Science Fiction Awards Watch has listed the winners of the Nebula Award, who were announced at an awards ceremony last night. The winners are as follows:

Novel

  • Powers – Ursula K. Le Guin (Harcourt, Sep07)

Novella

  • “The Spacetime Pool” – Catherine Asaro (Analog, Mar08)

Novelette

  • “Pride and Prometheus” – John Kessel (F&SF, Jan08)

Short Story

  • “Trophy Wives” – Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Fellowship Fantastic, ed. Greenberg and Hughes, Daw Jan08)

Script

  • WALL-E” Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter (Walt Disney June 2008)

Andre Norton Award

  • Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room) – Ysabeau S. Wilce (Harcourt, Sep08)

Congratulations to the winners! I was especially glad to see Catherine Asaro on the list and I found this excellent interview with her on the Nebula Awards website.

Wicked Lovely
by Melissa Marr
352pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 3.5/10
Amazon Rating: 3.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.94/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.87/5

Wicked Lovely is a YA urban fantasy debut novel by Melissa Marr, who is now a New York Times bestselling author. Currently, Marr has two other books that take place in this world, Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity. Fragile Eternity, the direct sequel to Wicked Lovely, was just released on April 21.

Most humans do not realize faeries exist and spend time in the mortal realm, but seventeen-year-old Aislinn has always been able to see faeries just like her mother and grandmother. Aislinn’s grandmother has taught her that she must never reveal that she can see the faeries by staring at them, talking to them, or attracting their attention in any way. However, Aislinn cannot help it when she captures the eye of Keenan, the Summer King, who has spent centuries searching for the Summer Queen and thinks Aislinn just might be the one to fill this role.

Only by finding the Summer Queen can the rule of Keenan’s mother, the frosty Winter Queen, end. Every time Keenan selects a girl as a prospective queen, she is forced to make a choice – either become part of a harem of his “Summer Girls” or take the test to determine if she is indeed his Summer Queen. If the girl does not pass the test, she is forced to bear the chill of the Winter Queen until another girl comes along and fails the test – and she must tell the new girl not to trust Keenan even though this girl’s failure could be her salvation.

As Aislinn is pursued by Keenan, it threatens her budding relationship with her old friend Seth, who has been in love with her for a long time. Will she succumb to the charms of the Summer King and leave Seth behind?


Once in a while one of those books comes along that on the surface really sounds like something you would like, but for some reason (or several reasons) it just doesn’t work for you. Maybe it’s just not what you’re in the mood for or maybe it just doesn’t click with your personal taste. Wicked Lovely was one of those books for me. At first, I thought maybe it was just because it was written for younger readers but I’ve read plenty of books intended for young adults or even younger audiences that I’ve enjoyed – the works of Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones’s Dogsbody and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book all come to mind. I suppose it just wasn’t my type of book.

After hearing so many good things about this book, I sought it out at my local Borders and read the two page prologue. The description of a girl failing the test for Summer Queen very much intrigued me and I wanted to know more about Keenan, his quest to find the Summer Queen, and why he was so desperately trying to find her (the dazzling cover may have had some influence as well). It sounded disturbing, but the rest of the book never lived up to that expectation for me. I did find it creepy that Keenan was going around spying on girls and convincing them to love him (especially when at least some of them were only teenagers) and that some of those girls ended up as part of his harem, but it never really seemed all that dark to me. Perhaps that was at least partially because I never cared at all about any of the characters other than Donia at times so nothing that happened ever impacted me on an emotional level.

The characters did not have much depth – most of them had one or two personality traits and other than that seemed fairly interchangeable. The two main human characters, Seth and Aislinn, seemed far too perfect. Seth used to sleep with every girl he could find but now he’s devoted to Aislinn and has eyes only for her. There’s no conflict there – he just seems to exist to dote on her and please her, which makes him very dull to read about. Aislinn is beautiful, smart, and has a special ability that sets her apart from others. She is pursued by Seth, who is of course gorgeous, and Keenan, who is also gorgeous in an other-worldly way. There are a couple of instances where I found myself cheering her on for her strength and feistiness, but for the most part, she seemed very bland.

The fae tended to be more interesting but not enough to make up for the rest of the lackluster cast. Keenan’s actions were motivated by his desire to do what was best for his people by overthrowing his wicked mother, which actually made him seem a little too good and human for a corrupt fae to me. (I love to read about the more amoral fae that seem truly inhuman, such as those in Elizabeth Bear’s Promethean Age series.) The only character I ever felt sympathy for was the current Winter Girl, Donia, who truly loved the Summer King but now held herself apart from him after being hurt by his pursuit of many other girls throughout the years. The Summer Queen was a disappointing and unconvincing villain – she was very evil for evil’s sake and she never scared me. In fact, she often seemed rather silly and over-the-top.

One quibble I had with this book was that I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief over the matter of Aislinn hiding her ability to see faeries for all those years. The very first chapter shows Aislinn hanging out in a pool hall having fun until the fae come in. She gets this look on her face that the humans around her recognize as meaning she’s going to leave. They don’t know why she looks that way, but they’ve seen it often enough to know what it means. Yet the faeries don’t get suspicious when she suddenly loses concentration on the game she’s playing, consciously does not look in their direction, and leaves every time they show up? I suppose they’re used to remaining unseen and maybe they are too busy reveling to notice this pattern.

The first 80 pages or so were very difficult for me to get through, but it was a short book so I persevered. It did get better after that, but it still never connected with me personally so I mostly read it so I could cross it off the to-read list and move on to something else. I do seem to be in the minority for not loving this book so be sure to check out some of the other reviews below.

Wicked Lovely had a couple of good moments, but mostly it did not jive with my personal taste. I will not be reading the rest of the series.

3.5/10

Other Reviews:

For over a year now I’ve managed to review every single speculative fiction book I’ve read. I was hoping to continue this trend but have been behind ever since the holiday season. Then I was close to getting caught up last month before I got sick for a couple of weeks. I’ve finally given up hope on getting all those reviews in so I’m going to compromise by writing condensed, more casual (but hopefully still somewhat informative) reviews of the two books from last month that I still haven’t discussed here.

The first of these is last month’s Blogger Book Club selection, Parable of the Sower. Unfortunately, the week of the Book Club occurred on the first of the two weeks I was sick, so I didn’t write it while it was going on. The second book is one that John wanted me to read, an alternative history called The Two Georges.


Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower is a near-future dystopian novel by well-known science fiction writer Octavia Butler. It has one sequel Parable of the Talents but no cliff-hanger ending.

The future Butler describes is very grim. Resources are scarce, including water. Teenager Lauren lives in a gated community that she rarely leaves since most people would just as soon rob and kill you as look at you. Although many choose to believe they are safe within their walls, Lauren believes it is inevitable that one day the gates will be forced down and those who survive will be forced to leave.

Parable of the Sower is a slower paced book that touches on issues of social inequality and human nature. The entire story is told through Lauren’s journal, which is a pleasure to read. I very much liked Lauren, a young woman who embodies the word survivor. Instead of refusing to live in ignorance about the state of society, she attempts to educate others and keeps a survival kit for the day she is forced out of her safety net. Although she struggles with her hyperempathy syndrome that causes her physical pain when she injures another, she learns to defend herself and is willing to take any measure necessary to keep herself alive in this dreary world. She’s also very reflective and develops her own religious worldview in which God is not the god of her Baptist minister father but is change – a very realistic view for a girl who can only have hope if the world she knows does not remain stagnant. Throughout her journal, Lauren develops her religion, called Earthseed, and decides their destiny is to take root among the stars.

At times it was a little slow, but overall, I enjoyed Parable of the Sower very much for its thoughtfulness and strong main character.

8/10

The Two Georges

The Two Georges by Harry Turtledove and Richard Dreyfuss explores a world in which the United States never gained its independence from England and the numerous groups dedicated to freedom from Great Britain are unpatriotic and treasonous. This is not the only difference between reality and the projected reality – it also exists in a steampunk setting complete with airships. The main story is the mystery of a stolen national symbol, a painting called The Two Georges that depicts the unity of George Washington and King George.

The first 100 pages were fairly interesting, the next 300 pages gave me a hard time, and the last 200 pages were much easier to read again. I ended up taking a break once or twice during that 300-page middle section because it was just so bloated. There was a lot of traveling and a lot of eating. Seriously, the author described almost every single meal the main characters ate during that section – where they were eating, what they were eating and drinking, whether or not what they were eating was good, and on a couple of occasions, whether or not anyone was offended by what someone else ordered because it was disrespectual to his/her ethnic group. One page I read had them eating at the top of the page and then eating again at the bottom of the page. Needless to say, I often ended up very hungry while reading this novel.

John told me that this book was very wordy and he had to skim a lot of the details to enjoy it. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at skimming and read every word because I’m afraid I’ll miss something important amidst all the descriptions of breakfast.

The characters were somewhat standard – the detective, his sidekick, and a token spunky woman who insisted on investigating the matter after being told not to. You know the type – the type who causes trouble with her recklessness and disobedience to orders. However, she was not an unintelligent ditz and did actually end up having quite a few valuable insights that earned her respect. Of course, the lead character fell in love with her. Shocking turn of events, I know.

The Two Georges could have been about half as long and the characters were rather generic, but I did enjoy the crime in the beginning, the resolution, and the setting.

5/10

[Editor John's Note: Yeah, I liked this book quite a bit, but it was after I had read a lot of Turtledove and developed a resistance to his wandering around in detail. I still maintain that it's an enjoyable read if you allow yourself to skim over some parts and read for concept rather than specific detail...I certainly wouldn't have wanted to finish the book if I had read every word of it. All of his work is like that, I think...but I also think that about Tolkien, so, what do I know.]

[Kristen's Note: Odd, I never had that problem with either Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit - never had any desire at all to skim it. Maybe I was more patient in my younger years.]


Next will be a return to regular review format with the last book I have up for review, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. My plan is to work on that tomorrow because I am sure it will not be long before I finish The Last Hawk by Catherine Asaro because I am absolutely loving it.

The latest Mind Meld over at SF Signal asks the question: Who are the best female writers in science fiction and/or fantasy? Head on over to read what several authors, publishers, and bloggers (including myself) had to say on the subject.

Who are your favorite female authors who write science fiction and/or fantasy? There are so many I enjoy and so many yet to discover…

Apr
21
2009

Corambis
by Sarah Monette
432pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 8.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.44/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.33/5

Corambis is the fourth and final book in Sarah Monette’s character-driven fantasy series, The Doctrine of Labyrinth. The first three books are Melusine, The Virtu, and The Mirador, respectively, and should definitely be read in that order. This is one of my favorite series of all time so Corambis was the 2009 release I was most looking forward to. While I enjoyed Corambis very much and thought it a satisfying end to the series, it did not linger with me after I finished reading it to the same extent as the first three books. The quality of writing and characterization were still excellent, so I think this one just didn’t have as many elements that appeal to me personally as the rest of the series.

For this particular novel, I have decided to skip a plot summary because I cannot think of a way of writing even a short one with any substance that does not give away too much. This is a book largely about one character’s internal journey and not a whole lot happens in the part of the novel that I consider early enough not to be part of spoiler territory. Also, some of what does happen is not anything I would want to know before reading this book. This is the fourth book in a series so I imagine most people who would be reading this one have read enough to know what the story is about and whether or not they would like to read this one anyway.

Like The Mirador before it, Corambis is told from the viewpoint of both Felix and Mildmay plus one new perspective, belonging to a warrior involved in a rebellion by the name of Kay. Unlike the character Mehitabel, who narrated part of The Mirador, Kay is a completely new character who is never introduced in the series until his narration begins on page one of Corambis. Although I understand the inclusion of some new perspectives, I still found myself impatient to read about Mildmay and Felix since they have the strongest voices and I became very attached to both of them in the first two books. However, I did find Kay to be a lot more interesting than Mehitabel, particularly since he did seem more important.

Unfortunately for those who despise Felix, this is his story. Of course, he is the central character to the series, but The Mirador did have more scenes about Mildmay and he was the one to undergo some major development in that novel. However, Felix does grow a lot as a person in Corambis. He still has his issues and past torments and he’s still no angel but he’s not a stagnant character either. Personally, Mildmay is my favorite but I still love Felix, too, and was disappointed that his sections in the previous book were overwhelmed by more space dedicated to Mehitabel and Mildmay (mostly Mehitabel). Felix gets plenty of time in this book but this time Mildmay’s narratives are few and far between. Part of the reason this installment was not as compelling to me as the others was the lack of Mildmay. Felix is much more serious in his thoughts, and Mildmay’s straightforward way of telling it like it is is very refreshing and adds some humor. Plus Mildmay’s personality is so similar to mine that I have more empathy for him than any other character in fiction and could very much relate to him. Since he was not present as much, I did not have those moments where I could have sworn Mildmay was just like I would have been were I an assassin/kept thief growing up in the streets of Melusine.

Overall, Corambis was not as dark as the other novels in the series (and I’m sure you all know by now that I have a masochistic streak when it comes to my reading – the darker, the better). There were definitely still parts that qualified as plenty dark, but it seemed to have less of that tone overall.

Other than Felix and Mildmay, none of the characters from Melusine were in this book. I was not particularly attached to any of the minor characters, but I did miss the petty wizards of the Mirador and the city itself. Corambis was an interesting setting, but it didn’t have the same flair as Melusine for me. It was a more stifling atmosphere.

In spite of the fact that I didn’t have the urge to devote a shrine to this book, I still loved reading about Mildmay and Felix and the way they contrast each other. Felix is so educated and book smart but completely lacking in common sense. Mildmay lacks formal education and constantly annoys Felix with his bad grammar but tends to make all the intelligent observations and connections. His comments and way of thinking about the world around him often made me stop and snicker. As always, Monette excelled at writing the perspectives of both characters and making me care about them.

Although my thoughts didn’t return to it as often as I expected after reading the last sentence, Corambis was well worth reading for more on Felix and Mildmay, two of my favorite characters ever created. It still makes me sad to think this is the last new novel I’ll read about them.

8.5/10

Other reviews of Corambis:

Other reviews of books in The Doctrine of Labyrinth series:

So I finished Corambis last night (or rather, in the wee hours of the morning since it was technically sometime after 4 AM) and finally headed over to check out the Q&A Sarah Monette has running on her blog. I’d been waiting to finish the book first in case there were spoilers, but it seems I did not need to worry since she hid any question containing anything that could be considered a spoiler, even if it was a minor event or something that happened on page 2. Of course, it’s more fun to be able to read all the questions and answers without fear of spoiling the story, but if you’re curious about it don’t avoid it entirely for fear of spoilers. (Questions pertaining to The Mirador are also hidden unless you decide to click the link and read it.)

Not all the questions pertain to The Doctrine of Labyrinth series although the vast majority of them do. I found it very interesting and am amazed by the amount of thought and detail Monette put into this series. It’s very unfortunate that her writing contract was not picked up again since she is a very talented author.

Question for anyone familiar with the Cat series by Joan Vinge: Does each book in the series work as a stand alone? Quite a while ago, John picked up Dreamfall at a bargain book sale but that is the only one we have and happens to be the last book in the trilogy. After learning that the main character from that series was part of the inspiration for Mildmay, I really want to read it, though.

Another question (for anyone who has read The Bone Key): How is it? This is now the only book I have not read by Monette, including A Companion to Wolves which she cowrote with Elizabeth Bear, and I’m a little hesitant to pick it up since I’m not a huge fan of short stories. But it’s by Sarah Monette and it does sound rather intriguing so I’m torn but leaning toward “It’s by Sarah Monette, just read it already!”

Sometime over the next week or so, I’ll be working on a review of Corambis. For now, I still need to think about it some more because, honestly, I didn’t LOVE it the same way I did the first three books and I can’t figure out why. It was still good; I just didn’t have the same emotional connection with it as I did the other books in the series. The quality of writing and characterization is still very high so I’m not completely sure why other than that it must be an issue with my personal taste. Maybe it’s just because it wasn’t as dark (which isn’t to say it was not at all dark but it didn’t seem as dark as the other books in the series). I’ll have to think about that one a little more…