Thursday, July 4, 2013

Hugo 2103 Reviews: Short Stories

Only three short stories were nominated this year, due to the minimum vote threshold.
  • “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
  • “Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  • “Mono no Aware”, Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)

I thought it was an interesting concept and story, though I found it hard to get into initially.  Many reviews mentions parallels with Google Glass and smart phones and what-not now, and it's easy to see why.  One of the reasons I found it hard to get into is also one of the neatest tricks about the story, writing-wise: the use of second-person present tense.  It is jarring, and used for good effect to present everything from the POV of someone so fully immersed with their computerized helper that they can't do anything for themselves anymore.  Possibly a warning, and possibly a promise of what may come.

Mantis Wives
This made me nauseous.  I can say it was well written, because it drew me in enough to have that effect, but in the end I was left wishing I hadn't read it.  As art, it is worthy of the nomination, but as for my taste, I didn't care for it at all.

Mono no Aware
A nice story that sets up a bit of a mystery, with it's twin timelines, and telegraphs the answer to the mystery before setting up the final problem in the future timeline, and resolving it.  I have seen criticism that the ending is too predictable, and it is somewhat, but it is still quite well written and the how of getting to the ending is still very pleasant.  I especially liked the way the MC's fading awareness and bits of delusion were woven in near the end, as he struggled to stay awake for the 36 hours (I think?) it was going to take him to travel.

My Opinion
As if this whole thing isn't my opinions, but ranking these stories against each other is kind of difficult for me.  I will say again that the art and technique of "Mantis Wives" was top-notch, but due to my own personal reaction to it, I'll be ranking it third when it comes to the voting.  "Mono no Aware" and "Immersion" are also both solid entries, and in my mind nearly equivalent in their impact on me.  The second-person present-tense sections of "Immersion" almost tip the scales it's way, but in the end I go with "Mono no Aware" as being a more accessible, and therefore slightly more enjoyable to me, story, and plan on ranking it first in the vote.

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