If at first you don‘t succeed, try again…

The Murders of Molly Southbourne (Molly Southbourne, #1)
by Tade Thompson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Weird. Disturbing. Creepy. Off-putting. Slightly disgusting in parts. It‘s like a train wreck—pretty horrible, but I couldn‘t look away. This novella made me feel uncomfortable. I am still trying to put my fingers on the reason why. The blood? The constant murders? The horribleness of the mollys? Strangely enough, I am tempted to read the sequel. 

If you read the blurb, you already know that every time Molly bleeds, a „molly“ is created. And the mollys are always off somehow, eventually intent on killing her. So she kills them first. Around that concept the story of her life to a certain point is told. How she grew up and learned about the mollys, how her parents taught her to deal with them, her road to understanding about herself and the mollys and why some of them seem to be different than others…

I didn‘t like Molly. She was too dispassionate for my taste. But I guess with her history that was to be expected. It‘s tragic and whatever passion and positive emotions she experienced lead to revelations that would be spoilers. I really liked her parents, though. Especially her mother.

The writing is very good. I was totally immersed in the story, the characters and Molly‘s world. I am looking forward now to another offering lingering on my TBR shelf: Rosewater(same author, different world, not related to Molly, won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Nommo Award and was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award).

This read is part of my attempt to clear my TBR pile of owned books and my #ReadBIPOC2021 challenge (entry for June).

Vengeance at any price

Lullaby for a Lost World
by Aliette de Bodard (Goodreads Author) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Charlotte died to shore up her master’s house. Her bones grew into the foundation and pushed up through the walls, feeding his power and continuing the cycle. As time passes and the ones she loved fade away, the house and the master remain, and she yearns ever more deeply for vengeance.

Grim Short story! Beautifully written and unexpected. I liked it a lot.

Can be read for free here: https://www.tor.com/2016/06/08/lullab…

Further reading, interview with the author about this and that: https://www.tor.com/2020/07/09/aliett…

2020 Hugo Finalists, the short stories

Here is what I thought of the Best Short Story finalists…

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Set in colonial India, during the Bengal famine of 1943. A revenge story with a magical twist. The story is harrowing and shows the brutality of colonial rule. However, the telling of it didn‘t really do much for me.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

“An alternate history short story looking at decisions and consequences, and what it takes to pull the trigger.“

I really liked this. What a barbaric idea, although I can see where they are coming from. Not a decision that should be taken lightly and that can be debated hotly.

Knocking off half a star, because I am somewhat unsatisfied with the abrupt and open ending. Still debating with myself, if I consider this special enough for an award? Does it really bring anything new to the table?

Pretty cover art.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

 A young girl, a slave in the South, is presented with a moment where she can grasp for freedom, for change, for life. She grabs it with both hands, fiercely and intensely, and the spirit world is shaken.

Odd. Very wordy, very bloody, with a faint touch of romance and hope at the end. The tale was unsettling and had no rewarding features for me. 

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Climate fic. About storms, wind, sisters and mothers. It went right over my head, couldn‘t get into it.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #270
(Beneath Ceaseless Skies #270)
by Scott H. Andrews (Editor)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

High fantasy, war, genderfluid characters. Death and blood and endless war. Loss, betrayal, hope.

Betrayal is a fearsome armor against love.

The world building was pretty good, but I did not connect with the characters. I liked the ending, although I did not really agree with the choices everyone made. It got me thinking though, so I can see why this is nominated for a Hugo.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I listened to the podcast on the Nightmare Magazine website. Very odd story. I am using the word story loosely here. To have a male narrator was an interesting choice. A story about colonialism.

From the author‘s website

Possibly the structurally weirdest thing I’ve ever written; it’s in the form of an MLA bibliography and it’s about colonialism in academia, monstrous appetites, and oh yes, lesbian cannibals.

Another one that went mostly over my head. While the structure of the narrative was clever and somewhat intriguing, it didn‘t really work for me. But that‘s on me.

So, that was all of the short story finalists for this year‘s Hugo Award. Not a great average for me this time around. Leaning strongly towards Fantasy—maybe that is the reason. I am more of SF and UF fan.

Which of these stories was your favourite?

Bow before me, human!

Brimstone and MarmaladeBrimstone and Marmalade by Aaron Corwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mathilde didn’t want a demon. She wanted a pony.
“Ponies are expensive,” Mathilde’s mother said. “How about a nice little demon instead?”

Very cute, delightful little story. A little sad. Middle Grade, apparently? About what we want and the surprising things that can happen when we do not get what we thought we wanted.

Now I want a little demon, too! Happy Halloween!

Can be read for free here:

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I think I read this wrong

Killing Gravity (The Voidwitch Saga, #1)Killing Gravity by Corey J. White
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was underwhelmed. The world building and character development both left a lot to be desired for me. Not enough background. The plot felt sketchy, as if I had been hitting the fast forward button on my remote a few times too many.

The magic (well, for lack of a better explanation of the author) aka telekinesis (maybe?) was interesting and different. However, almost no explanations of the dynamics of it. And our MC just flung it around with so little effort and lack of reflection or emotional investment, it was almost boring.

Our MC is emotionally flat. Is she supposed to be a sociopath or is this a writing issue? I couldn‘t say. I found it impossible to connect to her.

The supporting characters are cardboard cutouts. They all have one way to behave and one emotional expression. One buddy, one character that hates our MCs guts, a token non-binary character, the farcical bad guy.

A lot of pointless, too casual, un-reflected and over the top violence. Oh, splat, there goes another head. Moving on…

The only thing I liked and actually loved: the cat-thing. I want one.

That truly was the only redeeming feature of this novella for me. And maybe the possibility that the characters might come to life in the next book. This is the first published work by the author, so I am hopeful and might be tempted.

PS: Most of my reading buddies loved this.

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Donkeys and trolleys

AI and the Trolley Problem: A Tor.com OriginalAI and the Trolley Problem: A Tor.com Original by Pat Cadigan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to perceive.“

Another AI story. How to out-logic an AI, ethics, emotions, how to apply them, the needs of the many over the needs of a few.

The story had a strange plot hole in the middle, making me check if I had accidentally scrolled past a paragraph and missed some info.

Can be read for free here: https://www.tor.com/2018/10/17/ai-and…

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And now we wait for 2020!

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4)Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“WHEN I GOT BACK to HaveRatton Station, a bunch of humans tried to kill me. Considering how much I’d been thinking about killing a bunch of humans, it was only fair.“

If I hadn‘t been so tired last night, I would have read this in one sitting. Very good. Not as fast paced as the last one, a little lighter on humour, but still full of the expected snark and eye-rolling. Nice ending to this story arc. It lacked a little of the suspense and tension of the previous novellas in my opinion, but it was still very good.

The ending took me by surprise, it seemed a little abrupt (well, I would have happily continued for another 50 pages). However, it is a fitting set-up for the full-length novel that seems to be in the works. I am looking forward to a full novel (expected to be published in 2020, sigh!), expanding on Murderbot‘s relationship with its first family and friends from All Systems Red. That is what I am rooting for, anyway.

Have a look at this article over on Tor (Spoilers!), which I got from a goodreads friend:

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I‘m Groot!

Nine Last Days on Planet Earth: A Tor.com OriginalNine Last Days on Planet Earth: A Tor.com Original by Daryl Gregory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“When the seeds rained down from deep space, it may have been the first stage of an alien invasion—or something else entirely.“

Interesting. I liked it, fascinating take on evolution and alien invasion, great character development. I felt with LT and almost cried with him at the end. Not sure if I am a fan of that quasi open ending.

Can be found for free here: https://www.tor.com/2018/09/19/nine-l…

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