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May 26th, 2004


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12:15 pm - Short story reviews
I read the shortlisted Hugo short stories.

"Paying It Forward" - Michael A. Burstein

Shame this is the first on the list. I really didn't like it. From a variant of the many interesting parallel world theories that are flying about these days (specifically Max Tegmark's) a dull story is poorly realised in clumsy prose. The central theme is the familiar relationship between wise old mentor and pupil which may appeal to others more than it does me.

"A Study in Emerald" - Neil Gaiman

From the first half page, which references Lovecraft and inverts Sherlock Holmes, while marching the story briskly forwards, you know you are in the hands of a craftsman. Victorian pastiche-SF (on the lines of the League of Extraordinary Gents) and eldritch horror. Not usually my type of thing, but I thought it was the best story of the set.

"Four Short Novels" - Joe Haldeman

Very short, sketchy, idea-centric SF. SF not even trying to be like 'proper' literature, and why should it? Cynical thoughts on immortality. I liked.

"
The Tale of the Golden Eagle
" - David D. Levine


Elegantly written, stylised, old-space-empire story. There was nothing here I haven't read before. No strong feelings either way.

"
Robots Don't Cry
" - Mike Resnick


Robots may not, but tears seeped out as I read this, while waiting for my daughter to have a hair cut. Emotive but terse. Worked for me.

Anyway. you can read them for yourself and disagree with me if you like.

(8 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:iainjcoleman
Date:May 26th, 2004 05:02 am (UTC)
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I loved both the Gaiman and the Haldeman. The former for its masterly twisting and reimagining of familiar icons, and the latter for actually taking the whole "SF is the literature of ideas" thing seriously and just giving us the ideas, stylishly presented, without feeling any need to go on for hundreds of pages about some tedious bunch of characters. Either of these would be a worthy winner.

I agree with you about the Burstein. It's just not in the same league as the other four. Resnick's story had less of an impact with me than it did with you. I thought it was very emotive, but didn't seem to really have a lot of substance underneath the sad story. It's good, but not as good as the top two. On the other hand, I think I liked Levine's story more than you did. The building blocks may not be all that new, but the elegant, fairlytale prose combined with the grand epic sweep make it a real joy to read.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:May 26th, 2004 01:45 pm (UTC)
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fairytale prose combined with the grand epic sweep

I think it was a fantasy story in SF trappings, and probably that's why you liked it more than I did. Did you notice that the Gaiman is the first chapter of a novel, which may be worth reading.
[User Picture]
From:iainjcoleman
Date:May 26th, 2004 03:31 pm (UTC)
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I think it was a fantasy story in SF trappings, and probably that's why you liked it more than I did.

Ah, you know me too well!

Did you notice that the Gaiman is the first chapter of a novel, which may be worth reading.

I didn't notice that, no. Hmm. I have mixed feelings about that. It worked so well as a short story, I'm not sure I really want to see it expanded into a novel. Not that that'll stop me reading it when it comes out.
[User Picture]
From:coalescent
Date:May 26th, 2004 05:57 am (UTC)
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I agree about the Burstein; it is, well, an Analog story. 'Robots Don't Cry' didn't work for me, since I found it to be emotion without substance.

The other three I thought, to varying degrees, do deserve their place on the ballot. 'A Study In Emerald' is quite cute, but ultimately my tolerance for Cthulu fanfic is pretty low (and in any case is more than adequately met by Charlie Stross' The Atrocity Archives). 'The Tale Of The Golden Eagle' is, as you say, really nicely written - I'd say it was the best-written of the five, personally, but I agree that the sf aspect is a little tired. The Haldeman I like for the structure, and to be honest for the brazenness of it, but it doesn't completely work as a story. Still, probably my favourite of the five.

Further discussion here.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:May 26th, 2004 01:47 pm (UTC)
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my tolerance for Cthulu fanfic is pretty low

I like HPL, but I haven't read any of the mythos spin-offs, so perhaps I am not as jaded as you.

the brazenness of it

Yeah, 'no one likes us, we don't care'
[User Picture]
From:gfk88
Date:May 26th, 2004 07:38 am (UTC)
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Sorry - I have to agree too.


Gaiman - terrific - great writing - best of the lot

Haldeman - good read and clever ideas

Resnick - iffy dialogue to begin with but then it got going later. Nice soppy story gets it extra points. Maybe not enough substance to be winning prizes

Levine - dull

Burstein - predictable and badly-written

[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:May 26th, 2004 01:48 pm (UTC)
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Nice soppy story gets it extra points

Hurrah I knew someone would be as sentimental as me :-)
[User Picture]
From:nwhyte
Date:June 19th, 2004 12:51 pm (UTC)
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I've linked to this from my page on the 2004 Hugo nominees. What order would you have placed them in yourself?

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