Archives for August 2016

The 2016 Hugo Awards: An Overview

Introduction___The_Hugo_AwardsThe Hugos are on again, and I’ve managed to read the novels. The range this year is varied, with series science, high action fantasy, and completely original takes on old themes on the nomination list.

First of all, I have to say that I have avoided getting into the problems that the various puppy groups have bought to the Hugos. It’s not a question of do I think they are right or wrong – personally, the points that they bring up about the direction of the genre prove we have a  living genre that is always evolving.  Instead, I have taken each book on its merits and have been impressed this year with the overall quality of the writing. If this was an award based entirely on writing ability, the decisions for those voting would be difficult given the high level of writing. What I did find was five varied novels, although this year the nominations seemed to lean towards fantasy, with three of the five in that setting. It was the settings that impressed , be it the steampunk of the Cinder Spires, the barren rocks of the Fifth season, or Russian folklore of Uprooted, all three are good fantasy novels, and were reading time well spent. Leaving Ancillery Mercy and Seveneves.

 Ancillery Mercy, the closing of a trilogy, continued to an ending that was nice and clean. Seveneves was a wonderful, well-written book, let down by a final act that could have been removed without ruining the novel.

So which is the best? I looked back at the previous winners, and those that I have read. It seemed to me that the Hugo award should go to a novel that was original in content, with well written characters, and taking place in a possible world that made sense within itself and presented the reader with some wonder.

This narrows possibilites down. Uprooted, The Fifth Season and Seveneves seemed to fulfill these criteria the best.

Which makes the final cut difficult. Which one will win? Often, it appears winning the Nebula is pretty good indication of Hugo results, in which case, Uprooted would the be pick.

However, after reading it, my mind keeps coming back to the images that Seveneves  put in there. The cramped living quarters so close to the vastness of the universe, as well as the science it explained along the way. This was a novel that extrapolated the current situation, and made it credible. In terms of a science fiction novel, this one fulfills all the needs that we have when we read one.

Which is why my personal feeling is that Seveneves should be the one to win the Hugos this year.

Review: The Cinder Spires – The Aeronaut’s Windlass

jim-butcher-aeronauts-windlass-cover-530x800Jim Butcher does fantasy and does it very well. In The Aeronaut’s Cutlass, Butcher shows how well. In the fantasy world he sets up, the population live in a number of spires which are accessed through airships.

Once this is set up, the action starts, as an attack is launched between two spires, and the pace barely slows from there.  In a fantasy novel, the setting is the major thing. The steampunk setting is very well realised with the information dumps and techncal details kept to a bare minimum. The canvas for the story is  easy to picture thanks to Butcher’s descriptions. What I found interesting was that I saw all this in an Anime setting, which is not something I usually do.

Caught up in all the action are spire guards, half crazed magicians, intelligent cats, and a disgraced air ship captain. The characters that we meet are all so very confident of themselves and of those around them, which results in not much personality depth. However, given the fun that this book is to read, it can be quickly forgiven. This is the first book of a series and sets the tone and the world very well. With the high adventure and enjoyable characters, this novel would not be out of place sitting next to your David Eddings.

Review: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

sevenevesThe name of Neal Stephenson is one that has come across my desk and various internet feeds over the last couple of decades, and was always on my to do list. With his newest novel, Seveneves, I get to tick that box.

Stephenson starts the novel with the moon being destroyed. After that, things get worse. With characters based on Neil Degrasse Tyson,Elon Musk and Hilary Clinton, you know that things are going to be interesting. This is certainly true during the first two thirds of the book. As the human race deals with the consequences of the explosion, characters appear that are well developed, as is the habitat they now live in. There are sections here where Stephenson’s descriptions are so good, you start to feel the claustrophobia, smell the unclean people, and see gaunt figures moving around. That’s not to say that is entirely engrossing. To start with, there are information dumps on orbital mechanics; if you were looking for a primer on the subject, this would be a good place to start.

It is the ending where this novel is really let down. If a reader was to close the book and walk away before the final act, they would end with an ambigious ending that would have made this story a near perfect science fiction novel. Instead, we get this last act which feels almost tacked on. While it is interesting, it felt unnecessary.

If you are looking for a piece of hard science fiction, this would have to be one of the best examples around at the moment. It extraplolates current science and throws in some well developed characters, but is disappointed by its final act.

We Hate People Episode 16: The Distrustful McCoy

logo-withtagline-blogsize300x300It’s taken 5 weeks but we’re back with a discussion on Hillary versus Donald, Star Trek and even Stranger Things.

The Show Notes

– Hillary versus Donald
– Stranger Things on Netflix
– Star Trek Beyond
– Assorted pop culture chat
– Donald & Hobbs (link)

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