Book Review: Signal to Noise

Signal to Noise Book Cover Signal to Noise
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Fantasy
Solaris
February 10, 2015
epub
272
Prix Aurora Awards packet

A literary fantasy about love, music and sorcery, set against the background of Mexico City. Mexico City, 1988: Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said “I love you” with a mixtape. Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends -- Sebastian and Daniela -- and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. With help from this newfound magic, the three friends will piece together their broken families, change their status as non-entities, and maybe even find love... Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns for her estranged father’s funeral. It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, and it revives memories from her childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? And, is there any magic left?

I’m having trouble processing the fact that I’ve already finished my first Aurora read. Certainly, at 272 pages, Signal to Noise isn’t a huge book, but it’s packed with all kinds of action.

In 1988, Meche is a fifteen-year-old girl with an obsession for music and an affinity for computers. She comes to realize that she can use her vinyl records to compose magical spells, and attempts to use this gift for both fair and foul reasons.  She’s at that age where she hasn’t fully matured, yet she’s not a child any longer. While other girls are pretty and popular, she’s dealing with pimples and social awkwardness. Her two best friends are similarly challenged and dealing with the pressures of their school’s social hierarchy. In addition, her parents are on the cusp of divorce. The only stable force in her life is the grandmother who tells her stories of magic and witches.

Fast-forward to 2009 and Meche returns to Mexico for her estranged father’s funeral. She has to confront her feelings about him and his abandonment of her family. She also has to face the friends she abused and some nasty home truths that have been keeping her from truly moving forward in her life.

The story is fast-paced and the characters are vividly realized. I started reading Signal to Noise a couple of days ago while recovering from a migraine. I blazed through the rest of it tonight. You give me a compelling enough story and I have trouble putting the book down. Dishes? What dishes?

As I’ve been doing my own reading and research into the art of writing, one of the major factors that keeps being mentioned is ‘voice’, both on a narrative level and a character level. If this story has one huge star quality, it’s the voice.

While I was reading, I was hearing a Spanish/English rhythm to the language, from the everyday English sentences to the occasional Spanish word or phrase. I don’t know how many people hear accents when they read, but I’m definitely one of them. Never let anyone tell you that a second-language class isn’t worth it — I made good use of my own high school Spanish education (sadly atrophied, but still useful).

Music is another huge aspect to this book, and as a music nerd, I appreciated the little touches that mentioning songs from specific eras lent to the story. Whether it was invoking the sultry tones of jazz or the pop-candy of Dead or Alive and Cyndi Lauper, the narrative and setting stayed firmly in focus depending on the music. My aforementioned high-school Spanish classes? The teacher totally had all us girls swooning over Luis Miguel. Thanks Mrs. Xander. Thanks.

As an aside, my grade-school French teacher tried the same tactic with a couple of Quebecois bands/singers, but he missed The Age of Hormones by about three years and it didn’t work out quite as well for him. Quel dommage.

In the end, Signal to Noise is a story of growing up, of forgiveness, and redemption. We see the mistakes made due to miscommunication, or the petty jealousies that feed immature selfishness. We see the sacrifices the more mature characters are willing to make, and in the end, it’s up to Meche to come to grips with the life she’s made for herself and see that she needs to move beyond the choices she’s made.

Wonderful story. Earns all my stars.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I probably have some dishes that need washing…

Book Review: The Peripheral by William Gibson

The Peripheral Book Cover The Peripheral
William Gibson
Science Fiction / Fantasy
Putnam Adult
October 28, 2014
PDF
496
Prix Aurora Award reader's package

Depending on her veteran brother's benefits in a city where jobs outside the drug trade are rare, Flynne assists her brother's latest beta-test tech assignment only to uncover an elaborate murder scheme. By the best-selling author of Zero History. 100,000 first printing.

Yes, yes, the Prix Aurora Awards are long over by now, but I wanted to still put up my review of William Gibson’s The Peripheral. It’s taken me a while to be able to sort out my thoughts on the book.

What is the outstanding “trend” in the book? (ie: outer space, aliens, dragons, elves, parallel worlds, etc):
I would say that parallel worlds sums this one up.

Is there a Message?:
Not really, I don’t think. It didn’t clobber me over the head with anything. If the message was that being poor sucks, well, we all know that’s true.

Any other genres incorporated into the book? Was it done well?:
This one seems to be straight-up science fiction/fantasy. Once I knew what was going on, it worked really well.

Is the “trend” realistic?:
Kinda? Will explain down below.

Was the book easy to get into?:
Oh hell no. I actually needed a glossary to finally understand what the hell I was trying to wrap my brain around.

Did you have to do any homework (pre-reading) to really understand the book?:
No previous books set in this world, no. At least, that I know of.

Was the world believeable?:
Once I figured out what I was reading? Possibly? The best way to describe how the worlds worked is to say that it’s like one future has the ability to play with alternate dimensions of the past the way that some of us play The Sims. The overarching plot after that (character sees a crime committed and has to provide evidence) is just gravy.

Were the characters believable?:
Yes. The characters were all very well realized. It’s one of Gibson’s main talents. Once you figure out which world you’re in and the world-building that surrounds it, the characters themselves are a treat.

What “problems” did you have with the book?:
There was a lot of slang. A lot of slang. Parts of the story are set in a world not too far ahead of us, and another that’s a few decades ahead of that. Apparently a lot changes in between those times, which made it hard for me to read the book without some form of translation.  So I looked up a helpful glossary online that told me what things meant without spoiling the story. Problem solved.

Actually, the site that I’ve linked as the glossary pretty well sums up my issues with the book right in the introduction. I was confused to the point that I almost put the book down a few times…and having that one or two extra bits of explanation really helped me to relax and enjoy it.

What did you like about the book?:
Once I understood what I was reading, I really did enjoy the story. As mentioned, it was a standard “protect the witness” plot, but with some really interesting twists. It also didn’t end the way that I thought it would…the few Gibson books I’ve read have had some really grim endings, and this one was surprisingly upbeat.

Last Thoughts:
Reading comprehension has never been a problem for me before this point. To be honest, Peter Watts’ books operate on a level that I have difficulty grasping. This one was worse. I’ve waded through medical journal text that was easier to understand. To be honest, I felt downright stupid for the first quarter to half of the book before I found the glossary and the little lightbulb went on. I really don’t like feeling that way, particularly when reading a book by an author that I admire. Some like the discovery that comes from being in the dark…I just felt like I was obviously too dim to understand what I was reading — which was a rather glum thought, and before finding the glossary, had me wishing I’d bought the  hardcover* so I could pitch it across the room with a satisfying thud.

I was very happy to find out that the fault really wasn’t with me, but the fact that Gibson seems to have gone out of his way to obscure the story. I suppose I might have been a little more good-natured about the whole thing if I hadn’t been on a very tight reading schedule at the time.

Do I recommend it?  Oh most definitely yes!  The story, once you get past the stumbling points, is wonderful. If you need the glossary, here it is again. My suggestion is the same as the glossary authors – don’t read it unless you find you need it. It’s very possible you’ll click with the story a lot sooner than I did.

 

* I’m still going to buy the book, though. It’s actually a really good story, so it will be going into The Library.

Well that’s that (Prix Aurora Award voting done)

I submitted my final votes for the Prix Aurora Award this morning. I have some mixed feelings about it.

First, I feel happy that I looked over as much of the work as I could within the time I had. I feel like I’m coming to know Canadian SFF fandom a bit better, and I am glad I had the opportunity to read and view some excellent and/or interesting work. Continue reading “Well that’s that (Prix Aurora Award voting done)”

Book Review: Echopraxia by Peter Watts

Echopraxia Book Cover Echopraxia
Firefall #2
Peter Watts
Fiction
Macmillan
August 26, 2014
ePub
384
Prix Aurora Awards

It's the eve of the twenty-second century: a world where the dearly departed send postcards back from Heaven and evangelicals make scientific breakthroughs by speaking in tongues; where genetically engineered vampires solve problems intractable to baseline humans and soldiers come with zombie switches that shut off self-awareness during combat. And it's all under surveillance by an alien presence that refuses to show itself.

Daniel Bruks is a living fossil: a field biologist in a world where biology has turned computational, a cat's-paw used by terrorists to kill thousands. Taking refuge in the Oregon desert, he's turned his back on a humanity that shatters into strange new subspecies with every heartbeat. But he awakens one night to find himself at the center of a storm that will turn all of history inside-out

 

Echopraxia is the third book that I have read of the five Best Novel (English) nominees for the Prix Aurora Awards. I did not purchase the book; it was a part of the award’s reader’s pack.

I will be purchasing a copy of Echopraxia to join our copy of Blindsight on the Husbeast’s office bookshelf.

♥ ♥ ♥

What is the outstanding “trend” in the book? (ie: outer space, aliens, dragons, elves, parallel worlds, etc):
Outer space. Vampires. Aliens. Science. Immersive Realities. Emerging Dystopia.

Is there a Message?:
There might have been. I’m still trying to parse it all.

Any other genres incorporated into the book? Was it done well?:
I think that “outer space” and “vampires” covers that question rather neatly. And yes, it was done rather well. I’m impressed.

Is the “trend” realistic?:
Watts has made his vampires a biological construct — a re-emergence of a prehistoric genetic code that had died off at a time when humanity needed to thrive. He’s also built science into humanity’s base fear of vampires. So….yes?

Was the book easy to get into?:
Since I had just read Blindsight, yes.

Did you have to do any homework (pre-reading) to really understand the book?:
Echopraxia is the second in a series, so yes, I would recommend reading Blindsight first. You can also, apparently, get the books as a collection titled “Firefall” if you don’t want to pick them up separately. Blindsight lays the base groundwork for the universe, and as its main character Siri Keeton and the Theseus mission are integral to the story, you’ll want to read it first.

Was the world believeable?:
Amazingly so.

Were the characters believable?:
Yes. The characters that we fully engage with are very well-rounded, and feel like complete personalities. There don’t appear to be any “throwaway” characters. They all have their place in the story.

What “problems” did you have with the book?:
If anything, my problems with Echopraxia were comprehension-related. I like science fiction. It takes me a while to work out the jargon. Due to the fact that the main character is a biologist, there is a lot of science to work through. It’s also very prevalent when it comes to scene-setting. Even though this book is only set about sixty to seventy years in the future, there are a lot of world changes that require explanation.

My only other criticism is that it felt like the book only started to “wake up” around the midpoint. Even though there seemed to be plenty of action, that’s where I started to feel the most engaged. Your mileage may vary, though…I needed more time to wade through the science, and I had to break my reading into bite-size chunks due to my Real Life schedule 🙂

What did you like about the book?:
I got comfortable with Dan Brüks. I came to imagine an older, curmudgeonly gentleman  scientist and former professor, suddenly caught up in a whirlwind of action and opinion. And Dan has plenty of opinions. Much like Siri Keeton of Blindsight, Dan seems to be in the dark about most of the motivations of his fellow travellers, though unlike Keeton, is prone to intense flashes of insight that take the reader along with him.

You could probably stick Harrison Ford into the role. Or maybe Last-Crusade-era Sean Connery, if you want a little extra “grump” (which I did…oh, goodness, I did). It’s possible that Dan isn’t in that age-range and I totally missed it, but that’s where I put him, and it worked.

The book deals with science, religion, loneliness and intimacy in ways that are subtle and changeable — from the perspective of a person who is very obstinate and stubborn. It puts him into some degree of conflict with just about every other character he meets. It makes Dan’s journey richer in some ways, frustrating in others. He’s given the nickname “Roach” early on in the book, and you never really know how apt it is until the story is complete.

Last Thoughts:
This is definitely one of my award contenders. The book was sometimes challenging (and thus frustrating!) to read, but it was worth the extra brain cells. The only huge drawback is that the story really isn’t complete without reading Blindsight first. You probably could go on without it…but it gives the story much-needed context. Unless you already own the first book, you might want to pick up the aforementioned Firefall.

Watts has also left a few doors open for a third book in the series. There are plenty of loose ends that are strategically untied that would allow a nice, neat trilogy to bring it all together. I’m pretty sure we’d pick it up if/when he does.

Book Review: The Future Falls by Tanya Huff

The Future Falls Book Cover The Future Falls
Gale Women #3
Tanya Huff
Urban Fantasy
DAW Books Inc.
November 2014
PDF
336
Prix Aurora Award Package

When Auntie Catherine warns the family of an approaching asteroid, the Gales scramble to keep humans from going the way of the dinosaurs. Fortunately for the world, they're wielding a guitar and a dragon.

The Gale family can change the world with the charms they cast, which has caused some supernaturally complicated family shenanigans in the past. So when NASA and Doomsday Dan confirm Auntie Catherine's dire prediction, Charlotte "Charlie" Gale turns to the family for help.

But Allie is unavailable because the universe seems determined to have her produce the seventh son of a seventh son of a seventh son of a Gale.  And the Aunties can't help because they're tied to the earth – although they are happy to provide their delicious, trademark pies.  And in the end, all Charlie has is a guitar...

...and Jack. The Dragon Prince, and a Sorcerer.

But Charlie might like Jack just a little too much, and Jack might like Charlie a little too much in return. Actually, between Allie's hormones, the Aunties trying to force her and Jack into ritual, the Courts having way too much fun at the end of days, and Jack's sudden desire to sacrifice himself for the good of the many, Charlie's fairly certain that the asteroid is the least of her problems.

The Gales are going to need more than pie to save the world from an incoming asteroid. But together there isn't anything they can't deal with – except possibly each other.

 

The Future Falls is my second-read book out of the five Prix Aurora Awards nominations for Best Novel. I finished the book in one day of reading. I did not purchase the book; it was included in the voter’s package for the Auroras.

What is the outstanding “trend” in the book? (ie: outer space, aliens, dragons, elves, parallel worlds, etc):
Dragons. Of course it’s dragons.

Is there a Message?:
Nope. Once you get around the world-building, it was a straightforward fantasy romp.

Any other genres incorporated into the book? Was it done well?:
There was quite a bit of romantic angst in it. In fact, I’d say that the Urban Fantasy was pretty much just a vehicle for the overall Romance plot.

Is the “trend” realistic?:
I have problems with romantic dragons. Particularly romantic teenage dragons who pine for women in their 30’s, but mostly just with dragons. The dragons I grew up with were ruthless, cunning, and greedy. Yes, Benedict Cumberbatch made Smaug sound sexy, but Smaug is downright avaricious. I’m pretty sure that by now most people should be aware that one does not meddle with dragons — for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.

Was the book easy to get into?:
Content-wise, yes. Format-wise, no. Stupid PDF files.
I did feel that the book was loooong. But that’s possibly due to the huge amount of backstory that’s built into the novel due to it being part of a series. Could also be due to the fact that I was reading really tiny text on a PDF displayed on a Kobo, and having to manually adjust every bloody page. Every. Bloody. Page.

Did you have to do any homework (pre-reading) to really understand the book?:
It would have helped. The Future Falls is the third in a series. There was a ton of world-building vis-a-vis the family dynamic, which probably would have made more sense if I had started with book #1. Also might have dulled the WTF-factor regarding that same family dynamic.

Was the world believeable?:
In regards to the setting? Definitely. I live in Calgary. I’ve been to, or driven past, most of the locations mentioned. Most of those locations are mentioned casually, without a ton of detail, so it’s not like I could or would nitpick.

I had some problems with the family dynamic.

Were the characters believable?:
Yes and no. I genuinely liked the Main Character, Charlie. She’s a musician, I’m a musician…I get that. She doesn’t want to be forced to stay in one place, wants to keep moving…again, I get that. I moved often enough before I was 10 years old that I’m always wondering when the trucks are coming to pack up my house. The conflict between her wanting to do the right thing to save her family and save the world versus just packing it all in and finding a jazz bar to ride out the coming apocalypse is a good one.

And then we have the dragon. A teenage, lovesick dragon. And suddenly the book isn’t just about “how do we save the earth and keep the family intact”, it’s now also “you have an inappropriate attraction to a much younger man.” Never mind the fact that he, too, is somehow genetically related to the main character. In fact, they’re all related to each other.

What “problems” did you have with the book?:
Many, many problems.

 The age gap between the romantic leads felt like I was watching the lead-in to a movie-of-the-week about the 30-something schoolteacher who takes up with her student because she’s bored with her lifestyle.

  Dragons. Dragons, dragons dragons. Lovesick teenage dragons. I fully admit that I have issues with the Romantic Dragon scenario. It’s possible that’s because every time I do a lookup on fantasy novels lately, there seem to be a ton of them. I have friends who read dragon erotica. Perhaps I’m just dragonned-out. Maybe it’s because the last book I read that featured a dragon (Uprooted by Naomi Novik) was absolutely fabulous. The Dragon in that novel didn’t disappoint. Yes, I had said that if I were the heroine he’d have been chucked out a window, but he was acting like a dragon (even if it was only a title and not his actual species).

  There appears to be a lot of consanguineous sex in this family. The family is one big coven, and there are sex rituals. Often enough that it’s joked that one secondary (or tertiary) character needs some help as the women are wearing him out. There’s a concern for what one of the male characters will do if his mother crosses into his territory. This raised huge WTF flags for me. Big ones. I fully admit that when I was a kid I had a crush on one of my older cousins. Dude cosplays as Batman (now that he’s grown up and can afford it), so my crush was understandable. But that’s all it ever was. An innocent crush. We’ve seen what inbreeding does to a family. It’s not pretty. Why is this a huge plot point in this novel???

♦  The premise that had me eager to read the book became secondary to the romance. It’s like someone saying “okay. The sky is actually falling. Big asteroid coming to a planet near you. By warping time and space to get the one you love into the right age of majority, you’ll pull a Bruce Willis and deus-ex-machina that sucker out of the sky.” And this is why I have serious issues with the blurred line between Romance and Urban Fantasy.

 I had to Google search a musical instrument. This is only a very minor beef, but why choose a relatively obscure instrument as a device when there are so many other accessible instruments? The guy who brings this book for some light reading at the cottage may not have a computer or set of Encyclopaedia Britannica handy.

  There is an unnatural obsession with pie in this family. Even beings outside the family know about the pie. Why is it not being sold by Simple Simon so I can pick one up at the Co-Op???

What did you like about the book?:
I liked the fact that the setting was fairly familiar. As mentioned, I live in Calgary and the book is set mostly in that part of Alberta. I liked the fact that the main character was a musician, so it was easy for me to relate to her that way. I liked the fact that characters didn’t seem to be black-and-white in many of their views, and that  bisexuality was portrayed in a respectable way. I have serious issues with sexuality being seen mainly as gay or straight and the concept of bisexuality as really being one or the other but unwilling to admit it.

I liked the fact that there wasn’t a ton of canoodling. If there was sex, it was happening somewhere off-screen. It’s not that I don’t like sex in my books, it’s just that we’ve already seen my issues with Romance vs Urban Fantasy.

I liked that the author had a sense of humour. There were quite a few good pop-culture related jokes that I found myself giggling along with. It reminded me of a gentler, slightly-less-snarky Dresden Files in that respect.

The thing I loved? That it was an Urban Fantasy written by a Canadian and actually set in Canada. Perhaps I haven’t yet hit the motherlode of Canadian UF, but I find that my home country is often overlooked in favour of the States. Yes, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles are cool settings, but Forever Knight was shot in Toronto. X-Files filmed in the Vancouver area. There are eldritch places in Canada that need more love and beg to be inhabited by pixies and kobolds. Trust me, I’ve been there!
(There’s a set of waterfalls just outside of Yellowknife that spring to mind, as well as rocky pools on the shores of the Ottawa River. Visit those and tell me you don’t feel goosebumps.)

Last thoughts:
There’s a part of me that is curious as to the content of the first two books in the series. Maybe it would have helped me wrap my brain around what was happening in this novel. Maybe not.

I was glad to see Urban Fantasy have a spot on the list. UF is a popular subgenre, and it’s really nice to see magic happening in an everyday setting. I just wish that the magic rules the author used had relied less on bloodlines and more on other things.

So do I think that this book deserves an Aurora? Unfortunately, no. Not at this time. We’ll see what Julie E. Czerneda, Peter Watt and William Gibson have for me.

Book Review: My Real Children by Jo Walton

My Real Children Book Cover My Real Children
Jo Walton
Science Fiction
Tor Books
May 20 2014
ePUB
320
Prix Aurora Award Package

It's 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. "Confused today," read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know-what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don't seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev.

Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War-those were solid things. But after that, did she marry Mark or not? Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat? Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy? And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?

Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history; each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. Jo Walton's My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan's lives...and of how every life means the entire world.

 

My Real Children is the first book out of the five Prix Aurora Awards nominations for Best Novel. I finished it in one day of reading. I did not purchase the book; it was included in the voter’s package for the Auroras.

What is the outstanding “trend” in the book? (ie: outer space, aliens, dragons, elves, parallel worlds, etc):
Alternate Universes — Jo Walton shows us the two lives of the same woman after she makes a major decision in her life.

Is there a Message?:
It sure felt like it to me. I’m a little confused as to what it was, though. I don’t want to give away the book, but it felt like one decision punishes the main character personally while the world they live in thrives, and the other decision gives personal happiness at the expense of the main character’s world going to hell in a handbasket.

Any other genres incorporated into the book? Was it done well?:
Although the book was working with Alternate Realities, it really felt more like Women’s Fiction or Literary Fiction to me. It was a good read, don’t get me wrong, but not something I would generally reach for.

Is the “trend” realistic?:
Only halfway? I’ll get into that later.

Was the book easy to get into?:
Actually, yes. It was very engaging, right from the start. A huge part of that is the storytelling. The other, much much smaller part was the file format. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, ePUB reads very, very nicely on my Kobo.

Did you have to do any homework (pre-reading) to really understand the book?:
Nope. If the book is part of a series, I’m not aware of it.

Was the world believeable?:
Not in my eyes, but again, I’ll get into that below.

Were the characters believable?:
Yes, to a certain extent. It felt like there were characters that had been given a lot of development, and a few characters that were almost caricatured.  Again, I’ll get into that…below.

What “problems” did you have with the book?:
Welcome to “below”.
Problems, I have many.

 I have a hard time believing that the choice of whether or not you “marry the guy” would lead to the sweeping world changes seen in each reality in the book. Neither reality is set in our current timeline (there are references to J.F.K. in the book that support this). The world changes would suppose that *everyone* is making alternate decisions along the way, not just the main character. If I could believe that, I could believe that my decision to take piano lessons directly affected the fall of the Berlin Wall. I guess my faith in Chaos Theory just isn’t that strong.

 A character who is so closeted that he lives his life in misery to the point where he closes himself off to almost every single person in his life. He even goes the extra mile to be excessively verbally and mentally abusive. While I’m sure that these folks exist, the world he lives in is increasingly more and more liberal. I find it hard to believe that he couldn’t come to terms with himself and his liberal family in order to attain some glimmer of personal happiness. It’s like the character just exists to be an asshole and a burden on the main character.

 Some secondary characters feel like placeholders so you know what era it is. The kid who knows computers, the guy who dies from AIDS…just felt a little too stereotypical and shoehorned in for my tastes.

 Everyone turns against you when you’re old.  The children that we’ve seen Patricia raise throughout both timelines seem like a bunch of greedy little gits by the end of the book. And when Patricia is shown to have a medical problem, they get offended and treat it like a moral issue that Granny really can’t remember that X Event occurred. I’ve seen some skeevy family politics in my time, but I couldn’t point to a single redeeming member of either family by the end of the book.

 No real resolution at the end of the book. We get to see the two timelines, but the resolution is…vague. Or maybe I’m just not insightful enough to intuit it.

What did you like about the book?:
Practically seamless world building. It helped that there was a lot of exposition every time you jumped between realities, but the world building was cumulative.

I also liked that the author was able to tell two complete life stories in approximately 320 pages. That’s pretty impressive. You get to know both versions of Patricia fairly well, and explore the world from her eyes in two very different ways.

Last thoughts?:
I got to the end and the only thing that crossed my mind was “Huh. I guess that’s that.”

I was vaguely unsatisfied because the story was…well…kind of a memoir. It was a book of quiet reflection on the lives of two identities who were the same person (if you can follow that). There were peaks and valleys, yes, but nothing that I could discern as a solid story structure. It would be different if Patricia had woken up one day in her nursing home and a (singular) friendly person from both pasts was there to help her on her journey to Her One True Self. We could have the standard hero’s journey of hijinks and misadventure, coupled with the fact that our heroine is in her 90’s and has a memory like a sieve.  Instead, Patricia gets old and reflects on the two pasts that she has solid memories of living before the end of her days. Huh.
Maybe it’s just me, and maybe this is why I don’t generally read women’s fiction. :-/

I’m not saying I didn’t like the book. Just that it was far too easy to pick up the next one and start reading. I definitely recommend it, but I don’t think it’s my Aurora pick.

Reading for the Aurora Awards

I haven’t disappeared! Particularly after the promises of my last post.

I’ve been on vacation the past 2 weeks. You’d think that would mean I had time to do things like write. Unfortunately, no.

I spent my time putting together IKEA, cleaning house, and hiding from the big, hot sun. When it wasn’t raining. I’ve had a lot of headaches this past couple of weeks. I’ve been trying to Instagram pictures where possible.

I did, however, sneak in a little time to read two of the contenders for this year’s Aurora Award for Best Novel. I’m working my way through the nominees so that I can make an informed choice. I’ll post my full opinions when I can figure out a format that adequately explains my reasoning in a positive manner. While saying negative things about $10 bottles of wine is fun, it’s not so nice when it’s a book that you got for free because you’re judging it. Unlike the cheap plonk, the book was someone’s labour of love.

My Real Children by Jo Walton

 

I really can’t say too much about the books yet. I’m still trying to parse them. My Real Children, for instance, seemed really close to the Women’s Fiction genre with Science Fiction elements. I’m not saying it wasn’t a good book, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.

The Future Falls by Tanya Huff

The Future Falls, on the other hand, was Urban Fantasy. Not long after beginning it, I realized it was the third book in a series (that I haven’t read). There was a ton of world-building even though it’s set in Calgary (my current home town!), and took quite a while for the actual plot to get going. Most of the first third of the book was backstory on the characters, their family, and their particular dynamic within the world.

Both books took less than 24 hours for me to read. That is to say, I devoted one day each to reading and not getting distracted by the internet or what the husbeast was watching on TV. As a comparison, My Real Children seemed to go fairly quickly. The Future Falls, while it was closer to my preferred genre, was a bit of a slog. I put it down at one point and felt disappointed that I was only 58% through the book. I’m blaming it on the file type.

Duck and cover! Incoming Rant! (sorta)

If I don’t have a hard copy of a book, I will generally use my Kobo. It’s nothing fancy – the Kobo Touch has been out for years now, and as I haven’t managed to drop it in the bath tub yet, I don’t need a new one. I’m sure it would be nice to have more of a tablet-style e-reader with glossy colour pictures, but the e-paper on the Kobo is wonderfully readable. If it’s dark, you get a book light.

This has caused issues in the past where my book light died for some reason other than battery failure, and telling the staff at Chapters/Indigo that their selection of replacements was piss-poor sparse garnered the response of “just buy a new Kobo with onboard lighting.” I think I understand my parents better now because every time I countered with the fact that my OLD Kobo is still perfectly fine, thank you very much, I just got a blank stare in return.  Just puts me that much closer to yelling at the neighbourhood kids to get off my damn lawn.

At any rate, I chose the Kobo because it handles a large amount of file types, particularly EPUB. I love EPUB. It has no bells and whistles and it’s generally DRM-free. I can read it on my Kobo. I can read it on my computer. I can read it on my phone. I can take it with me wherever. The Kobo will also handle PDF files, but since the screen is about the size of a paperback novel, you have to jump through some hoops to actually read anything. To give the guys at the Aurora Awards their due, they mention that you can use a program to convert the files. Unfortunately, the way that the PDFs are formatted, it affects the way the text flows in the EPUB.

My Real Children was in EPUB format when I got it, and is wonderfully readable. The Future Falls was in PDF, and was horrendous to try reading in EPUB. Part of the slog I mentioned earlier was due to zooming, resizing and repositioning the PDF version every time I turned a page (because it was the more readable version). The Kobo Touch isn’t a high-powered device, and it takes a while to do this. Woe betide I skipped a page somewhere and had to go back after doing all the adjusting.

The Husbeast was impressed I could read the PDF at all as the text was really tiny when I’d zoom to fit a full page of text on the screen. I now know for certain that I need to get my eyes checked as I had to take off my glasses to read comfortably. Hooray myopia?

A Play of Shadow Echopraxia The Peripheral

I have two more books in PDF format that I have to read through: A Play of Shadow by Julie E Czerneda and The Peripheral by William Gibson. Thankfully, Peter Watts included the EPUB for Echopraxia.  I’m going to have to see if I can tweak my conversion program to get rid of the junk text in the EPUBs because I’m really looking forward to the Gibson book and I really want it to be a comfortable read.

Also, because “Best Novel” isn’t the only category that involves novels. There’s a full slate of Young Adult SFF books that I’m going to have to go through. I just figured I’d start with the books that likely have the higher word count.

Blindsight

I’m currently working my way through Blindsight by Peter Watts, as Echopraxia is a followup.  I’ve had Blindsight in the house for years, but have never gotten around to reading it. Shame me if you must, this is definitely a shame-worthy offense as we’ve actually met Peter (through a mutual friend). I’m only 13% into it, but that will change quickly. Having to go back to work is the only thing holding me back from another 1-day marathon read.

If you’re Canadian and think that you can bust a move reading a whole bunch of really good SFF books (and short stories, and…) by October 17th, feel free to join me! Membership is open to all Canadians and landed immigrants. Sorry, but I can’t share the books with you. Membership has its privileges 😉

Oh…and if anyone from the Aurora Awards ever sees this…may I recommend EPUB versions of the reading material next year? They tend to convert really well to the other file-types that people prefer, better than PDF.  Please?  Please with upgrades to appearance and sweetness? 😀

 

Edited 20-Aug-15: Apparently when I’m in a rush to post, I get my English and French words mixed up. So the Aurora Prize (Prix Aurora) has been edited to Aurora Award. #CanadianProblems