FebTBR3

Catching up with Hugo-eligible works

It’s Hugo Awards nomination time again!

The nomination period for the 2016-2017 Hugo Awards is now open. If you’re a member of last year’s Midamericon in Kansas City, this year’s Worldcon 75 in Helsinki or next year’s Worldcon 76 in San Jose, you can nominate your favourite Sci-Fi & Fantasy works of 2016 for a Hugo Awards in a whole host of categories.

Every year I try to read works as they are being published but I end up falling behind because there are just So. Many. Great. Books.
As a side effect, come Hugo nomination time, I’m left with a very small field of works I’ve actually read or watched and I have to leave blank spots in my nomination ballot which I just don’t like doing.

Shockingly it happened again in 2016 & there’s some catch up to do…

Here’s what I read and watched in 2016 that’s eligible:
  • Novels: Ghost Talkers, False Hearts, Obelisk Gate, The Family Plot
  • Novella: Every Heart A Doorway, Forest of Memory
  • Novelette: Superior
  • Short stories: None. Absolute FAIL.
  • Graphic novels: Descender Vol 2, Saga Vol 6
  • Films: Arrival
  • TV: Game of Thrones, Doctor Who

I’d be happy to put most of these on my ballot (Every Heart A Doorway and Superior will definitely be on there, as both made my Favourite Reads of 2016 list). But I would still love to have a wider selection to pick from, so I decided to get some reading & some watching done…

Making it into a bit of a project to make it more fun:

For the next three months, I’ll try and read, watch and consume some works that came out in 2016 – stuff I heard was good, or stuff I wanted to get to but didn’t – and then hopefully by the end of three months I’ll have a wider pool of eligible works to nominate from.

I decided to keep all of this fairly casual and not put too much pressure on myself. Instead of targeting things I should *absolutely* get to, I just amassed a giant list of STUFF that fits the bill, with help from Renay’s excellent Hugo Eligibility Spreadsheet of Doom. My own personal Hugo List of Doom is 4 pages long so far, with a full page dedicated to short stories!

That might seem daunting, but since I already know I won’t get through everything, I don’t feel pressured to try and get to everything. I’ve printed out a copy of The Hugo List of Doom, and I’ve started marking works off with a highlighter once I’ve checked them out. To me, that smattering of colour throughout The Hugo List of Doom proves that I gave the project a good try, and it’s satisfaction enough on its own.

If you have any recommendations for Hugo-eligible things I should try to get to before the end of the nomination period in March, let me know in the comments!

FebTBR3

A Closed and Common Orbit – Review

A Closed and Common OrbitAuthor: Becky Chambers
Genre: Science-fiction
Publisher: Hodderscape
Date: 20 October 2016
Source: Purchased new
Buy the BookGoodreads

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn & grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

Chambers’ first book in the Wayfarer universe made my Top 5 books of 2015; The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was an engaging, diverse space-opera with nifty, distinct alien races and some truly fascinating worldbuilding, but I still had a few qualms with it. As much as I loved the story, I found the structure and pacing choppy and somewhat distracting: it almost felt like a 90s TV show, focusing on a new alien every chapter.

This minor cloud has a major silver lining, in that having crammed so much worldbuilding into the first book gave Chambers a solid basis upon which to build this companion novel. Without giving away the big plot twist at the end of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, I can say A Closed and Common Orbit is a much more intimate book. Here, we focus on two main characters and a small supporting cast rather than an ensemble, which I thought was a lot more effective.

Half of the narrative is set just after the events of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, as we witness Sidra struggling to adjust to life in a body kit, while the other half focuses on Pepper’s childhood, more than a decade prior, when she was called Jane 23. In the establishing chapters of both storylines, I found myself wishing things would happen a bit faster, but I did enjoy both stories, and the way they came together at the end was very satisfying.

This structure also allows Chambers to do some really interesting and effective storytelling. Early on, a full-grown Pepper ordered ‘the left side of the menu’ from her local takeaway. I definitely chuckled, because who doesn’t love a too-large portion of proper greasy takeaway when the mood is right for it? Yet as we read on and witness Jane’s struggle to feed herself, Pepper’s enthusiasm for every food ever takes on deeper meaning. This is a woman who almost starved to death as a child, an experience which affects her to this day.

There’s just more time in this book to devote to Sidra & Pepper as characters and to tell the stories of their lives and their growth in depth and in detail. The overall stakes are smaller, in a sense. We’re not looking at the end of the world, or even a tricky mission with a big pay-off that turns sour. But we are looking at things that do mean the world for some of these characters – finding your identity, your own place in the world, your purpose, your family.

I teared up a good few times and I absolutely adored the ending. Such a perfect, beautiful note to leave our characters on.

4.5 stars

FebTBR3

Planetfall – Review & Giveaway

What better way to start Sci-Fi Month than with the opportunity to win some shiny swag? Everybody loves shiny swag right?

So, without further ado, I present my very first giveaway! *squee*

The rules & the swag

SWAG
The rules are pretty simple:

– The giveaway is open from now until the 14th of November 2015.

– Since the prizes aren’t too heavy, this one will be an international giveaway.

– To enter, scroll down to the rafflecopter at the end of this post, and submit your entries. A winner will be selected at random once the raffle has closed.

And here’s what you can win:

A signed copy of Planetfall, the latest novel from Emma Newman. The book came out from Roc on November 3rd and is getting a lot of good buzz. I’m leaving the blurb as well as my video review below if you’d like to know more about it.

A robot-themed tote bag. It’s a nice sturdy bag, with a bright robot print on the side & it was exclusive to GollanczFest 2015, so you can’t get one elsewhere. Since this was a goody bag, it comes with little extras like novel previews & buttons.

About Planetfall

From the award-nominated author Emma Newman, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity’s future might be its undoing…

planetfallRenata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

My Review

If you’d like to hear what I thought of Emma Newman’s Planetfall, check out the review I filmed for my booktube channel:

Enter here!

If you’d like to win a signed copy of Emma Newman’s latest novel Planetfall and a sturdy robot tote bag from GollanczFest 2015, use the Rafflecopter below to submit your entries:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions! I’m new at this giveaway malarkey & I’m sure I’ve forgotten something or other…

FebTBR3

Sci-Fi Month 2015 Introduction!

sfm15_5

Welcome to Sci-Fi Month 2015!

It’s my first time participating & I’m really excited for the month ahead. I might not read a ton of new works (I’m stepping up work on editing my novel this month for Nanowrimo) but I can’t wait to dig in to the Sci-fi portion of my TBR. Without further ado, here is a little bit more of an intro:

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Tabby

The internet wants more cat pictures, right?

 

I’ve been a fan of sci-fi & fantasy stories since pretty much forever.

I have a booktube channel that focuses on SFF and I’m currently writing a steampunky-horrory Victorian medical mystery, complete with an airship crash and mutated carnivorous plants.

Aside from books, I like crafting, board games, chocolate, twitter and my cat, a 10-year-old rescue called Tabby, who is the sweetest, most ridiculous feline ever.

How long have you been a fan of science fiction?

I came to science-fiction through fantasy: I was raised on The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings as bedtime stories & fell completely in love with Dragonriders of Pern when I was 12. As soon as those books took a sci-fi turn, I was hooked & wanted to read more.

In high-school, I neglected assigned reading & devoured classics like Brave New World, Farenheit 451 and 1984 instead. Now I’ll read anything that can be labelled as genre fiction, but I especially love social science-fiction, historical fantasy & weird books that mixes genres.

Why do you like sci-fi and what is your favourite thing about it?

I’m obsessed with all the ‘What ifs?’ in speculative fiction, so I tend to love big books with epic world-building or really weird ideas. Before I moved to the UK, I did a degree in English Language, Literature & Cultural History, and I’m still quite nerdy about these things. I love a book that goes deep into explaining a culture, or discusses language in an innovative way. The linguistic & cultural aspects were my favourite thing about Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and its sequels.

Favourite books/games/films/TV shows in the genre?

Well that’s certainly a broad question! Let’s tackle these one by one:

Books

All time favourites include The Dispossessed, Dune & Nightfall. Recently, I’ve really enjoyed The Martian, but the latest books to really stand out for me have been Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves & Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy.
ancillary covers

Video games

My current favourite is FTL: Faster Than Light, a tense resource-management rogue-like with awesome pixel art. I also really, really want to play Civilization: Beyond Earth but my current PC specs isn’t quite up-to-scratch. One day…

Board games

galaxy truckerOne of my favourite board games ever is Galaxy Trucker: a space opera game in which you’re just trying to get to the end of the mission with your spaceship in one piece. That’s be easier if you didn’t build your spaceship out of random parts at the opening of each game, in a timed, competitive tile-laying round.

I also really enjoy Race for the Galaxy, a card game in which you build a space empire by collecting planets – it also gets bonus points for being an excellent two-player game.

Film

I don’t go to the cinema nearly as much as I’d like to, as it’s gotten ridiculously pricy, but I recently saw The Martian & absolutely loved it. Here’s to hoping its success means we get more cool sci-fi films! Honestly my sci-fi film knowledge is lacking A LOT, so if you have any suggestions for things I should watch please let me know in the comments!

Television

I’m an unabashed Firefly fangirl, I love Futurama & I still have a soft spot for Sliders, which I used to watch in high school.

I’m not 100% on calling Doctor Who science-fiction, there’s too much hand-wavy ridiculousness (and I’ll often rage about it), but I still watch. Favourite episodes include Blink & The Doctor’s Wife, I’m also pretty excited about the introduction of Maisie Williams’ character, fingers crossed this plotline goes somewhere neat!

What are your plans for Sci-Fi Month?

longwayI’m hoping to make a good dent in the Sci-Fi side of my TBR pile, which includes The Three by Sarah Lotz, Binti & The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor, and Calculating God by Rob Sawyer.

I’m currently reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and I will be hosting the 3rd week of the Readalong organised by Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow.

I have a signed book and a few other sci-fi themed bits & bobs to give away, so keep an eye out for that later in the month!

FebTBR3

Top 5 Wednesday: Halloween Recommendations

This week on Top 5 Wednesday, it’s all about spoooooky Halloween recommendations! I didn’t have time to film a video, but I still wanted to get in on the action this week, as I love recommending books.

Nightfall, Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg

Nightfall_coverNobody the planet Kalgash has ever experienced full darkness or even seen the stars, bathed in the ever-present light of their six suns. But once every two millennia, a rare eclipse plunges the world into night. When the suns start setting one by one and night falls for the first time in living memory, the terror of darkness overthrows civilisation & brings with it unfathomable chaos & destruction.

This novel would make a great read any time of year, but it’s perfect for Halloween, because of the tension that’s maintained throughout. In the first part of the book, there’s a great sense of upcoming dread as the protagonists slowly discover that a full eclipse is imminent. Of course they try to predict the possible consequences, prevent some of them & prepare for what they can’t avoid, but there isn’t much they can do to keep chaos in check. If you liked The Day of the Triffids, you’d enjoy this, I think.

Coraline, Neil Gaiman

CoralineA mysterious passageway leads Coraline from her the drawing room into a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different, and into the arms of her “other” parents. They’re much more interesting than her own, despite their disturbing black button eyes, but they want to keep her forever & Coraline isn’t keen on having buttons sawn into her eyes. With only the help of a bored-through stone and an aloof cat, Coraline sets out to rescue her real parents & the three children trapped in the mirror.

This exquisitely creepy story is my favourite Neil Gaiman book and is about a bajillion times scarier than the blurb would have you think. It’s a fast read & a perfect Halloween treat. I’d recommend reading it first, then watching the beautiful stop-motion film by Henry Selick (who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas).

Maplecroft, Cherie Priest

maplecroft“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one…”

Lizzie was found innocent of the murders, but the entire town of Fall River, Massachusetts still suspects her – and why should they not? Lizzie did kill her father and his second wife. Or what was left of them. Now Lizzie lives on the edge of town in a big house with a reinforced basement where she is free to study the malevolent entities that crawled from the depths of the ocean and consumed the souls of her parents. No matter what guise this evil assumes, Lizzie will be waiting for it. With an axe.

Cherie Priest’s take on the aftermath of the Borden murders gives us Lizzie and her trusty axe standing as Fall River’s last defence against unspeakable evil, even as the townspeople continue to fear her as a ruthless murderer. It’s an absolutely chilling story, bathed in a sinister, Lovecraftian light: I loved it A LOT.

It’s no news around here that I LOVE Cherie Priest’s work, partly because she tends to focus on things I’m very much interested in too. This is no exception, Maplecroft does tick a lot of my boxes: it’s a historical fantasy with gothic undertones, it features the fantastical/the arcane being studied as a science, and it’s an epistolary. Just writing this little snippet makes me want to re-read it! Lucky for me, Chapelwood (the Borden Dispatches #2) has just come out & my copy arrived yesterday!

 

Carmilla, J. Sheridan LeFanu

carmillaEighteen-year-old Laura lives alone with her widower father in an isolated Austrian castle, until one day, an unexpected carriage accident brings Carmilla into their midst. On meeting her, Laura recognises Carmilla as the beautiful visitor that came to her bedchamber in a dream when she was six years old.

Yet more of the gothic vibe for me this Halloween! An early work of vampire fiction, Carmilla was published over 25 years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I had heard of it when I took a Gothic Literature class at university but I hadn’t read it yet, so I decided it was high time to pick it up. I’ve only just started it, and even though the language is quite flowery & overwrought, I’m really intrigued by it so far. It’s also been adapted into a webseries by the people who made The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, so I’m looking forward to watching that!

The Three, Sarah Lotz

41fJpid8ePL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Out of the wreckage of four simultaneous plane crashes, three child survivors are found. Amidst global panic, officials frantically search for the cause of the crashes, the press focuses its relentless attention on ‘The Three’ and their trauma-induced behavioural problems, and the charismatic leader of a rapture cult insists the children are three of the four harbingers of the apocalypse. Forced to go into hiding, the children’s behaviour becomes so disturbing that even their guardians begin to question their miraculous survival…

I picked up this book at Nine Worlds, and I must confess that I haven’t read it yet. I wasn’t going to include it here, but Sarah Lotz has just won a British Fantasy Award: Best Newcomer for The Three this week-end! Huge congratulation to her, and now this book has just jumped right to the top of my TBR pile. I’m hoping to get to it right after Carmilla!

I hope you enjoyed these spooky Halloween recommendations, let me know what’s on your TBR this week in the comments below and, as ever, if you have any reading recommendations for me based on those books, please do let me know!