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Book Reviews: John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (2013)

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Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2011 or 2012, sponsored by Dell Magazines. Not a Hugo Award, but included in the voting materials.

Zen Cho

“The First Witch of Damansara” (Bloody Fabulous)
Vivian is embarrassed by the magic that runs in her family. To ward it off, she leaves Malaysia for England and a “sensible” job and “ordinary” hobbies. Then her Nai Nai (grandmother) dies, and she returns to Malaysia to find herself entrenched, once again, in a world of magic. I could have easily substituted “culture” for “magic,” because that’s really what the story is about. Through gorgeous descriptions of clothing, magical rituals, and traditional behaviors, Zen Cho shows us a woman who comes to love and accept who she is.

起狮,行礼 (Rising Lion–The Lion Bows) (Strange Horizons)
Jia Qi joins a lion dance troupe looking for a way to soothe her homesickness and finds a family among the troupe members. She also finds the magic of the lion dance and learns how the troupe uses it to exterminate ghosts. When they’re hired to deal with a hotel’s ghost and find he’s another lonely soul the troupe invites young George to join them and be part of the dance.

Mur Lafferty

750,000 of Your Friends Like This (Voice From the Past anthology)
Bookface Tech modifies content to suit your needs–or what they think your needs are–and this Christmas they’re broadcasting 74,000 different versions of “A Christmas Carol” all individually designed to modify the behavior of their listeners. Fortunately, this broadcast is designed to change things for the good.

The Reason for the Season  (Escape Artists’ Holiday Pack)
Of all her fellow cult members, Jasmine is chosen to introduce the Avatar to the modern world. He is predictably not at all pleased with the mall at Christmastime and Jasmine, a big fan of axial tilt being the reason for the season, is very little help. But, hey, she does save the mall Santa, so that’s something, right?

three parts deadThree Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

This book is really a mystery. It’s one with magic, gargoyles, a touch of steampunk, and gods who loan out their power for a return plus interest, but it’s a mystery all the same. Tara, an apprentice on probation with a magical firm is brought along to assist her mentor in bring a god back to life, but first they have to find out how he died. Her mentor is intimidating; her partners are a chainsmoking priest, a seafaring vampire, and an addict cop; the gargoyles are mad at her; and her old nemesis is now her business rival.

This story takes a look at how and why gods exist, what happens when Justice really is blind, and brings up questions of morality and faith. It was a great read and I’m looking forward to the next books in the series.

Of Blood and HoneyOf Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht

This is a book about the fey. This is also a book about Ireland in the 1970s. I don’t think it’s necessary to have much knowledge of either in order to read this book, but I suspect you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you do.

This story is painful. No surprise there, given where it’s set. It’s horrible and, yet, somehow the people in it still seem to find beautiful moments. Even Liam, who is perhaps the unluckiest man to ever draw breath.

This is a story about war and the impossibility of peace in some situations, about how hard it can be to tell your enemies from your friends, and about how long grudges can last. It’s a story about families, and love, and all the ties that bind. Mostly this is a story about Liam and how he lives the life he was handed the best he can.

TRIGGER WARNING: Actual rape of a man. Mention of rape of a woman. Lots of violence.

blackbirds-144dpiBlackbirds (Miriam Black #1)  by Chuck Wendig

I can’t quite decide if I liked this book. It was far more of a gangster-type novel (drug dealers out for revenge) than it was anything else, and that really isn’t my style. I liked the main character–well, to the degree that she’s likeable–and I was interested in what she could do and how she handled it. I very much enjoyed the interludes as info dumps, especially the interview where she discusses her life and her abilities.

The ending circled back around to speculative fiction. The origins of her powers came into question, along with the idea that there is some force guiding or watching her. I’d much rather read that than anything else.


Written by tldegray

June 25, 2013 at 8:15 am

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