I know a guy who knows a gal who knows someone (another guy? another gal? a super-intelligent chimp?) who knows a gal who got me an advance copy of…
The book includes Nebula winners in the categories of Best Short Story, Best Novelette, Best Novella, Best Novel, the winner of the Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, various nominees and other goodies. Like any collection of this sort, there will be subjective hits, misses, and delightful surprises.
Some of the entries that stood out for me…
“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (Nebula Short Story Winner). I gave this short story a shout-out last year (November 14, 2012: Sweet, sweet, elusive sleep! News of note!) after reading it during my annual Tokyo trip. I described it then as “mighty brilliant” and “incredibly touching”. Some five months later, on re-reading it, it still resonates as strongly with me – the tale of a boy struggling with his sense of identity. Despite the story’s fantasy elements, the heart of the narrative is grounded in the strained relationship between the young protagonist and his mother, a cultural outsider who silently suffers and sacrifices for her son. Check out my previous post for a link to the story.
“Ado” by Connie Willis (2011 Damon Knight Grand Master Award Winner). I imagine that, in the not too distant future. there will come a time when people will look back on our politically correct society with the same amusement and bafflement we, today, reserve for quaintly antiquated notions like “duck and cover” PSA’s, blue eye shadow, and flat Earth theory. But, before we attain enlightenment, we’ll have to hit critical mass. And, in “Ado”, Connie Willis presents us with that point in society. A teacher, eager to have her class study the bard, is informed that some of his work won’t be permissible for various reasons. Othello is racist. Romeo and Juliet promotes teen suicide. There’s all that Devil worship in Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale, and Richard III. In the end, after exhaustive research, the teacher proceeds with her lesson and her class is finally able to read The Complete (permissible) Works of William Shakespeare – all four inoffensive lines of Hamlet. It’s funny, pointed, and a little maddening because it’s not that ridiculous a premise.
“The Axion of Choice” by David W. Goldman (Nebula Short Story Nominee). A story structured like one of those “create your own adventure” books that, in a humorous, winding way, questions the very notion of free will.
“Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Nebula Short Story Nominee). The story of Hannah, a five year old girl with temporal autism, who perceives time differently. While her parents wrestle with a decision on an experimental treatment that could “make her normal” (at the cost of her gift), Hannah eventually arrives at her own conclusion. Having just completed some research on autism spectrum disorder, I found this story fascinating and dead-on.
Among Others (novel excerpt) by Jo Walton Nebula Novel Winner). Diary excerpts tell the tale of a fifteen year old girl who is sent away to a boarding school following the death of her twin sister. Her mother, a powerful witch, holds her responsible for the tragedy – but young Morweena has some supernatural connections of her own. In addition to elements of fantasy, the book is peppered with SF references as well, making for a nostalgic, magical, wholly absorbing read. How much did I enjoy the excerpts? Enough to pick up the novel – which I’m presently reading.
The Freedom Maze (novel excerpt) by Delia Sherman (Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Winner). In 1960’s Lousiana, 13 year old Sophie is spending the summer with her aunt and grandmother when she happens upon a trickster spirit in the old family maze. Sophie is eager to embark on an adventure that will whisk her away from her difficult situation – specifically, her strained relationship with her divorcing parents – so the trickster honors her request. Sophie is transported 100 years into the past, back to her own family’s plantation, where previous perceived hardships pale in comparison. It may be a YA (Young Adult) entry, but it’s well-written and engaging.
The Man Who Bridged the Mist by Kij Johnson (Nebula Novella Winner). Our protagonist is a bridge builder, charged with the task of connecting the towns of Nearside and Farside, long separated by a treacherous Mist river. While he may be good at what he does, he, ironically, has always had trouble connecting with others. Things change with this new assignment. With it comes friendship, inner awakenings, and a chance at love. A wonderful journey.
Thanks to the fine folks at Pyr Science Fiction & Fantasy for the sneak peek.