Tag: ken liu

Books books books

- 2 comments

In which I catch up to a lot of books. You’ve been warned (yeah. The snakelet got mobile and my spare time got a lot… busier).
The Very Best of Kate Elliott: an extensive collection of Elliott’s short fiction as well as four illuminating essays, this is utterly wonderful. They’re all very strong stories, focusing on people (mostly women) dealing with war, magic and various other conflicts. The clear highlight for me was “Leaf and Branch and Grass and Vine”, which has the best woman protagonist *ever*, and manage to make a number of pointed remarks about the invisibility of older women and working-class people, but they’re all worth a read.
Glorious Angels, Justina Robson: “glorious” is about the right word for this. Set on a planet colonised by humans a long time ago, and where an intriguing mix of science and magic dominates, this focuses on the Empire, a loose confederation of cities ruled by Empresses who control their subjects through pheromones. But the Empire is enmeshed in a deadly war; and trouble might soon come from within… There’s so much in this–tremendously inventive world building done matter-of-factly, a kickass family (Tralane and her two daughters are just awesome), and mysterious and deadly beings in the shape of the Karoo, creatures who absorb each other to gain knowledge. And an ending that is both satisfying and immensely frustrating (aka I want to know what happens next!).
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Seth Dickinson (ARC from publisher): if you’re not in the mood for brutal and depressing, this is probably not the book for you. It’s been a long while since I read something that was pure tragedy–you know exactly what this book is building up to, and yet you still turn the pages and hope against all hope that there will be a happy ending. (also, the focus on economics and war is really interesting, even though I wasn’t 100% sold on some of the politics). I did find myself wanting to argue with it, at length, after I’d finished it; but I suspect you’re meant to do so.
Shattered Pillars, Steles of the Sky, Elizabeth Bear: I’d read Range of Ghosts, the first volume of the Eternal Sky a while back, when it first came out, but I hadn’t had a chance to check it out until now. Set in a fantasy version of the Silk Road (featuring analogues of Persia, Mongolia and China among others–more as loose inspirations than the actual historical setting), this is a breathtaking epic fantasy with very strong set pieces (and horses! OMG Bansh and her foal), political intrigue and realistic characters (while I love Temur, my favourite is Samarkar, the wizard who was once a princess, and her relationship with Edene, Temur’s fiancée). The ending is heartbreaking and wonderful.
The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu (ARC from publisher): epic fantasy using Ancient China as its foundation. A cross between the Iliad, Three Kingdoms and Lord of the Rings. But it’s also very adult and very modern in its handling of power–who gets it, who is worthy to handle it and how you cling to it. And very very cynical and dark in some ways (the violence is always drily factual, but I’d argue that makes it even more horrific)
It does some amazing things with narration–and one of these is showing how everyone has a story–this might be the tale of Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu, but everyone in the cast ends up feeling very, very human and yet larger than life. It’s a neat trick. Again, I love the cultural foundations of this–scholars and filial duty! Confucius (well, Kong Fiji)! Kites and fireworks as weapons.
I do have one reservation, though, and it’s the same issue I have with Three Kingdoms. Because this is a universe where men do the fighting (and women, with notable exceptions, don’t), and because this is a story of war, women end up being relegated somewhat to the back burner. The story is very aware of it, and aware of how women try to gain power (and there’s subversion going on, more or less subtle), but I still ended up… a bit frustrated? There’s awesome women fighters, and some court intrigues in the last third. (and it looks like book 2 is going to be more about the building of peace and rivalries at court, therefore will remedy this)

NB: the fact that this last one has a longer review doesn’t mean I loved it more than the others! Just that I typed this one when I had a little more time than now, when the snakelet wasn’t mobile yet…

Awards eligibility and awards recommendations

- 0 comments

Awards eligibility and awards recommendations

Wow, it’s that time of year again (seriously, where did 2013 go?). I didn’t publish a whole lot in 2013: my favourite piece is “The Waiting Stars”, which originally appeared in Athena Andreadis’s and Kay Holt’s The Other Half of the Sky (published in April 2013). It was picked for Gardner Dozois in his Year’s Best, recommended by Ken Liu and Ada Hoffman (and singled out for praise by Rich Horton in his Locus review). It’s my Xuya space opera story, which has killer drones, signal processing and a lot of mindships 🙂

You can find it online here, and also in EPUB, MOBI (Kindle) and PDF format (if you need DOC or RTF, drop me a line via the contact form, and I’ll be quite happy to provide a copy. I just am not a big fan of putting Word formats online–too easy to modify them by mistake…). It’s eligible for the Hugos and Nebulas (in the novelette category), and for the BSFA Awards as well.

Now for the less selfish part of this post: the stuff I really liked from last year (a fair warning that a lot of the people involved are acquaintances or friends–that said, I wouldn’t recommend their stories if I didn’t genuinely like them and think them award worthy).

Short stories:

“Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Clarkesworld December 2013. A woman comes back from the dead to deal with her former spouse. Awesome world building, crunchy thoughts on history and the manipulation of public and private record, and tantalising hints of a larger gender fluid society. I’m jealous.

-“Of Alternate Adventures and Memory” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Clarkesworld December 2013. The son of a former metal woman returns to the city of her birth, and must decide what to do with his inheritance. I was surprised this was a short story, because reading it I thought this was much longer: there’s so much packed into–thoughts on difference, on memory, on what is worth preserving. And as always, gorgeous prose.

“The Knight of Chains, The Deuce of Stars” by Yoon Ha Lee. OK, so it’s always hard to pick a favourite Yoon Ha Lee story, but this was the one that most blew me away this year. I had the privilege of writing the introduction to the short story collection Conservation of Shadows, and regret that this wasn’t included in it. In a tower that holds all the games in the world, a woman who was once admiral in an unwinnable war comes to defy the Guardian for the ultimate game… Gorgeous prose, sharp observations and great ideas.

EDIT: -“Balik Kampung” by Zen Cho (in Solaris’s The End of the Road, available from Zen if you request it) is a beautiful tale of ghosts in modern-day Malaysia, New Year’s Eve and returning home.

Novelettes:

“The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” by Ken Liu, Lightspeed Magazine, August 2013. Pretty sure Ken will be on the ballot without my signal boosting, but I really liked this story of an Ancient Chinese litigation master, his relation with the legendary Monkey King, and the suppression and preservation of historical record.

Boat in Shadows, Crossing by Tori Truslow, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, January 2013. You know that feeling you get when you read a fantasy book? That crunchy feeling that it’s a real place that happens to look nothing like our world? Truslow nails it from the get go. That it’s a story about gender and gender fluidity–and festivals, and gods–only makes it more appealing.

Novellas:

EDIT: -“Yseul’s Lexicon” by Yoon Ha Lee (published in her collection Conservation of Shadows): magic, language and the cost of erasure. Awesome.
“Burning Girls” by Veronica Schanoes. Found out about this one too late for the Nebulas, so it’s fortunate it got on the final ballot without me. A great tale of immigration, family and dangerous pacts with demons, all steeped in vivid period detail.

Novels:

The Bone Flower Throne, by T.L. Morganfield, Panverse Publishing. T.L. Morganfield brilliantly brings to life Ancient Mexico in Toltec times, in a brilliant retelling of the myth of Quetzalcoatl that focuses on his sister. This reads like Mists of Avalon in Ancient Mexico: I love the focus on women and on what they have to do to survive, and the characters are very strongly drawn (TW for incest though–hardly avoidable as it’s in the original myth…).

Best Fan Artist:

-Ninni Aalto, who did the art for much of the Helsinki bid. See an example of her work here. And her blog is here.

Best Editor (Short Form)

-Jon Oliver, for his work as editor of the Solaris anthologies. For once that Worldcon is in the UK, I think it’d be awesome if more UK editors were recognised. Solaris puts out great books, and Jon is very good at putting together cutting-edge and diverse anthologies like The End of the Road. 

Campbell Award:

Benjanun Sriduangkaew. She’s burst all over the SFF scene this year, with stories in BCS, Clarkesworld and various anthologies, and I really think she deserves a Campbell nomination. Her universes are intricate looks at gender fluidity and gender roles; her prose makes me ultra jealous; and I’m so looking forward to the day when she releases a longer work (I understand there’s a space opera novella in the works, so maybe I don’t have to wait quite so long!). Stories of hers worth reading: I already mentioned “Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade”, but if fantasy is more your thing, her “The Crows Her Dragon’s Gate” was absolutely awesome.  And her “The Bees Her Heart, the Hives Her Belly” (not available online at the moment, you’ll have to buy Clorkwork Phoenix 4) was a reviewer favourite this year.

ETA: nominate for Hugos here and Nebulas here.

Plugs

- 0 comments

-Issue number 1 of International Science Fiction is now available for download (will you look at that gorgeous cover!). With fiction by Joyce Chng, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Marian Truţă

-Received my issue of Interzone, which had “The Flower of Shazui”, a Chen Qiufan story translated by Ken Liu. Very gritty story set in the Shenzhen special economic zone–I really liked the interplay between the characters and the ending, which was sad but fitting.
-Also, please go congratulate the awesome Patrick Samphire on the sale of his Mars Regency middle-grade book, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb to Christy Ottaviano Books

Reopening Day

- 0 comments

Just a quick post to say that I am back, having had a great WFC–more later, but major congratulations to friends Lavie Tidhar and Ken Liu for their World Fantasy Award wins (thrilled for Ken, who has done the hat trick of winning the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award in the same year with his “Paper Menagerie”, though for my money I still think “The Man Who Ended History: a Documentary” was a stronger and more thought-provoking tale).

That’s it for tonight; I shall get myself to bed…