Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Hugo Short Story Nominees

The nominees:
Movement: A Short Story About Autism in the Future by Nancy Fulda
The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu
The Homecoming by Mike Resnick
The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
The Shadow War of the Night Dragons Book One Of The Dead City by John Scalzi

Movement is not really a sci-fi or fantasy story. It's a day in the mind of an autistic girl, onto which the author has tacked a lame sci-fi hook (there is a procedure which "cures" autism) and she gives the girl's brother some kind of futuristic iPod gadget. Neither of these things are in the least necessary for the story. It is an attempt to explain what may go on inside the mind of one autistic girl, well written and fascinating, but I don't think it belongs in the Hugo nominee list.

Cartographer Wasps is charmingly written, and starts with the premise that in a certain rural village somewhere in China, the wasps are world class cartographers, and if you break open their nests you will find highly detailed miniature maps of the area. The rest of the story tells what happens when the townspeople discover this, and start collecting the nests, and what the wasps did in response. And that's where the author lost me. Maybe not lost, but mislaid. The last 2/3 of the story may have been an allegory for current Chinese politics.

Homecoming will be getting my vote. Beautifully written, the small cast of characters are substantial, and by the end of the story we know them better and admire them all in their own way. The story begins with a long-lost son returning home to visit his mother, who is in the final stages of Alzheimer's. His father has basically disowned him for having major reconstructive surgery which made him not look human, and moving to another planet. The way the son talks with his mother is extremely moving. There were real tears for me at the ending.

 Paper Menagerie would have been a close second except for the self-serving ending. A Connecticut Yankee marries a mail order bride from Hong Kong, who makes for their son the Chinese version of origami animals, except when she blows into them they come to life. The first 2/3 of the story has a playful mood, but then the son turns on his mother, wanting her to become American. The story is told in the voice of the son, but I found myself seriously disliking him. I suppose that was the point.

Shadow War was a chore for me to read. I think the author was so caught up in playing with sounds that he lost track of his audience. The first paragraph is a single sentence. It takes up half the page. The last sentence in the story is a teaser for the next story, and is straight out of a Bulwer-Lytton Award -winning work.
Tags: reading, review

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