The Empress in her Glory • 2015 • SF short story by Robert Reed

★★

Synopsis A blogging lady is chosen as the ruler of Earth by an alien race. They don’t conquer Earth directly but it simply happen. They’ve chosen Adrianne Hammer as their representative, though nobody knows about this decision. It’s only that everything she writes comes true.

Review Everything feels distanced, especially the protagonist’s relationship with her son. I didn’t care about both at all. It is a quiet story, nothing unexpected happens, it doesn’t stay.

Meta: isfdb. This short story was published April 2015 in Clarkesworld. It is available online.

 

 

Veröffentlicht unter Science Fiction, Story | Kommentar hinterlassen

The Lily and the Horn • 2015 • Fantasy short story by Catherynne M. Valente

★★★+

Wars aren’t fought anymore outside in the battlefield by armies of strong warriors. Instead, they are decided by depudies. Not outside, but inside: Both sides at one dining table, and the first to die poisoned looses. This civilization has cultured females in the art of poisoning and antivenoms, and the main protagonist Lady Cassava is a hero in it, the Lily of her House, battling Yew, the Horn of her House.

Vivid language and imagery of tastes in a boring love story within an interesting setting. Interleaved is the protagonist’s background story and her relationship with her six children.

 

Meta: isfdb. This short story was published December 2015 in The Magazine of SF&F. It is available online.

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Blood, Ash, Braids • 2015 • Alternate History short story by Genevieve Valentine

★★★★

 

The 588th in an alternate reality version of a World War II-era Soviet squadron consists of female pilots only. Their task is to terrorize the Germans by flying planes with silenced engines sounding like brooms. That is why the Germans call them witches. There is only one real witch in the squadron, the main protagonist resembling flying aces like Manfred von Richthofen, just on the other side of the war: Not Germany, nor U.K., U.S. but the Russian side.

The story’s setting reminds me of „Raisa Stepanova“ by Carrie Vaughn (see my review of Dangerous Visions), only with a supernatural turn. The topic isn’t about warcraft or magic but about camaraderie like some Jane Austen novels. Don’t expect much of a plot or high tension arc in the story but a lyrically narrated tale with lovely sidekicks like the commander’s origin story.

Meta: isfdb. This short story was published 2015 in the anthology Operation Arcana.

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Schwarzer Dolch: Chroniken der Seelenfänger 1 • 2016 • Fantasy von Alexey Pehov

★★★

Nur Menschen, die die Begabung als Seelenfänger in die Wiege gelegt bekommen haben, können Seelen erkennen, die nicht in die Hölle oder ins Paradies gehen, sondern in der Welt verbleiben. Seelenfänger bekommen die Ausbildung, solche Seelen mittels ihres magischen schwarzen Dolches zu beseitigen, vorzugsweise solche, die in der Hölle landen sollen. Dafür erhalten sie die Lebensenergie der Seele und verlängern minutenweise ihr eigenes Leben. Kein Wunder, dass Seelenfänger misstrauisch betrachtet werden, haben sie doch eine Stellung, die es ihnen erlaubt, jederzeit Forderungen an Bürgermeister oder wen auch immer zur Unterstützung zu stellen.

Der Protagonist Ludwig von Normayenn dieser neuen Serie von  Alexey Pehov reist von Kapitel zu Kapitel zu neuen Abenteuern im Kampf um dunkle Seelen und macht sich dabei allerlei Feinde. Begleitet wird er von der fluchenden und schwatzenden Seele Apostel, sowie einer stummen, dafür umso schaurigeren Vogelscheuche, die manchmal mit ihrer Sichel marodiert. Beide sorgen für amüsante Unterhaltung, wenn Ludwig sich auf Kämpfe in einem christlichen Pseudo-Europa vorbereitet.

Pehov mag sich offensichtlich nicht in den historischen Details verirren und verändert Namen und Beschreibungen derart, dass man als Leser nur noch ansatzweise vermuten kann, wo genau sich Ludwig nun in Europa aufhält: Frankreich hier, Venezien dort. Ebenso sprunghaft mutet die Handlung an, die zwar durchaus von einem roten Faden durchzogen wird, aber eher als eine Art Sammlung abgeschlossener Kurzgeschichten gelesen werden kann, als ein durchgängiger Roman. Ich empfand es als sehr angenehm, nach jedem solchen Abschnitt eine Pause einlegen zu können, um eine andere Kurzgeschichte zu lesen. Der Roman eignet sich aber ohne weiteres zum Durchlesen in einer Sitzung, denn langweilig wird es nie.

Der zweite Band „Dunkler Orden“ ist für den 4. Oktober angekündigt. Im Original ist die Serie abgeschlossen.

Fazit: Satte Fantasy als Auftakt einer Reihe, die ich durchaus empfehlen kann, falls man nicht unbedingt nur gehobene Literatur mag.

Veröffentlicht unter Anthology, Fantasy, Novel | Kommentar hinterlassen

The Machine Starts • 2015 • Near Future novelette by Greg Bear

★★+

A story about quantum computing, Gödel’s mathematical theories, and multiuniverses. Quantum computing isn’t exactly a new thing – the first real implementations were demonstrated some 15 years ago, and it is slowly improving, manifesting in Microsoft or Google experiments with 512bit Qcomputers and the NSA investing heavily in it.

The author plays around with some unorthodox corners of quantum computing, leading to spooky results, and a nice ending. Not much of a character study, plot, or technically new elements you haven’t seen before. For geeks like me, it is a very likeable, technical story. Greg Bear knows this stuff from several years consulting at Microsoft research, so I trust his facts are correct.

The title reminded me instantly of Forster’s The Machine Stops from 1909 – you should really read that, maybe in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two, or online.

 

Meta: isfdb. This novelette was published by Microsoft 2015 within the anthology Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft. That anthology is freely available.

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2015 Nebula Winners Announced: Novels, Novellas, Novelettes, Short Stories

The 2015 Nebula Award Winners have been announced! (updated from nominees announced).

Here are the Winners:

NovelUprooted, Naomi Novik

Novella★★★1/2 • Binti • SF by Nnedi Okorafor • review

NoveletteOur Lady of the Open Road, Sarah Pinsker

Short StoryHungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, Alyssa Wong

All the nominees from short to long (links in the title lead to online versions):

Nominees for Best Short Story

Nominees for Best Novelette

Nominees for Best Novella

  • Wings of Sorrow and Bone, Beth Cato (Harper Voyager Impulse)
  • The Bone Swans of Amandale, C.S.E. Cooney (Bone Swans)
  • The New Mother, Eugene Fischer (Asimov’s 4-5/15)
  • ★★★★★ • The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn • Fantasy by Usman T. Malik •  review
  • ★★★1/2 • Binti • SF by Nnedi Okorafor • review
  • ★★★★ • Waters of Versailles • Historical Fantasy by Kelly Robson •  review

Novel

  • Raising Caine, Charles E. Gannon
  • ★★★★★ • The Fifth Season • fantasy by N.K. Jemisin • review
  • Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
  • ★★ • The Grace of Kings • pseudo-historical fantasy by Ken Liu • review
  • Uprooted, Naomi Novik
  • Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen
  • Updraft, Fran Wilde
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The Heart’s Filthy Lesson • 2015 • Old Venus novelette by Elizabeth Bear

★★★

Some of us love SF from a time when gruesome facts didn’t yet hit the imagination of a jungle planet with six leg beasts. For those people, Dozois and GRRM published a followup volume to Old Mars last year titled Old Venus. This story is taken from it. Dharthi is a researcher who thinks she will find Venusian’s indigenous species in a different place than everyone else. Contrary to her lover, she isn’t popular and neither gets sponsorship to conduct her research easily. She gets on a stupid mission by herself, risking her life and findings in the dangerous jungle of a second Venusian continent.

Dharthi’s character isn’t enjoyable, to say the least. But the straight-forward, linear action with lots of foreshadowing has some great moments. Note also a couple of references, starting with the story’s title from a David Bowie song. And it is a recreative deviation from all those near future CliFi stories; I’d say: A space opera here and there cures the day.

Meta: isfdb. It is available online.

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Calved • 2015 • short story by Sam J. Miller

★★★★

Synopsis: Climatic change has drowned coast cities like New York. People like Dom flee elsewhere, e.g. to Greenland’s now huge city of Qaanaag which isn’t exactly welcoming the refugees. Dom found work as an ice-grunt, working the ice calves for fresh water which will be delivered to the thirsty nations. It is a bad job and barely feeding his family, his wife and son, his only pride. His wife divorced. Now, he has to up his failing relation to his son with something that he can be proud of – in this case it is his last memory, a shirt from NYC.

Review: Interesting as the speculative elements of climatic change and its consequences are, the story doesn’t depend on them. It could have been written in nearly any time, because the clear emphasis is on the father-son relationship. Which is well developed, though a bit predictable in its ending. It could easily involve you emotionally, and that’s everything I ask from a good story.

This is a new author who I’ll watch out for!

 

Meta: isfdb. This short story was published September 2015 in Asimov’s. It hit several Best of Anthologies, and it is available online.

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Dancy vs. the Pterosaur • 2015 • Postapocalyptic short story by Caitlín R. Kiernan

★★★

Synopsis In a postapocalyptic setting, a wandering girl Dancy Flammarion, full of religious superstition encounters a wannabe scientific girl Jezebel Lilligraven – „named after a whore and an idolator“ – under the threatening wings of a dragon or pterosaur. Both bring forth arguments what it would be and reveal a lot about their upbringing. But Dancy has a mission to fulfill and goes fight the dragon with her knife:

Dancy pushes the thought away, because self doubt’s as dangerous as books that say people evolved from monkeys and slime.

Review Lots of U.S. folklore and atmosphere which is quite foreign for me. Dancy’s mother has been reading many good books to her daughter, like Bram Stoker’s Dracula („All men are mad in some way or the other…“), H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds („softened almost into melody“). But none helps against her thoughts of Noah’s flood, and Adam and Eve versus dinosaurs. I’ve never met anyone who believes in creationism, so it was an exotic setting and discussion for me. Somehow, the scientific girl knew how to argue and what to expect from creationists, which is something I couldn’t stand against, as I would be speechless or maybe furious.

And then, Dancy comes up with something which is not from the Bible – the dragon – and Jezebel with something absolutely unscientific like a Pterosaur coming through a timewarp.

Dancy is a real interesting character: in her world, monsters are very much real and she may – or may not – be guided by an angel. I don’t know if she is a deluded girl, a monster herself or really fighting a holy war.

The short story seemed to be cut out of a larger sample, missing beginning and ending. Now, I found out that it is in fact part of a series around Dancy Flammarion. I guess, I have to take a deeper look into that one.

 

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Capitalism in the 22nd Century, or, A.I.R. • 2015 • SF short story by Geoff Ryman

★★★

Synopsis Two sisters, Graça and Cristina, leave Brazil to settle on another planet and escape the power of Chinese. They need to alter their genes.

Review Capitalism is driven by Chinese in this setting and they are viewed as the future imperialists from which people try to get free. This is another take on the relationship between future sentient A.I.s and humans: while the former can predict everything, the latter can touch everything. I’m not too convinced that A.I.s really would need humans as vehicles to fulfill their plannings – they simply could use robots.  It is also about the relationship between the two sisters: Christina disdains her AI connection but Graça relies upon it. Although internet gives full immersion and instantaneous communication, those two girls cannot communication, don’t really understand each other.

Meta: isfdb. This short story was published 2015 in Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany. It was included in several Best of the Year anthologies, and I’ve read it in Strahan’s anthology.

 

 

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