Tag Archives: Hugo Award

EXPIRED | Double Deal Alert: Super Nebula Author Showcase 2018 Humble Bundle & Humble Store Spring Sale

In honor of the upcoming 2018 Nebula Awards, Humble Bundle is offering a rather brilliant selection of fabulous (including numerous award-winning) titles in speculative fiction, fantasy, and science fiction. We’ve got previous Nebula winners, Hugo Award winners, Philip K. Dick Award winners, and World Fantasy Award winners. There are a few repeats from previous humble bundles, yes, but there are a lot more titles that I haven’t seen featured here before, including a couple of Jane Yolen novels I’ve been planning to get which, personally, make the bundle worth it in their own right. If you’re interested, you can find out more here.

In other news, Humble Store is having their big spring sale, which means lots of great games at deep discounts. Seriously, some of this stuff is up to 90% off right now. I found Hakuouki: Kyoto Winds for $8.99! Plus, there are some free games thrown in if you spend certain amounts. Again, if interested, check out the Humble Store at https://www.humblebundle.com/store.

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Folding Beijing

Author: Hao Jingfang/Translator: Ken Liuuncanny-issue-2

Published in Uncanny Magazine, Issue 2 (January/February 2015)

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Lao Dao has spent his entire life in the “Third Space” of the folding city of Beijing, a monument to human ingenuity in combating overcrowding that his father helped to create. Being of the lowest of the three social classes, Lao Dao works hard in waste processing for low wages, so when he is offered a small fortune to run a rather illegal errand smuggling a message to “First Space” during the Change when the city folds in on itself, he can hardly refuse the offer. He needs the money to get his adopted daughter into a good kindergarten, after all.

Folding Beijing is an intriguing little novelette that I first heard of through Fiction Fan’s post on it. The whole concept is quite fascinating and rather jarring–a whole city that folds into the ground in a regular cycle, allowing different social classes time in the sun while letting the others safely hibernate until it’s their turn again. Certainly a novel way to deal with overpopulation. The way in which this operates in this particular tale, however, is perhaps most notable for the way in which it brings to light the shocking differences between the upper and lower classes in the city . . . perhaps a commentary on present-day conditions? For me, I think the best thing about this story was the way in which the author unfolded the concepts gradually, showing the reader just a bit more of what’s really going on with each paragraph, like a flower slowly blooming. It’s actually really beautiful, although a bit perplexing while in the midst of reading it. I also have to note that Folding Beijing is rather more literary in tone than what I usually read–not that that’s particularly good or bad, just something to be aware of. It was nice to get to read something by a Chinese author; I feel like that is a culture and literary group that I have largely missed. So if you know any good suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments. I would be grateful!

Folding Beijing is available to read online at http://uncannymagazine.com/article/folding-beijing-2/.

 

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Stardust

Paramount Pictures

Directed by Matthew Vaughn/Produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Michael Dreyer, Neil Gaiman, & Matthew Vaughn/Screenplay by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn/Music by Ilan Eshkeri/Narrated by Ian McKellen/Starring Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Robert De Niro & Michelle Pfeiffer/Based on the book by Neil Gaiman

Once upon a time, there was a Wall dividing a small, quiet village on one side from the magical kingdom of Stormhold on the other. Completely unaware of his own origins in Stormhold, young Tristan Thorn forces his way across the Wall to retrieve a fallen star to bring to his “love” and prove himself worthy of her. Naturally, upon reaching the star, he finds himself with a bit more than he bargained for–the star is actually a young woman by the name of Yvaine, the country is in turmoil as the deceased king’s sons strive for the throne, a trio of ancient witches seek Yvaine’s heart, and generally everything seems set against Tristan’s getting safely back home with the star. Of course, as time goes by and he experiences more of the world beyond his village, it becomes questionable whether he could be content with success. . . .

The novel Stardust was the first Neil Gaiman book I ever read–and the first glimpse of how much I would love his writing. I admit, I was a bit nervous about watching the movie adaptation, but I was actually quite favorably impressed. Although the movie is certainly lighter in tone than the book–more prone to humorous moments and such–I think it preserves the essence and storyline well. The characters are well played and the world well imagined and beautifully executed. The balance of wondrous fantasy, dark adventure, unexpected romance, and odd humor is deftly maintained throughout. And the ending is just as unexpected yet perfectly fitting–largely because all the important details that lead up to it are retained in the movie. So, for those who enjoy a good fantasy adventure/romance movie with a heavy dose of humor, I would definitely recommend Stardust (and of course, check out the book as well; it’s fantastic!).

Note: Do be aware, Stardust is PG13 and includes some crude humor and such. I think it’s totally appropriate for teen and up audience, though.

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The Windup Girl

Author: Paolo Bacigalupi

Anderson Lake, foreign company man seeking the secrets of Thailand’s genetic wealth. Emiko, genetically modified not-quite-human, abandoned by her Japanese patron to struggle to survive illegally in a country that scorns and fears her people. Tan Hock Seng, Malaysian evacuee striving against the odds to not only survive in an unwelcoming land but to rebuild the wealth and influence he once held in his homeland. Jaidee Rojjanasukchai, captain in the Environment Ministry and folk hero, protecting the nation from the ravages of genetic mutations, plagues, and foreign influence. As these individuals and the powers they represent are thrown together in the city of Krung Thep, Thailand, loyalties are tested, boundaries are tried, and revolution stirs on the horizon.

The Windup Girl was not at all what I expected, but it was a fascinating read. The futuristic setting is unique, dealing more with genetic manipulation and diversity than with weapons and such, but handling the genetic factor in a way I’ve never seen before. It’s thought provoking in itself. The way in which Bacigalupi intertwines various characters and perspectives is integral to the story and adds great depth–and though I can’t say I actually like any of the characters, they are all well written and full of interesting complexities. I think the author’s choice to set this is Thailand is intriguing; it brings quite a clash of various cultures and ideals into the mix and is well executed. Speaking from a literary standpoint, one of the most interesting features of The Windup Girl was Bacigalupi’s use of present tense. Usually, this is extremely awkward to read; I have set aside several otherwise-excellent books in the past simply because I could not bear the awkwardness of the tense. However, in this book, the use of present tense seems completely natural and flows almost unnoticeably. I will note that in terms of sexual content, language, and wanton violence, this book is definitely adult audience only–I would say 21+. Still, in terms of creative, original, and thought-provoking science fiction, The Windup Girl is quite excellent.

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Coraline

coralineAuthor: Neil Gaiman

Illustrator: Dave McKean

My rating: 5 of 5

When Coraline and her absent-minded parents move to a new flat in a big old house, nothing much changes. Her parents are still busy with work, her dad still cooks recipes which she detests, there’s still nothing to do. Until one day, a door which usually just has a bricked-off wall behind it opens, and Coraline finds that it leads, not to a blank wall, but to another world. A world quite like her own, but flashier, more exciting. A world with parents just like her real ones, but with black button eyes. And from there, it just gets creepier. . . .

Coraline is brilliantly chilling. It takes the concept of a horror story and looks at it from a child’s perspective. The result is a story that’s beautifully creepy, even for adults. Gaiman has a clear grasp of how to use our fear of the unknown to great advantage. On top of the excellent use of horror, Coraline has a vivid cast, particularly the spunky main character (and the cat!). The story also concludes well; there’s a sense of finality that I think is important in children’s books. However, on a deeper level, there is a lingering sensation of uneasiness which is also appealing. This is a highly recommended story.

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The Graveyard Book

the graveyard bookAuthor: Neil Gaiman

Illustrator: Dave McKean

My rating: 5 of 5

Nobody Owens (Bod for short) has a life that is not quite ordinary. After the murder of his family and his own near miss with death, Bod moves in . . . to the graveyard. Mr. and Mrs. Owens have been dead for years, yet they take Bod in to raise as their own child, with the help of his new guardian, the dark and mysterious Silas.

This book is an unexpected treasure. Neil Gaiman is an amazing author, but most of his works are distinctly adult. The Graveyard Book is deep and complex enough to be enjoyed by grown-ups, yet is innocent enough to be appropriate for children. It is a heartwarming story, artfully enhanced by delicious touches of spine-tingling otherness.

In particular, I appreciate Gaiman’s use of words. He has an art of choosing the precise phrasing that not only expresses his technical intent, but that also evokes the flavor of that intent. In addition, he has a great ability to say things without ever actually saying them–for instance, I don’t believe he ever states that Silas is a vampire, yet the impression is there from the beginning and is only reinforced over time. This book is a treat to read, combining elements of mystery, history, suspense, and fantasy into a unique story that I highly recommend.

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