Monthly Archives: February 2014

Review of the Nebula Awards Showase 2013

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Every year I try to read the Nebula Awards Showcase anthology. If you don’t know, the Nebula Awards are given for Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writing. I look forward to the collection every year. And last year, I started ordering the older copies from Abebooks.com. (I love that site). I almost have every year now.

Anyway, when I read, I have a tendency to compare what I’m reading to other things that I’ve read. I try to judge a book on its value alone but in this case, I can’t help it. So, as I was reading the 2013 collection, I was comparing it to the 2012 anthology.

In all honesty, I thought the 2012 collection was better. Now, to be fair though, there are still some really great stories in the 2013 set that I would highly recommend. However, the new book just didn’t wow me like last year’s did.

Before I talk about some of the stories that I did like, I wanted to add one other thing you should know about the Nebula Awards collections. They usually feature poetry. Yes, you read that right. Sci-fi or fantasy poetry. And I’m here to tell you, it can be pretty weird.

Weird poetry aside, some stories that I think are really great from this collection:nebula awards

1. “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu

  • This story is truly magical. It’s about the relationship between a mother and her son. I don’t want to tell you more than that, because it’s really, really, really great.
  • It’s one of those stories that isn’t your typical sci-fi or fantasy story but I’m so glad it’s in this collection.

2. The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman

  • I love this story! I couldn’t get over the complexity of the universe that this author created just for a short story. It’s about a girl and her learning about the past. It’s also about an ice owl, but I won’t tell you what happens other than that.
  • When I finished reading this, I was hoping there was more. I would love to read a novel length work set in the universe created by this author.

3. Excerpt from Among Others by Jo Walton

  • This, as you can guess from the title, was a snippet of a novel that they included.
  • The novel is now on my “To Read” list.
  • The excerpt introduces us to one of the main characters, a girl, who is about to go to boarding school. I can’t add more than that, not because I don’t want to give anything away, but because there’s not much else to go on from the snippet. I have to admit one of the reasons I say this is worth reading is because it peaked my curiosity and now I need to know what happens.

4. “Sauerkraut Station” by Ferrett Steinmetz

  • If you only had time to read one story from the collection, this would be my choice.
  • Unlike some of the other stories, this story is more typical. It has some known sci-fi devices. It is set on a space station. There is a war going on that involves two different factions with different belief systems.
  • What isn’t typical about this story. The main character is a girl who lives with her female relatives and together they run a “truck stop” in space. In particular, their station is known as “Sauerkraut Station” because they serve sauerkraut that they make themselves right on the station.
  • I can’t explain why exactly this was my favorite out of all of them, other than I just thought it was really well written. For a short story, it was very complex.

5. “Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen

  • This story is about our world after aliens have arrived and blocked out our sun. In order to survive, the humans that endure are forced to live deep in the ocean near vents that produce heat.
  • The story is also about the generation of children who are born down in the ocean. They want to see the sun. They form a “cult” like group that worships the sun. Eventually, the teens steal some subs and make their way to the surface because no one has been to the surface in years. Guess what they find when they get there…. I’m not telling. Read the story. It’s good.

There are many more in this collection but I felt like those five were the highlights. One of the things I love about the Nebula collections is a lot of time the stories that are featured aren’t your typical sci-fi and fantasy. There aren’t a lot of dragons or light sabers. Instead, there are a lot of characters in a vast array of settings surviving and being a part of some very unique universes.

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The Bone People by Keri Hulme

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bone peopleBooker Prize Winner in 1985

I have mixed feelings about this book but I will get into that in a second. I also have to confess that because I hadn’t heard of the book before my sister gave it to me, I looked it up and read some short reviews on goodreads.com. I found the reviews fascinating, especially after I read the book. There was one review that basically boiled down to the person saying, “I hated this book.” There were also people who felt kind of ‘meh’ about the whole thing, and there were a few who actually liked it.

I don’t feel like I fit into any of those categories. As I said, I have mixed feelings about this book. I really enjoyed this book. I think it was beautifully written and engaging. I had hard time putting it down. The reason for my mixed feelings though has to do with the content of the story. Fair warning, spoilers coming.

The central plot of the story is about a woman, a man, and the man’s adopted son. At one point in the story, we learn that the boy is being beaten – severely beaten. As readers, we feel sorry for him because in addition to being beaten, we know he comes from a traumatic past and has some physical handicaps as a result of that past. The plot though, as they say, thickens because later in the novel we learn that his father is the one who has been beating him the whole time.

At that point, I honestly thought why doesn’t the woman just beat him to death (believe me, she is capable). So, a little boy is being beaten by his father and the other adults in the boy’s life know about it and do nothing about it. That isn’t actually the part that bothered me. What bothered me is that at the end of the novel, the boy is beaten so badly that he is hospitalized, and they don’t know if he’ll wake up. He does. And then after what I would consider a very short time, he goes back to live with the same people.

The same family that let him get beat every time his father was drunk gets him back. ⊲That right there is why I have mixed emotions about “liking” this story.

I like it because it is so well written, so the people who got hung up on the novel’s use of Maori words need to let that go. I didn’t find the author’s use of another language problematic at all.

I like it because it is set somewhere that I’ve never read about before and is about a culture I’ve never read about before.

I like the characters, even the father. They are wonderfully written.

What I can’t bring myself to like is a child being put back into such a harmful environment and the author makeing it seem like that’s a happy ending.

So, in the end, I don’t know. It is a great book, but can I say that I “like” a book with an ending like that?

I’ve Not Been a Writin’

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ACK! It has been almost three months since I’ve posted on my blog… but what’s worse is that in that time I have not even looked at my novel. I can only blame myself of course. I could provide excuses but I won’t. Instead, it’s time to buckle down and get with it.

A new year is upon us. And with it I am making some goals:

  1. Read 50 books. Last year I only read 31, and that is a really low number for me. I want to challenge myself again this year.
  2. Finish the first draft of my novel. I know! I know! You are probably thinking, “That was her goal last year.” Well, you would be right. And I didn’t meet that goal so I’m taking a mulligan.

I have other goals for the year too, but these are my goals relating to writing and reading. I am also planning on finishing some of my crafty projects and moving back to the mainland. I think it’s going to be a great year.

I hope you have a wonderful year. Here’s to happy reading and productive writing!

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