The SF anthology that kept on giving…

… is finally finished! I started in February and read the final story last night.

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

Last, but not least:

– HOW QUINI THE SQUID MISPLACED HIS KLOBUČAR by Rich Larson

“A dark, fast-moving novelette about a high-tech heist in future Spain, planned by a professional thief interested in revenge more than money. The object in question is in the hands of a dangerous crime lord.“

I liked that this was set in Barcelona, it helped my relate to the story, as I‘ve been there several times. I liked the virtual reality aspect of the heist and the transgender part. ★★★★☆

Can be read for free here. There a several other stories by the author on Tor

This was a good anthology with very few unsatisfactory stories. But I am glad that I am finally done.

Battling kudzu…

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

RHIZOME, BY STARLIGHT by Fran Wilde
Our MC lives on her own in an apocalyptic world, on a mountaintop surrounded by water and made of glas (a skyscraper?) where a presumably genetically enhanced and malicious kudzu is encroaching on her greenhouse. She is fighting for her life. Stay or leave? For more you have to read the story. ★★★★½

Interview with the author about her story:

„I was drawn to the idea of not just surviving but thriving post-event and how that might look for someone who had an inherited disability. My main character is part of a group that has been left behind because of their disabilities and asked to guard a seed warehouse. She’s descended from the original people who were left behind.“

This story was published as part of another anthology as well:

Rebuilding Tomorrow
by Tsana Dolichva (Editor), Fran Wilde (Contributor) and other authors

What if the apocalypse isn’t the end of the world? An anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the “fittest” who survive, it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost. In this follow-up to Defying Doomsday, disabled and chronically ill protagonists build new worlds from the remains of the old…new perspectives on life after the apocalypse. (Book description)

Simulations, dark secrets, nanites, loss and hope

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

– SALVAGE by Andy Dudak
Humans have spread across many planets. Their observation of the universe endangered its existence. I know too little of quantum physics to understand the logic behind this concept. Anyway, aliens appeared and turned humans into statues, to prevent them from destroying the universe. Inside of these statues humans still live their simulated lives. Our MC is one of the few humans that have survived this event. She goes around and interacts with these statues to give them a choice—continue the simulation, move to a different, more pleasing simulation or end their existence. This could have been the content of the story, but our MC is stopped by other humans, as what she does is apparently not quite legal and the story goes on another quite different tangent from there. I struggled. It took me unusually long to finish this story and it didn‘t really satisfy me. The MC has a dark secret herself, which is hinted at, but not resolved in a meaningful way. The main issue is probably that I didn‘t really get the point of this story.

– THE LONG TAIL by Aliette de Bodard
“A story about memory and war and transfers of memories between shifts (and statistics!).“
After a war involving nanites, salvaging a wreck and looking for a cure. Short, but able to engage me and to emphasize with the main character. ★★★★☆

Can be read for free here.

Thanks to NetGalley I have The Red Scholar’s Wake by Aliette de Bodard on my TBR pile.

Xích Si: bot maker, data analyst, mother, scavenger. But those days are over now-her ship has just been captured by the Red Banner pirate fleet, famous for their double-dealing and cruelty. Xích Si expects to be tortured to death-only for the pirates’ enigmatic leader, Rice Fish, to arrive with a different and shocking proposition: an arranged marriage between Xích Si and herself.

Blurb of The Red Scholar’s Wake

Arranged marriage, one of my favourite romance tropes… Looking forward to this one! I liked what I have read by Bodard until now.

Avatars, aliens, robots and climate change

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

– ELSEWHERE by James S.A. Corey
A daughter visits her dying father with the help of an avatar. The story tells us why she can’t be by his side in person. I liked this one. Emotional, relatable. ★★★★½

– THIS WORLD IS MADE FOR MONSTERS by M. Rickert
Aliens visit a small village, a yearly festival ensues to celebrate the occasion. Low key, looking at the effects on the village. Fairly odd, I am missing a highlight, it didn‘t really engage me. ★★★☆☆

– FAIRY TALES FOR ROBOTS by Sofia Samatar
A fairytale collection for a soon to awaken robot, giving purpose, potential and warnings. I didn’t care for the story. At 10.000+ words too long, very unemotional, only telling without showing. ★★☆☆☆ 

Can be read for free here.

– THE TRANSLATOR, AT LOW TIDE by Vajra Chandrasekera
Another climate-change/end-of-civilisation story, presumably set in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Lyrical, sad and a little horrific. The translator nears the end of his life and reflects. 
2021 FINALIST: THEODORE A. STURGEON MEMORIAL AWARD. ★★★★☆

Can be read for free here.

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.

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!

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.