Nebula Nominee Review: “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon / Reseña del cuento nominado al Premio Nebula: “Jackalope Wives” de Ursula Vernon

Note: This is the fourth of the Nebula Award short story nominees to be reviewed on this blog.

Full of desert magic, “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon is a story about wishes, choices and sacrifice. I read it quickly the first time even though there is a lot of dialogue in the second half. The writer has such command over the story that I never questioned where she was taking me.

JACKALOPEIn a nutshell, the story describes the mysterious lives of jackalope wives, who shed their skins and dance under the half-full moon. Sans their rabbit skins, these beautiful human-looking creatures attract young men like magnets though they’re very rarely seen much less caught. Still, a boy manages to catch one, and things don’t work out the way he wanted. It’s up to his grandmother to take care of things as best she can. Continue reading

Nebula Nominee Review: “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” by Matthew Kressel / Reseña del cuento nominado al Premio Nebula: “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” de Matthew Kressel

Note: This is the third review of a short story nominee for the Nebula Awards. Reviews of other nominees can be found here and here. More to come.

At first I thought I was in for a silly ride with Jar Jar Binks and company, but nope, author Matthew Kressel pulled up, and “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” turned out to be a touching space opera. I was a little confused about the state of the characters at the end but that did not outweigh the strengths of this short story.

The story opens with two creatures in a space ship on a star-harvesting mission. One–the Eye–is a representation of a supreme (but not infallible) intelligence that has been consuming stars and civilizations for a very long time. The second is the Meeker, a being evidently created to carry out the physical and tactile duties necessary to serve the Eye. When they come upon some space junk they have never encountered before, the Eye is able to regenerate the life form encased there. Continue reading

Review: Nebula Award nominee “The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard / Reseña: cuento nominado al Premio Nebula “The Breath of War” de Aliette de Bodard

This review of “The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard is the second review of the seven short story nominees for the 2014 Nebula Awards. As you know from earlier posts, each story gets two reads. The first read is my measure of overall satisfaction with the story. The second read is more critical and a chance for me to reconsider my gut reaction.

The first read of “The Breath of War” pretty much hit my gut like a nice balanced meal I might pack for lunch at work — protein, vegetables, fruit — no dessert.

carved_stone_woman_sitting_haiti_1The story is set in a place that I interpreted as something like a mountainous, other worldly Southeast Asia. This world, Voc, is recuperating from a civil war. Our pregnant protagonist is a woman named Rechan who is nearing her due date. She is on a critically important journey into the mountains to meet her breath-sibling, a being who becomes sentient when an adolescent carves one from native stone (a common practice on Voc). There is a lifelong bond between the carver and her breath-sibling, who, in addition to ensuring babies breathe at birth, become part of the extended human family. Continue reading

Review: Nebula Award nominee “The Fisher Queen” by Alyssa Wong / Reseña: Cuento nominado al premio Nebula, “The Fisher Queen” de Alyssa Wong

The Nebula Awards nominees were announced earlier this month and voting is underway. If you are a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America I trust you are doing your duty and voting, and probably enjoying some insider horse betting. If not, you will just have to wait with me and the rest of the hoi polloi until the winners are announced. While we’re waiting, I’m posting my reviews of the nominees for best short story starting right now in this post.

And the short story nominees are:

“The Breath of War,” Aliette de Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 3/6/14)
“When It Ends, He Catches Her,” Eugie Foster (Daily Science Fiction 9/26/14)

“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye,” Matthew Kressel (Clarkesworld 5/14)
“The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family,” Usman T. Malik (Qualia Nous)
“A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide,” Sarah Pinsker (F&SF 3-4/14)
“Jackalope Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14)
“The Fisher Queen,” Alyssa Wong (F&SF 5/14)

Before we dive in, here is my two-read method of review. The first read is how I calculate reader satisfaction. It’s my thumbs up or down gut reaction to the story. The second read is conducted so I can pretend I’m in an MFA program and mentally flagellate myself for no good reason. The story aspects most important to me in the second read are 1) power of the first paragraph, 2) narration, 3) worldscape, 4) pleasure of the resolution.

fishtail99First up– “The Fisher Queen” by Alyssa Wong

A fantastic fish story that is somehow made plausible by the bravado of the tough young girl narrating and guiding the reader into and out the other side of the lives of mermaid fishermen in the Mekong delta. Not only is the narrator’s voice clear and compelling—the reader can see how deeply her world changes in the course of the story—but her world is well drawn. In Wong’s story the difference between life above the water and life under the water is the difference between predator and prey. And even that boundary is not hard and fast. Continue reading