Hugo 2020 Reading – October

Besides the following short stories, this month I also read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern for book club. Funny thing is that I didn’t know it was fantasy when I started reading. I quite enjoyed it. Now I’ve got Phasma and Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson from the library to prepare for our trip to Galaxy’s Edge next year. These are actually the first Star Wars book I’ve read (my husband has read several) so I’m interested in seeing how much I enjoy them after all the “hit or miss” reviews I’ve heard for Star Wars books in general.

But now, the short fiction.

White Sand 3 by Brandon Sanderson and Rik Hoskin
A graphic story published by Dynamite Entertainment

Perhaps its because it’s been so long since I’ve read the previous volumes, but I wasn’t as drawn into this. Revelations didn’t have as much impact since I was thinking “who were you again?”

I think also that the visual aspect of the magic system doesn’t draw me in like the descriptions in Sanderson’s novels. I like to see the character’s thought process as they work out how to use the limitations to their advantage. So during the sandmaster duel, I couldn’t see how Kenton was able to outskill Drile.

This did explore interesting aspects of the world, and how being on a tidally locked planet would affect the people. It does wrap up the trilogy, while opening new doors to explore in the future.

Release from Service” by Rustin Lovewell
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 35

The only speculative element of this story is that it’s in a society with a different setup than on earth. No magic, and no special technology. There is a strict caste system, with one of the highest being assassins. It was an intriguing setup, but in the climax, things fell apart for me. We got revelations that there were plots within plots, and new characters were introduced and I felt a bit lost.

(5 stars) “Life Sentence” by Matthew Baker
a novelette published by Lightspeed

With my writing of “Immortal Judgment” I’ve been intrigued by how other authors have treated justice in speculative ways. I thought this treatment – where punishment was measured in memories erased, was quite innovative, and explored really well. Not only was there the effect it had on Wash and his family, but there was also exploration on nature vs nurture in how behavior is shaped by memories. I was disappointed at the end that I didn’t know for sure what Wash chose to do with the research, but the final sentences fit the theme better than cementing Wash’s decision.

Elegy for a Slaughtered Swine” by Rafaela Ferraz
a short story published by Podcastle

I’m not a big fan of werewolf stories, or tragedies, and this was both. There is a rich dark tone to it, full of longing and guilt. Just wasn’t for me.

This is How” by Marie Brennan
a short story published by Strange Horizons

(Note: Can’t double check the link due to site outage, which also means I’m reviewing from memory instead of referring to the text to cement my first impressions)

The valravens were interesting creatures – shapeshifters that kill those it comes across. It’s told in a factual tone, which makes sense, because it’s hard to have sympathy for a killer, but it also meant I wasn’t as invested when it had remorse and tried to figure out how to change.

A Catalog of Storms” by Fran Wilde
a short story published by Uncanny

This story has some beautiful and almost whimsical descriptions of weather and storms. And through it all is a tale of grief, shown through the eyes of those left behind when sacrifices herself for the greater good. While I admire the craft of this story, it was too slow for my taste.

Heal Thyself” by Joshua Alexander
a short story published by The Arcanist

For some reason, I thought this was a zombie story when it started, so it took me a moment to reassert that thinking in my mind. It was a mostly believable post-apocalyptic story. I did wonder why Davis wasn’t put into quarantine when he arrived at the tower, and why Davis was the only one to not fall ill when exposed to the plague. At least only half guessed the ending.

(5 stars) “Brick-red Love” by Dawn Vogel
a short story published by The Arcanist

This portal story may fall into the category of “it’s been done before.” I did like that it wasn’t a portal to an alternate universe, but back home to family, and that her choice was between her parents & extended family and her fiancée. It felt real to me.

Vending Machine” by Jeff Gard
a short story published by The Arcanist

I’m not particularly fond of zombie stories as it is, and in this one, it was hard to see how far away the zombies were, or why they were so slow to come attack the kids. I was also confused about how the mom had died previously. It almost sounded like she also died in front of this same vending machine when they tried to get food. I also don’t like stories with characters who say “Kill me before I turn into a monster.”

Apologies for Any Inconvenience” by Jennifer Milne
a short story published by The Arcanist

From the beginning, I could guess how the narrator’s situation of accidentally being filed as dead was going to be rectified. Still, it was humorous, if a bit drawn out.

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