Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Voting for the Hugos

At almost the last minute, I decided to plunk down the $50 to vote on the Hugo Awards again this year. (There's still time to register, if you do it before midnight tonight, though I'm not sure which time zone. "Supporting" membership is enough to nominate and vote.)

There isn't a book I was quite so squeeful over this year as last*, but without trying too hard I can already think of a few I'd nominate. And I've decided: I'm done with just looking at awards/best-of/top-10 lists and being disgusted at the sheer glut of white guys, or on Popular Author X winning again on a book I felt was weaker than their usual, and grumbling to myself about Some People's Taste. I can vote on this particular award; I am going to.

Also, a little selfishly/cheapskatedly/greedily: the past few years, there's been an e-book package of the final nominees distributed to the Hugo voters, so they can cast informed votes. It generally costs me $50 or more to collect just the novel nominees, anyway, and sometimes the shorter fiction is harder to get my hands on**. So if they do that again this year, I come out ahead. Win!

* But my favorite, Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay, didn't make the short list - didn't even show up on the full breakdown of the ballots, in fact. (Scroll down on that page - the detailed ballot is the PDF link at the bottom.) Either I was mistaken about its eligibility, or only a handful of people nominated it, and it became one of the zillions of books with only like 1 vote, so didn't get listed. Le sigh!

** Although this is at least partially because of my unfamiliarity with the market - I haven't really checked to see which magazines are free, and which my libraries subscribe to, and which anthologies I can get through interlibrary loan, etc.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Terrier, by Tamora Pierce

I have the trick of reading one-handed down; writing, not so much. It's been a rough couple of weeks*, during which I have read more books than I am currently capable of writing about.

The best of these was the Beka Cooper trilogy, by Tamora Pierce. My sister gifted me the first, Terrier, with a note that said she and her daughter were reading and loving the series. I totally agree with them: these books are amazing.

The spirits of the dead ride pigeonback to their final resting place with the Black God; Beka Cooper has the magical Gift of hearing their voices. She joins the city guards, the Dogs; her Gift is very useful in this career. Born into poverty, herself, she's determined to protect the downtrodden folk of the Lower City, who have no one to turn to but the Dogs - and Beka knows from experience that often even the Dogs don't answer.

The trilogy is a set of Beka's journals, written either as memory exercises to improve her writing skills for her official reports, or as a record of a Hunt as it happens, in case she winds up too dead to make that official report. I love Beka's voice: she uses Lower City slang, and Dog slang, that really makes her sound like a lower-class fantasy-world newbie cop. She's confident or enraged or depressed as appropriate for the moment in which she's writing the journal entry.

I love that she makes newbie mistakes, in accordance with her actual newbie status. She goes in thinking she's going to be the hottest hotshot ever, and almost right away screws up, and the journal entry for that day is so terribly, realistically disheartened and disillusioned. She's talented, but she's inexperienced, and her actions reflect that.

I like the romance arcs: in most stories, you meet the love interest right away, and their happily ever after is just waiting to happen. But that's not how it happens in real life; this is one of the ways in which fairy tales sabotage our expectations for reality, so I'm glad to see that model broken here. Beka does not meet her soul mate in the first book, nor in the second. Instead, she dates. She has to deal with lust, bad news boys to avoid, breakups, guilt, death, trust issues. It isn't a simple Girl Meets Boy, with everything working out for the lovebirds in the end; she goes through several boys where it just isn't going to work out. I like that it isn't happily ever after for Beka on the first try.

Additionally, Beka has no interest in having her Dog career cut short by pregnancy, nor in returning to the slums as just another victim instead of as a protector, so she's very careful about who she gets involved with, how close she gets to him, and using precautions when she does decide to hook up with the dude. There's no glossing over the potential consequences of having sex. Beka knows that It Could Happen To Her, so she takes action to make sure it doesn't. I like that this is happening in a young adult book.

The second book (Bloodhound) is about counterfeiting. I would not have expected that to be enthralling, but it was. Who knew?

The third (Mastiff) is about the major Hunt that makes Beka important enough that her descendants are calling her their famous ancestress. I liked that one a lot, too, although the heartbreaking twist at the end is pretty heartbreaking. I, like Beka, would have preferred that certain asses had not set themselves up for needing kicked. One of the characters has a big choice to make, and chooses poorly. It's a much more interesting story for having happened like that, but it's still the sort of thing where you want to yell at the pages, far too late, Don't do it!

* Childbirth sucks. Where's my goddamn uterine replicator, already?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Heads up: temporarily discounted e-book

In case you're interested - there's a limited-time $2.99 sale on the ebook for Leviathan Wakes, which includes an ARC of The Dragon's Path. (Found through the authors' blog - Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.)

Some other titles are on sale too, but these two are the ones I was interested in. I hadn't been able to decide what format to buy them in, so I was procrastinating on buying them at all. At $3 for the both of them, I won't feel so bad if I change my mind after reading them and decide I need a print copy too (someday), for archives or for loaning.

The loan restrictions on e-books are the biggest downside to the format, IMO. I'm cool with not putting shit on the internet for the whole world to download, but forbidding me to loan a good book to my best friend is really demanding too much.