(crossposted from my website)
Today makes two weeks in Leicester, during which the weather has been as hot or hotter than it was in Santa Monica, something I did not see coming. But otherwise it’s been quite nice.
I got into Leicester pretty late on Thursday and then John and I headed to Peterborough on Friday to visit his family. Saturday involved home cooked meals and surprisingly little jet lag, and then on Sunday we took the train into London for the annual Coxon family picnic. This involved lots of nice foods and something called French Cricket, which is a much more polite version of dodgeball. I did okay at it, I think, and we seemed to amuse the tourists. After all that everyone when their separate ways, including John and I to Leicester.
As before my favorite thing in the city is the Market, which is entertaining just to walk through listening to the vendors hawking their wares. Additionally there are some great deals to be had, and they’ve just built a brand new indoor market for the butchers and a really nice cheese vendor.
The new discovery I’ve made which I look forward to exploring when the weather cools down a little bit is the cemetery next to the University. The Welford Road Cemetery is relatively recent, dating from the 19th Century when Leicester was a big industrial city but it’s gorgeous and built almost more like a park than a graveyard. I look forward to exploring it a bit more and maybe taking one of the walking tours.
Then I got ten more days with johncoxon in San Francisco, which we spent playing tourist and hanging with friends. Also eating.
We went to the 49th Annual Cable Car Bell Ringing contest in Union Square, and then had the best banh mi I've ever tasted at Fresh Brew Coffee, whose owner Jackie is not only great fun but an expert on Bay Area food; he had recommendations for every cuisine and area we could come up with. We went to see a dance troupe at City Hall, and got lumpia and sisig tacos from the HaPa SF food truck. We went to the Fillmore for an art walk that barely materialized, and I introduced John to chicken and waffles at Gussie's. We went to the botanical gardens at Golden Gate Park, and had a Durty Nelly's burger on the way in, and six exhausting hours of walking later, a giant bowl of pho at Kevin's Noodle House on Irving. Plus plenty of burritos from my local joint, El Burrito Express. Added to this a side trip to Berkeley (another great burger, this time at Barney's which has tremendously good milkshakes) and a trip down to Santa Clara for dumplings at 456 with Chris Garcia & co followed by a side trip to History San Jose (which I had never been to before!) and then poutine and crepes at Little Chef and Cre Paris respectively. The last outing of the visit started with a lox bagel at Moishe's Pippic and ended down in the South Bay with dinner at Tom and Spike's, which was delicious and included a wide and tasty selection of wines and much fannish conversation.
After a blur of walking, eating, and playing tourist, we spent the last day moping about before it was time to see John off at the airport. Sucks, but he's off at a conference in Northern Ireland, and I have a lot of catching up to do, so at least there are distractions.
But since this was more of a review, I figured I would cross-post it here.
Two episodes in and I’m enjoying Continuum so far.
A couple of things I’ve noticed though; there’s a nice diversity of actors… buuuut, mostly it’s on the villains side. Also, the politics are such that the baddies seem to be a bit 2-dimensional in order to balance out the mostly unspoken fact that our protagonist is not really on the side of the angels.It’ll be interesting to see where the show goes, especially since it apparently just got a second season.
Countdown by Mira Grant
I liked this much more than Feed or Deadline, probably because of the lack of first person narration. That said, the events covered in this were already familiar from those two books, so while it was nice enough to get a more detailed view of specific incidents I'm not sure it was really needed. It did make me kind of want to go re-read World War Z, though.
"The Ice Owl" by Carolyn Ives Gillman
This didn't really work for me. The characters seemed thin, including the protagonist. The title image didn't really go anywhere, and the backdrop was a retelling of the Holocaust (called the Holocide here, because the future) that in the end didn't really matter all that much and seemed far too heavy to support the rather basic coming of age story. The sfnal elements were also rather beside the point--I feel like the whole thing would have worked just as well with pre-industrial travel and communications as with interstellar ones and I might have bought the somewhat contrived ending more easily in that case. Finally, I have some serious reservations about the handling of the character of Ginko.
"Kiss Me Twice" by Mary Robinette Kowal
Futuristic police procedural, something I really enjoy when it is well done. In this case it is, for the most part, but the ending didn't entirely sell me and the sfnal elements were interesting but didn't feel all that novel. I liked the characters and the setting, and would gladly read other shorts set in the same world but I don't think this one will linger in my memory the way "Evil Robot Monkey" did.
"The Man Who Bridged the Mist" by Kij Johnson
Well written but didn't do anything for me. The world seemed neat enough, but the story went nowhere and did little to grab or keep my interest. In fact IIRC when I was reading it I reached the end and then turned the page expecting it to go on, except it was over. I might go back and give it another chance if I get my other reading done.
"The Man Who Ended History" by Ken Liu
Another briliant Liu story, this one much darker but still emotionally resonant. The sfnal angle in this one proves Liu is equally adept at SF as he is at fantasy, and it very thought provoking. I wrote about this one over on hugo_recommend.
"Silently and Very Fast" by Catherynne M. Valente
I think I wish this one was either a novelette or a full-length novel, to reduce the noise (gorgeous as it was) or give it a framework large enough to encompass it more comfortably. Still, it's a great story beautifully told, and I was surprised at how well Valente's brand of metaphor and myth worked for such a thoroughly sfnal tale, and an intriguing one at that. In a way it reminded me of Cordwainer Smith. I was also struck when Valente used simile and metaphor in a way that immediately made me think of Embassytown.
Beautifully written, some lovely imagery, but didn't add up to enough for me.
"The Homecoming" by Mike Resnick
Didn't care for this one. It felt like a student play; one-dimensional characters, unsubtle and emotionally manipulative. Plus the sfnal elements felt tacked on to me.
"Movement" by Nancy Fulda
I liked this one, more so on the reread than the first time. It's a good story, but autism-related fiction seems to be everywhere in the genre right now so I think I resisted it a bit on the first go.
"The Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu
I've said it before, but discovering Ken Liu is one of my favorite things of the past year of reading. Just gorgeous, and terribly sad. I've read it three or four times now and cry each time. The writing is excellent, the people felt utterly real and the emotions, good and bad, rang true.
"Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue" by John Scalzi
I giggled repeatedly while reading this. Humor often gets short thrift in awards and critical consideration compared to drama, so in that sense it was nice to see this on here. That said, it's really more of a vignette than a short story, and didn't satisfy.
Among Others by Jo Walton
I really enjoyed this book, and it's clear why so many people in fandom did as well. Part of me wishes, though, that it was just a story of a young fan coming of age in the late 70s, without the fantastical elements. They sort of almost work, but ultimately I was left unsatisfied. Still, it's well written and has a lot that I loved.
A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
Oh, George. Before this was nominated I had pledged not to read any more of A Song of Ice and Fire until the series was completed. I am allergic to endless fantasy series and a bit frustrated that I got invested in this one in 2005 right before it became just that. Still, I loved the first three books and didn't hate the fourth, so having an excuse to read it anyway was not all bad. Except I hated it.
I got a quarter in and then started speed reading and still couldn't get past the halfway mark. Dull, padded out, with focus on characters I didn't care about, or one ones I did doing things I didn't care about. Plus the violence, torture, and rape all cranked up to 11, feeling much more gratuitous than in the previous books.
Deadline by Mira Grant
I also didn't finish this, but it was less of a surprise. I only got halfway through Feed, and didn't really like the first October Day book either. The world itself is interesting enough, although there aren't actually all that many zombies in the first 200 pages. There's obviously a whole ton of research that has gone into the virology angle, a lot of it is on the page. But ultimately I didn't like the characters or find them very well fleshed out, and found a lot of the text very repetitive, so my investment in turning the page was just not there.
Embassytown by China Mieville
This is probably the one which will go at the top of my ballot. Fantastic aliens that felt properly alien, a future and world that was equally distant but comprehensibly so, full of concepts that would have been interesting to explore all on their own, and a story that I really enjoyed. I liked the protagonist, Avice, but have to agree with the reviewer who compared her to a classic 19th Century narrator in that she was a little detached from the action at times.
While the aliens were very alien and there was a lot of Mieville's playing with language and with grotesqueries, to me this feels like his most straightforward adult novel of his I've read so far. Almost straight up SF from the King of the New Weird.
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (Daniel Abraham & Ty Frank)
A bit of a throwback to 80s Space Opera here with a lot of very familiar elements; a fractious Solar System, an alien threat, a vast conspiracy, a cynical alcoholic cop, a crew of tough but highly competent renegades.
It might have been a ripping yarn at half the length, but as it is it's perfectly readable, with some fun bio-horror, but far too long, with too much plodding along by the main characters. It's also quite uneven, I was not at all surprised when I went looking for information on the author (after finishing the book) and discovered it was a collaboration. Plus it only partly wraps up, this is apparently Expanse Book #1.
Finished the category, here are my thoughts so far;
I really liked this. It was a clever, breezy read that also had an intriguing enough idea behind it for my brain to chew on and come back to after putting it down. I also liked the characters and felt invested in the outcome, which is of course critical to this type of story. Probably a the top of my ballot.