Book Review

Review of the Nebula Awards Showase 2013

Every year I try to read the Nebula Awards Showcase anthology. If you don’t know, the Nebula Awards are given for Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writing. I look forward to the collection every year. And last year, I started ordering the older copies from Abebooks.com. (I love that site). I almost have every year now.

Anyway, when I read, I have a tendency to compare what I’m reading to other things that I’ve read. I try to judge a book on its value alone but in this case, I can’t help it. So, as I was reading the 2013 collection, I was comparing it to the 2012 anthology.

In all honesty, I thought the 2012 collection was better. Now, to be fair though, there are still some really great stories in the 2013 set that I would highly recommend. However, the new book just didn’t wow me like last year’s did.

Before I talk about some of the stories that I did like, I wanted to add one other thing you should know about the Nebula Awards collections. They usually feature poetry. Yes, you read that right. Sci-fi or fantasy poetry. And I’m here to tell you, it can be pretty weird.

Weird poetry aside, some stories that I think are really great from this collection:nebula awards

1. “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu

  • This story is truly magical. It’s about the relationship between a mother and her son. I don’t want to tell you more than that, because it’s really, really, really great.
  • It’s one of those stories that isn’t your typical sci-fi or fantasy story but I’m so glad it’s in this collection.

2. The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman

  • I love this story! I couldn’t get over the complexity of the universe that this author created just for a short story. It’s about a girl and her learning about the past. It’s also about an ice owl, but I won’t tell you what happens other than that.
  • When I finished reading this, I was hoping there was more. I would love to read a novel length work set in the universe created by this author.

3. Excerpt from Among Others by Jo Walton

  • This, as you can guess from the title, was a snippet of a novel that they included.
  • The novel is now on my “To Read” list.
  • The excerpt introduces us to one of the main characters, a girl, who is about to go to boarding school. I can’t add more than that, not because I don’t want to give anything away, but because there’s not much else to go on from the snippet. I have to admit one of the reasons I say this is worth reading is because it peaked my curiosity and now I need to know what happens.

4. “Sauerkraut Station” by Ferrett Steinmetz

  • If you only had time to read one story from the collection, this would be my choice.
  • Unlike some of the other stories, this story is more typical. It has some known sci-fi devices. It is set on a space station. There is a war going on that involves two different factions with different belief systems.
  • What isn’t typical about this story. The main character is a girl who lives with her female relatives and together they run a “truck stop” in space. In particular, their station is known as “Sauerkraut Station” because they serve sauerkraut that they make themselves right on the station.
  • I can’t explain why exactly this was my favorite out of all of them, other than I just thought it was really well written. For a short story, it was very complex.

5. “Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen

  • This story is about our world after aliens have arrived and blocked out our sun. In order to survive, the humans that endure are forced to live deep in the ocean near vents that produce heat.
  • The story is also about the generation of children who are born down in the ocean. They want to see the sun. They form a “cult” like group that worships the sun. Eventually, the teens steal some subs and make their way to the surface because no one has been to the surface in years. Guess what they find when they get there…. I’m not telling. Read the story. It’s good.

There are many more in this collection but I felt like those five were the highlights. One of the things I love about the Nebula collections is a lot of time the stories that are featured aren’t your typical sci-fi and fantasy. There aren’t a lot of dragons or light sabers. Instead, there are a lot of characters in a vast array of settings surviving and being a part of some very unique universes.

Book Review

Review of Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

CooperOverSeaUnderStone1st book of The Dark is Rising Series

I have wanted to read this series ever since I saw the movie The Seeker. I thought the movie was okay, but I could tell while I was watching it that there was a lot of something left out. The script of the movie seemed very incomplete to me. Perhaps this is because the movie is based on the entire series, not just one book, and so far I have only read the first book.

The first book though is really great and so much better than the movie. I can’t wait to keep reading this series. While I was reading this book I didn’t feel like I was reading a book written for kids. What I mean by that is that the story is complex and even though the main characters are children, they are well written. Too many juvenile books that I’ve read make the children characters very one dimensional. Cooper doesn’t do that. These kids are smart and brave, but they still see the world with childlike wonder.

Another part of this story that I enjoyed was the villains. They are sneaky, and everything they do seems malicious. I thought they were great villains that didn’t do anything terribly diabolical (other than being evil).

I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but the basic plot is that there is a great battle for good and evil going on in our world that most people don’t know about. A few though, like the characters in the Cooper novels, get caught up in this battle. In order to prevent the darkness from conquering our world someone must prevent the villains from finding artifacts that will give them an advantage. The children accidentally get pulled into finding an artifact hidden in the time of King Arthur.

You won’t be disappointed. This is a great story.

Book Review

Double Review: Jhereg and Yendi by Steven Brust

Cover of "Yendi"
Cover of Yendi

This review is going to cover the first two books of the Vlad Taltos series.

Cover of
Cover of Jhereg

I picked these books up because my brother in law always raves about them. I think these might be some of his favorite fantasy books, and now that I’ve read two of them, I get why.

I can’t tell you if the series stays good throughout because I’ve only read the first two so far, but I want to tell you what I like about the series in general and then I’ll get to talking about each book.

To start with, the series is great because it is not your typical fantasy novel. Many fantasy authors feel the need to write massive tomes that involve histories and back stories until you can’t remember who’s who and what’s what. This series doesn’t do that. In fact, Brust spends next to no time explaining what happened in the first book while you’re reading the second. I think this keeps the pacing of the book and doesn’t bog you down with unnecessary details.

Another thing I like about this series is that even though there is a dragon in the book, the whole world doesn’t revolve around the dragon. Some fantasy novels make the dragons more interesting than the people who are with them. That is not necessarily a bad thing, I really love the Temeraire series, but this series is different and that’s a nice thing – variety is good, especially in a genre that can be formulaic at times.

A third reason I enjoyed these books is that the main character is a bad guy. He is an assassin, which means he is technically bad, but he is also the hero and the guy you root for. This is not the first series to focus on an assassin or the first to make you empathize with a bad guy, but I just like that he is not all goody-goody.

Now, for the first book – Jhereg. This is the first book in the series so there is a bit of history included just to make the readers more familiar with the world that Brust is creating. However, as I said before, he doesn’t bog you down with this. The one part of back story that I wanted explained a bit more was about the different races of the world. There are 17 races from what I can tell and the first book only discusses a few of them. I assume the others come up later on in the series, but still I wanted to know what they were.

The pacing of the novel is fast. The best way I can think to explain the pace of this book is that it felt like watching an episode of a show rather than watching a full length movie. Does that make sense? Basically, I feel like there is more to come.

The characters are really great and well-rounded. The main character is Vlad Taltos and he is very complex. Is he good? Is he bad? I feel like there is a lot more to him and that alone makes me want to read the rest of the books.

As for the second book, Yendi, it actually takes place before the first book chronologically. When I first started reading it took me a couple of chapters to catch that. I wasn’t expecting the second book of the series to jump back in time, and the story of Yendi tells us even more about how Vlad became who he is without feeling like you are reading one long flash back.

I admit that I also like that all of my favorite characters are back, especially Vlad’s dragon (humanoids, not lizards) friends.

Again the book feels like an episode of a much longer story yet to be told. I can’t wait to read more of these books.

If you are looking for a quick read from the fantasy genre, I would recommend these. Also, if you don’t love fantasy that is like 8000 pages long, these are quick reads that give you great stories.