28 June 2012

Hugo nominees, part 3

This week, I'm reviewing the novellas on the 2012 Hugo ballot. A novella is 17500-40000 words, making it an awkward length, as it's too long to be a short story but too short to be a novel. The works are linked here. As always, these are in alphabetical order.

Countdown, by Mira Grant. This is a prequel to Grant's Newsflesh series. Newsflesh is a zombie series, but the zombie apocalypse was triggered by a virus. In Countdown, you learn all about the virus and how it was created and let loose in the world. It's very interesting from an infectious disease epidemiology standpoint, and Grant did her research on that, as well as from a writing standpoint. It's horror, so it's got lingering scary bits in it. I'm not a fan of horror, and I thought this was very good.

The Ice Owl, by Carolyn Ives Gilman. The teenaged daughter of a family of refugees from a holocaust befriends an art dealer who isn't what he seems. The namesake ice owl barely makes an appearance. It's got a rather moralising ending.

Kiss Me Twice, by Mary Robinette Kowal. Scott Huang and his AI partner Metta have to solve a murder. Except Metta's computer housing is stolen, so she's running on a backup. It's a very fun, noir-esque story with a satisfying resolution.

The Man who Bridged the Mist, by Kij Johnson. Kit, an architect, comes to the village of Nearside to build a bridge over the river of mist (a magical substance filled with monsters). He makes friends with the people who live there and on Farside, especially the Ferry family, who operate the boats that carry people across the river. It's very poignant, and the descriptions are vivid.

The Man who Ended History: A Documentary, by Ken Liu. Liu tells the horrors perpetrated by Unit 731, a Japanese military unit who performed experiments the Nazis would have salivated over on Chinese villagers, interweaving it with the lives of researchers who made it possible for people to literally directly observe history. Except the act of observing destroys the particle that makes it possible. This was very uncomfortable to read, but it was very well-written, like all of Liu's works.

Silently and Very Fast, by Catherynne M. Valente. This is the story of an AI, interwoven with stories of gods and goddesses (it opens with Inanna and Tammuz). In typical Valente style, it's vague and allusive and Clever. It's lovely, I guess, but I thought the vagueness, allusiveness, and Cleverness drew too much attention to themselves.

Your thoughts, readers? (If I have any.)

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