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Archive for April, 2008

Nebula and Hugo 2008 (3)

My review goes into the 3rd round. A very impressive read was Memorare by Gene Wolfe and, without having read the other nominees, a likely winner. It works very well well on many levels. First of all, the characters are interesting and interact in a very complex way. By telling, hiding and revealing new details the author creates a truely multi-dimensional picture. The reader will be pleased to find the story embedded in a nicely arranged setting. Strongly recommended! You can read my German review here.

A former favourite author of mine was Greg Egan. He is back with two new stories, both nominated for awards. Dark Integers continues where Luminous has stopped and it makes sense to read it first. This is very hard SF, playing with mathematical theorems and ideas. I liked the story very much and really enjoyed the spy thriller elements. Greg Egan seems to be back on track as SF writer.

Glory by the same author was a disappointment. The begin was very good with nice ideas, but slowly everything is thrown away in the search for a clear direction. The end delivers nothing and makes the story at most average.

Both Egan stories can be found in the collection Dark Integers and Other Stories (German review here, Amazon here), which includes the marvellous Oceanic and two more stories.

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Following up on my first post I have managed to read another 2 stories.

Captive Girl is a very strange story. It explores the bizarre relationship between a crippled girl (Alice) and her caretaker (Marika). The SF elements are only minor, the main question is: what would you do for love? This comes in such a disturbing way that I couldn’t really enjoy it. I consider myself as open minded but here I had to pull the ropes. My biggest problem is that there is no real attempt to heal Alice. If a 9 year old girl undergoes such drastic changes, you cannot describe her as normal, someone who is fit for our society.

In Austria we recently had the case of Natascha Kampusch. She also had to live for many years in an isolation with limited contact to the outer world. Only psychiatric help could bring her back into the normal world. In Captive Girl this option is almost ignored.

The second story I read was Last Contact by Stephen Baxter. Due to a cosmic event, the whole milky way will be destroyed in the Big Rip. The story covers the last weeks of a mother and her daughter. To be honest, the mix of gardening talk, children, personal blame and, yes, the end of the world, didn’t interest me much. It provides a very light feeling and leaves no tracing. The idea of the Big Rip is good but it wasn’t the focus of this story – it can live without any SF element at all, which is a big drawback for an SF story.

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Nebula 2008

The nominees for the Hugo and the Nebula have been announced and I am trying to read some of them. They are available online (see links) and give a good overview about what’s going on in SF.

I have started with Ted Chiang’s The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate. Ted has become one of my favourite short fiction author with the release of his marvellous collection Stories of your Life and Others and I was eager to read his latest story. An Arabian merchant finds a truely unique shop with a device that allows people to travel 20 years in the past or 20 years in the future. Before the owner of the shop lets the merchant pass the gate, he tells 2 stories about what has become of two men that travelled through time. Finally it’s the merchant’s turn and we discover a hidden secret that has deeply affected him.

The story is very well told with an uncommon setting and interesting characters. However, the story as a whole didn’t grabbed me in the end. Compared to Ted’s other impressive pieces (link to my review in German) it couldn’t fullfill the high expectations, mainly because it is too fairy like with almost no SF elements. It’s quite short and I recommend that interested readers make up their own mind. It’s definitely not a bad one and lovers of fantasy will appreciate it much more than I do.

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