Tag Archives: 2009 Locus

Re: Special Economics

Many moons ago, there was a Meetup about beginnings.  At the time, I was struggling with writing a beginning, and I particularly had in mind the Four Elements of a good beginning: Character, Conflict, Specificity, Credibility. We read the beginnings of several good stories, and I was especially impressed by the beginning of “Special Economics,” by Maureen McHugh.

Jieling set up her boom box in a plague-trash market in the part where people sold parts for cars. She had been in the city of Shenzhen for a little over two hours but she figured she would worry about a job tomorrow. Everybody knew you could get a job in no time in Shenzhen. Jobs everywhere.

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Re: True Names

Filled with computronium, parity checkers, references to running hot or slow, and sockpuppets, “True Names“, by Cory Doctorow & Benjamin Rosenbaum is a breakneck story about the struggles of numerous instances of personalities fighting in various levels of reality over love, power, and–what else?–suzeranity over the universe. Beebe is a chaotic civilization of personalities. They include Nadia, who made a killing with the YearMillion bug, Paquette the philosopher, and Firmament, whose birth was turned into a hit musical production. They are opposed by Demiurge, who wants everything to be orderly. Their common enemy is  the terrifying onslaught of Brobdinag. It all tumbles into a startling record scratch of an ending that shifts into party music.

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Re: The Tear

Ian McDonald makes difficult reading. I had to machete my way through Brasyl and it took me three tries to read “The Tear.” It’s a dense story, filled interesting ideas and  beautiful language on a grand scale. There’s so many peoples and places and worlds and universes, it’s just too much to take in at one sitting. Before I was even half way through, I felt like I was trying to eat a 72 ounce steak plus a whole chocolate cake with raspberry filling and mocha buttercream icing. I kept wishing it were a novel so I’d have a book to set down and digest for a while before diving back in.

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Re: Truth

I was totally suckered me in by the sense of mystery in Robert Reed’s  “Truth“. The mystery is at first embodied in a prisoner the narrator is watching in preparation for interrogating him. Ramiro, if that’s his real name, is endlessly intriguing: his effortless smiles, his persistent attempts to engage his guards in conversation, and the peculiar genes inserted into his DNA. The narrator is also intriguing: the careful observation, the skepticism, the wariness that withholds for several pages even her name–Carmen.

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Re: The Erdmann Nexus

The Erdmann Nexus,” by Nancy Kress has the trademark detailed descriptions and well-drawn characters, but I have a problem with its One Impossible Thing. The story opens with a slightly confusing passage about a spaceship that’s not the spaceship Dr. Erdmann imagines it to be. Then we actually meet Dr. Henry Erdmann, a physicist retired to assisted living and the many other retirees. As he and several of the others share moments of trance or bursts of energy, the point of view jumps from the gossip to beautiful ex-ballerina (but where’s her dog?) to the mystic. Very confusing, but how could a shared consciousness not be confusing?

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Re: Exhalation

Where “Evil Robot Monkey” touched my heart, “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang engaged my brain. No, wait. It stole my brain and turned it inside out in one long thought experiment.  The reading on Escape Pod perfectly matches the dry tone of the narration. Opening with the jarring image of exchanging lungs for freshly charged ones as a daily routine, the narrator steadily discloses a strange world with familiar concerns.

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Re: Evil Robot Monkey

Evil Robot Monkey“, by Mary Robinette Kowal presents yet another talking animal for me to fall in love with.

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Re: From Babel’s Fallen Glory We Fled

From Babel’s Fallen Glory We Fled,” by Michael Swanwick takes you on a journey through another world. A sentient suit called Rosamund, tells of Carlos Quivera, who survived the ruin of towering city of Babel, one of many cities on the planet Gehenna built by giant black sentient millipedes. Quivera contrives an extremely rough alliance with a millipede he calls Uncle Vanya, and sets out for home.
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Re: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman is a good example of how to write a chapter book. While each chapter stands on its own, small things get repeated, binding the book into a satisfying whole. In a wonderfully understated opening, we follow “the man Jack” tracking down the last surviving member of a family he has murdered.
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Re: Little Brother

In Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow, Marcus Yallow is a smartass who delights in playing Harajuku Fun Madness and in evading the security at his high school. He and his friends are caught in the post-bombing sweep after a terrorist attack on San Francisco. After a harrowing interrogation, Marcus is set loose. Though he knows he’s being watched, he also knows how not to be watched. And he’s not going to let Big Brother, the Department of Homeland Security, get away with this.

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