Hugo Awards

Review: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

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Ancillary Sword is the follow up to Ancillary Justice, Leckie’s acclaimed debut novel. I have to say, this book was, for me, a more enjoyable novel than the first. Where the first is captivating in concept, its execution is often confusing and too busy. The second, in contrast, has a much firmer footing in plot development, character, tone, and pacing.

Breq has been charged with keeping the system stable following the chaos of the first novel. To do so, she goes to a primary station where the sys Ancillary Sword is the follow up to Ancillary Justice, Leckie’s acclaimed debut novel. I have to say, this book was, for me, a more enjoyable novel than the first. Where the first is captivating in concept, its execution is often confusing and too busy. The second, in contrast, has a much firmer footing in plot development, character, tone, and pacing.

Breq has been charged with keeping the system stable following the chaos of the first novel. To do so, she goes to a primary station where the system governor is housed, Lieutenant Sievarden and a new “baby Lieutenant” Tiarwat in tow. There, she is dismayed to find that the system in inherently corrupt, an entire population of people live in squalor, and the politics of the system have prevented any change, infact they have encouraged active resistance to it despite Breq’s new rank of Fleet Commander.

Maybe its my own adjustment to the gender pronouns (gender and sex are not so much the confusing aspect of Leckie’s gender dynamic, rather the singular feminine pronoun is standard Radchaii and the switch, often frequent and unnoted, in pronoun use in other AJ languages) or the less prominent gender dynamics and sexuality of the supporting characters, but the use of “she” as a universal pronoun was much less confusing and much less preoccupying in the second novel.

The plot in this book is linear rather than multi-temporal. In that regard, the plot is streamlined. Leckie isn’t building two detailed plot lines while worldbuilding, so things were less busy and there was more attention to plot development and character maintenance and development. I thought that Sievarden was a more likeable character, Breq grew into her new one-ancillary state more, and Tiarwat was a pleasant addition to the cast. Not to mention that Dlique, a side character who shows up for about 20 pages, provided just enough humor to balance out some of the more maudlin aspects.

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Let’s Talk: Hugo Awards

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The Hugo Awards, as most of you know, are one of the biggest awards in science fiction literature. They incorporate the whole group of science fiction lovers. Awards range from the biggies like best novel to the more fan-oriented like best fanzine. Last night, the Hugos were announced for 2014.

I’m mostly just reacting here to the announcement that Anne Leckie won the best novel award for Ancillary Justice, her debut novel. You can check out my review by clicking here. 

Charles Stross, also a nominee for best novel, did win best novella. 

I don’t know how  surprised I’m supposed to be about this one. Leckie has won the Arthur C. Clarke, a BFSA, a Nebula, and a variety of other awards. It’s a good book. It talks about complex issues and approaches gender in a way that’s pretty new to scifi. 

The books’ sequel, Ancillary Sword is set to come out in October of this year and people are itching for that Amazon preorder button. It’s not up yet (I checked).

I’m a bit conflicted, though. Leckie’s book was outstanding and the novel was phenomenally written. You  would never know it was a debut. However, Wheel of Time (the series) by Robert Jordan and completed by Brandon Sanderson was up for the Hugo this year. It’s a classic series with thirteen installments and some of the most devoted fans you’ll ever see. I don’t know how fair it was that it wasn’t ever nominated before its completion, but it’s a work that certainly is deserving of a Hugo award, if not several that ought to have been distributed throughout its completion. 

On top of that, Mira Grant (i.e. Seanan McGuire) was nominated for the sixth time for a Hugo. She has yet to win, but her work is very deserving. 

The competition was stiff, but by the first round of voting, Ancillary Justice had twice the number of votes than its closest competitor. Leckie’s novel was great. I really enjoyed it. But with such competition, I also wonder if there wasn’t so much awards momentum behind it that it took the award with greater ease than it may have otherwise. Any thoughts? 

You can check out the full award winners list here: http://www.thehugoawards.org/2014/08/2014-hugo-award-winners/ 

Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

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Parasite by Mira Grant (read: Seanan McGuire) is up this year for the Hugo Awards (Get it here). It’s McGuire’s sixth Hugo nomination, and, I’m just going to say that if she doesn’t get it, I’ll be pretty disappointed (though Wheel of Time is a brute force in this game and Ancillary Justice has been winning all of the awards).

Parasite by Mira Grant

There’s a lot going on in Parasite. So, let’s set the stage.

About forty years from now, the world’s medicinal care is largely taken care of by “Intestinal Bodyguards,” tapeworms that secrete medicine ranging from high blood pressure medication to birth control. They’ve been credited with eradicating most illnesses and allergies. SymboGen, the Intestinal Bodyguard creators, are a huge force, ruling over the market and the health care field.

Their golden girl is Sal. After spending years in a coma, her family was going to pull the plug; everyone told them she would never wake up. But, when they take her off life support, Sal wakes up. Her Intestinal Bodyguard had saved her. Granted, she has no memory of her former life, but she’s alive, and by all accounts much nicer. She’s got a job working with animals and a nice doctor boyfriend. The only problem in her life now is that SymboGen is constantly monitoring her.

Then everything goes crazy. People, seemingly at random, start sleepwalking. They’ll be going about their daily business and then all of a sudden, no one’s home. The sleepwalking sickness doesn’t seem to have any pattern, source, or cure. What’s worse, it’s victims are starting to become violent. And, they want Sal.

The characters in this novel are well written. Though the dialogue sometimes gets a little too aware and pushes the wittiness, the characters have clear and relate-able motives and they felt very real. Though some aspects were, at times, a bit over-emphasized, you knew it was intentional and McGuire made sure to balance the characters overall.

The plot was believable and extremely well researched. It wasn’t ever overly suspenseful, but it maintained a steadily increasing sense of wrong-ness about the sleeping sickness and SymboGen. It left off on a cliff hanger after multiple plot twists. (The big one I saw coming.) I’m glad it’s only a few months to wait for the follow-up novel, Symbiont.

4.5 out of 5, easily.

Reaction GIF for Parasite by Mira Grant

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I spent all last night finishing Parasite by Mira Grant. My whole reaction was pretty much:

How I felt when reading. I could see what was there, but jumped anyway.

Keep tuned. A full review will be up later in the week.