Ahoy there me mateys! A short while back, I wrote a post discussing me initial thoughts on the 2019 Hugo awards. At that time, I had read none of the works in the novelette category. I have since remedied the situation and so here be mini-reviews of the novelettes and me pick for the 2019 winner.
The novelettes are from the list as published on Tor.com with the quoted descriptions taken from the publisher where possible. Click on the story title to read the novelettes themselves.
- “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
A hapless imugi is determined to attain the form of a full-fledged dragon and gain entry to the gates of heaven. For a long time, things don’t go well. Then, it meets a girl.
Thoughts: This was a sad, sweet story. The imugi is trying to become a dragon and failing. Then it has an encounter with a human that will change its life. I thought this was well-written and lovely. I truly liked watching the imugi struggle through education and deal with the effects of time and growth. This was lovely.
- “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly (Tor.com, 11 July 2018)
A young food taster to the Traitor King must make a difficult choice in this story of pastries, magic, and revenge.
Thoughts: Goodness this was interesting. This story involves a baker and his wife. The baker has become adept at inserting herbs into pastries that help people relieve memories. They have names like “Rose-Pepper Shortbread of Sweetness Lost” and “Fennel Flatbread of Sunlit Days Gone By.” The country is run by an evil regent who has taken the baker and his wife hostage. They are not allowed to see each other. The wife is a taste-tester. The baker passes messages to his wife through the pastries and memories he invokes. So ye get the present story with the past interspersed via pastry memories. I loved how this one ended. The writing flow was a bit awkward at first but I got used to it.
- “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory (Tor .com, 19 September 2018)
When the seeds rained down from deep space, it may have been the first stage of an alien invasion—or something else entirely. How much time do we have left, and do we even understand what timescale to use? As a slow apocalypse blooms across the Earth, planets and plants, animals and microbes, all live and die and evolve at different scales. Is one human life long enough to unravel the mystery?
Thoughts: I love Daryl Gregory’s work. This story is wonderful. This follows LT throughout the years from the age of 10 to 97. It is through LT’s relationships with family and friends that ye get to hear about the alien seeds, what sprouted from them, and how they affect the earth. This was so well-written and completely held me attention. I can’t really do it justice but I loved it.
- The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
The Only Harmless Great Thing is a heart-wrenching alternative history by Brooke Bolander that imagines an intersection between the Radium Girls and noble, sentient elephants.
Thoughts: Okay so this one was not free online so I didn’t read it. It costs $3.99 and I be adverse to spending me loot on a story that only lightly appeals and that I would likely only read once. With best regards to the author. No offense meant.
- “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine 25, November- December 2018)
First sentence: “The most interesting thing about ghost stories is that almost everyone has one.”
Thoughts: This was wonderful. It involves a woman, Leah, who is a folklorist of ghost stories. She collects ghosts stories and catalogues them. This is both a discussion of ghost stories themselves and a look into the life and thoughts of the woman who studies them. It also discusses the effects of dementia on life, love, and loss. This story felt the most real and personal. I was thinking about this long after I finished it.
- “When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018)
First sentence: “When we set out to weave a new world from the old, broken one, we knew we pledged the lives of our clutches and our clutches’ clutches to wandering the wastes.”
Thoughts: I tried to read this one. It involves ghosts of a kind. I think I made it about half-way. The writing style did not work for me. I was a bit bored and a bit confused.
Now listen up me hearties, the decision has been made:
Hoped for Winner: “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer. This was certainly the best of the bunch for me. Check it out!
So there ye have it. Me Hugo thoughts and wishes for novelettes. I will keep y’all posted as I continue readin’ through the nominees before the winners be revealed on 8/18/19. In the meantime:
Q: What do pirates and pimps have in common?
A: They both say “YO HO!” and walk with a limp!
Hardy har har!
x The Captain