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text 2018-07-28 23:29
2018 Hugo Ballot: Best Novella
All Systems Red - Martha Wells
Binti: Home - Nnedi Okorafor
The Black Tides of Heaven - JY Yang
Down Among the Sticks and Bones - Seanan McGuire
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so.

 

Novella is a length I tend to struggle with as a reader. Often I find them either rushed, or stuffed with filler. This year has several I enjoyed, though.

 

  • All Systems Red, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing) - 4 Stars. Top of ballot, one of my favorite novellas ever. The narrator is excellent.

 

  • And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017) - 4 Stars. A murder mystery at a convention where everyone is the same person. Another excellent example of the right amount of plot for the length. This works really well. I didn't even mind being ahead of the narrator in solving the crime.

 

  • Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing) - 3.5 Stars. Well written, but has some of my usual issues with serialized ficiton.

 

  • The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing) - 3.5 Stars. Great worldbuilding, but not as solid across all elements.

 

  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing) - 4 Stars. I am surprised by how much I liked this given how underwhelming I found the previous novella in this series.

 

  • River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing) - 3.5 stars. Great characters, but this felt incomplete. Like the first 30% of a great book, but not quite enough content to be satisfying.

 

So, obviously All Systems Red will be at the top. Followed by And Then . . and Sticks and Bones. Black Tides next, then Home, and River of Teeth. This is a very solid selection of novellas.  

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review 2018-07-03 01:41
Adored this
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey

Man-eating hippos, some truly fucked up characters, and a bloody, bloody tale of revenge?   Basically, this hit a ton of my literary kinks, in a fabulous alternate history setup: what would you think about cowboys who were hippoboys?   Instead of cows, America depends on hippos to get around - and yes, for meat. 

 

Except the feral ones who depend on Americans for meat. 

 

The cast of characters is outrageously charming, with one exception - and that's on purpose.    The world building is a nasty little mirror of our world, which is charming in and of itself.   The plot propels this forward. 

 

Just love this. 

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text 2018-06-16 23:37
Reading progress update: I've read 113 out of 113 pages.
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey

Read a bunch of Provenance, finished this, and mostly felt too sick to do much more. 

 

Changing my Shabbat habits.   It will be about relaxing, but I relax online a lot - so I will be doing that. 

 

I'll try to limit stress, though. 

 

 

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text 2018-06-16 02:38
Reading progress update: I've read 68 out of 113 pages.
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey

My new medication did... not work.   That's kinda an understatement: my chest felt tight after walking, like my heart rate wanted to go up, couldn't, and was fighting against that.   

 

I had to lie down for a long time, and am not using it again until I can talk to my cardiologist on Monday. 

 

That being said, I am also exhausted: I need a break from longer works so I'll be reading novelettes and short stories until I go to sleep. 

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review 2018-06-12 20:10
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey

It's that time of year again, when I'm reading my way through the Hugo nominations in preparation for voting, and this is one of the books that is up for Best Novella even though I'm not completely convinced that it actually fits the bill as either SF or Fantasy. The most you can say about River of Teeth is that it's alternate history, of which more shortly, though it still hits more genre buttons than some things that have been nominated in recent years...

 

Anyway, onto the plot - the basic premise is that, back in the mid-1800's, there was a plan to import hippos to the US which understandably failed to come to anything. In River of Teeth, that plan went full steam ahead and there was also work done to dam up part of the Mississippi when some of those hippos escaped and went feral. In case you weren't aware, hippos are very aggressive and dangerous animals and definitely not something you want to be messing with, though here they also serve a major role as replacements for horses in a part of the world that is significantly swampy. 

 

Anyway, our story starts with our protagonist getting commissioned to 'deal with' the feral hippos and to do so he comes up with an ambitious plan, involving the need to recruit himself a group of miscreants and blow stuff up. Naturally, since this is essentially a western, there's a suitably oily villain who is a) responsible for crushing our protagonists' dreams previously and b) has a devious scheme of his own. Hijinks ensue. 

 

River of Teeth is entertaining enough, with well-drawn characters that made me keep turning the page, but I'm not sure it entertained me enough to either vote for it in the Hugos or continue to read further in this series (since there's at least one sequel, Taste of Marrow). 

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