[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]
TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?
I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:
31 of the novellas published in 2015,
35 of the novellas published in 2016,
46 of the novellas published in 2017,
and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
(and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)
I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.
The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.
It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.
Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.
Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.
Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.
I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.
Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!
(1) OBERST FROM COAST TO COAST. As reported the other day, Bill Oberst Jr.’s Ray Bradbury Live (forever) will launch with a performance at the South Pasadena Public Library on March 2. The show’s website says the next performances will be in Indianapolis, IN from May 3-5, then in Charleston, SC on dates to be announced.
Writing a series can be a long, strange journey. How do you best prepare for it, and where do you stop to refuel? And how do you do know when to keep going and when to bring things to an end? Join Seanan McGuire, Hugo-winning author of multiple series, as she shares secrets of not get lost along the way when undertaking such a trip.
(4) SHRINK RAP. Larry
Correia talks about “getting paid” all the time, and Harlan Ellison extolled
the importance of a writer’s work being acknowledged by a “check of money.” How
to explain everyone else who keeps pulling the handle on their typewriter? Camestros
Felapton searches for parallels between writing and an addiction in “Writing
One of the notable features of gambling (and a factor that can lead to it becoming a problem for some people) is that people still gain pleasure from it even when they are losing. The phenomenon called “loss chasing”…
Do you mind if authors read and/or comment on your review of their book?
“I don’t want them to comment on negative reviews, but I’m fine if they comment on positive reviews!” +12 with the same sentiment +11 same sentiment, also specifying that they would not tag an author in a negative review
“What I don’t like is when an author comments on my reviews to defend themselves or to try and guilt me into changing my opinions.” +6
“I don’t mind if they read, and a quick thanks for reading my book comment is fine— but nothing else.” +3
(paraphrased) Authors are not obligated to read reviews, but I’d like them to know that someone’s enjoyed it, and it would make me happy if they read my (positive tagged) review! +1
“I don’t mind though I’d rather have them contact me in private if they want to discuss it.”
“…would depend on the relationship you have with that specific author.”
“…from anyone with more power than me, NO.”
“…I wouldn’t mind them BOOSTING blog posts involving their books.”
“I don’t mind them commenting on my review in a tweet…but no comments on my actual blog.”
Though there seems to be a tendency to nominate debut novels for the Nebula in recent year—more than half of the nominees for the last three years have been first novels—there is a clear precedent for established novelists to actually take home the Nebula. The preference for books from established writers makes sense: not only have they had time to hone their craft, but, as and industry award, connections within the industry factor.
1. Like the movie’s human heroine, Goose comes straight from the comic books.
She’s named Chewie in the pages of the “Captain Marvel” series (named for the “Star Wars” Wookiee co-pilot), while the movie uses Anthony Edwards’ “Top Gun” sidekick as inspiration. But a lot of the hidden abilities Goose unleashes later in the film mirror the comic character’s cosmic connections as an alien Flerken.
Before they had a script, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck had a room with a whiteboard where they wrote a wish list of everything from the comics that they wanted to see in the movie, including the cat. After figuring out Goose’s role, Boden remembers giving an initial script outline to executive producer Kevin Feige “and him being like, ‘Yep, we’re going to need about 200 percent more (Goose) in the story.’ And he was right. It was so fun to find all the ways that she could participate in the film.”
‘Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi has signed on to co-write and direct the pilot for a series based on the 1981 Terry Gilliam film ‘Time Bandits’ for Apple‘s upcoming streaming service. Waititi will also serve as executive producer along with Gilliam and Dan Halstead (‘People of Earth’). This will be just one of many shows that Apple plans to offer for free to owners of its various devices, including Apple TV, iPhones, iPads and Macs. ‘Time Bandits’ will be co-produced by Anonymous Content, Paramount Television and Media Rights Capital.
Time Bandits is a dark, irreverent adventure about imagination, bravery and the nature of our dreams. It follows the time-traveling adventures of an 11-year-old history buff named Kevin who, one night, stumbles on six dwarfs who emerge from his closet. They are former workers of the Supreme Being who have stolen a map that charts all the holes in the space-time fabric, using it to hop from one historical era to the next in order to steal riches. Throughout the movie, they meet various historical and fictional characters, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Robin Hood, while the Supreme Being simultaneously tries to catch up to them and retrieve the map.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 11, 1921 — F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fan magazine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife — The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part to his wife Elinor. He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement. (Died 2005.)
Born March 11, 1952 — Douglas Adams. I’ve read and listened to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait, wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes, there was. Shudder! The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and its charms escape my understanding. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See, their travels to various locations in the hope of encountering species on the brink of extinction. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.)
Born March 11, 1962 — Elias Koteas, 57. Genre appearances include the very first (and I think best of the many that came out) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, One Magic Christmas, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (I did warn you, didn’t I?), Cyborg 2 (just don’t), Gattaca, Skinwalkers, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Haunting in Connecticut.
Born March 11, 1963 — Alex Kingston, 56. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. (I don’t believe in spoilers.) I don’t see a lot of other genre work from her but she was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way.
Born March 11, 1967 — John Barrowman, 52. Best genre without doubt is as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood. He reprised the role for Big Finish audiobooks and there’s one that I highly recommend which is the full cast Golden Age production with all the original cast. You’ll find a link to my review here. I see he’s been busy in the Arrowverse playing three different characters (I think as I confess I’m not watching it currently) in the form of Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer / Ra’s al Ghul. He’s also had a long history in theatre, so he’s been in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast / The Prince, Jack and The Bean Stalk as Jack, Aladdinas, well, Aladdinand Cinderella as, errrr, Buttons.
Born March 11, 1982 —Thora Birch, 37. A very, very extensive genre history so I’ll just list her appearances: Purple People Eater, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Hocus Pocus, Dungeons & Dragons, The Hole, Dark Corners, Train, Deadline, Dark Avenger series, The Outer Limits, Night Visions series, My Life as a Teenage Robot and a recurring role on the Colony series.
Born March 11, 1989 — Anton Yelchin. Best known for playing played Pavel Chekov in Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really, he did. (Died 2016.)
(11) SO, DOES LOTUS TASTE
GOOD? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Some science fiction has imagined a future where automation
of one sort or another replaces most or all jobs. Thinking about that sort of
future is slowly becoming mainstream but even if this leads to some version of
utopia, there will be a difficult transition period. An installment of an AI
series on The Verge (The Real-World AI Issue) looks at “How to protect humans in a
fully automated society” and asks the question “What happens when
every job is replaced by a machine?” It doesn’t get to an answer, but that
doesn’t make the question any less important.
People have been worried about machines taking jobs for a very long time. As early as 1930, John Maynard Keynes was warning about the new scourge of technological unemployment, which he termed as “unemployment due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor.” In short, automating ourselves out of a paycheck.
Mexican archaeologists announced last week that they discovered a trove of more than 200 Maya artifacts beneath the ancient city of Chichén Itzá in Mexico.
The discovery of the Yucatán Peninsula cave – and the artifacts, which appear to date back to 1,000 A.D. – was not the team’s original goal, National Geographic Explorer Guillermo de Anda, who helped lead the team, told NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro for Weekend Edition.
A local resident told the archeologists about the secret cave, known as Balamku or “Jaguar God.” It had been known to locals for decades and about 50 years ago some of them told archeologist Víctor Segovia Pinto about the cave, but he ordered it sealed for unknown reasons, causing it to be forgotten. This time, the explorers decided to search the cave chambers, which involved crawling on their stomachs for hours to reach the coveted artifacts.
Anthem is a mess. There’s no nicer way of putting it. I can’t recommend it in any form today. The good(?) news is that it’s essentially unfinished but it’s a part of EA’s games-as-a-service strategy. Like so many other games-as-a-service shlooters (that’s loot-shooters, games like Destiny and The Division), it’s being patched frequently with new features, quality of life improvements, and bug fixes. The outstanding questions are can they fix this game post-release and do they have the will to keep working on this game?
Is there an efficient way to tinker with the genes of plants? Being able to do that would make breeding new varieties of crop plants faster and easier, but figuring out exactly how to do it has stumped plant scientists for decades.
Now researchers may have cracked it.
Modifying the genetics of a plant requires getting DNA into its cells. That’s fairly easy to do with animal cells, but with plants it’s a different matter.
“Plants have not just a cell membrane, but also a cell wall,” says Markita Landry, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.
Scientists have tried different ways to get DNA and other important biological molecules through the cell wall – by shooting microscopic gold bullets coated with DNA into the cell using a gene gun or by hiding DNA inside bacteria that can infect plant cells.
Both methods have limitations. Gene guns aren’t very efficient, and some plants are hard, if not impossible, to infect with bacteria.
UC Berkeley researchers have found a way to do it using something called carbon nanotubes, long stiff tubes of carbon that are really small. Landry came up with the idea, and the curious thing is she’s neither a nanotechnology engineer nor a plant biologist.
BACKWARD. Remember in Armageddon where
Bruce Willis’ character says to the NASA manager, “You’re the
guys that’re thinking shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around
somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up!” Same
answer here – they’re looking for help from the public:
“It’s 2050 And This Is How We Stopped Climate Change”.
When NPR interviewed Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes in February about her Green New Deal, she said that her goal was bigger than just passing some new laws. “What I hope we’re able to do is rediscover the power of public imagination,” she said.
Well, we’re unleashing our imagination and exploring a dream, a possible future in which we’re bringing global warming to a halt. It’s a world in which greenhouse emissions have ended.
(Editor’s note: Each story has two sections, the first reflecting the present and the second imagining the world of 2050.)
Published in February 2019. Britain, the not-too-distant future. Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test. He wants his family to belong. Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress. When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death. How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?
Extensive cellars of the world’s best wines. Pristine slopes with no other skiers, the lifts at your disposal. A hotel kitchen with an endless supply of food that never spoils. The penthouse room available day in and day out for sleeping and leisure. Paradise calls, such is the tragedy of Graham Joyce’s touching 2010 The Silent Land.
“Captain America” found out he had a big fan in Congress after his mission to the US Capitol this week.
Chris Evans, known for playing the superhero in the Marvel movies, met up with Rep. Dan Crenshaw on a visit to Washington, and the two seemed to hit it off.
Crenshaw, who represents Texas’ 2nd Congressional District, lifted his eye patch to show off a Captain America-inspired glass eye to Evans. In a picture posted to Twitter on Friday, the eye resembles Captain America’s shield, with a five-point, white star in the middle surrounded by circles.
The BGR story talks about the possibility of Russian
fighters using drones (that fly with an AI assist) as a force multiplier.
Well, it seems Russian military officials don’t want to just stop with that fearsome new hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile that was tested last month, which we told you about and which Russia claims there’s no defense against. It would appear the country’s military forces have also been testing the feasibility of having AI-powered wingmen fly alongside Russian fighter pilots, executing commands issued by the human pilot an inaugurating a scary new chapter in aerial military combat.
News accounts of Russia’s efforts here are the result of images spotted on social media of a drone called Hunter, an unmanned combat vehicle, along with images of a jet called the Sukhoi Su-57. Of particular interest is that fighter jet’s tail. As you can see below, on the tail you can see the shape of a jet as well as an image that seems to be the “Hunter” drone, along with the image of a lightning bolt.
Meanwhile, PopSci takes a look at using big data and machine
learning to keep aging aircraft in the air instead of grounded.
Late in 2018, the Air Force (with help from Delta) retrofitted its aging C-5 and B-1 fleets to perform predictive maintenance. “It’s already doing amazing work, telling us things that we need to look at before they become critical,” Will Roper [(USAF assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics)] says. “The data is there but it’s not in a discoverable format that you can layer in machine learning on top of it. A lot of what we had to do was reverse engineering, so that that data can be exposed in an algorithm friendly way.”
He says there are more than 100 algorithms running on the C-5 systems, and more than 40 examining the B-1. Each algorithm parses the information generated by specific systems, like the landing gear, wheels, temperature sensors, and anything that is deemed mission-critical.
So far, the A.I. found three maintenance actions on the C-5 “that we wouldn’t have found through traditional processes, that affect 36 different aircraft,” Roper says. Maintainers also removed 17 parts that were showing subtle signs of wear well before those parts had issues.
(20) WHAT’S THAT SMELL?
It’s D&D night at Ursula Vernon’s place. The thread starts here.
JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Rich Lynch, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King
Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these
stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Adam
By Carl Slaughter: With over 500 4- and 5-star Amazon reviews, thumbs up from NPR, Kirkus, Red Rising’s Pierce Brown, and Wayward Pine’s Blake Crouch, plus comparisons to The Martian and World War Z, debut author Sylvain Neuvel launched his Themis File series with Sleeping Giants.Waking Gods followed in April 2017.
A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.
Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.
But some can never stop searching for answers.
Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?
PRAISE FOR SLEEPING GIANTS
“As high-concept as it is, Sleeping Giants is a thriller through and through. . . . Not only is Sleeping Giants one of the most promising series kickoffs in recent memory, it’s a smart demonstration of how science fiction can honor its traditions and reverse-engineer them at the same time.”—NPR
“A remarkable debut . . . Reminiscent of Max Brooks’s World War Z, the story’s format effectively builds suspense.”—Library Journal (debut of the month)
“This stellar debut novel . . . masterfully blends together elements of sci-fi, political thriller and apocalyptic fiction. . . . A page-turner of the highest order.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Neuvel weaves a complex tapestry with ancient machinery buried in the Earth, shadow governments, and geopolitical conflicts. But the most surprising thing about the book may just be how compelling the central characters are in the midst of these larger-than-life concepts. . . . I can’t stop thinking about it.”—Chicago Review of Books
“First-time novelist Sylvain Neuvel does a bold, splashy cannonball off the high dive with Sleeping Giants. It bursts at the seams with big ideas and the questions they spawn—How much human life is worth sacrificing in the pursuit of scientific progress? Can humanity be trusted with weapons of ultimate destruction? And the biggest: Are we alone? But all that really matters is that this book is a sheer blast from start to finish. I haven’t had this much fun reading in ages.”—Blake Crouch, author of Dark Matter and the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy
“Reminiscent of The Martian and World War Z, Sleeping Giants is a luminous conspiracy yarn that shoots for (and lands among) the stars.”—Pierce Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Red Rising
As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.
Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.
PRAISE FOR WAKING GODS
“Kick-ass, one-on-one robot action combines with mind-bending scientific and philosophical speculation. Series science-fiction fans will enjoy this follow-up filled with unexpected revelations and a surprise finale.”—Booklist
“Pure, unadulterated literary escapism featuring giant killer robots and the looming end of mankind. In a word: unputdownable.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Arabella of Mars (the Adventures of Arabella Ashby) by David D. Levine, Tor Books
Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan, HarperTeen
Sleeping Giants (The Themis Files) by Sylvain Neuvel, Del Rey
Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota, Book 1) by Ada Palmer, Tor Books
Sleep State Interrupt by T.C. Weber, See Sharp Press
The award winner will be announced in May at Balticon 51.
The Compton Crook Award is presented by BSFS to the best first novel by an individual (no collaborations) published each year in the field of Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror. Selection is made by vote of the BSFS membership. The winner gets $1,000 and a commemorative plaque.
The Award is named for science fiction author Compton Crook (d. 1981), who wrote under the nom de plume Stephen Tall. The award has been given since 1983.