Novellas -- reviewed in order of reading. Aiming for non-spoilery, unless there's a cut.

  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor ( Currently reading. (45/100 pages) Not as tightly written as I might have hoped, but solid enough, and compelling complications that are keeping me interested. [On finishing, a few days later:] I really appreciate the non-white POV, and the paste was neat. But...but Species A wants an artifact/body part of Great Significance that Species B stole and put in B's museum. Okay, that's fair. But Species A brutally murdered an entire space ship of that generation's best and brightest, basically, and Species B ... apologises profusely to A and returns the object, offers A a concillatory university place, and fuck all is said about the slaughtered students? What about all the funerals that were going to be held? The families that needed to be informed? Maybe Orlando is still rather fresh in my mind, but what the HELL? WHAT THE HELL? Did I miss something?

  • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment): Confidently written, it flirts with really interesting ideas of what it means to be alive/human/have autonomy etc, and then removes the most useful hinge of that. It's also noticeably Written By A Man, which is on one hand a reasonable thing, the author presumably being male! On the other, I'm tired of the male gaze on female characters. Not a bad story, but not the best, either.

  • Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon): Okay, the opening paragraph of this one made me keen softly with pleasure. seriously:

    My mother had a fondness for poetry. When my sister died, but before the news of my own conscription, mother showed me passaged from a work by Giresun. It was a poem called “Morning Flowers”.
    This was an illegal act.

    That glorious moment of craft was not quite backed up by the rest of the story, but I still read its 200ish pages in an afternoon. One of my bugbears is setting up a “not-a-reader’s-now” but not grounding it enough in what “story’s-now” means in your worldbuilding. Which meant that when the story hurls forward early in the piece, I did in fact feel too adrift. That said, the plot and the idea behind it was compelling. Also, female soldiers, and a well-written female lead! A+ would read more Alistair Reynolds (yeah, I know, I’m coming to sci-fi late, okay?) Will rank highly.

  • The Builders by Daniel Polansky ( I was charmed by the Goodreads blurb, and the 10% or so that I read was well-written. A group of skilled anthropomorphized animals go on a heist after their last job went badly. It’s charming, and Daniel Polansky seems like a nice guy from my very brief background reading, I just don’t care enough about this story, and my reading time is limited. Didn’t finish, not through any particular fault of the story.

  • Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum): this was dense and delicious -- strong worldbuilding, and a very assured narrative voice (unsurprising, given it’s Bujold). It was dense enough that I couldn’t speed read it, and had to concentrate to settle into its rhythms, but that’s almost a plus. I liked Penric, and loved Desdemona (how the demon is also twelve others was...not a thing I retained during reading, and I’m still not clear on, but I was willing to roll with it). This was a pleasure, and I’d definitely read more in this world.

Current voting:
Penric’s demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
Slow bullets by Alistair Reynolds
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Perfect state by Brandon Sanderson
The builders by Daniel Polansky
No Award
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