And here below I have included most of the Novellette finalists. I could not get my hands on one of the stories, since it is out of a collection by the author, but oh well. I did link the ones that are found for free online!
“The Only Harmless Great Thing” by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing) 4 out of 5
This was an incredibly engrossing read. Bolander remixes history a bit to connect the Radium Girls and the execution of Topsy the elephant. The prose is extremely poetic and enigmatic. I could not help, but feel pulled along through the elephant’s expansive and deep feelings of oppression, betrayal, and justice. I’m also a sucker of reading non-human POVs.
It’s hard to exactly describe what this little book is, but it encapsulates a lot of what is currently going on in our society and how humanity often sacrifices everything in the name of profit. Overall, this story is one that I will continue thinking about in the coming weeks.
This was outstanding. There’s so much to gush about on this story, but I think what really stands out is the structure & pacing. We have characters who literally are eating dinner for 75% of the story, but I felt as anxious as if I was reading a car chase through most of it. The weaving of baking/pastries through this entire piece was marvelously well done.
It has been awhile since I’ve read something where I want to seek out what else the writer has done.
“An Agent of Utopia” by Andy Duncan (An Agent of Utopia)
I have not been able to get my hands on this collection as of yet, but I intend to post my review of it eventually!
The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births by José Pablo Iriarte (Lightspeed 1/18) 3 out of 5
On it’s face, this story has a lot of promise as far as teenager who has lived multiple lives and can remember them. They’ve been both a woman and a boy, so the use of gender doesn’t have any real meaning to them and this is reflected in James or Jamie’s ambiguous nickname and posturing. The story starts off rather curious with Jamie living close to where their past life had ended(in murder) and with the murderer now released from jail coming to live in their neighborhood.
There was a lot here that was good, since I think Iriarte’s prose is good, but the story’s narrative kind of collapsed towards the end and the plot seemed to make things “too easy” where it fit together almost like a puzzle. All too clean. The ending was solid enough though.
The Rule of Three by Lawrence M. Schoen (Future Science Fiction Digest 12/18) 2 out of 5
This story took a relatively new spin on the first contact trope, but ends up collapsing under a certain amount of f back to nature messaging, whether this was intentional or not, the alien’s remarks to the main character about “unlife” as relating to “manufactured goods” is a little on the nose. The main character is more or less a blank emotionless slate, who ends up “telling” the reader rather than “showing” how they feel. I was unmoved by the end, which is not how I believe I should feel.
Schoen has a small aside at the end of this story, of how this story was inspired by a trip he and a few other writers took, sponsored by the Future Affairs Admin. This is all well and good, but I wish this story had a little more “umph” to it. I’ve read Schoen before and I have even reviewed his novel Barsk on this site, but I don’t remember his prose being this stiff and limited in scope.
Messenger by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi (Expanding Universe, Volume 4) 2 out of 5
This one was a fast-paced, brief story of loss, war, and identity. Following the tried and true, “hostile invading aliens” arc, we follow a man who has lost his family in the initial contact from India and becomes a super-solider, a mech, in order to combat them. Yet, as the war grinds on a new threat arises, but it’s one that can’t be combated with guns and fire. This is a mental game, de-syncing, and soon it’s a race against the clock before all is lost.
All in all this story was alright, a rather gun and run story with an emotional heart that I couldn’t exactly connect with, even though it centers on grief and sorrow. The action scenes are fun and it’s fun blasting in super powered robot armor, and the story has a complete arc, but there should have just been a little more to commit to in order to read the story.