Showing posts from February, 2023

Tooth and Claw

Tooth and Claw Jo Walton, 2003 Premise: A dramedy of manners. But make it dragons. For both good and ill, this book is precisely what it says on the tin. It's an old-fashioned story of inheritance, marriage arrangements, minor gentry and the fates of their children, and a society where things are changing. Only all the people are dragons.  The fact that they are dragons both does and doesn't affect the plot. There might be other reasons that a person wouldn't feel that they could challenge their rich brother-in-law, it doesn't have to be that he might be big enough to eat you if provoked. But in this world it is.  The dark sides of the characters' draconic nature are there to highlight the classism and sexism of old stories in this style. Aristocratic landowners literally have the right to eat sick children, and eating other dragons literally increases their strength and power. How the rich get richer, so to speak.  Meanwhile, female dragons can be forced into a sta

Thoughts on the Hugo Novels

Well, I did it. I didn't think it would take eleven years when I started, but I read all 71 books that have won the Hugo Award for Best Novel to date . I am not counting and did not seek out the handful of "Retro Hugos" because those were awarded much later and part of the point of this exercise for me was seeing what books were celebrated in their first publication year, not by later audiences looking back.  It's been a long time in my life as well as the world, and so I wonder if any of my experiences of the first few books on the list would be the same now. My tastes and opinions have shifted and (I think) matured, partially through this very experience!  A few of the earliest books I read in their entirety in the gorgeous Rose Reading Room in the NYC Public Library, as they were "rare" copies that couldn't leave the building. The most recent books were read on the Kindle App on my phone, in my home on the West Coast.  It was interesting to watch vari

A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan #2)

A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan #2) Arkady Martine, 2021 Hugo Winner - 2022 Premise: Sequel to A Memory Called Empire. Mahit tries to go home, but there is no turning back the clock on everything she's seen and done. Meanwhile, Teixcalaan goes to war against an unknown (possibly unknowable) threat. I liked this book a lot, but not quite as much as the first one. The first book was almost entirely from Mahit's perspective, while this follows a large number of characters, switching off chapter to chapter. This makes a certain amount of sense given the structure of the climax and the themes around groups and perspective, but I didn't find the story as compelling that way.  I did like following Three Seagrass and getting both her and Mahit's complex perspectives on their relationship (as friends/co-conspirators/coworkers/lovers/??). The other viewpoint characters were each interesting people, but spitting the focus watered down the emotional impact a bit for me.  Mo

Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries)

Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries) Martha Wells, 2020 Hugo winner - 2021 Premise: Murderbot's relationships with both humans and AIs are tested in a dangerous new adventure. After four exciting and intriguing novellas, the Murderbot series continues with this full-length novel. It really does feel like a suitable continuation, one which takes all the themes of the shorter pieces and creates something bigger that feels like the right next step without feeling forced or overlong.  It combines all the best of the series so far: touching, subtle, exciting, and laugh-out-loud hilarious. There's more exploration of AI autonomy as well as human moral codes, especially as the people of Preservation who gave Murderbot sanctuary have to deal with people who live in the Corporate Rim.  It's a great example of how effective it can be to come at topics sort of sideways. Murderbot denies having soft emotions, but we see its reactions and can fill in the blanks. Murderbot also never &