Archive for Nebula Awards

the calculating stars [book review]

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2021 by xi'an

This fist sounded like an interesting attempt at alternate history, when a massive meteor strike obliterating the Washington DC region in 1952 forced the World to change shift towards space exploration and the eventual evacuation of Earth. The story is told from a computer (or computress) viewpoint, who is a wunderkid, a mathematician, a physicist, a war (WASP) pilot, and more, with a strong will and an independent mind, hoping to become a female astronaut. If the setting reminds you of Hidden figures, a (great) movie about the true story of NASA black female mathematicians, it is no surprise and I wonder how much inspiration the author got from these historical facts, if not from the 2016 book itself. Despite receiving many awards, like the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards!, The Calculating Stars is somewhat of a disappointment to me, because of the highly single-minded perspective,  where everything (related to solving the forecast extinction) seems to happen with a small group of people, because of the confusion between a mathematician and someone who can do complex arithmetics by head, to the near-perfection of the central character, who can also hotwire a car, because of the anachronisms, incl. the prescience that the asteroid crash was going to cause a deadly rise of temperatures when the dinosaur extinction was not yet linked with a similar event, because of a rosy depiction of the World uniting towards racing against the Great Extinction, and, cherry on the pie, because French sentences found throughout the book mostly make no sense as literal translations of English sentences!

“Elle va le faire mais Dieu sait ce qu’elle va parler.” [She’s going to do it but God knows what she’s going to say.]

“Il est l’ordre naturel je pense (…) Il n’y a rien de naturel.” [It’s the natural order of things I think (…) Nothing is natural.]

“Ce ne fut pas une explosion ou nous aurions senti.” [It wasn’t a blast or else we would have felt.]

Hugo 2021 nominations

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2021 by xi'an

I received an email from Tor about their books shortlisted for the Hugo Awards this year, which made me check the nominated novels (as there was little chance I had read novellas, novelettes, or short stories in the other lists, except those by P. Djèlí Clark who did win the Nebula last week!):

Of which I have only read the [great] Network Effect from the Murderbot series, but with Muir’s, Clarke’s and Kowal’s opera on my reading list.

a memory called Empire [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2020 by xi'an

A pleasant read for a few afternoon breaks (and vitamin D intake), that I chose as it was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards as well as a Not the Booker Prize Guardian choice. But not really worth the hype I think as the novel, A Memory Called Empire, is quite unidimensional (which is unfortunate for a space opera). In that the few characters that populate the book manage to move by themselves the political structure of the interstellar universe quite substantially. Within a few days. These characters are definitely attractive but somewhat too nice to be true and the way they bond and connect with one another is just implausible, even for a science fiction novel

“…no algorithm is innocent of its designersAn algorithm is only as perfect as the person designing it.”

The most interesting part in the story, although somewhat stretched too thin, is the conflict the central character feels between her attraction to the highly sophisticated culture of the Empire and the feeling that she will never be fully incorporated within that culture. Despite mastering the language and the societal codes well-enough to reach the upper spheres of society and impact them.

“…the real inspiration for the number-noun naming system comes from the naming practices of the Mixtec people of Oaxaca…” Arkady Martine

But, beside borrowing a lot to Japanese culture, and a wee bit to Maya or Aztec societies, the universe created by Arkady Martine is quite close to ours in its mundane aspects, including plastic spoons..! With very few truly novel technologies. But with email delivered on USB keys after travelling faster than light between star systems. The threat of an alien invasion is pending, by the end of the book, paving the way for an incoming second volume.To be read…

Murderbot 2.0 [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2020 by xi'an

After reading (for free) the (fab) four “murderbot diaries”, I got enough infected to fall for the fifth installment, Network Effect, and buy it upon release on May 5. This is definitely a continuation of the on-going development of the growth of the central character, SecUnit, a rogue android operating free-lance after it hacked its own OS. With private name Murderbot. And  with biological human parts and a more and more human way of thinking. Except it is faster and seriously multitasking. Characters that came to life in All Systems Red (an Amazon bestseller in Science Fiction!) and the following diaries are still around and active, including the super AI ART which is the closest to a friend Murderbot can think of. Corporate entities are still revolving around the story, with an unlimited greed that leads to catastrophes on new planets they turn into mines and often abandon if the economy does not come their way. As previously, a large part of the plot is hardwired in that it involves hacking, killerwares, unfortunate reboots, and hidden recovery files, which sounds like lazy plot lines at times but remains enjoyable. The fact (!) that some characters are androids means that they can even die and be rebooted if a safe copy of their OS is available. Which makes for a schizophrenic and hilarious inner dialogue at a point of the book. The part I found the least convincing cannot be divulged without being a spoiler, but it made the explanation for the bad guys being bad guys lame. And reminded of a terrible short story I had written in high school involving a sentient blurb which… (Well, it was getting worse from there!) But overall, this is quite a fun and enjoyable if rather geeky novel, with witty exchanges (although AIs with deep minds should have been able to come up with better ones!).

bloggin’ nebulas [link]

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , on May 25, 2020 by xi'an

Just to point out that the SF and fantasy editor Tor Books has posted on its site a series of blog posts on all the competitors for the 2019 Nebula Novel Award, including one of Gideon the Ninth I have enjoyed very much. With the mention there that the novel could be seen as “the Mobius Strip of over-the-topness”! To be announced on May the 30th.

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