Mira Grant

Hugo Novellas, Part 1

I’m splitting my Hugo Novella reading into two parts, on account of novellas are long, so it’s taking me more time to get through them.

My other Hugo reviews/thoughts so far:

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Kiss me Twice, by Mary Robinette Kowal – Reading this story made me think of Asimov’s Robot Detective books with Elijah Bailey and his robot partner R. Daneel Olivaw. Both present interesting mysteries. Both explore the relationship between human and artificial intelligence. Both question the implications and possibilities of artificial life, the rules and the loopholes.

I liked the Asimov books, but I like Kowal’s story even better. Much of this is due to the character of Metta, the police department’s A.I. I love how Kowal developed this character, the way Metta adopts a different persona for every police officer (much as a human might change clothes depending on the situation), the Mae West quotes she uses to joke with Huang, the way she’s simultaneously supercompetent and aware in the way only a computer can be, but also vulnerable and, if you’ll forgive the conceit, human.

Detective Huang is a good protagonist, too. A decent, determined, well-developed character who treats Metta more like a partner than a machine, which means he’s invested on all levels when something happens to her.

This is a fun, well-paced story which asks interesting questions, presents various nifty and shiny SFnal ideas, and made me blow off several things I needed to get done so I could find out how it ended. I’ve told Mary that 1) she should turn this into a book and 2) I want to write a blurb for that book.

Silently and Very Fast, by Catherynne Valente – I’ll be honest, Valente’s skill with language and imagery made me question whether I was a good enough writer to review this one. (I decided to do it anyway!) This is a wonderfully layered story. It’s retold fairy tales and romance and tragedy and poetry and the power of story/myth and post-singularity science fiction all woven together.

Like Kowal’s story, “Silently and Very Fast” deals in part with the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence. Elefsis is a program who started as the virtual keeper of a house, but grew into so much more thanks to the love and attention of a child, Ceno. It’s a relationship that can’t be forced into human terms. Ceno is Elefsis’ parent and lover and sibling and so much more. Thanks to the neural hardware, they’re literally a part of one another.

Over the years we see Elefsis grow and pass from one family member to another as the humans age and die. We learn how the world has evolved during this time, and the lengths they’ve gone to in order to protect Elefsis.

There were parts I didn’t understand at first. Only as I kept reading did some of those earlier scenes and stories slip so beautifully into place. I strongly recommend reading this one twice, because the parts become that much more gorgeous and powerful once you’ve seen the whole.

Countdown ($2.99), by Mira Grant – “Countdown” is a prequel to Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy (including her Hugo-nominated novel Deadline). Having read the first two books of that trilogy, I enjoyed getting all of the background information on how the zombie uprising began, and seeing characters who until now had just been mentioned in a historical context.

I think, if you’ve read and enjoyed the books, then this will be a good, powerful story, one you should definitely check out. The pacing and voice are similar to Grant’s other books, but the structure is different: “Countdown” is broken into lots of smaller segments from various characters’ perspectives as the inevitable undead uprising unfolds.

If you haven’t read the books, I don’t know if this will work as well. (Or if you read the books but they weren’t to your liking.) Some of the power of the story comes from knowing what happens later on. For example, seeing the Masons as good, determined, loving people and knowing what’s about to happen and the kind of people it turns them into was simply tragic. On the other hand, much of it works just as well in isolation–like the stories and fates of those involved in creating the original viruses.

Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire is up for four Hugos, but I think this one might be a long shot. While “Countdown” does stand alone, I think it will be more powerful and effective to fans of the books.

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Comments and discussion are very much welcome, as usual.

Deadline, by Mira Grant

I picked up a copy of Deadline [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] last fall. It’s one of my favorite autographed books, inscribed to Jim “Bite me” Hines, which puts it right up there with the one John Scalzi signed to me as his thong buddy. Deadline is on the Hugo ballot for Best Novel, so this seems like the perfect time to talk about the book.

This is book two in Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy. (I talked about book one here.) And there’s no way to talk about it without major spoilers for book one, so it’s cut tag time.

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A Spoileriffic Review/Discussion of Mira Grant’s “Feed”

I finished reading Feed [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) this week.

The zombie uprising began in 2014, due to a combination of two viruses meant to eliminate the common cold and cure cancer. Everyone is infected: when you die, the virus reanimates you as a zombie. But if you’re bitten/infected by a zombie, that also triggers the transformation, and you’re a walking corpse within minutes.

The book is set twenty-five years after the uprising, and society has adapted (somewhat) to the presence of zombies. Certain territories are more hazardous, and declared off-limits. Blood tests are everywhere. And a trio of bloggers has just been selected to follow and report on presidential candidate Peter Ryman.

One of the key lines for me came early in the book, when Georgia Mason (our protagonist) remarks that the zombies aren’t the story. I can’t remember the exact wording, but that line captures why the book works for me. We’ve all seen story after story about zombie uprisings; Feed is the story of what comes next.

I can see why this book has broken out the way it has. You’ve got classic SF extrapolation of future trends, like Grant’s presentation of the blogging world. You’ve got zombies that make sense (at least moreso than 98% of the zombie stories out there). You’ve got plenty of zombie-fighting action, political intrigue, and nonstop tension. You’ve got relevance in the strong parallel between fear of zombies and our present-day attitudes toward terrorism. And Georgia and her brother Shaun make a great pair of characters, complementing one another beautifully.

I’m about to get into major spoiler territory, so if you haven’t read it, look away now. (To anyone reading on an RSS feed, I’m sorry – I’m not aware of any way to put a cut tag into the feed.)

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Books and Squirrel

Two new books out today from friends of mine.

 

Feed [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon], by Mira Grant, also known as Seanan McGuire (of Rosemary & Rue fame)[1. She’s been talking about the book on her LiveJournal, so I’m assuming the pseudonym is an open secret].  From the Publishers Weekly Starred Review:

Twin bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason and their colleague Buffy are thrilled when Sen. Peter Ryman, the first presidential candidate to come of age since social media saved the world from a virus that reanimates the dead, invites them to cover his campaign. Then an event is attacked by zombies…

Bewitched & Betrayed [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon], by Lisa Shearin.  This is Shearin’s fourth book about seeker/sorceress Raine Benares.  Lisa has posted sample chapters from all four books on her web site.  Check ’em out!

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Thanks for everyone’s input last week about discussing/sharing family stories and such online.  I talked to my wife and both kids about it, and I have a better sense how I’m going to try to go about this.  The current plan is to use the cut tag for these, since not everyone is interested.  I also let the kids choose pseudonyms for themselves.  (Clara and Jackson, if you’re wondering).  I’ll probably reevaluate as I go.

So anyway, this weekend I brought the kids to Michigan State to feed the ducks…

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Jim C. Hines