Archive

Archive for the ‘Recommendations’ Category

“‘Run,’ Bakri Says”, by Ferrett Steinmetz

January 21, 2018 Leave a comment

NOT FOR CHILDREN

“‘Run,’ Bakri Says” is a story in the vein of Replay or Groundhog Day, about a person in a time loop, living the same events thousands of time.  The only thing is, she’s in a war zone.

Non-Spoiler Summary

The main difference between “‘Run,’ Bakri Says” and the other time loop stories is that Irena isn’t reliving twenty-five years of life, or one day she controls: she’s got fifty minutes to rescue her brother from an American jail in the unnamed country.  She’s got to get past a sniper, two guards outside, and find her brother Sammi in the jail.  It takes thousands of tries.

Why should you read it?

“‘Run,’ Bakri Says” is about what war does to people who can’t get out.  Irena starts out not wanting to kill the soldiers, and a few hundred iterations later, she’s measuring statistics on how often she can make head-shots.  For such a short story, it traces the dissolution of her personality quite vividly.  I’d almost call it science fiction-horror.

Where to find “‘Run,’ Bakri Says”

This story is available freely on Escape Pod’s site, in audio and text.

Advertisements

“Triceratops Summer”, by Michael Swanwick

January 14, 2018 Leave a comment

“Triceratops Summer” is a story about some dinosaurs blocking the road, some vacations that weren’t taken, some time that doesn’t matter, and some physics in the background.  Largely a piece about how time feels in a given situation, rather than deeply plot driven.

Non-Spoiler Summary

A herd of triceratops show up on an early summer day, and our viewpoint characters are stuck in the traffic they generate.  Shortly, a man from the Applied Physics lab nearby show up, and tell them where the “trikes” come from.  The rest of the story is how everyone lives with the dinosaurs for the rest of the summer.

Why should you read it?

“Triceratops Summer” is a meditation on what one does with one’s days, and whether it’s more fulfilling to leave one’s home or just enjoy the events of a normal life.  After re-reading it to write this post, I’m reminded of how little actually happens in this story–it’s almost more about not doing things than doing them–and how good the images of sitting on the back porch feeding cabbage to dinosaurs just feels.

Where to find “Triceratops Summer”

This story is available freely on Baen’s site, in text.

“Rocket Surgery”, by Effie Seiberg

January 7, 2018 Leave a comment

“Rocket Surgery” is a story about smart bombs, when they get really smart, and start asking philosophical questions.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Teeny is a bomb with AI.  Something like a neural net.  He has to be trained to do his missions… but what happens when he starts generalizing from what’s assigned to what’s really good?  And what happens when he asks about what happens after his missions–remember, he’s a bomb.  For him, there is no after.

Why should you read it?

“Rocket Surgery” is a sad and funny piece about a bomb’s college education.  It’s the story of what happens when you make the bomb smart enough that it starts asking questions, what happens when a weapon becomes a warrior. . . becomes a philosopher.  The story has a refrain of “Did I do good?”  Teeny resolves all of these issues, all at once, and pretty well. . . for a bomb.

Where to find “Rocket Surgery”

This story is available freely on Escape Pod’s site, both in text and audio.

“Mutant”, by Michael Montoure

December 21, 2015 Leave a comment

“Mutant” is a story about a familiar figure from song and story, told very differently.

[Updates, two:  I forgot to mention that I know Michael Montoure personally, although this story was a complete surprise to me when I found it, and that the web page I link to below has broken headers, as of 12/21/15.  The story is present on the page and perfectly readable.]

Non-Spoiler Summary

Ever wonder if Rudolph actually liked saving the day, that Christmas?  He didn’t.  Oh, how he didn’t.

Why should you read it?

Because in about a page, Montoure can make you look at a story you’ve known your whole life a new way, teach you some things about inclusion and exclusion, and make you fear for next Christmas.

Where to find “Mutant”

This story is available freely on Montoure’s website, Bloodletters.  Find it here.

Read _The Martian_.

August 25, 2015 Leave a comment

That the imperative form, not the past tense–I just said “reed” The Martian, not “red” The Martian. Which I have also done, twice, but I’m telling you that if you haven’t, you should.

(People ranging from Adam Savage of Mythbusters to Barack Obama of the White House are also recommending this book, so I’m not alone. Not hardly.)

_The Martian_ is the story of the third manned trip to Mars. The first one to experience any real difficulty. A sandstorm. It forces the month-long trip to be aborted after less than a week. It causes them to leave for Earth, and kills one of the crew members.

Except, y’know, it _doesn’t_. It leaves Mark Watney supposedly dead and abandoned on Mars. Alone. For the first time in human history, there is only one person on a planet. And nobody knows he’s there.

He tries to survive one day. Then another. Then another. And things happen. I have now spoiled the first, oh, five pages of the book. Maybe a bit more.

This book is very much for anyone who thought that the best part of Apollo 13 was when the flight director dumped a pile of parts the Apollo astronauts would have out on the table and said “We need to connect this [one port] to that [another port] using only this [pile of junk].” This phrasing is not original to me, but it is both apt and funny, so I’m stealing it.

It is also for anyone who recognizes and values human ingenuity, dignity, heroism, sacrifice, and several other high-minded emotions I can’t even name without getting sucked back into a complete re-read of the book.

Yes, it gets math-ey, in some places. If the numbers bug you or bore you, skip them. Some of them aren’t exactly right anyway, and very few of them are important to the story of a man who will. Not. Give. Up.

There’s a movie coming. Let me tell you, I avoided the trailer as long as I could, because I didn’t need to be sold. I was going first weekend, likely first night. But when I saw it, a _trailer_ made me weep. Weep. My son Joshua asked me if I was okay, the tears came so hard and fast.

I have recommended many works of fiction over my years as a bookseller and after. _The Martian_ gets my very highest recommendation.

Categories: Recommendations Tags:

“San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats”, by Mira Grant

“San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats” is a 2012 science fiction short story by Mira Grant, who is also known as Seanan McGuire.  It is currently nominated for the Hugo for Best Novella of 2013.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats” is the story of some attendees at San Diego Comic Con.  When the zombies attack.  And how the humans react.

Why should you read it?

You shouldn’t.  Unless you’ve already read Feed, and the rest of the Newsflesh trilogy, and then you either know you don’t want you, or you don’t need me to pitch this story, except to say that it’s an early days story of the Newsflesh universe.  All three books of the trilogy were nominated for the Hugo, and this spin-off; I’m not the only one who likes this series.

Where to find “San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats”

This story is not available freely.  You can purchase it from Amazon for the Kindle for $2.99, and it’s well worth the cost.


“The Fort Moxie Branch”, by Jack McDevitt

“The Fort Moxie Branch” is a 1988 science fiction short story by Jack McDevitt.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1989.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“The Fort Moxie Branch” is the story of a discouraged writer who sees a nearby house… changing.  He goes to visit and find out what happens, and it’s been turned into the Fort Moxie branch of the John of Singletary Library.  And the librarian has a very interesting offer for him….

Why should you read it?

Because it’s so full of hope.  For struggle.  For humanity.  Because the librarian makes perfectly good points that are still infuriating.

The writer is being invited to have some of his work included in the Library.  It’s a library of lost works, of books that didn’t fit their times, so they didn’t sell, or couldn’t be released, or something.  And it’s a story full of hope.

Where to find “The Fort Moxie Branch”

This story is available online from the publisher, Baen Books.