2010 Hugo Nominees


  • Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor)

Boneshaker is my first encounter with Cherie Priest, and comes with a lot of advance notice and even the Locus award. It would seem to promise a specific experience, with its steampunk setting (and cover, and title for that matter), but what it delivers is something else entirely and, for me anyway, a big disappointment.

Now alternate history for me is mostly a waste of time. I can’t say I’ve read a lot of it, but what I have read seems to indulge in the differences in history and then tell a story that could just have easily been told either in a completely fictional setting, or in the real history that its trying to alternate. But I’ll make an exception for steampunk, since there at least you have the trappings of a mechanized culture that never made the jump to technology as we recognize it now. This works better in a visual medium, where you can see all the gears and dirigibles and what not, in a book you need to keep describing things to remind people of the setting, but it can be done.

In Boneshaker you have both alternate history and steampunk, where some infernal machine opened up a rift under 19th century Seattle that released some noxious gas, forcing the city to be evacuated and completely walled off. Zeke is the rebellious teenager, raised by his mother Briar, who decides to sneak into the city to find out the true story about his father, the inventor who unleashed the fog that turned Seattle into a no-mans land, populated by zombies.

This is where I start to lose it, because this story doesn’t really need zombies, it just seems like it was convenient to throw them in for marketing purposes. Sure, they’re not called zombies, but that’s what they are, the fog has turned those left behind into shambling unthinking creatures of darkness who prey on those who haven’t yet succumbed to the gas. Zombies can be fine in their place, if they’re presented as a real death-dealing menace, and if some likeable characters are tragically transformed into more zombies during the course of the story. But neither of those things happen. After Zeke goes missing, Briar goes after him, a well-timed earthquake cuts off their escape, and so various ragtag groups of dirigible pilots and tavern keepers and so forth are enlisted to help keep mother and son alive and try to bring them back together, and to both foil the evil schemes and determine the true identity of the evil Minnericht. While the “rotters” are a nuisance, too much of the book is spent running away from them for seemingly no other purpose than to postpone the revelations as to what really happened to Zeke’s father and delay mother and son’s inevitable rendezvous.

Priest provides plenty of action, even if much of it doesn’t have any real consequences and instead seem like levels in a video game. Even though there are airships and one character has a mechanical arm and everyone has to wear goggles to avoid the effects of the fog, I wouldn’t offer this up as a convincing example of steampunk. The dialogue seems a bit stiff, too, everyone talks like they’ve read too many comic books. This story was designed and written for a specific audience, in that respect it succeeded admirably, with enough praise to spawn further books. But I doubt I’ll be reading them, for my taste one alternate history zombie steampunk graphic novel is enough.

  • The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)

Anything Mieville writes by definition will be interesting and he has yet to deliver a bad book, although his last nominee “The Iron Council” was a bit too circumspect for my taste. Here he goes to the opposite end of the spectrum, delivering a basically straightforward murder mystery novel, and keeps the mellifluous-meter down a notch and gives the characters terse, Mamet-esque dialog, resulting in a concise package that doesn’t overstay its welcome or become self-indulgent. The story is told by a detective named Borlu, who is handed a Jane Doe murder case that ends up being a lot more than he bargained for. The setting is completely present day and within our timeline, with one notable exception: Borlu lives and works in Beszel, a city that is also apparently a country, somewhere in the general eastern Europe area. The conceit of the novel is that this city occupies the same physical space as another city/country, Ul Qhon, and the two co-exist through a state of mutual “unseeing”. Somehow the citizens of one city are able to ignore the people and structures of the other. Mieville offers no explanation for how this came to be, or any details as to how it works, but it would seem by the end to be a real phenemenon, not just two populations pretending to ignore each other. Can people from opposing cities actually pass through each other? Mieville never says, you get several hints that they have to dodge around things they “unsee” from the other city, and it would seem that the general layout of the cities is similar, although the buildings aren’t exactly the same or in the same place.

The unlikelihood of this scenario makes for a somewhat complicated world to hold together, after all what’s to prevent people from just letting go and seeing both cities together? Mieville addresses this by adding an agency known as Breach, whose sole job is to police both populations from crossing into the other city by any means other than through a normal border patrol area. Again, how this group came about, what their motivation is, is never really explained either, and in this case a little more back story might have been useful. But they enforce the separation with an iron first, people who commit a breach are either messed up for life or just disappear, and the looming spectre of their immediate enforcement seems to be enough to keep everyone in line.

Borlu’s mystery takes him through to Ul Qhom to work with an office on that side named Dhatt, who starts off wanting to help but soon finds himself in over his head and out of his league. Borlu traces his murder victim back to a university where a small group of people are investigating the legendary existence of Orciny, a third city invisible to the others which actually controls everything and maybe also is the origin of Breach. Mieville strings Borlu and the reader along through various red herrings, but does actually wrap up the side plots eventually, and while the solution to the murder gets him in to hot water with both cities and Breach, ultimately he discovers there is, as they say, both more and less to the entire escapade than he imagined. I can expect a lot of people would be put off by the conceit of the two-city setting, or at least by Mieville’s disinterest in explaining it, but if you take all that as given and focus on what is actually in the story, he’s done an impressive job of creating a mystery that could only take place in this milieu, with a credible resolution and exactly the right tone throughout. I was thoroughly impressed by this book and can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

  • Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
  • Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente (Bantam Spectra)
  • Wake, Robert J. Sawyer (Ace; Penguin; Gollancz; Analog)
  • The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)

I’m going to go out on a limb in the first sentence and say that The Windup Girl is probably the best book of the year. I’ve only read a few books that were published in 2009, but I can’t conceive of any of the others being better. Bacigalupi has already gotten a lot of critical acclaim for this book, and for a first novel, he has pulled together an impressive list of achievements, from his diversity of characters, the pacing, an actual plot, the richness of the setting, the detailed political infighting, there’s hardly anything I can think of that you could complain was left out, and all without bloating the book into a self-indulgent mess that only his rabid fans would love. Not quite as baroque or impressionistic as Mieville or MacDonald, which could be considered a plus, he’s set the standard so high his next book must surely fail to live up to it. Bacigalupi has been able to refine his “post-oil” future in a number of previous stories, many of which were also Hugo nominees. Each of those explored one particular facet of this vision, at some indeterminate point not too far in the future, where fossil fuels have been depleted and much of the civilized world must make do with energy generated from springs. Global warming has screwed up the environment, crops are prone to devastating plagues like “blister rust”, and yet people in various levels of society persevere, adapt and in some cases even profit from the multitude of man-made challenges. In the midst of all this is the windup girl herself, a Japanese-made artificial human (but not a robot) who has lost track of her origins, has only a basic understanding of what sets her apart from the rest of humanity, and gets embroiled in some political intrigue in southeast Asia, ending up a fugitive being pursued by both the local government and an American capitalist, opportunist and “calorie man” named Anderson Lake.

Lake’s right-hand man is a local “yellow card man”, Hock Seng, whose caste is barely tolerated by society but manages to make do and has his own plans to get ahead. Hock Seng’s story seems a bit tangential to the plot for most of the way, but in the inevitable showdown at the end I was more sympathetic both to his plight and what Bacigalupi had in mind for him all along. There are a number of other characters who also get introduced and many of them don’t make it until the end. As I’ve said before this is a world that is endlessly fascinating but not one you’d want to live in yourself, it’s amazing that Bacigalupi can keep chipping away at such an uncompromising, depressing world and still find things he’s motivated to examine. I can’t say that it will win, the book’s vision is pretty dark, nearly every character is generally unlikeable, and there’s no reason to be hopeful at the end, but the imagery and the interplay of the characters and their interactions with the world around him draw you in and don’t let go, I’m sure the other nominees are nice too, but this one is in a class by itself.


  • “Act One”, Nancy Kress (Asimov’s 3/09)

Nearly 20 years ago, Nancy Kress wrote a story called “Beggars in Spain”, which is probably still her best known work. It was expanded into a novel, which was even more popular than the story, and that was expanded into a trilogy, which pretty much played out the premise and overstayed its welcome. But the premise was compelling while basically simple, dealing with genetic modification that precluded the subject from the need for sleep. Kress was particularly interested in the social and political ramifications such a breakthrough would have on the world, and how it affected the lives of the “sleepless”, who had this enhancement inflicted on them by their parents in vitro, without the courtesy of being asked whether they wanted it. So now here we are with “Act One”, which is covering some of the same ground. This time the genetic modification is to enhance the empathic receptors in the subjects, making them extremely attuned to other people’s feelings. Because this is an expensive procedure, these kids are generally from a privileged class to begin with, and grow up leading fairly sheltered lives. The modification doesn’t work the same way on everyone either, in one case twins have different manifestations, with one of them being basically sullen and insufferable to everyone.

The story is told by Barry, personal manager to an aging actress named Jane. Barry is also a dwarf, a condition which tends to come with a lot of personal problems and a giant chip on the shoulder. His own personal life is a mess, estranged from his wife for having tried to genetically modify his own child so he would also be a dwarf, a process which didn’t work out as expected and instead caused profound behavioral problems. Jane takes an interest in these children with the empathic “Arlen’s Syndrome” while studying for an upcoming movie role, and visits the institute that pioneered the procedure, a shady outfit called “the Group” which is straight out of 1970’s Doctor Who. Sure enough, the Group has a larger agenda, and Barry and Jane find themselves caught up in it as the empathic modification gradually takes on a life of its own and changes the world, such that humanity up to this point has really just been going through the first act of its existence.

It makes me wonder where Kress is going with this theme, is it really inevitable that any major change engineered into human genetics will sooner or later affect all of humanity whether they want it or not? If so it’s not a very good argument for the kind of research and experimentation that already exists. But the prospects are certainly intriguing, and in this story the ramifications and the modification itself are more subtle and maybe more unpredictable than with the Sleepless. I think one thing Kress likes to point out is how close we are in real life to that precipice where humanity has the power to alter its own existence through genetic tinkering, whether for good or for ill, on purpose or not, and how in different cases that might actually play out. In the end we’re still human and life continues, but so many assumptions end up challenged or thrown right out the window that it’s a scary prospect for everyone, whether they see it coming or not. Kress always gives the reader food for thought, and in this story presents some interesting juxtapositions of character and setting to bring the science into a more unconventional scenario, making for a unique mix and a memorable result.

  • The God Engines, John Scalzi (Subterranean)

I wasn’t sure what to make of this novella at first, it’s sort of science fiction, but within the trappings of a hyper-religious society who must both display consistent and unwavering faith in their god while at the same time enslaving other, presumably lesser gods that somehow power the starships they command. But I wouldn’t really call it fantasy, the intent seems to be to take the “sufficiently advanced technology” aspect of fantasy as a given without really providing any basis other than faith for how it works. Tephe is the ship captain who is sent on a special mission by his religious order to a planet where he comes face to face with the true nature of his god, and as you might expect it’s not pretty.

Scalzi provides some visually bloody and compelling scenes, as well as a convincingly evoked terrorist attack and its immediate aftermath, but mostly gives us something outside the normal Heinlein pastiche that he is known for, opting here instead for some kind of Blish or Zelazny mashup of science and superstition. While the fantastical elements of how the gods manifest their powers is presented in such a way that it could have some basis in science, the characters don’t think of it that way. There’s a lot of backstory here that is glossed over, and the way this setting is presented and how Scalzi ends it leads me to believe he wasn’t planning on returning to this universe any time soon. Certainly not what I was expected, and I wouldn’t want to read a lot of it, but Scalzi is to be commended for trying something different and by and large succeeding.

  • “Palimpsest”, Charles Stross (Wireless)

The word “palimpsest” is one of those that sticks in your brain for its odd sound, even though you don’t remember what it means. While it sounds like something you’d go see a dermatologist about, it in fact has its origins in the ancient Greek and Roman practice of reusing some sort of writing surface, eradicating the original script and replacing it with something else. This has particular interest to archeologists because they of course are interested in what was there before, and go to great lengths to try lifting the original text off of the parchment or tablets or whatever they may be. Stross takes a different tack, with a palimpsest referring to a period of time which is “overwritten” by someone going back and changing an event to make things happen differently. The story concerns a young man named Pierce, who is going through a 20-year long training program as an agent of the Stasis. In the far future, humanity has been able to engineer huge cosmic interventions to keep their own species alive as the universe ages and starts to decay. Through the magic of time travel, they’re able to disperse agents throughout human history to keep things in check, and to overwrite those periods that get out of whack, which seems to happen mostly because other people can also go back in time and meddle in things. The Statis is the powerful agency in charge of this task, and it actually outlives humanity many times over, it is expected that civilizations will rise and fall and occasionally have to be reseeded from scratch and allowed to develop all over again over billions of years.

The story lurches forwards through Pierce’s own career in training, at one point he has a wife and kids and then a few scenes later they no longer exist and Stross doesn’t dwell on how it happened. The author also interrupts the narrative a few times for poetic descriptions of the life of the universe, starting with the one we’re familiar with and then branching out from there as things change. Pierce crosses paths multiple times with his former and future selves, as well as those of his fellow agents, and the complexity of the task to which Stasis has him assigned causes him to eventually seek out an insurgent group known as the Opposition. But even that isn’t what it seems, and at the end Pierce is faced with the notion that in spite of always bumping into all these other copies of himself, he may just be able to still exercise free will in the present after all.

There’s a lot going on in this story, it’s probably not long enough to really flesh out all the ideas Stross has floating around, but at least here everything is focused on the central idea, and maybe by keeping it at this length Stross avoids the pitfall of over-explaining (or else going off on too many tangents) and keeps the narrative concise and if you can’t keep up well then that’s your problem, go back and read it a few more times. Besides all the cosmic intrigue and long-view cosmology, there’s also a love story in here and some commentary on how any powerful organization, even one that outlasts human evolution a zillion times over, will eventually grow corrupt and decay. The plot makes just enough sense at a superficial level to hang together and keep the reader involved, forcing you to pay attention before everything shifts out from under you all over again. Stross has put a complex story into an enormous canvas and made it comprehensible enough to follow along, you don’t even get the time to appreciate just what a broad structure he’s taken on. Never one to back away from audacious storytelling, Stross outdoes himself here with what has to be one of the best, and certainly most ambitious, stories of the year.

  • Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow (Tachyon)

Published as a short novel, Morrow’s latest work follows on from his more accessible style in which he engages the reader with some wry, quirky characterizations plunked down into a unique situation that is very real to them but somewhat allegorical or satirical to the rest of us. Here he’s absorbed much of what there is to know about low budget horror and monster movies of the golden age of filmmaking, with a number of cameo appearances by real people, including James Whale, who directed the first iconic Frankenstein movie. The story concerns aging B-movie star Syms Thorley, who in the recent past is writing his memoirs from a hotel where he is a guest of a monster movie fan convention, receiving an award for his career achievements. The narrative gives him the opportunity to reveal some secret history of his movie career while at the same time exorcising a few demons while he tries to decide whether to kill himself or not. Morrow easily shifts forward between the present and the story Thorley is writing about, which concerns his duty during World War II in helping the government convince the Japanese that the US military was on verge of unleashing giant reptiles against their shores. The G-men have the somewhat uncharacteristically humane idea that it would be preferable to convince the enemy of the destructive potential of this threat without having to actually deploy it, so they enlist Syms to recreate his renowned performance as Gorgantis for a government-produced movie, directed by Whale, which would then be shown to Japanese representatives as though it were evidence of the real monsters destroying a city. Syms is bemused by the whole idea, but as an actor rises to the challenge.

Where Morrow seems to be going with this is contrasting this somewhat ridiculous secret project to the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb, although Syms’ memoir doesn’t really spend too much time drawing parallels between them. The movie is made (in fact it’s hardly even a movie at all as it seems to play out in real time to the Japanese emissaries as it is being filmed), the results are mixed, and the war plays out pretty much the way we remember. The main dramatic moment comes when his archrival in the B-movie business tries to hold him hostage for the rights to what he thinks is a new movie monster, but it seems kind of pointless to the action, although it does illustrate a fateful turn in Syms’ career. In the present story, Syms has introspective encounters with a hooker and a hotel bellhop, to whom he tries to give away the meager amount of worldly goods he has in his possession there.

But in the end what the reader is supposed to make of this entertaining but somewhat aimless story is left open to interpretation. If Syms is speaking for western civilization, then are we to conclude that his best effort to bring peace through intimidation was doomed to fall short, and that dropping the bomb was the “least bad” way to end the war? In the present there seems to be more revisionist views of those events and whether destroying Hiroshima was really necessary, but one way to look at this book is that we were moving towards something on that scale of horror with some level of inevitability. Unleashing the real giant reptiles carried some degree of risk too because there was no guarantee they could be completely controlled and end up turning on the rest of the world. There’s also a certain sense of nostalgia here for this somewhat more innocent time where what we thought of then as horror depicted in the old movies didn’t really prepare us for what happened during World War II, and at the same time paved the way for all the post-war Japanese angst and self-doubt that manifested itself in decades of their monster movies. Morrow ends up with a very worthwhile story, both humorous and poignant by turns and well worth checking out, even if the end result is a little more mellow than you might expect.

  • “Vishnu at the Cat Circus”, Ian McDonald (Cyberabad Days)

So, Mr. McDonald, we meet again. I’ll say right up front this may be the most coherent McDonald story I’ve ever read. It is completely intelligible, has a beginning middle and end, and even a plot, all of these qualities that much of his work, I feel, seems to lack. I must of course admit that while I’m usually left scratching my head at the end of a McDonald story, unsure of any tangible fact taken from the text, it nevertheless goes on to be nominated and often to win several awards. Or maybe I’m just finally starting to get the hang of his style. It helps that this story is set in the same future-India as several of his other recent nominated work, and it also helps that this story is half again as long as the novellas from those prior entries, giving him more room within which to work. But those features alone would not supplant or obfuscate structure, or plot, or enlightenment, so there must be something else that brings it all together this time. This mostly earthbound story concerns the narrator Vishnu, who is reflecting on his life story to some unspecified audience. The title here does the reader no favors, the cat circus is merely Vishnu’s last career, he has cultivated a group of housecats who can walk nose to tail in a circle and can also walk on a tightrope. His story begins with his parents, who met during a monsoon-induced flood. Years later, India has broken up into several small republics, and the monsoons no longer appear, so water is in short supply. But things haven’t changed all that much, Indian families still want the best for their children, and in particular want them to have more privileges than those of their neighbors. So Vishnu is conceived as part of a cutting edge genetic modification process that not only allows his parents to select for intelligence, but also for longevity, giving him at least twice the natural human lifespan. The downside to this is that he matures at half the rate of normal children, and McDonald does a nice job of highlighting some of the challenges and contradictions produced by this elongated childhood and adolescence, both for Vishnu and his immediate family.

Vishnu’s older brother Shiv is arguably brilliant also, without any genetic enhancements, but Shiv is largely ignored in favor of his gifted sibling and is justifiably jealous. As they grow up, Vishnu really only interacts with others subjected to the same program. For someone who is this brilliant, the normal pursuits of math and science aren’t that appealing, and Vishnu finds his main area of interest to be in politics, a supremely chaotic system which he understands enough to enable him to exert some level of control. One of his friends, to whom he is arrange to be married, just spends all her time creating complicated card games. Eventually Vishnu grows disaffected with all of it and ends up spending most of his life just wandering around the country, observing and interacting with people. There’s some food for thought there about the relative levels of intelligence and where the blessing/curse line may be and what really is important to people anyway.

Meanwhile Shiv has grown up and started his own company to develop nanotechnology that basically allows all of humanity to attain the singularity, effectively bypassing Vishnu’s own genetic enhancement with something even more profound. McDonald again has some interesting insight into how this would work for Vishnu, set on a certain path from birth and then before it can really reach fruition seeing it eclipsed by the next generation’s own improvements. So in the end maybe the cat circus has another meaning, from the viewpoint of uplifted humanity who are the cats and in what kind of circus do they find themselves? Or maybe I’m making that part up, but while there’s plenty of introspection here, McDonald doesn’t supply any homilies or spell out any great wisdom, he just tells his story and lets the reader draw his own conclusions. He has worked very hard and very thoroughly realized this non-western future society, giving it a density of detail and complexity that makes it seem more realistic. It’s not what I would call a fun read, but it’s not difficult, and I don’t see anything else out there that’s anything like these stories that McDonald puts forth. But it’s all starting to make sense, one of us is starting to coalesce with the potential merit and stature of this body of work, and I have a feeling it’s me.

  • The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Kage Baker (Subterranean)


  • “Eros, Philia, Agape”, Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com 3/09)
  • “The Island”, Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2)

I’ve only read one thing by Peter Watts before, his Hugo-nominated novel “Blindsight” from a couple of years ago, which was probably the most blow-your-mind, sense-of-wonder nominee in recent memory. This novelette combines many of the same feelings, but in a shorter space, such that it all goes by so quickly I had to read it twice to make sure I understood it, and even then there are elements that it would seem were purposefully left out. The narrator, who is supposed to be female but doesn’t really sound or act like one, is one of a small group of humans living on a generation ship that somehow oversees the construction of portals between worlds, although most of the work is done by self-replicating machines. The implication is also that they’re building some sort “rail” or road through space as they go, maybe that’s just poetic license, otherwise it conjures up images of the Vogons building the Hyperspace Bypass. This has been going on for a billion years, Earth has long since been consumed by the sun, and the human workers are only woken up when the ship’s sentient computer, known as “the chimp”, needs them. The island of the title refers to the first alien presence they’ve ever encountered, a huge living bubble surrounding their next target sun, which they discover is signaling them to get out of the way. The chimp doesn’t have the programming to deal with that kind of eventuality, and it even has created another human called Dix to help the narrator, although it’s main purpose seems to be to give the narrator someone to react against so she’s not just talking to herself the entire time. As they approach closer to the island, the narrator has to figure out how to preserve the mission and the alien at the same time, while her fellow crew aren’t all that interested the dilemma and just want to finish the job. The ending is left somewhat ambiguous, which given the speed at which they are traveling they hardly have time to react before it’s on to the next star system.

There’s any number of things to wonder about with this story. The central unanswered question is how exactly did this ship come to be, since there were no previous alien encounters it would seem that humanity somehow built this elaborate expansionary mechanism but it’s never explained how or why, and so much time has passed since they launched that whatever came from humanity has long since evolved beyond them, although given the time scale you would think then they would have come up with a different process and this little crew would have long since been rendered obsolete. And why call the alien entity “the island”, since there doesn’t really seem to be anything island-like about it, the narrator also refers to it as a Dyson sphere, which it is in the sense that it’s surrounding a sun but I thought the point of Dyson spheres was to capture enough energy to sustain a huge population? If anything, the ship is the island, this little self-contained community of outcasts who have to work together and have nowhere else to go. Watts raises more questions than he answers, there’s an inevitable sense of existentialism when dealing with human lives spread out over such a distance and timespan, but he also expertly handles the complication inherent in this kind of a story, providing conflict between characters and computers and making the reader work a little bit to put it all together. Interestingly, this is the only novelette nominee to be picked for all four Year’s Best anthologies, so it had a lot to live up to. I’m not sure it completely delivered, but Watts has such imagination and skill that he produces a compelling story that gives you all the hard sf fix you could want.

  • “It Takes Two”, Nicola Griffith (Eclipse Three)

Griffith doesn’t publish much these days and that’s a shame, she’s always been reliable for some provocative examination of “gender” and how it fits into establishing one’s identity. This story keeps the expected lesbian protagonist but does so as a matter of course rather than to make a particular point. Cody is an up and coming corporate salesperson who is sent to meet with a big-shot potential customer, who is hosting a few of her competitors at the same time before making his final decision, which could make her career. The customer takes them all to a strip club, where Cody immediately and inexplicably falls for a dancer named Cookie. The dancer, whose real name is Susana, shares this visceral attraction and Cody finds herself risking her main purpose for the trip in pursuit of this woman. There’s nothing at all science fictional about this story until towards the end, when Cody discovers one of her friends has convinced her to participate in a drug experiment that plays around with these emotions. As part of the experiment she’s also taken something to forget that she was in an experiment at all. And yet after it’s all revealed the feelings towards Susana are still there, and Griffith calls out, but doesn’t really explore, how this questions the nature of love and physical attraction and what can be considered real emotion and what isn’t.

In the end, this story doesn’t quite put it all together for me, I’m dubious as to Cody’s motivations for getting involved in this in the first place, and her friend Richard has gone to great lengths to arrange the meeting with Susana, which makes it seem like he’s rigging the test. Other than her personal life, things actually work out quite well for Cody, but to my taste this story doesn’t dwell enough on the ideas it is playing around with, seemingly content to introduce them but leave the conclusions for later. Maybe that’s part of the intent, though, that there are no easy answers, and in fact this experience makes her realize just how complicated it all can be. As a reader you feel a bit grubby at the end of this one, and I don’t think that’s the feeling that Griffith was going for.

  • “One of Our Bastards is Missing”, Paul Cornell (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction: Volume Three)
  • “Overtime”, Charles Stross (Tor.com 12/09)
  • “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast”, Eugie Foster (Interzone 2/09)


  • “The Bride of Frankenstein”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s 12/09)
  • “Bridesicle”, Will McIntosh (Asimov’s 1/09)
  • “The Moment”, Lawrence M. Schoen (Footprints)
  • “Non-Zero Probabilities”, N.K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld 9/09)
  • “Spar”, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld 10/09)

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