The Murderbot is an enigmatic individual whose travails are followed in this fine novella by Mary Wells. It is a worthy finalist in the 2018 Hugo Awards.
The story is skillfully paced and allows the reader to understand the protagonist's struggle with its role as a Security Unit for as group of scientists on an unexplored planet. A sense of its fear and trepidation that it will fail at its task is palpable, and its determination to isolate itself from its charges so as not to be emotionally affected by the these undertakings is oppressive. The murderbot seeks solace in downloaded media to wall itself off from any interaction with its erstwhile employers. We get the hint of a backstory tragedy, which has made this behaviour an essential survival mechanism.
But when the shit hits the fan, and its charges are endangered, it has no choice but to risk its hard won isolation and protection in its duty to those it has been tasked to protect.
Sarah Gailey's Hugo finalist novella is the first in a series premised on a fascinating footnote of history. Apparently, the USA was suffering a severe beef shortage in the late 19th Century, and some bright fellow came up the the proposition that hippos be relocated to the swamps of Louisiana as an alternate protein supply. Reports indicate that the US Congress actually considered the proposal (before I guess, sending it to committee where no doubt it languishes to this day). Though given the idiocies currently being perpetrated in the name of the Peepul in the USA, one should perhaps be grateful that Trump does not get this idea into his tiny brain. So in this alternate USA, where hippo ranching is indeed a thing, Sarah Gailey brings us the wondrous idea of hippo cowboys.
The story is full of love, revenge, knife fights, betrayals and more as Winslow Houndstooth and his motley crew of conspirators indulge in a wild caper (sorry 'operation'), to relocate an infestation of 'freal' hippos bedevilling a region of the Mississippi valley. The story kicks off in high gear as the various characters are introduced, drags a little as the set up proceeds and resolves itself in a frenetic climax. Sadly, there are no vignettes of hippo cuisine on offer. There is also a rather roughly tacked on setup for the sequel 'Taste of Marrow' at the end.
In the telling the story has a light and humorous tone, with the violence pretty much of the cartoon variety, and little damage done to its victims (unless of course they are chomped in a feral hippos jaws). The camaraderie and conflict between Houndstooth's crew is well played out, though the villains and their motivations come as no great surprise.
Jack and Jill were seventeen when they returned from the Moors and were packed of by their oh so disturbed parents to the Eleanor West Home for Wayward Children. This is more a companion than a prequel to 'Every Heart a Doorway' given that it does not mention the place where children ejected from their Portal Worlds are sent for rehabilitation and refuge.
But it is a detailed study of just how children might attract a door to another reality, and how the roles that are forced on children might not turn out quite as expected. The story is told in an omnicient third person, which I found rather distanced me from the travails of the protagonists.
It is though a finely drawn Portal World, with an oppressive and sinister atmosphere. It is pretty clear from the beginning that no good will come of the experience. When the ending does come though, it seems abrupt and strangely rushed, in comparison to the leisurely description of the twin girls upbringing which makes up the first third of the book.
From Uncanny Magazine No. 15 (March/April 2017). You can find the story here -http://uncannymagazine.com/article/an...
Sarah Pinsker's novella wraps a murder mystery up in a story of multiple realities, and the joys of conferences and conventions. All the while speculating on the effect of divergence points and choices all of us make in our lives.
And so it is that the author is invited to a convention on a remote Canadian island, where, for one weekend only, will be gathered 200 different versions of Sarah Pinsker, from 200 worlds, all selected and invited by her namesake and discoverer of the multiverse portals. Who could resist?
But when the weather closes in, all communication is cut off from the island to mainland and one of the Sarah Pinskers turns up dead, only our narrator, who investigates insurance fraud for a living must step into the breach and discover 'Who Dunnit!'
It is a great premise, with its allusions to the famous Agatha Christe story, told in a wry and engaging manner. A finalist for the Hugo Award & worthy contender for the novella category.
JY Yang's first story in their 'Tensorate' universe sets a very high standard. The novella introduces the twins Akeha and Mokoya, born to the 'Protector' of a vast realm known as the 'Protectorate' to satisfy a bargain made with the Abbott of the Grand Monastery. One child was promised to the monastery, but since it would not be proper to separate the siblings, and the monastery singularly lacks the facilities to raise infants, the bargain is modified. The twins will come to the monastery aged six.
And so they do, and prove to be exceptional children. Mokoya dreams prophesy, and Akeha (the spare child) senses the actions of adults. Both become skilled in the use of the Slack, the magic wielded in this world by users known as Tensors. But Mokoya's unusual skill is just too much of a lure to their mother, and she goes back on her bargain and demands her child's return to her palace. Akeha is included almost as an afterthought.
The lives of the twins diverge and are told in episodic form as Mokoya's prophecies prove unchangeable, and whilst Akeha wanders the world, searching for a purpose. He becomes entangled in a rebellion which brews in the provinces, as the Machinists seek ways for those without ability in the Slack to prosper by use of machines. And so inevitably, the prodigal must return, and face his fears and destiny.
It packs plenty into a slim package, with speculations on gender and sexuality, interrogation of the age old rivalry of siblings, and the importance of free will being just some of the knots to be untied. The conflict between science and magic is a fascinating one, and it well wrought in the narrative. I do have a quibble that there does seem to be no 'price' paid by the Tensor in using the Slack.
The novella is a finalist for the 2018 Awards, and is one of the better contenders.
In this sequel to the Hugo winner 'Binti', Nnedi Okorafor delves deeper into the universe she has created. Binti returns from Oomza Uni to her home, bringing her meduse 'friend' Okwu with her. She believes that she must return to Earth to complete the pilgrimage required of a Himba woman, and that this will make her whole again after the trauma she experienced on her journey to Oomza Uni, and reconcile her with her family.
Binti gets much more than she bargained for, about her ancestry and her place in the world. She finds that home is not always a constant and unchanging thing. The events open up new and fascinating possibilities. A most satisfying read, beautifully told.