 16 2016
The Destroyer
by Tara Isabella Burton (2016)
My review: An interesting story, set into a technological ancient Roman society. It is the story of a brilliant, unstable scientist proves that she can transcend the human body's limitations. Her test subject is her own daughter. The premises of the story, and many of its element are interesting. The conclusion is disappointing, as well as the use of some old genre tropes. (★★★)
Started: Oct 16 2016 Finished: Oct 16 2016
The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor
by Delia Sherman (2011)
My review: The Ghost of Cwmlech Manoris a steam-punk tale set on the border of Wales. It is the story of Tacy Gof, a young and extremely clever woman of relatively humble origin, that always wished to be an engineer, and to see the famous ghost of Cwmlech Manor. One day a new master moves into the manor, an expert of clockwork automatons and an inventor, and Tacy gets hired to work there, giving her an opportunity to follow both her dreams at once.
Despite not being a fan of the steampunk sub-genre, I really enjoyed this story, and I loved the characters. I read already the sequel, that was as good, and I am looking forward reading more! (★★★★)
Started: Oct 07 2016 Finished: Oct 07 2016
The Night Cyclist
by Stephen Graham Jones (2016)
My review: This horror novelette is the story of a middle-aged chef that recently self-sabotaged himself out of a meaningful relationship. He has always been a bicycle enthusiast, and he keeps biking back from work, late at night. Unfortunately there has been some tensions between the hiking and cyclist community around one of his favorite trails. One night, on his ride back home, he makes an unexpected encounter.
The writing is good, the plot is on the thin side, and the ending is disappointing. The tension between the cyclists and the pedestrian community, the escalation of violence, are novel and original (but they do not really work as the engine of this story). (★)
Started: Oct 06 2016 Finished: Oct 07 2016
The Three Lives of Sonata James
by Lettie Prell (2016)
My review: In a near future, human consciousness can be transferred, after the body death, into an artificial body.
Sonata is a young woman, living in Chicago, wealthy enough to afford this semi-eternal life. But Sonata wants to prove that living forever is not the same as living a beautiful life. When least expected, her life takes an unplanned sudden turn that make her reconsider her position.
An interesting story, a good mix of old sci-fi tropes and some new interesting elements. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 06 2016 Finished: Oct 06 2016
Two Boys Kissing
by David Levithan (2014)
My review: I read this book as part of the 2016 Banned Books Week, an initiative celebrating the freedom to read, and fighting book censorship. I picked Two Boys Kissing because it has been one of the most challenged book in the previous year. What a pleasant surprise this book was!
The story is told through the eyes of a previous generation of gay men, killed by an epidemic, and by the lack of interest of a nation for what happens to the less desirable ones. From the afterlife they follow the lives of many young man, growing up and confronting big challenges (including bullysm and being thrown out of home into a street by homophobic parents), but fighting for the right to live freely and love. It is a poetic, stunning, moving short novel, full of hope and love, that I recommend to everybody, gay or straight, of any age. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 30 2016 Finished: Oct 05 2016
The City Born Great
by N.K. Jemisin (2016)
My review: All the great metropolis on Earth, when they get big enough, and old enough, they must be born. Now it's the turn of New York, and a homeless queer black man find himself tasked with the role of facilitate this birth. But nothing it easy: there are mysterious enemies that want to prevent this from happening. Thus New York will live or die by the efforts his reluctant midwife.
I found the short story interesting, in particular the way it touches some very actual themes like xenophobia, and homelessness. The story is not as good as Jemisin's previous work. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 28 2016 Finished: Sep 29 2016
Looking for Alaska
by John Green (2006)
My review: I read this book as part of the 2016 Banned Books Week, an initiative celebrating the freedom to read, and fighting book censorship. I picked Looking for Alaska because it was the most challenged book in the previous year. After reading it, I am a little confused: I cannot believe this book was the target of so many challenges. There is nothing outrageous in the language, or on the topic. While it may feature mentions of sex, smoking, and drinking, every book that wants to truly describe what is to be a teenager should include those. Moreover, the book does not even celebrate them, but even warns about the dangers of drunk driving. I did some research to figure out why it was so challenged. It was labeled "pornographic" and "disgusting" by a group of "concerned parents". Also some of them refused to read the book they were challenging, reportedly saying that "One does not need to have cancer to diagnose cancer".
The story in itself is not bad, but nothing too special. It is a coming of age novel, where the characters struggle with the concepts of death, suffering, and depression. The main character ends up coming to term with it with a simple, quite uninteresting non denominational theistic approach.
To summarize: I can't see why this book should be challenged, it is just another teenager drama book as many other, not bad, but not too great either. (★★★)
Started: Sep 22 2016 Finished: Sep 29 2016
The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2)
by N.K. Jemisin (2016)
My review: The second installment of the broken Earth trilogy is incredibly good (even if not as good as the first one). In The Obelisk Gate the focus changes on the relationship between Essun and her daughter Nassun: the book explores how oppression changes and destroys regular family dynamics, when the only instrument of a mother to protect her daughter is to harden her to be able to survive an harsh reality, and its kyriarchy. This is also the story of Castrima, a city free of oppression in times of plenty, but on the bring of sacrificing the most unpopular of its citizens in time of crises. And this is the story of Alabaster, that broken by loss it may have started the end of the world. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 11 2016 Finished: Sep 22 2016
Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)
by Hilary Mantel (2010)
My review: This is the beginning of one of the most intriguing historical series of the century, the only series to ever win twice the Man Booker Prize for best novel. This is the story of Thomas Cromwell, from his humble beginning as an abused and violent kid, to the most powerful man in Henry VIII England. England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph? (★★★★)
Started: Aug 05 2016 Finished: Sep 11 2016
Sic Semper, Sic Semper, Sic Semper
by Douglas F. Warrick (2016)
My review: I was very surprised to realize I enjoyed this story, despite its extremely bizarre plot: a scientist with suicide tendencies makes a break-trough in the field of space travel, and decided to use his new discovery to travel back in time, and miniaturize himself to live inside the skull of the sixteenth President of the United States, in the dilated instant of time before his death. The story just get stranger and stranger, but it is nevertheless enjoyable. (★★★)
Started: Sep 10 2016 Finished: Sep 10 2016
The High Lonesome Frontier
by Rebecca Campbell (2016)
My review: This books has an interesting story concept: it is the story of the evolution and influence of a song written in 1902 over the next 150 plus years. The narrative style is interesting as well, even if directly borrowed from Mitchell's Cloud Atlas: stories are nested into each other in a mirror structure, first moving forward in time, and then backward.
Despite this interesting bits, the story is just OK, and I struggled to finish it despite its very short length. (★★)
Started: Sep 10 2016 Finished: Sep 10 2016
Something Happened Here, But We’re Not Quite Sure What It Was
by Paul McAuley (2016)
My review: Something Happened Here, But We’re Not Quite Sure What It Was is a sci-fi western, set in the fictional world of Paul McAuley, but it can be read as a stand-alone novellette. I did not particularly liked the story, but I am not very fond of the western genre in any form, and I suspect that this is probably what spoiled the story for me.
This is a complex story about politics, corporate greed, superstition, and luddism, set in a frontier Earth-like world, faced with the possibility of reaching out to alien cultures. (★★)
Started: Sep 10 2016 Finished: Sep 10 2016
The Art of Space Travel
by Nina Allan (2016)
My review: After a disastrous first attempt to have men on Mars in 2047, Earth is ready to try again thirty years later. A second expedition is now preparing to launch. This novelette does not focus on the crew or on the preparation, but on Emily, a hotel housekeeper at the hotel where two of the astronauts will give their final press statements, and on her life. Emily is taking care of her mother, Moolie, that worked on the crash site of the previous mission, and that shortly after developed a unusual form of Alzheimer. Moolie has an important message to give Emily, but Moolie’s memories are fading. As the astronauts' visit draws closer, the unearthing of a more personal history is about to alter Emily's world forever.
An interesting story, where the science fiction is mainly on the background, and the relationships between the various characters are on the forefront. I enjoyed despite discovering that in this fictional future, Germany still does not have full marriage equality. It is just a brief mention, but it depressed me to think of a future where we are still struggling to treat all our brother and sisters with dignity. (★★★)
Started: Sep 03 2016 Finished: Sep 04 2016
Dragonlance Reread
by Mahvesh Murad (2016)
My review: I grew up reading the (many) Dragonlance novels. It was fascinating to revisit the trilogy that started it all, through the eyes of Mahvesh and Jared, few chapter at a times over one year and an half. I confess I had forgotten much of the story, but not the beloved characters, that are unforgettable.
I would recommend this only to Dragonlance fans, and as an interesting book club support material for those of you that never had visited Krynn before, and they are getting ready to. (★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2015 Finished: Sep 02 2016
Her Scales Shine Like Music
by Rajnar Vajra
My review: A beautiful science fiction novelette about an encounter and budding relationship between two aliens, one human, who are the only living creatures occupying a planet in deep space. The human is assigned to guard a valuable find, while his colleagues leave, to file a report with the company that hired them.
I was a little disappointed by the ending, that is left quite open, and I really hope that the talented Rajnar Vajra has a sequel in the works. (★★★)
Started: Sep 02 2016 Finished: Sep 02 2016
Totem Poles
by Bruce Sterling (2016)
My review: This is a very strange satirical story, where aliens arrive on Earth and promptly clean up all of the pollution caused by humans. Despite some funny and interesting part, the story is all over the places, and I found myself at a loss to understand what the point of this story was. (★)
Started: Aug 31 2016 Finished: Sep 01 2016
The Key to the Coward's Spell
by Alex Bledsoe
My review: I did not read any of Alex Bledsoe medieval noir stories, but I was able to enjoy this short story as stand-alone without any problem.
Eddie LaCrosse is a sword jockey, that has been implored by some friends to retrieve their missing kid. While nursing an injured arm, he discovers a smuggling ring rumored to be protected by powerful magic...
Trigger warning: sex trade, pedophilia, sex slavery. (★★)
Started: Aug 31 2016 Finished: Aug 31 2016
The Cheater's Guide to Love
by Junot Díaz (2012)
My review: What an incredible, moving, at times gut wrenching story, and what a great flawed character. This is the story of a Dominican-American, a professor, that lose his great love when found cheating. This is the story of the ordeal he has to go through, to try to come to term with the loss, year after year.
And for those of you that do not speak Spanish, you may want to use this cheat sheet to understand the Dominican Spanish words used in the story: Cheater's Dominican Cheat Sheet for Junot Diaz's the cheater's guide to love (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 30 2016 Finished: Aug 31 2016
Up From Hell
by David Drake
My review: An entertaining short story, set at the dawn of the Roman empire. Taranis and his men forage for the collected tribes of the Crow as they march against the Romans, but he brings back more than he bargained for when he frees a beautiful and mysterious prisoner, Alpnu. Together they face a power sealed in a cave for millennia and newly risen from Hell. (★★)
Started: Aug 29 2016 Finished: Aug 30 2016
Ratspeak
by Sarah Porter (2016)
My review: A very bizarre yet entertaining short story, with a really disappointing ending. The main character, young Ivan, realizes that the rats living in New York City can speak, and he is obsessed about learning their language. One day he saves a young rat in the subway station from being stomped on by some other boys, getting beaten by the boys for his trouble. As a reward, the rat mother offers riches and fortunes, but Ivan decide to learn the rat language instead. The choice comes at a price though. (★★)
Started: Aug 29 2016 Finished: Aug 29 2016
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers
by Alyssa Wong (2015)
My review: A dark and very original reinterpretation of the vampire trope, set in modern day New York. The main character, Jen, an Asian-American woman inherited a curse from the mother: in order to survive she needs to pray on other humans, draining their emotions, feelings, and soul. Completely resigned to live a long life with the curse, she tries to prey only on petty criminals, until she meets a serial killer on a tindr date.
What stands out the most of this story are the characters. In particular Jen, that seems to drown in an ocean of hopelessness, condemning herself to the tragic fate of her mother, living in hiding, and destined to destroy the only single ray of sunshine in her life. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 29 2016 Finished: Aug 29 2016
Mountain
by Liu Cixin (2012)
My review: Liu Cixin excels in hard science-fiction stories, and this is a good example of this fact. In this story, a marine geologist with a troubled past is destined to have the first encounter with an alien civilization. The plot is interesting, but it is not the plot that makes Mountain remarkable: its simple, non fictional, hard science, adroitly leverages to create awe and wonders. Physics is really differently when you are no longer on your normal every day Earth surface setting.
In this respect, this story reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, where the wonders of space physics, and not the aliens, are taking your breath away. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 21 2016 Finished: Aug 21 2016
The Weight of Memories
by Liu Cixin (2016)
My review: What if an unborn baby was given all the memories of her/his ancestors? Would those memories, and all the knowledge of centuries give her/him a kick-start, an incredible advantage?
Liu CiXin try to answer these questions in this short story.
While I am a big fan of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (most commonly known as The Three-Body Problem trilogy), I did not like this short story as much: many of the scientific concepts are too much out there to be credible. What I did like a lot was the social commentary embedded in the story, despite its grim tones. (★★★)
Started: Aug 17 2016 Finished: Aug 17 2016
Foundation's Edge (Foundation, #4)
by Isaac Asimov (2012)
My review: 30 years after the publication of the original Foundation trilogy, Asimov decided to revisit one of his most famous series, and extend it further.
The plot is adroitly waved, and everything fall into place magically like a clockwork. What I did not like were the characters, that are almost stereotypical caricatures... and don't get me started with the female ones (the books miserably fails the Bechdel–Wallace test). While this was often true for the majority of the foundation stories, with Second Foundation, Asimov managed to create a great, well-rounded character in Arkady Darell, so I was quite disappointed that Asimov would regress to the previous norm.
This said, the book is fun to read thanks to his fast paced and clever plot: some politicians at the first foundation starts to suspect that the second foundation may have not been destroyed as they thought. Some mentalist of the second foundation noticed that the Seldon plan is going too well according to plan. Is somebody else playing the galactic game of thrones? (★★★★)
Started: Jul 27 2016 Finished: Aug 05 2016
Gods of Risk (The Expanse, #2.5)
by James S.A. Corey (2012)
My review: This novella takes place shortly after the events in Caliban's War, and follows Bobbie Draper, an ex-marine who has been set adrift in her own life after those events, and her nephew, David Draper, a gifted chemist with a secret life as a manufacturer for a ruthless drug dealer. When his friend Leelee goes missing, leaving signs of the dealer's involvement, David takes it upon himself to save her, while the tension between Mars and Earth mounts, and terrorism plagues the Martian city of Londres Nova.
This is, by far, the weakest Expanse story I have read so far, and it can probably be skipped without missing anything of importance (I'll confirm after I read the following books). (★★)
Started: Jul 24 2016 Finished: Jul 27 2016
Flashpoint: Titan
by Cheah Kai Wai (2015)
My review: I read this story as part of the 2016 Hugo Awards Reading Marathon.
In this story, the United States of America have control of Titan, and who controls it, controls the energy supplies for the entire human race. The People Republic of China tries to gain control of it through strategy and military action, but on its way is a Japanese star-warship, equipped with some new weapons.
I did not like the story. While fast-paced and at times entertaining, it is mainly a war story with a very thin plot, few plot holes, and some racist slurs. For example, why would the Japanese army risk all their strategic asset to protect an American possession without getting anything out of it? Is it just because of ethnic hatred?
Trigger warning: racial slurs. (★)
Started: Jul 24 2016 Finished: Jul 24 2016
Lock In (Lock In, #1)
by John Scalzi (2014)
My review: I am a big fan of John Scalzi books, and I was quite excited to read this one, but I ended up liking it less than his previous ones. Do not get me wrong, it is entertaining and fun, but I like space operas much more than detective stories. This is why I liked Asimov's Foundation series more that his Robot series, and this is why I liked his Old Man's War series much better that Lock In.
The book is a cyberpunk / detective story, set in a near future when a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent the disease causes "Lock In": victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge, and creates robotic avatars for the "Hadens" to interact in the physical world with the un-affected, and a virtual agora, a virtual world. In this world, Chris Shane an Haden FBI agent, is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann to investigate what appears to be a Haden-related murder, but would turn out to be much much more than that. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 23 2016
Folding Beijing
by Hao Jingfang (2015)
My review: I read this story as part of my 2016 Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.
Despite being a finalist because of its inclusion in a slate, the work is not only enjoyable, but also novel and interesting. I found quite interesting to read a book written by a Chinese author, to see the (current and future) world through the eyes of a different culture. The population and economic growth of modern China, its economic inequalities, and its technological and engineering marvels are central to Folding Beijing.
In a claustrophobic overpopulated future, Beijing is rebuild to be three cities at once, each folding into each other, so that only one at a time is up and awake on the surface, while the other two are folded and sleeping. Time is divided across each section according to the "rank" of its inhabitants, so that the best gets to enjoy 12 hours of sun, while the poorest gets just a glimps of dawn.
A dystopian vision of our future, with a very thin and feeble ray of hope mixed in.
(★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Slow Bullets
by Alastair Reynolds (2015)
My review: I read Slow Bullets as part of my Hugo Awards Finalist reading marathon.
This latest story by well-known author Alastair Reynolds is another fine example of a fast-paced, action oriented space-opera, the genre this author is mostly known for.
At the end of an inter galactic conflict, Scur, a conscripted soldier is captured, tortured, and left for dead by a renegade war criminal. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship. The passengers, the combatants from both sides of the war, are waking up from hibernation far too soon... or is it? Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life.
A very enjoyable and entertaining book, a perfect read for the beach. (★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
What Price Humanity?
by David VanDyke (2015)
My review: I read this novelette as part of my 2016 Hugo awards finalists reading marathon.
The story is enjoyable to read, but it is not very original: many plot elements have been seen before, and they are not presented in a novel way. The characters are not that memorable either. I doubt the story would have make it to the finalists list if it was not part of a slate.
The story begins with a (space) soldier coming back to consciousness in a virtual reality simulation. He believes to be kept there while his body is being regrown or repair, but his contacts from outside are mysteriously not telling him anything. Soon he gets to meet, always in VR, many of his former colleagues, including a dead girlfriend. I'm not going to say more, to avoid spoiling the story (even if I can bet you can already seeing where this is going).
P.S. As other reviewer have noted, when Southpark called the only African American character "token" was a funny critic to our society. In here the joke does not work as well. (★★)
Started: Jul 08 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Perfect State
by Brandon Sanderson (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Award Finalist Reading Marathon.
Sanderson is a well-known writer, but I never read anything he wrote before. Maybe I had set my expectations too high, but I was not too impressed by Perfect State. Do not get me wrong, it is not bad, the story while not completely original is entertaining and fun to read. Still, it does not stand apart as a Hugo finalist should.
In this cyberpunk matrix-inspired story, God-Emperor Kairominas is lord of all he surveys, at least in the virtual personality tailored world every human is immersed in since birth. He has defeated all virtual foes, has united the entire world beneath his rule, and has mastered the arcane arts. He spends his time sparring with his nemesis, who keeps trying to invade Kai's world. Except for today. Today, Kai has to go on a date. Forces have conspired to require him to meet with his equal, a woman from another world who has achieved just as much as he has. What happens when the most important man of one world is forced to have dinner with the most important woman of another world? (★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Obits
by Stephen King (2015)
My review: I read this as part of the 2016 Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.
I have liked many stories written by Stephen King, and while I was young, I devoured his books. Obits is not one of his best work. Do not get me wrong, it is not bad, but there is nothing deeply original or peculiar to set it apart from many other stories. The plot is relatively straightforward: a journalist specialized in writing funny and offensive obituaries, discovers that he can cause the death of living people writing their obits. He will have to learn on how to use his power while learning how to navigate the politics at work and to deal with women. (★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Uprooted
by Naomi Novik (2015)
My review: Naomi Novik has already established herself as a talented author with her Temeraire series, and her latest fairy tale / coming-of-age novel does not disappoint. The story is told from the point of view of Agnieszka, a young 17 year old that, growing up in the land of the Dragon, a powerful wizard constantly fighting the evil wood. Every 10 year a young girl is selected by the Dragon, and kept in his tower. Everybody expects Kasia, Agnieszka's best friend, to be the choose one, but hings do not always go as expected...
While the plot is, from many point of view, the one of a typical classical fairy tale, there are many modern elements, including the gender dynamics. What makes this book special though, is how entertaining and impossible to put down it is.
(★★★★★)
Started: Jul 02 2016 Finished: Jul 08 2016
Penric's Demon (Penric and Desdemona, #1)
by Lois McMaster Bujold (2015)
My review: I read Penric's Demon as part of my Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.
Lois McMaster Bujold is an established well-known award winning author, and this latest work does not disappoint. While it is set on the world of the five gods, it can be fully enjoyed as a stand alone novella.
The book is the story of Lord Penric that, on the way to his bethrodal, comes upon a riding accident with an elderly lady. As he approaches to help, he discovers that the lady is a Temple divine. Her avowed god is The Bastard, "master of all disasters out of season", and with her dying breath she bequeaths her mysterious powers to Penric. From that moment on, Penric's life is irreversibly changed, and his life is in danger from those who envy or fear him.
The novella is quite entertaining, and a fun read, perfect to fill a long commute or a short airplane ride.
(★★★)
Started: Jun 25 2016 Finished: Jul 02 2016
The Builders
by Daniel Polansky (2015)
My review: I read this book as part of my 2016 Hugo awards finalist marathon.
This is the story of the Captain and his company, that fought for the losing monarch in the battle of the two twin brothers. After that, for the Captain's company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain's whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.
I am not a big fan of stories featuring anthropomorphic furry characters, and dark and gritty war stories, but despite that I still find it enjoyable. You may like it more than me if you are more into that genre than me. (★★★)
Started: Jun 18 2016 Finished: Jun 25 2016
Memories of My Mother
by Ken Liu (2012)
My review: When faced with an incurable terminal disease, a mother decides to exploit relativity to get a chance to see her daughter grow up. Despite its short length, the story really works and it is quite moving. If you enjoy it as much as I did, you may also want to check out the short movie that is based on it: http://www.beautifuldreamerfilm.com (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 19 2016 Finished: Jun 19 2016
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)
by N.K. Jemisin (2015)
My review: Probably the best story I have read in years. It is very rare to find a book that have it all: exquisite writing, moving, intriguing, and enticing story, memorable characters, astounding and original world building. The Fifth Season is at the same time impossible to put down, and deep. It is the kind of book it will stay with you and make you think.
The book has three subplots adroitly waved together. The first is the story of Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. The second is the story of Damaya, a young girl that is discovered to be a powerful orogene, and as such kept in a barn as a beast by her parents, to soon be given away. The third is the story of Damaya, growing locked up and used as a de-humanized weapon by the fulcrum.
This is an ambitious trilogy, that while set in a world so different from ours, it succeed like no other in exploring issues like slavery, oppression, discrimination, and taboos. A strongly recommended read.
This is one of the Hugo Award Finalist in the Best Novel category. I wrote more about this and the other finalist in this blog post.
(★★★★★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 18 2016
Seven Kill Tiger
by Charles Shao (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This short story focuses on two main character: Zhang Zedong, a Chinese business manager responsible for the Chinese "settlements" (colonies) in Africa, and Scott Berens, a US CDC employee tracking diseases and virus outbreaks. Zhang is concerned that production in his African mining operation has fallen again this quarter, and that he is going to be held responsible for it. He blames the local population, that he describes in quite demeaning terms. Scott identifies it as an anomaly in the spread of diseases, and his superior Thompson thinks the Chinese may have weaponized a polio vaccine.
Despite the unimpressive characters, the central concept of the story is interesting and disturbing. The most disturbing part is the realization that the utterly xenophobic way of thinking of the fictional Chinese Colonist, exists in every country of today's world, always ready to flare up at time of crisis and economical recession. The author point of view is never revealed or hinted, to the point to make me believe he may actualy share at least some of the troubling ideas presented in the story.
Trigger warnings: colonialism, xenophobia. (★★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 05 2016
Asymmetrical Warfare
by S.R. Algernon (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This extremely short story is the diary written by the commander of an alien species invading Earth. Each entry describes, day by day, the progress of the invasion. The story details the increasing confusion and puzzlement of the alien forces when faced with the biologic differences of homo sapiens.
I found particularly interesting the stellate race attempts to make sense of humans in terms of their alien stellate biology, and failing. As it is often the case, the most common obstacle to understanding, is trying to understand others in terms of our way of thinking and being.
While very interesting, this is also the weakest point of the story: do we really have to believe that a species that expended across the universe, entering in contacts with many different lifeforms, never met non regenerating life forms before? It is also made clear that the two species can communicate, and that the stellate are closely observing human behavior, making this complete lack of understanding of human biology very hard to believe. (★★★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 05 2016
If You Were an Award, My Love
by Juan Tabo
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This title was placed on the finalist by slate voting by a group of gammergaters, and it is, so far, the worst Hugo finalist I read. It is a short blog post written as a reaction to / a parody of If You Were a Dinosaur My Love, that is well-known to be hated by the gammergate crowd. It is intended to be funny (but it is not), and I believe it was slate-voted into the finalist as a form of protest, not for its worth. (★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 05 2016
Space Raptor Butt Invasion
by Chuck Tingle (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This title was placed on the finalist by slate voting by a group of gammergaters as an attempt to vilify the Hugo award reputation. Chuck Tingle, the author of a series of "geeky" gay erotica short stories, responded to his nomination getting Zoe Quinn (the gammergaters arch-nemesis) to receive his award in case of a victory... I decided to set the controversy aside, and read the story and decide in its own merit.
SRBI turns out to be a very unique, often humorous, gay erotic short story with a sci-fi spin. It's the story of Lance, left alone on a mission on a distant planet, having a (very) close encounter with a (possibly) alien species. (★★★)
Started: Jun 04 2016 Finished: Jun 04 2016
The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1)
by Jim Butcher (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. As it is often the case with Jim Butcher's novel, this book is a light and enjoyable read, the characters are colorful, yet flat, and there is nothing to blow you away. It is probably telling that the most memorable characters are the talking cats. The fictional world is interesting, but a lot is left unsaid, to be covered in one of the planned 20+ books of the series.
The plot is relatively simple: since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace. Captain Grimm commands a merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion, to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory. And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. (★★)
Started: May 18 2016 Finished: Jun 02 2016
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 100 (Clarkesworld Magazine, #100)
by Neil Clarke (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. I am very partial to this story because it main fictional character, an AI, was born in the datacenters of the company I work for. It is a fun, light read, where the artificial self-conscious being end up behaving like a corky human. (★★★★)
Started: May 18 2016 Finished: May 18 2016
Lightspeed Magazine, February 2015
by John Joseph Adams (2015)
My review: This cyberpunk action story is extremely fast paced, impossible to put down, and fun to read. The main character, Rhye, is an artificial woman, created, used, and discarded by "regular" humans. Her hard upbringing made her somebody you would not want to mess with. She is a rough, violent, foul mouthed machine, but her meeting with Rack, a hacker, is going to profoundly affect her life. (★★★★)
Started: May 16 2016 Finished: May 17 2016
Drive (The Expanse, #0.1)
by James S.A. Corey (2012)
My review: This short story was release on SyFy website for the release of The Expanse TV series. It is a prequel to the main story, set in a not too far future, when man has colonized the outer asteroid belt, but space travel was still extremely slow. Drive explores a very important historical moment in the expense universe, whose ramifications are the bases of the entire book series.
Despite its short length, the story is quite entertaining, and a must-read for the expanse fans. (★★★★)
Started: May 14 2016 Finished: May 14 2016
Seveneves
by Neal Stephenson (2015)
My review: In a very near future an unknown agent hits the moon breaking it to pieces, turning Earth into a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space. But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, and the future of human race.
The book is an excellent example of hard science-fiction, where the author went the extra mile to ensure to get his fact straights (even if he admits to have taken a couple of small liberties in a couple of places where it was necessary). It is not interesting for character exploration and development, but for the breath-taking, quite scientifically accurate, and entertaining exploration of a possible future. The book is divided into three parts. The first two are very fast paced, and draw inspiration from the author work for Bezos's space mining company. The third part is very different in tones and themes, and was heavily based on the author screenplay for a video-game he is working on. It also explore some eugenic themes that are quite problematic. The abrupt change in style and themes of the last part, makes the book less cohesive. I really wish the third part was not included. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 29 2016 Finished: May 12 2016
Six-Gun Snow White
by Catherynne M. Valente (2015)
My review: Six-Gun Snow White is a retelling of an old fairy tale, that makes unmistakably explicit the sexual, gender, and ethnic violence that is often implicit in fairy tales, so as to bring the reader face to face with what dominant culture pretties up and romanticizes. Gone are the fairy tales tones and colors, replaced by gritty details, and a hard, verist style where the fairy tales elements are used as metaphors and allegories, or to give more depth to the story.
This is the story of Six Gun Snow White, born of a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother's death in childbirth, so begins a heroine's tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have.
Trigger warning: the story contains visual depictions of sexual violence, xenophobia, and first nation destruction (intended as a way to showcase their horror).
This was one of the finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2013. See my reviews of the other finalist. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 24 2016 Finished: Apr 29 2016
Finnegan's Field
by Angela Slatter (2016)
My review: In Irish lore, when children go under the hill, they don’t come out again. Ever. When children go under the hill, they stay where they’re put. Forever. When children go under the hill, parents, though they pray and search, don’t truly think to see them anymore. Never.
But things do not always follow the Irish tradition in the predominately Irish Finnegan's Field, a small Australian town. Anne's daughter, the now 9 year old Madrigal, came back after going under the hill for 3 years. But is it really Madrigal that came back? (★★★★)
Started: Apr 23 2016 Finished: Apr 24 2016
The Caretakers
by David Nickle (2016)
My review: A group of people has been called in by the person that helped them over the years. Her behavior is very unreasonable, intimidating, and peculiar, but there are consequences to sever tie with her. (★★)
Started: Apr 24 2016 Finished: Apr 24 2016
First Kill
by Jennifer Fallon (2016)
My review: This is a short teaser story set in The Lyre Thief universe. It can be appreciated on its own as a stand-alone story.
In First Kill, assassin Kiam Miar will find out when his first assignment goes awry and he is faced with an ethical choice…as if assassins could have ethics. And if he makes the wrong choice, he could not only lose his life but throw a good chunk of his world into chaos.
Kudos to Tommy Arnold for the incredible cover! (★★★)
Started: Apr 24 2016 Finished: Apr 24 2016
Small Wars
by Matt Wallace (2016)
My review: Beware, this is a short story set in the world of Matt Wallace's Sin Du Jour series. While I enjoyed reading it as a stand-alone, I have the distinct feeling that I would have loved it more if I had read Envy of Angels first. I liked the writing style, and the humor, and I am likely to read the rest of the series soon.
In this installment of the series, the Sin du Jour procurement team has been tasked with acquiring a substantial cache of rare Welsh gold for a rather important event, but when they stumble upon rivals factions of the smallest warriors they have ever encountered, they will need to bring out the big guns if they are to survive. (★★★)
Started: Apr 24 2016 Finished: Apr 24 2016
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, #1)
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2015)
My review: The Devil in America is one of my favorite books, and I was thrilled to get a chance to read more by the same author. While not as good as his previous novella, this is a remarkable book. It is not a easy read: the plot is far from linear, and the style is an odd yet interesting mix of sophisticated and refined writing, main street talking, and scientific jargon. The grammar and the word choices are often unusual to force the read to go back and read the text multiple times to understand its meaning. Despite this difficulty, the style works, it helps in world and characters building.
This is the story of Demane, an earthbound demigod, also knows as the sorcerer, since he left his homeland. With his ancestors' artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight. The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive. The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2016 Finished: Apr 23 2016
The Glass Galago (Hidden Sea Tales, #0.5)
by A.M. Dellamonica
My review: I tend to avoid prequels if I haven't read the series before, but I am glad I did read this one. The characters are interesting, and the plot is entertaining.
This is the story of Gale Feliachild and Captain Parrish. They are called back to the fleet to handle an issue involving a law regulating new patents and a missing magical inscription. They soon find themselves embroiled in a plot that is could potentially pit island against island. Now, they must discover the mystery of the glass galago before time runs out for both it and the fleet. (★★★)
Started: Apr 23 2016 Finished: Apr 23 2016
Terminal
by Lavie Tidhar (2016)
My review: In a not too far future, Mars colonization is starting. It became possible to travel to Mars via cheap, one-person, one-way vehicles, the "jalopies". But there is no coming back. The voyage in the cramped space is hard, it has a high fatality rate, and it is one way. As a result, people signing up for it are legally dead.
The story focuses on the people taking the leap, all with different motivations, all desperately clinging on each other to maintain sanity, via asynchronous communications relayed from Earth.
This is a very poetic story, with a very original and extremely fascinating world-building, and an unsatisfying ending. I really hope that the author will develop the story further in the future. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 17 2016 Finished: Apr 18 2016
Il Maestro e Margherita
by Mikhail Bulgakov (2014)
My review: Uso le parole di Montale per descrivere il libro: "Il Diavolo è il più appariscente personaggio del grande romanzo postumo di Bulgakov. Appare un mattino dinanzi a due cittadini, uno dei quali sta enumerando le prove dell'inesistenza di Dio. Il neovenuto non è di questo parere. Ma c'è ben altro: era anche presente al secondo interrogatorio di Gesù da parte di Ponzio Pilato e ne dà ampia relazione in un capitolo che è forse il più stupefacente del libro. Poco dopo, il demonio, in veste del professore di magia nera Woland, si esibisce al Teatro di varietà di fronte a un pubblico enorme. I fatti che accadono sono così fenomenali che alcuni spettatori devono essere ricoverati in una clinica psichiatrica. Un romanzo-poema o, se volete, uno show in cui intervengono numerosissimi personaggi, un libro in cui un realismo quasi crudele si fonde o si mescola col più alto dei possibili temi: quello della Passione, non poteva essere concepito e svolto che da un cervello poeticamente allucinato. È qui che Bulgakov si congiunge con la più profonda tradizione letteraria della sua terra: la vena messianica, quella che troviamo in certe figure di Gogol e di Dostoevskij e in quel pazzo di Dio che è il quasi immancabile comprimario di ogni grande melodramma russo." (★★★★)
Started: Mar 06 2016 Finished: Apr 17 2016
Medusa's Coil
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: H.P. Lovecraft collaborations with Zealia Bishop often lead to good results: female characters are interesting (and have agency), and the xenophobic rants of Lovecraft are mitigated. This is the exception to the rule. In particular the racist element is fundamental and deeply ingrained in the story, and it assume a bigger and bigger role as the story progresses. Lovecraft stories often ends with revelations that are intended to be very surprising, but end up being very predictable. In this case, the authors' xenophobia is so extreme, then the ending end up very surprising in its outrageousness. (★★★)
Started: Apr 17 2016 Finished: Apr 17 2016
Memory
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This is a surprisingly good story, despite its very short length. A reflection on the position of the man in the universe, a short limited presence on a remote speck of dust, at the edge of one of almost infinite number of galaxies. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 15 2016 Finished: Apr 15 2016
Polaris
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This is one of the earliest novels by the author, and it contains some of the elements and themes that will be further developed in his later work. The story begins with the narrator describing the night sky as observed over long sleepless nights from his window, in particular that of the Pole Star, Polaris, which he describes as winking hideously like an insane watching eye which strives to convey some strange message, yet recalls nothing save that it once had a message to convey. Then he starts speaking about his dreams, and his life in the dream world. And slowly the narrator and the reader starts wondering which one of the two is reality?
Trigger warning: xenophobia (quite frequent in Lovecraft's stories). (★★★)
Started: Apr 15 2016 Finished: Apr 15 2016
Sarah's Child
by Susan Jane Bigelow (2014)
My review: Sarah tells herself she should be happy: she has a job, a loving mother, and a wonderful girlfriend. Still, something is missing in her life: a child. She does have a child in her dreams though, he is Brandon, a 6 years old, with blond hairs, that loves dinosaurs. In this dream word she did not had to transition, she was born with a female body, and her name was June. But is this parallel reality really just a dream?
This short story was a finalist for the 2015 James Tiptree Jr. Award. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 10 2016 Finished: Apr 10 2016
Two’s Company
by Joe Abercrombie (2016)
My review: I usually avoid reading short stories set in the world of a book saga without reading the saga before, but I did not realize that Two's Company was not a stand-alone story, but part of the First law series. Well, I am l glad I read it, because I immensely enjoyed it.
The plot is relatively simple and unremarkable: lost in the wide and barren North, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp, runs into Cracknut Whirrun on a bridge far too narrow for the expansive egos of either. With the King of the Northmen and the High Priestess of Thond in pursuit, can Shevedieh, the greatest thief in Styria, persuade either one of these proud heroes to step aside?
What makes this story shine, is the remarkable humor. I found myself laughing out loud while reading this. Reading this story made me want to read more from this author. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 04 2016 Finished: Apr 04 2016
The Quest of Iranon
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: Lovecraft's stories can be divided in two categories: the ones that deals with cosmic horrors, and the one set in the fantastic Dreamlands. This short story falls into the second category. While, as all the dreamland stories, it is very slow paced, and overly Dunsanian, its conclusion is quite intriguing. I would no say more to avoid spoilers.
It is the story of Iranon, an artist that cannot age, looking for his lost home, Aira, the fabulous city where his father was king. For long years he has been looking for it with no success, but he never gave up, always singing about the marble and beryl city, its fragrant groves, its verdant valley, its many colored hills and the river Nithra that flows at night like a ribbon of stars. One day, along the way, he stops in Teloth. The gods of this city demand that all men toil ceaselessly, and so an archon of the city tells Iranon he must apprentice to a cobbler or leave. He decide to leaves, but he bring with him a small boy, Romnod, who seems sympathetic to Iranon cause, and who suggests that they head for Oonai... (★★)
Started: Apr 02 2016 Finished: Apr 03 2016
The Repairer of Reputations: Magical Antiquarian, a Weiser Books Collection
by Robert W. Chambers (2014)
My review: A pre-world war I story set in what was, at the time, the future. The United States are prosperous, and the Federal government has evolved into a mild military dictatorship. Suicide is institutionalized, and publicly funded Lethal Chambers are constructed in all large cities to humanely terminate the existence of those sad and unproductive citizens for whom life has become intolerable. A future that, according to the narrator, put an end to prejudices and bigotry, after getting rid of African-American and Jews (note of the reviewer: I hope this is supposed to be ironic). On this historical background two very conspirators will risk everything to place the rightful King of America on his throne.
The only redeeming part of this story is the narrator: the story is told from the point of view of a mentally ill character, and the reader is left wondering all the time, what is folly, and what is real. (★★)
Started: Apr 03 2016 Finished: Apr 03 2016
The New Mother
by Eugene Fischer (2015)
My review: This novella was the winner of the prestigious 2015 Tiptree Award, and a finalist for the (2016) Nebula Awards. The attention and the honors are well deserved: not only this is an enjoyable story, but it is also one of those stories you keep thinking about long after you finish reading it, because of the hard to answer questions it raises.
The premise of the story is quite interesting: what if a new pathogen changes the affected humans making their gametes diploid, de-facto making male sterile, and female able to give birth to their clones without any need for fertilization? The novella focuses on people reaction, on the social and political implications. In doing so, it also explores gender issues in our society.
I strongly recommended it to everybody, even to people that are not sci-fi fans. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 02 2016 Finished: Apr 02 2016
Cold Fires
by Mary Rickert (2015)
My review: Two very different stories, sewn together by a thing story. The result is worse than the sum of its parts: while the two sub stories would have been quite remarkable as stand-alone stories, they are very different stylistically and in the settings, and they do not fit well together. (★★★)
Started: Apr 01 2016 Finished: Apr 02 2016
The Log Goblin
by Brian Staveley (2015)
My review: It's winter, but the narrator, a land owner, is prepared: he has a huge pile of wood in his backyard. It came from a very old tree on his land, that he had to cut because it was sick and dying. The pile of wood seems to became smaller and smaller each day. Puzzled, the narrator decides to keep an eye on the pile to figure out what is going on.
This is a very touching story, that I enjoyed reading quite a bit. I found the ending a little disappointing though (I will not say more to avoid spoilers). (★★★)
Started: Mar 31 2016 Finished: Apr 01 2016
Hypnos
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The narrator, a sculptor, meets a mysterious man in a railway station. The moment the man opens his "immense, sunken and widely luminous eyes", the narrator knows that the stranger would become his friend, "the only friend of one who had never possessed a friend before". In the eyes of the stranger he sees the knowledge of the mysteries he always sought to learn. He will soon learn that those secrets are better to be left unknown.
This early story is quite dull, and the only interesting element is the strong chemistry between the narrator and his mysterious friend. It makes me wonder if there is more than just friendship at play here. Lovecraft was married (and his wife remarked in her diary that he was a good lover). While he did had gay friends, he was unaware of their sexual orientation, and he is infamous for his xenophobia and homophobia. Still, reading this story, I wonder if he was also attracted to men, and was unable to come to terms with the fact. (★★)
Started: Apr 01 2016 Finished: Apr 01 2016
Oral Argument
by Kim Stanley Robinson (2015)
My review: A short sci-fi story and a political commentary, set in a not too far future. It is a fictional transcript of a supreme court case, and I will not say more to avoid spoilers. Humorous and well-written, this is probably one of the best stories I have read so far this year. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2016 Finished: Mar 31 2016
Fiber
by Seanan McGuire (2015)
My review: Remarkably funny! I was left with the strong impression to have read a chapter of a longer story though: much happened before, and I am left with the impression we haven't heard the last from Heather and her friends. They are a group of five cheerleaders driving with total disregard of the speed limit. But when they head to a rest stop, they drive straight into the middle of a bad horror movie, well, to be fair, as a former zombie, Heather is always in the middle of a horror movie... (★★★)
Started: Mar 29 2016 Finished: Mar 30 2016
What the Moon Brings
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This is one of the least interesting of Lovecraft's stories. It is told in the first person, by a never named narrator. He wanders through surreal dreamscape, when, one night, while walking through a garden in the moonlight, he sees strange and bizarre things. (★)
Started: Mar 30 2016 Finished: Mar 30 2016
Ex Oblivione
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Ex Oblivione is a prose poem, written in first person. It tells of the dreams of a presumably dying man. In his dreams, the man is walking through a valley and encounters a vine-covered wall with a locked bronze gate therein. He longs to know what lies beyond the gate, described inconsistently by the few wise-men that made it though either as something incredible, or as a ig disappointment. (★)
Started: Mar 30 2016 Finished: Mar 30 2016
The Tree on the Hill
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This short 1934 story is the result of the collaboration of Lovecraft and Duane W. Rimel. It is the story of the narrator, Single, living in Oregon with a friend working on Egyptian mythology. Single wonders in an isolate region that is shun by the local that consider it "infested". It come upon an area were nothing grows, but for a single tree on top of a hill. The narrator hike up there, and fall asleep. In his sleep he has strange visions from a distant world with three suns.... (★★)
Started: Mar 29 2016 Finished: Mar 29 2016
Caliban's War (Expanse, #2)
by James S.A. Corey (2012)
My review: The second novel of the expanse saga picks up where Leviathan Wakes left of: James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance, and they are sent to investigate a strange situation on Ganymede, the bread basket of the outer planets. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting with the unlikely help of a Martian marine, that has just seen her entire squadron slaughtered by what it appears to be a monster.
This second installment fast surpasses the first: it is even more fast paced and impossible to put done, and it introduce some new characters that are unforgettable and incredible. It is uplifting to read a military action sci-fi story where female character are not just inserted for tokenism, but they have agency (they are the characters with more agency in the story), and their gender give them even more depth and significance. If you liked Leviathan Wakes, youa re going to love Caliban's War. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2016 Finished: Mar 29 2016
The Great Detective
by Delia Sherman (2016)
My review: An entertaining steampunk short story, in a clockwork version of Sherlock Holmes' UK. While it can be enjoyed on its own, this is the sequel of The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor, and I recommend reading the stories in order to enjoy them at the fullest (I did not, and I regretted it).
In this second installment, Sir Arthur Cwmlech's home is robbed and the Illogic Engine, his prize invention, stolen, it is only natural that he and his clever assistant Miss Tacy Gof consult with another inventor, the great Mycroft Holmes, about who has taken it. But it is really Mr. Holmes' Reasoning Machine who they are there to see, for it is only fitting for one automaton to opine on a matter concerning the fate of another of its kind. (★★)
Started: Mar 22 2016 Finished: Mar 22 2016
A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers
by Alyssa Wong
My review: Hannah and Melanie are two sisters, with the ability to bend time and reality. Unfortunately there are limits of what they can achieve, and when one succumbs to self hate, suicide, family transphobia, and hate crime, the other traps herself in a never ending loop of alternative realities, fueled by her sense of guilt, desperately trying to change an unchangeable past. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 18 2016 Finished: Mar 19 2016
That Game We Played During the War
by Carrie Vaughn (2016)
My review: A powerful and moving story, that adroitly portray the relationship between two Calla and Valk, members of two countries that have been at war until recently. Valk is a citizen of the Gaant, a country of telepaths, while Calla is an Enithian, where people have no mental power. They meet during the war, one prisoner of the other, switching roles at different times. Despite the decade long war, despite the situation, the two build a relation that outlast the way.
This is, by far, one of my favorite stories of the year. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 17 2016 Finished: Mar 17 2016
Fantasy Magazine, December 2015: Queers Destroy Fantasy! Special Issue
by John Joseph Adams
My review: Fantasy and Lightspeed magazine were unified some time ago. They are very well-known science fiction and fantasy magazine. Even in fantasy, supposedly the genre of limitless possibility, where everyone is invited to the adventure, minorities are often underrepresented. Last year Lightspeed started the "destroy science fiction" series, a yearly program focusing on underrepresented minorities to give them a voice, and to see what they have to offer and to contribute to the genre. In 2014 they focused on sci-fi and women. In 2015 they focused on queer authors and themes, with three specials, one for sci-fi, one for horror, and this one, that focuses on fantasy. Next year they will focus on people of color. While fantasy is considered by many the more open of the literary genres, heterosexual, heteroromantic, and cisgendered are considered the default, to the extent that everything else is "deviation," and must be eyed with suspicion. But all fantasy is real fantasy. Fantasy is vast, and incredible fascinating in all its facets. It is inclusive. Fantasy is about people, and queer people, no matter how they identify [Gay, lesbian, bisexual, demisexual, asexual, pansexual, intersex, transgender, genderfluid, genderqueer.. anyone who fits within the QUILTBAG], are a big part of that. They always have been. They are just sometimes harder to see. So, in the interests of visibility and breaking stuff, Queers Destroy Fantasy! will show you just how wide the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity can really be. This special all-queer issue features original fantasy short stories from many award winning authors including Christopher Barzak, Kai Ashante Wilson, Catherynne M. Valente, Richard Bowes, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nicola Griffith, Shweta Narayan , Ellen Kushner, and Charlie Jane Anders. The issue also include an interesting assortment of author and artist spotlights, interviews, nonfiction features, plus personal essays from writers about their experiences being queer reading and writing fantasy.
Two of the stories deserved a special mention, because of their power and quality: The Duchess & the Ghost, by Richard Bowes, is the story of a young man growing up queer in a time where it was very difficult to do even in the "liberal" New York City, facing his internal fears and ghosts. The Padishah Begum’s Reflections by Shweta Narayan, is the story of a clockwork monarch, adroitly weaved across multiple timelines to form a breathtaking tapestry.
A very interesting read, almost as good as the previous installment of the series that focused on science fiction. I am looking forward reading the next "destroy" issue. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 07 2016 Finished: Mar 15 2016
Your Orisons May Be Recorded
by Laurie Penny (2016)
My review: Laurie Penny has a unique style, close to Charles Stross in some regards. The story features an angel working on a call center (corporate Heaven and Hell went through a merger and they switched to call center model to be able to handle the vast number of mortals), and his relationship with mortals. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 15 2016 Finished: Mar 15 2016
The Man of Stone
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: A very enjoyable story written by H.P. Lovecraft with Hazel Heald, and published back in 1932. Heald's influence is strong (and positive). Among other things, this is probably the only Lovecraft's story where a woman is one of the central characters and she is given some agency.
Jack, our narrator, and his friend Ben Hayden, heard from a mutual acquaintance about two strangely lifelike statues near Lake Placid, New York, at the same location where their friend and realist sculptor Arthur Wheeler disappeared recently. Hayden and Jack decide to investigate. They arrive in the rustic village of Mountain Top and quiz loafers at the general store. None are eager to talk about Wheeler, though one garrulous old fellow tells them the sculptor lodged with "Mad Dan" up in the hills. Maybe Dan's young wife and Wheeler got too cozy, and Dan sent the city feller packing. Dan's no one to interfere with, and now he's so moody he and his wife haven't appeared in the village for a while. (★★★)
Started: Mar 05 2016 Finished: Mar 06 2016
The Freedom of Navid Leahy
by Jenna Helland
My review: The Freedom of Navid Leahy is a short story set in the world of upcoming Jenna Helland's debut novel, written to lure you into reading the full book. I usually dislike reading these type of short prequels: they often do not stand on their own. This one may have some of the weaknesses of the format, but it is entertaining, and fun to read.
Sevenna City simmers with tension between the ruling elite known as the Zunft and the working-class cottagers. Hoping to regain control, the Zunft cracks down on the cottagers, but their brutality just fuels the flames of rebellion. A cottager boy tries to navigate the dangerous currents of the city but finds himself on a collision course with both the Zunft and the people who want to bring them down. (★★★)
Started: Mar 04 2016 Finished: Mar 05 2016
Count Magnus
by M.R. James (2013)
My review: M.R. James was labeled by H.P. Lovecraft as one of the 4 great masters of horror literature, and Count Magnus his masterpiece. While the story is entertaining, I confess I did not see anything special about it.
An anonymous narrator finds papers telling the tale of Mr. Wraxall, Oxonian, bachelor, travel writer. Around 1860, Wraxall decides to write a guide to Scandinavia, and journeys to Sweden. Over there he decided to investigate the history of one of the local families, the De la Gardies. The family allows the researcher access to their family records, even offer him a place in their manor house, but he prefers to stay at a nearby inn. The inn is close to a church with a peculiar mausoleum where lies, among other De la Gardies, the family founder, Count Magnus... (★★)
Started: Mar 05 2016 Finished: Mar 05 2016
A Kippled Meal
by Daniel Polansky (2015)
My review: A Kippled Meal, is a very short story, a meditation on the nature of various idealized animals. A mole, a cat, a sloth, a dog, and various other animals discuss their perfect meal, suppers that reveal their innermost instincts, with some more uncouth than others. (★★)
Started: Mar 04 2016 Finished: Mar 04 2016
Points of Origin
by Marissa K. Lingen
My review: A moving story, dealing with family dynamics, and family separation.
Most people who have reached their eighties without raising children have every right to believe that they will go on not raising them, and Judith and I were no different until the day they turned up with the social worker, neatly scrubbed and pressed inside their vac-suits and carrying cases with all their remaining worldly possessions. There were three of them like stairsteps, their black hair cut in fringes across their foreheads and their dark eyes shining out disconcertingly familiar at me. But it wasn’t until the social worker said, “Mr. Chao and Ms. Goldstein, these are your grandchildren, Enid, Richard, and Harry,” that I remembered, sheepishly, about the genes we had given all those years ago, to that nice couple from New New Prague, before they left for the Oort Cloud. (★★★)
Started: Mar 03 2016 Finished: Mar 04 2016
The Light Fantastic (Discworld, #2)
by Terry Pratchett (2004)
My review: This is the second book of the Discworld series, that now includes 40+ books, and it is considered one of the most famous and important work in the genre.
The books takes of where The Colour of Magic left off, and completes the storyline bringing it to a satisfying end. The two books are often considered a duology, or two halves of the same book.
IN The light fantastic the very fabric of time and space are about to be put through the wringer, in this instance by the imminent arrival of a very large and determinedly oncoming celestial body. The circumstances require a very particular type of hero. Sadly what the situation does not need is a singularly inept wizard, still recovering from the trauma of falling off the edge of the world. Equally it does not need one well-meaning tourist and his luggage which has a mind of its own. Which is a shame because that's all there is. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 26 2016 Finished: Mar 03 2016
Some Gods of El Paso
by Maria Dahvana Headley (2015)
My review: While the style is exquisite, and some of the concepts quite interesting, the plot is a little too thin. After reading it I was left with the impression I just read a still rough but full of potential draft.
This is the story of a couple of magical sex workers on the run from the law for stealing and illegally trading in strong emotions in 1920s US. (★★)
Started: Feb 26 2016 Finished: Feb 26 2016
At the Mountains of Madness
by H.P. Lovecraft (2005)
My review: This is one of the longest story by H.P. Lovecraft, written in 1931, and serialized in 1936. The story would have benefited from some editing and shortening, even if I have to admit that the long descriptions do read like the explorer journals of the time, giving the story a patina of realism. The longest format allow for an unprecedented level of world-building. What is usually just hinted in other shorter stories is here explained and expanded. We finally learn the history of the Old Ones and the Shoggoths!
Plot summary (without spoilers): chilling recollection of an Antarctic expedition's uncanny discoveries, and their encounter with an untold menace in the ruins of a lost civilization. (★★★)
Started: Feb 20 2016 Finished: Feb 26 2016
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
by Washington Irving (1991)
My review: A humorous take on Gothic fiction. Sleepy Hollow is a strange little place, some say bewitched. Some talk of its haunted valleys and streams, the ghostly woman in white, eerie midnight shrieks and howls, but most of all they talk of the Headless Horseman, a huge, shadowy soldier who rides headless through the night, terrifying unlucky travelers. Schoolteacher Ichabod Crane is fascinated by these stories, and by the richness of a local heiress he decides to conquer. Unfortunately for Ichabod, Brom Bones, a broad-shouldered, double-jointed good-looking fellow, and master of mischief, has set his eye on the same heiress. (★★★)
Started: Feb 16 2016 Finished: Feb 18 2016
The Litany of Earth
by Ruthanna Emrys (2014)
My review: The story is a novel take on the Lovecraft mythos, dealing with the aftermath of the government's crackdown at Innsmouth, as described in Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth (that I recommend to read beforehand to enjoy to enjoy this story at its fullest).
This time the narrator is not a scared human horrified to discover the human race mixing up with another race, but it is one of the hybrid, a survivor from the government concentration camps. As in a Gregory Maguire's books, every element from the original story takes a completely different light. The camps, seen as necessary by (the quite xenophobic) Lovecraft to protect us from the horrors of inter-species interbreeding, turn into an allegory of the USA WWII internment camps in this sequel.
I enjoyed the novel, despite the ending, that could have been better. Ruthanna Emrys is a very talented author, and I am looking forward reading more of her. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 16 2016
Bridge of Snow (The Winner's Trilogy, #0.5)
by Marie Rutkoski (2014)
My review: This is a story within a story, a fairy tale told by a mother to her sick child. The story is relatively simple and unremarkable, but the storytelling and the writing is sublime, and I am looking forward reading more by this author. (★★★)
Started: Feb 14 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
Variations on an Apple
by Yoon Ha Lee (2015)
My review: A strange re-interpretation of the ancient Greek myth of the Discord's Apple. The prince of Troy is is asked by three goddesses, Hera, Aphrodite and Athena, to give an apple to the fairest. Instead of giving it to Aphrodite, like in the original story, it gives it to its city, often personified in a gender fluid avatar.
I read some of this author work in the past, and I always found it very original and interesting. Variations of an Apple is undoubtedly interesting, but while I did like some of its concepts and ideas, it is a little too short on plot, and it is too often hard to follow because of its ornate language and imagery. (★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
In the Walls of Eryx
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The story was initially written by Kenneth J. Sterling, a Providence high school student who befriended Lovecraft in 1934. In 1935 he sent Lovecraft the draft of this story, which Lovecraft revised heavily, roughly doubling the word count. The result is a fascinating story, that is very different from any other Lovecraft's story, yet it has clearly some of his touch. The novelette, written in first-person narrative, depicts the story of a prospector on the planet Venus who works for a mining company looking for a powerful new form of fuel, against the wishes of the Venusians, or man-lizards. The treatment of the locals, is quite different from the one I would have expected from a younger Lovecraft, an interesting example of the author evolution. (★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
Hold-Time Violations
by John Chu (2015)
My review: Interesting world building concepts, and plot. In the book, each universe has skunkworks that generate the universe within it, making this multiverse an infinite set of matryoshka dolls. The skunkworks that generate this universe have become faulty, and the physical constants suddenly aren't. In order to fix the skunkworks, to make physics self-consistent again, and to make the world work as it’s supposed to, Ellie will have to remember everything her mother has taught her.
While I liked the ending, it is a little abrupt, and the story would have worked out more if more space was given to Ellie's mother, to better understand her values. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
The Transition of Juan Romero
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: The story starts when miners uncover a very deep chasm, too deep for any sounding lines to hit bottom. The night after the discovery of the abyss the narrator and one of the mine's workers, Juan Romero, venture inside the mine, drawn against their will by a mysterious rhythmical throbbing in the ground. (★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
Tear Tracks
by Malka Ann Older (2015)
My review: A novel and original take on a first-contact story. The encounter is cleverly used to explore human nature and psychology.
This is the main story of Flur, an astronaut that traveled across the stars to make first contact with the Cyclopes, hoping to forge a peace treaty between humanity and the first sentient aliens they have discovered. She has undergone careful training and study to prepare for this moment. But what if her approach is too human?
A remarkable short story that I strongly recommend. I am looking forward reading more from this author. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
Negotium Perambulans
by E.F. Benson (1922)
My review: This short story was written when Lovecraft was not yet an established author, and it contains many themes that will later be appropriated by Lovecraft: the story is set in a rural and out of the way town, where ancient horrors lingers. The story is told by one of the protagonist, that befriend a local artist, that is one of the first in understanding more about the ancient horrors.
What made the short story particularly interesting, is that it helped me understand the context from with Lovecraft emerged, what was original in his writing, and what was his unique contribution. (★★)
Started: Feb 14 2016 Finished: Feb 14 2016
The Danish Girl
by David Ebershoff (2015)
My review: A novel loosely inspired by the lives of Einar and Gerda Wegener, and Lili Elbe. In the book, Gerda is Greta, a rich and independent Californian, that follows her father to Denmark, when he leaves the States in a diplomatic mission. While there, she studies arts, and she meets (and falls for) her future husband, a shy yet famous painter. The book follows their extraordinary lives, before, during, and after the first world war, as they come to realize that, inside of Einar, lives Lili, a young woman, that will became Greta's muse. The book portrays their touching and moving relationship through Lili awakening, all the way through her gender confirmation surgery (she was one of the first recipients, and her case one of the most publicized).
This is a remarkable book, and I am looking forward reading more from this author. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 06 2016 Finished: Feb 14 2016
The Colour of Magic (Discworld, #1)
by Terry Pratchett (2005)
My review: This is the book that started it all: it is the first book of the Discworld series, that now includes 40+ books, and it is considered one of the most famous and important work in the genre.
On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (of unknown gender), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There's an inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course the edge of the planet.
The structure of the story is episodic: it is split into 4 segments, that could be enjoyed as stand alone stories, featuring the same characters. It is impossible to not fall in love with the main characters, not to smile reading about their misadventures, often respectfully and lovingly making fun to some other important fantasy masterpieces.
The book finishes with a big cliff-hunger ([spoilers removed]), and the adventure continues (and it is concluded) in The Light Fantastic. The two books should be considered a duology, or two halves of the same book. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 23 2016 Finished: Feb 06 2016
Doppel
by Lindsay Smith (2014)
My review: Spy thriller with a supernatural twist set during world war II. The story is told through a series of espionage transmissions between British agents in occupied France, and the UK intelligence.
In his efforts of rescuing some British prisoners of war from Nazi camps, one of the agents meets a charismatic SS officer who seems to be guarding a great and powerful secret, that might be darker and more dangerous than anything the British, or the Germans, can imagine. (★★★)
Started: Feb 06 2016 Finished: Feb 06 2016
The Tree
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: One of my least favorite of Lovecraft's short stories, set in ancient Greek, featuring two very talented and mythical sculptors, that loved each other as if they were brothers or more. They are set to compete against each other, but one of the two gets sick. Things take an unexpected twist from there. (★)
Started: Jan 22 2016 Finished: Jan 23 2016
Please Undo This Hurt
by Seth Dickinson (2015)
My review: Dominga is an EMT who cares too much, and her friend Nico, that just lost his cat and broke up (again) with his girlfrind. Life hurts. Nico's tired of hurting people. He wants out. Not suicide, not that, he'd just hurt everyone who loves him. But what if he could erase his whole life? Undo the fact of his birth? Wouldn't Dominga be having a better night, right now, if she didn't have to take care of him? (★★★★)
Started: Jan 22 2016 Finished: Jan 22 2016
The Dunwich Horror and Other Stories
by H.P. Lovecraft (2008)
My review: In the degenerate backwater of Dunwich, Wilbur Whately, a most unusual child, is born. There are rumors about his birth, and they seem confirmed by the uncanny pace of his growth, and his unsettling height, but the boy's arrival simply precedes that of a true horror that is going to tear the town apart. (★★★)
Started: Jan 19 2016 Finished: Jan 21 2016
The Book
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This reads more like a sketch or a failed attempt, than a full story. I am quite surprised it was published in this state, and I am even more surprised that it has a relatively high score on goodreads.com.
The story is relatively simple: the narrator found a book without a cover, that contains forbidden secrets that allow him to enter hidden dimensions. He soon learn that some gateways should never be crossed. (★)
Started: Jan 19 2016 Finished: Jan 19 2016
History of the Necronomicon
by H.P. Lovecraft (1984)
My review: I read this as part of tor.com Lovecraft re-read. This is not a (very) short story, it reads more like a set of world-building notes written by the author. Lovecraft's fans will probably love to read it, but everybody else should skip it without fear of missing out anything interesting. On the other hand, if you heard about the famous "necronomicon" and you want to figure out what it is... this is the best place to start. (★★)
Started: Jan 19 2016 Finished: Jan 19 2016
The Return Of The Sorcerer
by Clark Ashton Smith (1931)
My review: A desperate man, running out of money, finally find a job as a translator, but the job turns out to be more than he asked for.
This is one of the most famous of the Clark Ashton Smith's stories set in the fictional world of H. P. Lovecraft. (★★★)
Started: Jan 18 2016 Finished: Jan 18 2016
Binti (Binti, #1)
by Nnedi Okorafor (2015)
My review: A little masterpiece, with an unusual, distinctive voice, that sets it apart. I strongly recommend this blogpost by Emily Asher-Perrin (it contains spoilers, so wait until you are done reading it), that very eloquently explains why this book is so special.
This is the story of Binti, the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2016 Finished: Jan 18 2016
Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace
by Terry Brooks (2011)
My review: Terry Brooks tell the story of The phantom menace, the first installment of the Star Wars saga, providing more insights on the story.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, an evil legacy long believed dead is stirring. Even the Jedi are caught by surprise, their attentions focused on the political unrest between the Trade Federation and the Republic. Now the dark side of the Force threatens to overwhelm the light, and only an ancient Jedi prophecy stands between hope and doom for the entire galaxy. On the desert world of Tatooine, far from the concerns of the Republic, a slave boy works by day and dreams by night, of being a Jedi Knight and one day traveling the stars to worlds he's only heard of in stories... of finding a way to win freedom from enslavement for himself and his beloved mother. His only hope lies in his extraordinary instincts and his strange gift for understanding the things, talents that allow him to be one of the best Podracers on the planet.
I found particularly remarkable the way Darth Sidius gathers more and more power, setting the Republic on a path that will lead to the end of Democracy, leveraging people fears to convince them that the only way to protect them is to give up some of their freedom, and giving a benevolent leader more power.
The book (and the movie as well) fails in its portrait of the chosen one: we are supposed to get goose-bumps seeing in him the future balancer of the force, but he comes across as a regular young kids. I was expecting a legend, instead I was given a cute youngling that walks to a 10 year older queen and tell her he is going to marry her. Ani cuteness and storyline does not fit well with the legendary epic surrounding him. The following episodes work much better losing young Ani, for his older self. (★★★)
Started: Jan 10 2016 Finished: Jan 17 2016
The Butcher of Anderson Station (The Expanse, #0.5)
by James S.A. Corey (2011)
My review: This novella is a prequel of Leviathan Wakes, telling the story of Colonel Fred Johnson, one of the side character of The Expanse series.
One day, Colonel Fred Johnson will be hailed as a hero to the system. One day, he will meet a desperate man in possession of a stolen spaceship and a deadly secret and extend a hand of friendship. But long before he became the leader of the Outer Planets Alliance, Fred Johnson had a very different name. The Butcher of Anderson Station. This is his story. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2016 Finished: Jan 17 2016
Herbert West: Reanimator
by H.P. Lovecraft (2008)
My review: Even if this is considered one of the worst of Lovecraft's short stories, it is one of my favorites. It was serialized in an amateur publication, and as a result each chapter is quite self contained, and the story reads more like a series than a single story. The story is the first to mention Lovecraft's fictional Miskatonic University. It is also notable as one of the first depictions of zombies, as corpses arising, through scientific means, as animalistic, and uncontrollably violent creatures. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2016 Finished: Jan 17 2016