Hugo reading 2018: Crash Override, by Zoe Quinn

Crash Override, by Zoe Quinn is the sort of book that makes you want to delete all your blogs and internet accounts and go live in Antarctica. It is a deeply, deeply upsetting book to read.

The Hugo Voter Pack provided us with an excerpt – about 100 pages – not the entire book, which has the subtitle ‘How Gamergate (nearly) destroyed my life and how we can win the fight against online hate’, so I can only assume it gets less depressing and more inspiring as it goes, but I’m not sure I’d be able to read through to get to that point.

The part we get is the beginning of it all – how Gamergate got started, how it escalated – and it’s really terrifying. Reading it, I really felt her sense of helplessness in the face of the online horde (made far more frightening by the fact that it quickly grew into offline threats, not just to Zoe, but to her friends and family). Nothing is safe, really.

Clearly, she has survived to write the tale, and I understand that she has even started a website, http://www.crashoverridenetwork.com, that provided advocacy and support to victims of online abuse, so well done her, but I’m feeling traumatised just from reading an extract of her story.

I have no idea how to rate this. It shouldn’t be a related work for the Hugos – and yet it apparently needs to be. I didn’t enjoy it – but I don’t think I was supposed to. I’m not going to finish it, but I probably am going to put it at the top of my list and make a donation to the website, because nobody should have to deal with this sort of thing.

(Also, the PDF kept breaking my kobo, which started becoming a source of concern in its own right – had Gamergaters somehow infiltrated the Hugo voter downloads and put a virus in this document? Only time will tell, but I have to say, I was getting super paranoid.)

Hugo reading 2018: New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Hugo Voter Pack for this section was fairly annoying this year, offering only two books in full and the rest as excerpts.  I was in two minds about trying to get hold of the novels, to be honest, but when Andrew was able to find them all at the library, I accepted my fate.

I decided to start with New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson, on the grounds that it was a gigantic tome which will never fit in my handbag, and I wanted to get it over with.  We had heard Robinson interviewed about it on the Coode Street Podcast, and he had described it as being set in a post-climate change, drowned New York with a Venice-like feel.  He said he had spent a lot of time walking around New York with a map showing altitudes, to work out where the intertidal areas would be and where the drowned areas would be, which sounded appealing.  He also said that he had spent a long time figuring out the economic set up, and that the villain in this story was Capitalism which sounded both depressing and dull.  It sounded, frankly, like a climate change dystopia with economics, in 600+ pages – not my cup of tea.

So I was surprised to find I quite enjoyed it.  It was a strange sort of enjoyment – up until about halfway through, it was the sort of enjoyment where I quite liked it while I was reading it, but could also walk away and forget about it at any time.  After that, it got a bit more compelling.

I’m not sure how best to describe the plot.  It centres around the denizens of the MetLife building – Inspector Gen, a Black woman and a fourth generation cop; Charlotte, a lawyer who works for the Housing Cooperative and tries to sort out housing for refugees ; Franklin, a financier who is not quite as much of a good guy as he thinks he is, but does have more ethics than are immediately apparent; Mutt and Jeff, two ‘quants’ who work on the mathematical side of financial speculation and are somewhat lacking in sense; Vlade, the building manager and former diver; Amelia, a ‘cloud star’ celebrity, who uses her zeppelin to assist the migration of endangered species, and films this for the public; and Roberto and Stefan, two very bright ‘water rats’ – children without visible means of support, who support themselves by diving and scavenging in the drowned city.

And… they try to keep the building together.  They try to find buried treasure.  They try to save the polar bears.  They try to rescue refugees when a hurricane creates a gigantic storm surge.  They fight off hostile takeovers and predatory financial systems, and run co-operatives, and eventually realise that this piecemeal approach is not enough, and they will need to find a way to fix the system entire.

I liked the characters, some more than others.  Amelia is delightful; Vlade is someone I’d like to know; Franklin deserves all the eye-rolling in the world, but is actually quite likeable once he starts looking outside his own bubble; Gen and Charlotte are both great, but perhaps not that well characterised because I was constantly mixing them up.

It’s a surprisingly optimistic book, given its subject matter.  It’s so optimistic, in the end, that I found it almost unbelievable – but that’s probably the effect of the current political climate.

I don’t think I’d seek out more of Robinson’s work – it is SO long and his characterisation wasn’t strong enough to keep me really interested – but I liked it much more than I expected to.   And a little political optimism is a balm in the current climate. It’s a good start to the best novel category.

Hugo reading 2018: All Systems Red, by Martha Wells

I had heard good things about All Systems Red by Martha Wells, and rightly so.  This novella was an utter delight.  It is told in the first person from the perspective of Murderbot, a Security Robot on a planetary survey mission.

Murderbot doesn’t like its job, and doesn’t like people, and really would rather spend its time watching soap operas through its satellite feed.  It has hacked its governor module, so it doesn’t actually have to obey any of its commands, but it does need to obey enough of them that it isn’t obvious that it has been hacked, otherwise someone will try to fix it.  So it’s basically half-assing its job, doing as little as it can get away with, and not paying attention to anything that might not be immediately relevant because why bother.  The humans it is contracted to are disposed to be friendly, but Murderbot is not.  It prefers to remain in armour, with its helmet darkened so that nobody can see its face.  It doesn’t want to talk to you.  It doesn’t want to be your friend.  It just wants you to leave it alone.

I adored Murderbot’s character.  It isn’t depressed, or angry, or sad, it’s just disgruntled and antisocial, and has no interest in pretending otherwise.  There are days when I would love to be that character. Of course, it does feel that its particular humans are not too bad, as humans go, and is not impressed when it seems that someone is trying to kill them, but it does not want to bond with them or be part of their team or accept favours or help from them.  It does, over time, begin to like some of its humans, in a standoffish sort of way, but resents having to waste emotion on actual people.  It would rather save this for fictional characters.  Did I mention that I love Murderbot and want to be Murderbot when I grow up?

The story itself is well-plotted, and – hallelujah! – has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  There is certainly room for a sequel, but you can also stop at the end of the book having read a satisfying story.  The other characters are well-drawn, and very nearly as annoyingly nice as Murderbot thinks they are, which is a pleasant change.

I really enjoyed this book (hmm, and apparently, sentient robots are a thing this year…).

I think And then there were (N-one) is still my top pick for this section, though it’s a close thing, followed by All Systems Red and Down Among the Sticks and Bones.  After that, The Black Tides of Heaven, which I would like to put higher, but the ending really frustrated me.  I don’t know what to do about the last two.  I think Binti: Home is *part* of a better book than River of Teeth, but to my mind it remains just that – part of a book, and not a story in its own right.  I’m almost tempted to put it below No Award, not because it isn’t good, but because I don’t think it’s a novella, in the sense of being a self-contained narrative.  I’ll have to think more about this.

Hugo reading 2018: The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang

The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang, is a difficult book to describe.  The worldbuilding is very… dense, is probably the right word.  It feels like it goes all the way down, from magic, to politics, to religion and philosophy, to conceptions of gender, to things that don’t even appear in the narrative but one senses are there (for example, days and nights are clearly measured differently, but it isn’t clear how in this book – Yang’s website mentions in passing that the sun rises and sets six times a day, which explains a lot, and it’s clear that Yang has a really, really thorough and specific idea of how everything in this world works, not all of which makes it into the text).

The setting is ‘silkpunk’ – which is to say, it has a medieval Asian feel (I want to say alt-Japanese, based on the names and the religion, but I’m really not knowledgeable enough about asian cultures to be sure, and it feels like it borrows from a few different cultures anyway), with magic, and technology.  The protagonist, Sanao Akeha, is one of a pair of twins born to the Protector, the ruthless ruler of the lands in which the story takes place, and given to the Grand Monastery as payment of a debt.  Their twin, Sanao Mokoya, is a prophet, and once this becomes evident, both twins are returned to the Protector, who has a use for prophecy.  (Mokoya is the protagonist of the twin novella, The Red Threads of Fortune, which takes place during and after this story, and which I have not read.)

In this world, children are born with no gender, and choose, when they are ready, which gender they will be, taking the drugs to confirm this gender (a small number of people never make a choice and continue in the body they were born with).  Sanao eventually chooses to be he (and Mokoya to be she), so I’ll use those genders from here.  (Also, wow, I feel like non-binary genders are almost a mini-theme in this year’s Hugos.  I’ve seen more characters who prefer ‘they’ just in the last few weeks than in my entire life to date. It works, both here and elsewhere, but it’s definitely a thing this year.  I understand that Yang is non-binary, which probably influenced their choice in this instance.)

Yes, but what is this story about?  Well, here’s where it gets a little bit strange, at least for me.  *I* thought the story was about the politics – the Protectorate versus the Monastery, the slackcraft-using ‘Tensors’ versus the ‘Machinists’, who work to create technologies that everyone can use without help from slackcrafters.  The relationships are central, certainly, but there are, at various points, out and out rebellions going on in which Akeha (and to a lesser extent, Mokoya) are involved.

But… the climactic point at the book does not resolve any of this.  It resolves the relationships – leading me to suspect that these were, in fact, intended to be the focus of the book – but leaves the question of what is going to happen to the Machinist rebels very much unanswered, and unanswered in a situation where there is apparently unlimited political power on one side, and something that looks a lot like a nuclear bomb on the other side (and I’m not *entirely* certain that this technology is not now known to both sides).

Perhaps the twin novel resolves some of this?

So I don’t quite know what to say about this novel.  It feels brilliant, but unfinished, and perhaps this is because my priorities were not those of the author.  I feel as though I can’t judge it without reading the other novel, and I’m sort of reluctant to do that because I feel that a winning novella ought to be able to stand alone as a book.  And maybe it’s just that I’ve completely failed to get the point of the book?

(Or maybe I’m just a bit dim-witted – I feel as though there are several books this year which have had ambiguous or unfinished sort of endings, and I’m not sure if this is a trend or a sign that my reading comprehension is lacking…)

I don’t know where to put this on my ballot.  I’ll have to think about it a bit more.

Marriage Equality: Have you received your survey? Plus a book review

If not, you have until Friday to ask for a replacement.

To request a new ballot, please visit the ABS website and fill out their replacement ballot form.

And if you have received your survey?  Now would be a good time to return it.

(I suggest voting yes.  You will be glad you did in twenty years time.)

And now, for something completely different, a book review…

(It’s relevant. I promise.) Continue reading

Hugo reading 2017: Three Parts Dead, by Matt Gladstone

The concluding episode in my Hugo reading marathon!  Huzzah!

The Craft Sequence, by Matt Gladstone, consists of five novels so far.  We get all of them in the Hugo Voter Pack, and, due to time constraints, I have read only the first one.

By which I mean, I have read the third one, Three Parts Dead..

Gladstone provides us with a rather endearing introduction (this one, more or less) at the start of his omnibus, explaining that he wanted to explore different cities and cultures in his world, from the point of view of the people who lived in them, rather than having his protagonists journey from place to place, interacting with it. So rather than doing a consecutive series featuring the same characters, he wrote five books set in the same world, and planned for each of them to stand alone.  And he started writing in the middle, in terms of the world’s history, so he numbered that book three (he also, helpfully, made sure that each book had a number in its title, so that people could easily figure out the chronology).

For reasons that I’m not entirely sure I understand, he decided to set out the omnibus in publication order, not chronological order.  Hence, I read the third one, which is also the first one, and which is called Three Parts Dead.

This is a world which is recovering from the God Wars.  It’s not entirely clear exactly what happened in these wars, but it seems that the Gods fought the Craftsmen and Craftswomen, and many of them perished in the fight.  Craftsmen are necromancers and lawyers; the Gods have amazing powers, but these tend to be controlled by contracts with other Gods, cities, or undying Kings.  When they die, they can, in some circumstances, be resurrected, zombie-like, to fulfil their contracts in particular ways, but they aren’t really themselves anymore.  It’s fascinating, convoluted, and confusing.

At the beginning of this story, Kos Everburning, the God who rules and protects Alt Coloumb (I had a lot of trouble with that name, it kept making me think of Control-Alt-Delete, or Alt-Right), is dead, possibly murdered.  Tara, who has just begun working for the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, and her supervisor, Ms Kevarian are contracted to defend Kos in court, and make a case for his resurrection.  He needs defending, because if he has died due to negligence in his contracts, then he is liable to his various debtors.  Their opponent is Tara’s former Professor and nemesis, Denovo, who was also responsible for turning the city’s former moon goddess, and Kos’s consort, Seril, into Justice forty years earlier.  Justice contains Seril’s power, but none of her personality or her spirit – this is a worst-case-scenario for a resurrected God.

The plot is complicated, and we mostly see it through the eyes of Tara, the junior necromancer, and Abelard, a novice priest of Kos, and the one who was on altar duty when Kos died. The magic is quite horrifying.  For example, we occasionally see the world through the eyes of Catherine Elle, who works as a Blacksuit – one of Justice’s minions.  Blacksuits have no will of their own when they are on duty, and are controlled absolutely by Justice.  This is something of a high, and whenever Catherine is off duty, she seeks other sources for the high, which… is often not ideal.

I don’t really know how to review this book.  It’s hard to unpick it at the edges without risking unravelling it completely.  It’s complex, and cleverly thought out, and full of politics, the characterisation is great, there are moments of dry humour, and the ending is satisfying – though it did require a fair bit of the aftermath and prologue to make sense of what had happened.  Also, Gladstone managed to make the ending work without cheating, which I initially thought he had done.

I’ll definitely be reading the other books, and I’m now trying to decide whether this goes below or above October Daye on my ballot.  It’s definitely less dark, which is a plus; on the other hand, I know all the October Daye books are pretty good, and I don’t know where this series goes from here.

On reflection, I think my ballot goes Vorkosigan, Craft Sequence, Temeraire, October Daye, Rivers of London, The Expanse.  Temeraire might have been more fun than the Craft Sequence, but I think this was much cleverer.

Here ends the Hugo reading for 2017!  I may read the zines for my own interest, but there’s no way I’m going to have time to review them.  And it would be nice to read something for enjoyment, rather than critically and with the intent to compare it with everything else on the ballot.

Hugo reading 2017: A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers

Last novel!  Hooray! And I liked this one quite a lot, which means that now I have a problem at the top of my ballot…

But let’s get on with the book.

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers, is a very sweet, kindly sort of book.  It feels like an epilogue, and I believe it takes place after another book set in the same universe.  There is not, now I think about it, a lot of obvious conflict.  It still kept me reading until after 1am on a work night because I needed to know what happened to everyone.

The book tells two stories in parallel.  The first story centres around Lovelace / Sidra, a ship’s artificial intelligence system who is now trapped in a synthetic human body.  And she does feel trapped by it – she no longer has unlimited memory and access to the Linkages, which seem to be a futuristic extrapolation of the world wide web.  Her narrative arc is partly about coming to terms with her situation and figuring out how people who are not AIs (humans or aliens) work, and partly about her remaking her situation to a point where she can be content with it and have a purpose that appeals to her.

She is helped in this by Pepper, an engineer who was once a slave called Jane 23, and the second story is hers.  This story starts when Jane 23 is ten, and, almost accidentally, escapes the factory which has been her entire world (quite literally – she does not know what the sky is, and is alarmed by this gigantic ‘room’ without walls).  Running from feral dogs, Jane 23 is rescued by a stranded spaceship and its AI, Owl.  Owl takes her in, and… basically teaches her how to be human.  And, over time, how to repair the ship and get off this planet.  This may sound unlikely, but Jane has been working to sort and repair broken machinery for her entire life as a slave, so while she has few other skills, she is very, very good with engineering.  I must admit, while I liked Sidra a lot, and sympathised with her struggles, it was Jane’s story that kept me up until 1am wondering if – and how –  she would be OK.

Note that Jane’s story is fairly disturbing – the treatment of the child slaves is chilling (we never do find out what happens when they turn twelve, but I suspect they are killed at that point), and she spends years scavenging for metal and for food, and mostly killing and eating feral dogs.  Which is something you may have a visceral reaction to.  (I just tried replacing feral dogs with feral cats in that sentence and was completely horrified and grossed out, so, yeah.)

With half the story being about an AI raised by humans and the other half about a human raised by an AI, Chambers is clearly saying a few things about what makes us human, but I’m not entirely sure what those things are.  It’s clear that humanity is not limited to humans; the AI, Owl, is clearly appalled by Jane 23’s treatment, which, while it was at the hands of AIs called the Mothers, is clearly something that was decided and organised by the humans.  Compassion, empathy and friendship, are clearly important things, and things that AIs can share with humans and aliens.  Another important thread is the ability to lie, something that Sidra can’t do at the start of the story due to programming limitations.  Once she is able to do so, it seemed to me that her relationships with humans and aliens changed for the better.  But it is clear that AIs have free will, at least to an extent.  Sidra can choose what she wants to do and how to spend her time, provided it does not go against one of her programming restrictions.

I don’t know where to put this book on the ballot.  It was far and away the most enjoyable one to read of the novels in this category, but I don’t think that it was as creative as Ninefox Gambit or The Obelisk Gate.  I still want to put it at the top of the list, because I want to encourage books that I enjoy reading.  But I’m not sure if it ought to be first or second.  Then again, I suspect a LOT of people will put Ninefox Gambit first (I’m expecting that one to win, actually), so maybe it doesn’t need my vote?  I shall have to ponder this.

Hugo reading: Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee

Today’s novel was Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee.

I really didn’t expect to like this one, since it is military science fiction, which doesn’t generally appeal to me.  And, to be honest, it was rather like reading a book in another language – French, perhaps, because I understood most of it, but I had to work at it, and I felt as though there was vocabulary that eluded me.  I suspect one needs quite a visual sort of imagination to follow what was going on with the various battles and campaigns, and I just don’t have that sort of brain.

But despite all of that, I really liked it.  I didn’t quite love it, mostly because of my difficulty following the action sequences, but I’m definitely going to want to re-read it, and then go and read the other books in the series.

Also, let it be known that Yoon Ha Lee did not kill the cat.  And about time, too, if you ask me.  This alone would push Ninefox Gambit up the ballot for me.

Continue reading

Hugo reading 2017: Death’s End, by Cixin Liu

Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, is, I think, very good, but not for me.

I should start by mentioning that it is a very long novel, and I did not manage to finish it.  It didn’t enrage me or anything, it just was not my thing.  It’s very dense, hard SF on an epic scale, and I was finding that the only characters I really cared about or identified with were the ones who were in the wrong, at least as far as the philosophy of the book goes in the first half.  I think I gave it a pretty fair chance – I read Parts 1 and 2, and part of Part 3, which amounted to just under 300 pages all up and took me nearly to the halfway point.  I couldn’t face another 300+ pages.  Sorry.

Death’s End is book three of the trilogy that started with The Three Body Problem.  It stands alone quite well, which is to say, I had no idea that it was the third book in a trilogy, and certainly had no sense that it wasn’t a perfectly self-contained story, at least in the half I read.

There is a LOT of plot, and I don’t quite know how to summarise it.  There is a lengthy synopsis here.  Essentially, Earth has been under attack by the Trisolarans, but eventually the two sides settle into a sort of Cold War / mutually-assured-destruction scenario which allows both sides to prosper peacefully.  This goes on until Cheng Xin, an aerospace engineer who originally worked on a problem at the start of the Trisolar Crisis and was in hibernation for two hundred years before being woken up to address a completely different problem, is elected the new Swordholder.  During the time Cheng Xin has been asleep, the world has become very feminised (initially she can’t tell men from women), and Cheng Xin, is viewed as a reassuring, Madonna-like figure, who will keep the world safe.  Alas, when the Trisolarians attack, she is unable to press the button that would lead to the destruction of both worlds, and Earth is invaded.

And that’s really just the first quarter or so of the book.

There are some fun things in here.  As an Australian, I got a certain kick out of the fact that when humans are restricted to reservations, the reservation is Australia.  And it was amusing having the Australian government being in charge of the human portion of the world, at least for a while.  Even if they did give Melbourne away.  I was also amused that AA, Cheng Xin’s assistant is excited to meet an Aboriginal Australian man, Fraisse, and enthusiastically performs a Haka, and Fraisse just smiles and gently points out that no, Hakas are a Maori dance, before performing an absolutely terrifying one to demonstrate.

There’s also some fairly cool fourth-dimension stuff, which I don’t understand very well, but which I enjoyed nonetheless.  The descriptions are fantastic, and the translator, Ken Liu is clearly a very gifted writer in his own right.

There are also things that annoy me.  There seemed to be a pervasive sort of theme that women are nurturing and peaceful and that if men become nurturing and peaceful and too feminised, then this will inevitably result in destruction.  Everyone forgives Cheng Xin in a rather patronising way, because she couldn’t help being sweet and gentle, and it’s the fault of others for electing her.  It’s the Manly Men of the 21st century, the ones who came out of hibernation into this feminine world and didn’t fit in, who tell Cheng Xin not to run for election as the sword holder, and it’s the Manly Men who turn out to be right, and who are able to run the resistance.  More Manly Men on spaceships are the ones who save the world (and even make a passing comment about how there really aren’t any Real Men on Earth any more).  Even the gentle Fraisse takes the opportunity to point out to Cheng how it was that she could not intimidate the Trisolarians, because he might be gentle, but he is still a Man and therefore capable of expressing aggression in a way that Cheng Xin can’t.

Now, it’s possible that this gets turned around by the end of the book, but honestly, I found this quite frustrating to read.  There really aren’t any other female protagonists, and it frustrates me that Cheng Xin is so consistently portrayed as being so emotional and soft compared to everyone else – at one point the Trisolarian calls her the only true innocent when it comes to their invasion, because Cheng Xin only did what she had to do.  It’s the fault of the rest of the world for putting her there to fail.  Which is only true if one assumes that Cheng Xin had no ability to say no to taking up the role of Swordholder or insufficient self-awareness to realise that she would be unable to do the job.  Again, it’s a really patronising attitude, and it annoyed me a fair bit.  And it smells a little bit like ‘women can’t be leaders because they aren’t tough enough to go to war’.

Aside from the sexism, I was uncomfortable with the the way the book seemed to be glorifying the sort of military hard choices that destroy worlds, and suggesting that without such choices, if people try to live peacefully, they are doomed.  This is not a worldview I am comfortable with.

In conclusion, it’s a clever book, and it’s well written.  I suspect that if you are a hard science fiction person, you will really enjoy the world building and the technology.  But I don’t like it’s philosophy, and I don’t like it’s gender essentialism and underlying sexism.

Currently, it’s coming in ahead of Too Like The Lightning because my primary complaint was boredom rather than rage, and because it does, at least, have the virtue of being a self-contained story.  But All The Birds In The Sky is still winning, because it managed neither to bore nor infuriate me.

Hugo reading 2017: All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders

All The Birds In The Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders is a strange book.  I’ve finished it, and I’m still not entirely sure what happened, but I think the author was deliberately trying to leave things wide open.

Anyway, I quite liked it, which was a nice change.

It tells the story of Patricia, a witch who can communicate with animals, and Lawrence, who is a brilliant scientist.  They meet as children and become friends, but I have to say, that whole first section of the book – about a third of the novel, I think – which takes place while they are children is absolutely harrowing.  They are both bullied, horrifically, and the adults in their lives keep on blaming them for the things that are happening to them.  Also, there is a random assassin who has decided that it is his mission to kill Patricia, so he signs on as the school counsellor.  This doesn’t help.

I was bullied pretty badly at school (though this was a whole new, horrific level), and I found this part extremely hard to read.  Also, beware – there is the now-traditional animal cruelty, though it’s mostly implied.  But I have a bad feeling about what happened to Patricia’s cat after she had to leave.  I do wonder why so many Hugo-nominated books are being sadistic about animals this year.  It’s like they think it’s the Newberry awards…

Anyway, once everyone grows up, it’s easier to read, if you set aside the fact that the world is clearly about to end – the climate is breaking down, and there are food shortages and all sorts of other things going on in the background.  But in the foreground, you have Lawrence, who is part of a team trying to get things sorted so that the human race can move to another planet when this one dies, and Patricia, who is wandering around doing witchy things at the commands of her witchy supervisors who, to be frank, seem to be rather awful and manipulative people.  She is also trying to use magic to repair the world they actually have.

It’s hard to describe this book usefully.  A big part of it is the central relationship between Patricia and Lawrence, who at different times are friends, strangers, lovers, enemies, and allies.  There is some fascinating stuff going on with artificial intelligence.  There are a lot of people who mean very well and do terrible things while meaning very well.  And the world is coming to pieces. Really, horribly, coming to pieces.  This should be a horrifically dark book, but it somehow manages not to be.

The writing style is transparent and coherent and lovely and so refreshing after Palmer and Tingle.  I like the way the book straddles the border of fantasy and science fiction, and even having finished it, I’m not sure entirely what side it comes down on.  I think fantasy – there is a lot of fairy tale structure – but it’s fantasy with a lot of technology and science in it.

… you know, it’s much harder to write about a book that I just quietly enjoyed.  But that’s how I feel about this one.  I liked it.  I’d maybe even read it again.  It didn’t change my world, but it also didn’t ruin my weekend.  It’s a solidly good book which deserved nomination, but I do sort of hope there will be something I like more in the mix.