Thursday, February 25, 2016

Novels by Moore! Schoen! Tchaikovsky! Beaumont! Jemison! Kingfisher! (and ... Sawyer)

I am having a frustrating time finding a novel I like enough to nominate. And I'm not even talking about the ones that made me go "Why am I devoting precious moments of my life reading this? Isn't print dead? I really hate novels. Nobody even reads them any more, and novels like this are exactly the reason why. To hell with books. I'm going to go play World of Warcraft and try to get that stupid Big Love Rocket to drop." We won't even discuss those novels.

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore was making the list mostly out of Golden Gate Bias – and then one of his characters dissed a San Franciscan thing I like. Which made me go, “hey, that’s mean!” and put the book down while I re-thought my Golden Gate Bias.  Nope, don’t feel like nominating Moore now, especially since this book depends heavily on the prior installment.

Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen is a cool story about animal-people in a far future with space travel. The elephant people are central, and there’s also an otter girl (formerly a hard-partying club kid, coerced into working for the Secret Conspiracy). I can’t nominate it because there’s way too much telepathy (one of my personal science fiction dislikes).

I’m halfway through Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time (and haven’t put it down) (no telepathy, woohoo!) and I’m not sure if it’s brilliant and award-worthy, but I’m really liking it. It’s a lost planet adventure with some humans dealing with the usual evil conspiracies – and some awesome sentient spiders that have all kinds of adventures, such as infiltrating a nest of ants. The entomology is tight, and spider lovers will enjoy the heck out of this book.

There was recently a science fiction kerfuffle about a guy being subjected to a lot of rudeness at a convention, and a writer named E.A.Beaumont spoke up in his favor, and also mentioned the offender had been kind of awful at a panel.  I was inspired to buy several of E.A. Beaumont’s books, and I’m working on the short stories, which are very nice. I’m not sure if any of Beaumont’s works are eligible but I like their spirit. 

I have started The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth) by N.K. Jemison. A lot of other people are recommending this book but I’m not deep into it enough yet to feel one way or the other. So far there’s an evil childkilling husband, plus it’s a dystopian tale, so I’m hoping it won’t be too grim.

Letters to Tiptree – a writer named Alice wrote several acclaimed books as James Tiptree, and these are letters to her by contemporary female writers. I’m enjoying some of the pieces but I don’t feel comfortable nominating this because it’s one of those books that makes me feel like I need to put it down and read fifty other books in order to really understand it.

Lita Ford’s biography is coming out … must be strong … must read science fiction novels and not rock star bios or other non-SFnal things … stay on target. 

The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher was written by someone who posts on a forum where I hang out, so e-nepotism was involved in my purchasing decision. And it’s another fairy tale retelling, but … I’m really liking it. I don’t usually enjoy those kinds of tales this much. There’s a talking raven named Mousebones, and some interesting characters, and lots of snow.  I think it’s more nomination worthy than many of these other books I’ve mentioned.

Here’s one I won’t be nominating, even though there’s no telepathy: Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer. -- I’ll drop the link, even though I want to give it a Very Bad Review based on the courtroom scene, which Sawyer will no doubt never encounter, as he luxuriates on his cross-Canada tour savoring artisanal poutine. Yeah, yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t say anything that isn’t nice, but this book actually crosses over into something I’ve occasionally encountered in real life.

So here’s the courtroom scene. In a death penalty case, Marchuk is acting as an rebuttal expert witness for the defendant (who is rich enough to afford rebuttal experts).  The case has to do with whether the defendant is a psychopath – if he is, he escapes the death penalty because:
you can’t execute someone for being what they are.

The sole diagnostic criteria used by both plaintiff and defense experts is the Hare Checklist – they specifically mention they got it past Daubert  (a legal standard for excluding junk science by insisting upon peer review). So far, the experts are offering wildly contrasting scores and our heroic rebuttal witness is here to assert that his Hare Checklist score is more accurate, because the defendant’s life hangs on this question.

He’s on the stand being cross-examined re his qualifications when suddenly the questioning shifts to Marchuk’s Ukrainian/Polish roots, and his grandparents, while defense counsel forgets what objections are. The DA builds up plenty of tension and then whips out a newspaper from 2001 which reveals – witness’ grandfather was an evil Nazi who worked at Sobibor!  Witness did not know this.  The DA then asks “is it not true that every aspect of your testimony here today is colored by your desire to see your grandfather as a blameless victim of circumstances?”

During a recess, Marchuk calls his sis – yup, it’s true, grandpa was a Nazi. “Seriously.”  She thought he already knew.

The afternoon session dissolves into philosophical discourse, as Marchuk is revealed to be a wicked pro-life pro-choice anti-death penalty utilitarian and the setting is revealed to be a conservative dystopia where Roe v. Wade was overturned, and there’s some political soapboxing which conservatives will probably find offensive.

The part that offended me had to do with getting Hare past Daubert, and having all three experts relying on it. And then there was that surprise Nazi-grandpa reveal too. That was way over the top. 

EDIT: Actually he's pro-choice, not pro-life. I'm watching the PR campaign unfold for this book. It is most impressive. 



  1. Even as an avid Sawyer fan, it was hard to finish a book about an extremely privileged professor proving scientifically that all conservatives are members of some lesser speices who are born into this world and unthinking and unfeeling drones. Just the kind of irresponsible nonsense that is going to make it harder for us to get rid of Trump.

    1. Oh wow, that’s just nasty. Very glad I didn’t read beyond the excerpt.
      It’s quite possible to disagree with conservatives without telling lies and resorting to weird conspiracies and junk science.
      I think my lawful alignment was particularly outraged by the courtroom shenanigans.