Being in more world than one…

ILLUSTRATION: ELENA LACEY; GETTY IMAGES

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

BEYOND THESE STARS OTHER TRIBULATIONS OF LOVE by Usman T. Malik

Bari has to look after his mother, but he is also off into space and needs a way to be in both places at once. Interesting idea, although I wonder if this split consciousness would be possible, considering time dilation and distance. How would that work technically, besides probably making you loose your grip on reality fast?

Maybe a bit short to do the idea justice. ★★★☆☆

Can be read for free here.

I liked his The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn.

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik

“a work of speculative fiction that explores Indian subcontinental folklore and Islamic metaphysics”

This short story was nominated for a Nebula award and won the 2016 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella. And rightly so. Beautifully written, very poetic and dreamlike. Old east meets new west in a story that could have come out of 1001 Arabic nights. Or maybe not, the settings in Pakistan feel too real. Fascinating take on Jinns, memories, consciousness and relationships. ★★★★☆

Available here.

Author’s website: www.usmanmalik.org

September 2022 Wrap-up

My first two weeks of September I spent with hideous headaches and nausea. I finally went to see my doctor and she leaned towards what I has suspected already: my new night brace was too tight and made my bruxism worse. Not wearing the brace at night obviously didn‘t help. I had my brace redone, got pretty heavy pain medication for my headache and aching teeth and face. The right side of my face still hurts, but I‘m doing some exercises and I hope that I can stop with the pain killers soon. I am supposed to get manual therapy for my jaw muscles, neck and shoulders, but none of the local therapists have free slots until January. Oh well. We have a great manual therapist at work who did some work on my neck and stuck me under an infrared lamp. That helped a lot.

I was on a conference in Bremen for four days and my Corona App turned dark red for all of those days. Fabulous. So far I feel fine, disregarding my other pain…

Despite feeling pretty crap for most of September, I still managed to get some reading done…

Sword Dance ★★★¾☆ ebook, m/m romance and mystery in a greco-roman fantasy world.
– Eversion ★★★★¼ audio, Gothic steampunk time-travel space-exploration mystery.
– Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy #6) ★★★★☆ ebook, another one with Catalina.
– The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders #2) ★★★★★ ebook, great continuation of Ship of Magic
– Defender (Foreigner #5) ★★★★½ audio, blast-off!
– The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ★★★½☆ audio, finally finished this one. Some known stories, like The Speckled Band, some more obscure ones as well.
– The Cool Aunt (Hidden Legacy #5.1) ★★★★☆, short, online, set after Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy #5)
– The Tale of the Body Thief (Vampire Chronicles #4), DNF at 45% in August. Finally decided to dump it.
– The Girl Beneath the Sea (Underwater Investigation Unit #1) ★★★¼☆ audio, police diver with treasure-hunter dad chases down drug traffickers in South Florida.

Short story anthology The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six: (ongoing)
– TUNNELS by Eleanor Arnason. This was a pretty wacky story. Lydia is in a pickle and needs to rescue herself… I loved the alien and the world was definitely interesting. Hoot hoot hoot! ★★★★½ For free here: https://www.asimovs.com/assets/1/6/Tu…
– TEST 4 ECHO by Peter Watts. AI and illegal propagation? ★★★★☆ For free here: https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fi…
– UMA by Ken Liu. Our hero uses an avatar to save some people… This one was fun! ★★★★★ For free here: https://web.archive.org/web/202009251…

Comics:
– Lunatic (Moon Knight 2016-2017) by Jeff Lemire ★★★★★ eComic. Wacky! Loved it.
– The Bottom (Moon Knight 2006, Vol. 1) by Charlie Huston ★★★★★ eComic. Much darker and grimmer, a lot of blood and gore…

Currently reading:
– Midnight Sun (Moon Knight 2006, Vol. 2) by Charlie Huston, eComic

Carry-over:
– How the Earth Works, audio
– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– She-Hulk, Attorney at Law, S1, Eps 3-5 ★★★☆☆ it‘s ok, I don‘t feel compelled to continue.
– The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, S1, Eps 3-4 ★★★½☆ nicely done, but leaving me untouched so far. Meh.
– Jurassic World Dominion ★★½☆☆ Oh my, what were they thinking? The plot was a mess and so much stuff was regurgitated.
– Day Shift ★★★☆☆ vampire action comedy with Jamie Foxx, entertaining enough.

AIs underwater and Avatars in trees…

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

TEST 4 ECHO by Peter Watts

Six days before the money ran out, Enceladus kicked Medusa right in the ass.

Onboard thermistors registered a sudden spike—80°, 90°, 120°—before the seabed jumped and something slammed the probe from the side. A momentary flash. An ocean impossibly boiling. A rocky seabed, tilting as if some angry giant had kicked over a table.

Beginning of the story

You can tell that Watts is a zoologist and marine-mammal biologist. I really have to get back to reading all his stuff, although it usually does a number on my brain. I have to confess that I only have a vague idea of what happened in this story, but it was good regardless. AI and illegal propagation? ★★★★☆

Can be read for free here

UMA by Ken Liu

“A Utility Maintenance Avatar is vaguely humanoid, but only about three feet tall fully stretched out and no more than fifty pounds in weight.“

Our hero piggy-backs one of those to save some people… This one was fun! Very fluently written, it really pulled you in right away. ★★★★★

Can be read for free here — please follow the link to look at the illustration accompanying the story. I love it. A small part of it is shared at the top. Initially I had it uploaded fully here as well, but I was unsure how the illustrator feels about sharing, I couldn‘t see any info about it. So I took it down again. .

I really enjoyed all of Ken Liu‘s short stories so far, much more than the one novel I tried to read, The Grace of KIngs.

Hidden Legacy, another sister has been squared away…

Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy, #6)
by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Nevada first trained me in investigative work, she taught me to trust my instincts. If it didn’t look right, it probably wasn’t. If the hair on the back of your neck stood up, you needed to get the hell out of there. She taught Arabella the same thing. My younger sister called it listening to the lizard brain. I trusted my lizard brain. It kept me breathing.“

Classic Ilona Andrews. Things go downhill fast in inventive ways and graphic detail. It all gets going with a gruesome murder and an attack on the Warden‘s house. Oh, and the family moves into a new home that sounds a bit like Disneyland. 

Lots of magic, action, weapons, blood, exploding hardware and magic users gone bad.

Catalina still feels and sounds like Nevada. Sadly, the characters in IAs books have become pretty interchangeable and all seem to be the same person. Alessandro is pretty one-dimensional. Mom and Grandma Frieda sadly don’t get a lot of page-time. 

I am guessing that the next book will be about Arabella and her love interest. Considering the last chapter and epilogue, that‘s where I am putting my money.

And yes, despite my complaints I will very likely get the next book. I read this fast, it was very entertaining.

I wonder if we will meet Jadwiga again in the next book?

Playlist:
A Fistful of Dollars Theme (Ennio Morricone)
Triumphal March from Aida (Giuseppe Verdi)

And I just saw that I missed a 12-page short story….

The Cool Aunt (Hidden Legacy, #5.1)
by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Apparently I should have read this straight after Emerald Blaze. Set directly afterwards, bonus short story from Arabella‘s point of view.

The birth of Nevada‘s and Mad Rogan‘s baby, short and fun.

Free online at the authors’ website: https://ilona-andrews.com/the-cool-aunt/

Here is my review of Emerald Blaze.

Bohemia, Red-Heads, Speckled Bands and more…

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyle

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Some of these stories are more obscure or I have actually never read them. The stories span a good amount of years, including some in which Watson lives away from Holmes, happily married to Mary and running a doctor‘s practice. He very much leads a life of his own, but frequently accompanies his friend Holmes on his cases. 

This Holmes, the real one, is never as aloof or downright dismissive of others as he has become on the screen. There are many visuals know from the many screen adaptations though and sentences and remarks that have made their way into the shared consciousness of Holmes‘s fans.

Contains: A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes & Watson meet The Woman / The Adventure of the Red-Headed League / The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle / The Adventure of the Speckled Band / various other stories 

Listened to in audio as part of Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry.

Aliens and AIs

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

– TUNNELS by Eleanor Arnason

This was a pretty wacky story. I am not even sure how to summarize it. Lydia arrives at a planet with a job to do, ends up in an unusual place and meets even more unusual beings. She is in a pickle and needs to rescue herself and the others… I loved the alien and the world was definitely interesting. Hoot hoot hoot! ★★★★☆

“The city is full of cracks,” Yan said. “They heal, but then they break open again. People fall through.”

Can be read for free here: https://www.asimovs.com/assets/1/6/Tu…

– STILL YOU LINGER, LIKE SOOT IN THE AIR by Matthew Kressel

Gil is a priest of Muu, a alien intelligence, who has „abilities that seem to defy known physical laws of nature.” In other words, Muu is a god. Gil awaits a new pupil, because his last pupil was taken (died?) during worship. Gil struggles to come to terms with loss and his entrapment by Muu. ★★★☆☆

Can be read for free here: https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fi…

– KNOCK, KNOCK SAID THE SHIP by Rati Mehrotra
Deenu works on a trading ship with a slightly disturbed AI. She is a survivor of a destroyed colony and indebted to the ship’s captain. When the ship is attacked, she has to decide where her loyalties lie and also come to terms with the fact that not everything is black and white.

Nothing deep, pretty entertaining, well written. The relationship between Deenu and the AI is funny. ★★★★★

Nanotec, bots, genetics and bacteria…

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

– SEEDING THE MOUNTAIN by M. L. Clark 

“In another century, the great Gabo would have summed up the miracle in a sentence running pages long, interwoven with tales of floating virgins, moldering fallen angels, and dictators who died and maybe rose again.“

I am definitely not a fan of sentences running pages long, stuffed full of superfluous adverbs and adjectives. Hard pass. ★☆☆☆☆

– RED_BATI by Dilman Dila — a conscious pet robot fighting for its life and meaning on a mining ship. Read this before in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora and found it a bit blander this time around. I really liked it the first time, but in all honesty it lacks real conflict. The bot stories by Suzanne Palmer for example are a lot more fun to read. ★★★☆☆

My summarized review of the Dominion anthology is here.

– INVISIBLE PEOPLE by Nancy Kress — parents find out that their adopted daughter has been genetically altered as an embryo. Besides the ethical questions this throws up, it‘s a well-written thriller. Great character development for a short story, I was with them every step of the way. ★★★★★

I should probably have a deeper look at Nancy Kress, I seem to like her…

– TEXTBOOKS IN THE ATTIC by S. B. Divya — climate change has flooded towns, antibiotics are rare for those less privileged. A mother searches for a way to save her son. ★★★★★

More from the author, including two free stories, here on tor.com. Very readable and a nice palate cleaners after finishing my recent doorstopper!

July 2022 Wrap-up

My July 2022:

Severance by Ling Ma ★★★½☆ audio, a millennial‘s coming of age, literary fiction with a touch of zombies.

Black Tide ★★★★¼ audiobook, horror. End of the world, alien invasion meets creature feature. I had fun, couldn‘t put it down. Looking forward to everybody else‘s comments.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune ★★★☆☆ ebook, novella, magical China, the life of an empress in very broad strokes, didn‘t do much for me.

– The Iron Duke ★★★★★ paper, StoryGraph #1 August, officially marketed as PNR, but much more steampunk-pirates-zombie-swashbuckling fun.

– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry:

#1) A Study in Scarlet, Watson meets Holmes. And Mormons. ★★★½☆ 

#2) The Sign of Four, Watson meets Mary. And we take a trip to the Andaman Islands. ★★★★☆

#3) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes & Watson meet The Woman / The Adventure of the Re-Headed League / A Case of Identity / The Boscombe Valley Mystery / The Five Orange Pips / The Man with the Twisted Lip / The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle / The Adventure of the Speckled Band ★★★★☆


Short story anthology The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six: (ongoing)

– YELLOW AND THE PERCEPTION OF REALITY by Maureen F. McHugh ★★★★★ how do we perceive reality? For free here: https://www.tor.com/2020/07/22/yellow…

– EXILE’S END by Carolyn Ives Gilman ★★★★☆ The painful process of repatriation of stolen art. For free here: https://www.tor.com/2020/08/12/exiles…

– INVISIBLE PEOPLE by Nancy Kress — parents find out that their adopted daughter has been genetically altered as an embryo. Besides the ethical questions this throws up, it‘s a well-written thriller. Great character development for a short story, I was with them every step of the way. ★★★★★

– RED_BATI by Dilman Dila — a conscious pet robot fighting for its life and meaning on a mining ship. Read this before in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora and found it a bit blander this time around. ★★★☆☆


Comics:

– Copra: Round One, DNF at 42 pages, eComic, StoryGraph #1 July, rip-off/homage of Suicide Squad, messy art, no plot.

– We Stand On Guard ★★★★★ eComic, StoryGraph #1 September, Canada is invaded by the US in a war for water.

– Saga #60 ★★★★★ eComic, the end of this arc. I cried.

– They’re Not Like Us, Vol. 1: Black Holes for the Young, DNF at 47 pages, eComic, StoryGraph #2 September, teens with psychic powers, took too long to get going, didn‘t like the artwork.


Currently reading:

Ship of Magic, paper, I am about halfway and like it. Doorstopper of almost 900 pages, very dense, so this will take a few more weeks.

– How the Earth Works, audio, Great courses lectures.

– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry: #3) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, all the other stories…


Specfic Movies & TV watched:

– Dune, new movie ★★★★★ re-watch. Part II end of 2023, why???

– Obi-Wan Kenobi, S1, Ep 6, season completed ★★★★☆ hard to come to a satisfying ending, when you know that they all live to fight another day.

– Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ★★★★☆ Entertaining, a little silly, a little absurd. I think I like my entertainment to be a little less wacky. Pretty forgettable, actually.

– A Discovery of Witches, S1 completed ★★★½☆ Meh. Read the blurb of books 2 + 3, most likely a pass.

– Resident Evil, S1 completed, Netflix series ★★★★☆

(- Night Sky, S1, Eps 3… not sure if I am all that interested in continuing….

– For All Mankind, S3, Eps. 1-3 ★★★★★ OMG, I wish this was real. So cool.


And last, but not least — I finally finished my Lego tree house…

Some statistics:

Just noticed—the format page only seems to be counting the finished books. Oh well…

The painful process of giving up what isn‘t yours

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

– EXILE’S END by Carolyn Ives Gilman
“Exile’s End is a complex, sometimes uncomfortable examination of artifact repatriation and cultural appropriation. An artifact of indescribable and irreplaceable beauty created by an “extinct” culture has been the basis of another culture’s origin stories. The race who created the artifact has survived on a distant world and has sent a representative to reclaim it, throwing everything into question.“

I understand the conflict and tend to agree that artifacts belong to their origin countries. But I also can also relate to Rues argument.

“At some point, great art ceases to be bound to the culture that produced it. It transcends ethnicity and identity and becomes part of the patrimony of the human race.“

Or is that just a way of justification for the countries that took that art? „Hey, it‘s part of our heritage, too, now. So it‘s ok not to return it!“ Food for thought.

The culture of the Manhu destroying everything they own every three generations—not sure that would work in real life. It doesn‘t make sense to me to destroy everything and force your culture not to prosper.

The writing of the story itself was well done, I liked the characters, the plot held dramatic tension and I was emotionally engaged. I will look at other works by the author. ★★★★☆

Can be read for free here.

Is it really yellow that I see?

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

– YELLOW AND THE PERCEPTION OF REALITY by Maureen McHugh

“Yellow and the Perception of Reality” by Maureen McHugh is a science fiction story about a woman who delves into the mystery of why and how her twin sister, a physicist, has been brain damaged in a lab accident in which two of her colleagues died.“

Do we perceive reality as it is or is reality created by our own perception? When I took philosophy in school, this was a concept that I struggled with. Nice take on it. I enjoyed the writing as well and will have a look at what else the author has written. Looking good: Mission Child and China Mountain Zhang

Bonus points for Claude, the octopus. ★★★★★

Can be read for free here.