Hugo 2016 Reading – January

I’ve wanted to read more novelettes and novellas, and knowing there were several novelettes and 1 novella in the Writers of the Future anthology, I’ve been reading through that this month. Hence, my list is quite long.

The Blood of a Dragon” by Matthew Hughes
a short story published by Lightspeed

This story is actually part of a serial, and having not read the preceding stories, I was not as connected to the story as I could have been. The idea of a will eating entity that enjoys talking and wants to die was intriguing. It just felt bogged down by exposition.

Switch” by Steve Pantazis
a novelette published by Writers of the Future Volume 31

The concept of this story was good – a drug addicted cop tracks down a trafficker who supplied a boy who killed a cop while in a drug induced haze. However, I was thrown by the use of Spanish. I don’t know much Spanish, but it was enough to tell that the Spanish here was pulled from an online translator instead of someone who actually speaks Spanish. And the climactic scenes just seemed too clinical and brutal for my taste.

The God Whisperer” by Daniel J. Davis
a short story published by Writers of the Future Volume 31

This story was quite amusing- having a god of death, strife, and war as a pet. I wanted more from the ending, but I don’t know how that could have been done without adding fluff.

Stars that Make Dark Heaven Light” by Sharon Joss
a novella published by Writers of the Future Volume 31

I really enjoyed this story. It had some profound things to say about evolution and humanity. I also really liked how it took on the challenges of colonizing a new planet that doesn’t have Earth’s atmosphere, and is too far away to get supplies from Earth.

A Revolutionary’s Guide to Practical Conjuration” by Auston Habershaw
a novelette published by Writers of the Future Volume 31

Another fun story. I enjoyed how the magic book chided Abe as he tried to learn magic. The plot also had some great twists about the nature of the book, and how Abe outsmarts it.

Twelve Minutes to Vinh Quang” by Tim Napper
a short story published by Writers of the Future Volume 31

Some interesting tech in this story where Lynn tries to organize illegal immigration from Vietnam to Australia. I just didn’t feel as connected to the story.

Planar Ghosts” by Krystal Claxton
a novelette published by Writers of the Future Volume 31

At first I was intrigued with this story about surviving in a post apocalyptic world where Pup sees a ghost trying to lead him somewhere. But when it’s revealed why Ghost was leading him there, it felt like a bit of a let down. The climax didn’t seem particularly clever, and I was disappointed that Ghost pushing into Pup’s head didn’t have more consequences.

Between Screens” by Zach Chapman
a short story published by Writers of the Future Volume 31

I quite liked this story about kids skipping around the universe to watch scenes of destruction as light catches up to various parts of the universe. I did have to suspend my disbelief about how easy it was for the kids to hack into the systems and jump around without triggering the authorities. But the character transformation had a nice gut punch at the end.

Unrefined” by Martin L. Shoemaker
a novelette published by Writers of the Future Volume 31

This was a good story about sabotage in a mining facility above Ganymede. I did have trouble getting into it, because I felt that the flashbacks/explanation given to ground us in the in media res beginning killed the tension because they didn’t carry the same tone. Still, it was a good conflict, with a clever solution.

Half Past” by Samantha Murray
a short story published by Writers of the Future Volume 31

I liked the situation in this story, with the narrator saying good bye to the echoes of herself that she’d magically created as she leaves to strike out into the world. It was sweet. I did not see the twist ending coming though, and I quite liked it.

Winter Jinni” by Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw
a short story published by PodCastle

The idea of this story was fun- a man discovers a jinni and immediately turns him free instead of asking for wishes. The jinni then tries to thank him, and it goes wrong. I just didn’t connect with it very much. Perhaps because the pacing was a bit slow.

Translatio Corporis” by Kat Howard
a short story published by Uncanny

This story had good imagery and metaphors. Undergoing tests for a mystery illness was familiar (though mine actually had a name) but it didn’t seem right that the doctors wouldn’t share the results of the tests, no matter how impossible it seemed. The slow pace wasn’t my taste.

Purposes Made for Alien Minds” by Scott R. Parkin
a short story published by Writers of the Future Volume 31

The concept behind this story was intriguing – attempting to communicate with aliens that destroyed two planets humans attempted to colonize. It was amazing to see that every single sentence in this story had exactly 5 words. I was a little confused at the ending, but it was overall good.

Beatification of the Second Fall” by Sean Robinson
a short story published by Apex Magazine

I liked the idea of this story – a woman sells cures that come from parts of an angel she has trapped in her house, and the horror that comes over the narrator as he learns what is going on. The language was beautiful. I was confused at the ending though, and the slow pace wasn’t my taste.

A Killer of Dead Men” by David Tallerman
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

I was disappointed that this story didn’t have any speculative elements to it. It just took place in a made up city that could have been on earth. But I did like the honorable assassin, who was annoyed that his target wouldn’t stay dead, and that he didn’t want to kill anyone he wasn’t hired to.

The Graver” by Amy M. Hughes
a novelette published by Writers of the Future Volume 31

I really liked this story. The relationship between father and daughter was well done, and I really liked the idea of extracting souls, and what that meant morally. The tension was good in the climax.

Black Widow Forever Red by Margaret Stohl
a novel published by Marvel Press

This was a fun read. It had lots of humor and some good action. I really did not care for Alex, though. His motivations just didn’t seem right. And I had to work to suspend my disbelief of the comic book physics around breaking quantum entanglement. (Ava could read Black Widow’s mind)

Marcie’s Waffles are the Best in Town” by Sunil Patel
a short story published by Flash Fiction Online

I really liked the beginning of this story, about the owner of a diner trying to survive the apocalypse. But at the end, I wasn’t sure what had happened. I felt like I was missing something.

Morrigan in Shadow” by Seth Dickinson
a novelette published by Clarkesworld Magazine

I had a hard time with this story, and I think part of it is due to the fact that I was listening to it on audio. It was told out of order, so I got lost. If I’d been able to go back and reference what I’d read, it would have made more sense. The ideas definitely had potential – two human factions at war as an alien race threatens. I just don’t have time to put into rereading it.


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