Friday, September 03, 2004

More Science Fiction Short Stories

So Wednesday was big product delivery day at work. I had to trot along to our clients and hand them a CD of software that's hopefully finished and ready to go. So you know what that means, it's slack off time at work. Sure, I've been assigned another project to do, but I figure I should ease myself into it.

So this means I've read a few more of them there Hugo award nominees.

I'll start out by talking about the other short stories, which I read earlier, but didn't post about (because I didn't like them much).

'A Study in Emerald' by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman is, in my opinion, one of the bestest writers ever, but while this story has a good, original concept (alternate history Sherlock Holmes), you really need to know a bit about Sherlock Holmes to get it. So while it was a reasonably entertaining read, I was left at the end having no idea at all what was going on.

'Paying it Forward' by Michael A. Burstein. Pretty average. A little too twee. OK, a lot too twee. And with a decidedly average SF idea behind it all.

'Robots Don't Cry' by Mike Resnick. This one has a very similar idea to 'The Tale of the Golden Eagle', but is basically a whole lot more cliched and predictable.

Those are the short stories, here are the novelettes:

'Hexagons' by Robert Reed. This is another alternate history story, I quite enjoyed it until the climax, which was a bit of, uh, an anticlimax. It probably could have done with more focus on the world rather than the characters, but I did like the little cameos from various real life historical figures.

'The Empire of Ice Cream' by Jeffrey Ford. I quite liked this one too. Very well written with a few twists that I never saw coming. It's about a guy who suffers from synesthesia, which means his senses don't work the way they're supposed to, and he smells sounds, hears textures, tastes colours, and so on. Apparently it's a real condition.

'Bernado's House' by James Patrick Kelly. I got about a quarter of the way through this one, before deciding it probably wasn't appropriate to be reading stories with graphic sex scenes at work. It's about a sentient house who is in love with her owner. The house has a humanoid avatar, which is good news for the owner, wink wink. Anyway, the first bit didn't grab me, so I doubt I'll read the rest.

'Legions in Time' by Michael Swanwick. I liked this one too. I felt that the author's prose style was quite amateurish, but the story and premise was pretty cool. It's starts out with a woman in the 1930s being paid to watch a closet door in an empty room for eight hours a day, and to alert her boss if anyone ever comes out of it, a concept that aroused my curiosity.

'Nightfall' by Charles Stross. A bit too clever for it's own good. Some very intelligent SF authors seem to release a huge torrent of mind boggling scientific ideas every time they set pen to paper. I'm usually completely lost by the third page, but if the author is good enough they keep me intrigued enough to make the extra effort to sort out what is actually happening. Greg Egan is a good example of an author like this. Stross' style reminds me a lot of Egan's, but unlike Egan he lost my attention about half way through. Sure, he's doing a good job of writing about post-singularity humans whose technology is so advanced that they are almost alien to us, but that's no good if the average reader (I'd like to think I'm an average reader) can't figure out what's going on half the time, and the characters aren't engaging enough to make us think it's worth the effort to try.

There's another novelette, 'Into the Gardens of Sweet Night', which I didn't read because you had to sign up to something before downloading it, and I couldn't be bothered, even though it looked interesting. I might read it later.

Now on to the novellas.

I've only read two of these so far, they're by two authors that I've never read before, but who I've heard a lot of good things about. One of them was OK, but not great, the other was pretty good, but slightly flawed.

'The Green Leopard Plague' by Walter Jon Williams. A couple of paragraphs into this one, I started thinking, 'Christ, not another post-singularity, humans-with-complete-control-over-their-bodies-and-reality type story!'. I guess it's just the trendy genre nowadays. Anyway, I quickly found myself engrossed in this story anyway, possibly because it has two intertwining plot threads, one of which is in the very far future, but one of which is in the not too distant future. Unfortunately the whole story didn't really come together for me. The character's seemed to be not much more than mouthpieces for the authors ideas, but to be fair, they were interesting ideas.

'The Cookie Monster' by Vernor Vinge. This one was very cleverly written, fun (despite a somewhat disturbing premise), and had a neat concept behind it. The only problem was that there were a few small plot holes. It's a slightly different take on a standard SF idea. Highly recommended.

That's it for now. Maybe I'll read the rest next week.


Joel said...

Oh, I shall certainly have to read the Vernor Vinge novella. He always has slightly *different* ideas. Which I like. By the way, I've got a couple of his books if your interested in them...

Jon said...

Yup, it was one of the better ones that I read. I might borrow those books off you sometime in the future, but I've got like a million things to read at the moment anyway...