I’ve had a fractured year of reading, so far. Started lots of anthologies, and barely finished any. The only books I have finished are short, or intended for a YA audience. Still, it’s officially After Swancon, and time for me to blog my favourites so far. It’s a bit of a random mix!
“The Invasion of Venus,” Stephen Baxter, Engineering Infinity – a surprisingly human, small scale and gentle story from an author I’ve always associated with the more intimidating end of Hard Science Fiction. Aliens invade Venus, and the people of Earth have to deal with the fact that the fallout. Beautifully done.
Aliette de Bodard, “Shipbirth,” Asimov’s February – A really interesting piece circling themes of childbirth and genderswaps, on an Aztec spaceship. I found this one oddly alienating to read at first, and was embarrassed to realise that this was mostly due to the unfamiliar letter combinations in the Aztec names. It required some extra concentration to overcome this issue, but I found the story completely worth the effort. The protagonist is strange but compelling and the setting quite vivid and unusual.
“Things to Know about being Dead,” Genevieve Valentine, Teeth – a vivid story with a strong teenage voice. I especially liked the use of some of the less popular vampire mythological details, like an obsession with counting, and Asian folklore. Also a realistic (if icky) portrayal of the whole drinking blood thing.
“The Painted Girl,” Sue Isle, Nightsiders (Twelfth Planet Press) – a powerful post-apocalyptic story with a very Australian voice, about a girl on the verge of womanhood who is about to find herself redundant to the person she thinks is her mother, and has to find a new life for herself in a desert community. This piece is raw and vivid, a good introduction to Isle’s mini-collection of stories.
“Nation of the Night,” Sue Isle, Nightsiders (Twelfth Planet Press) – I enjoyed this whole collection, but this story is absolutely the star piece. In a world where climate change has had its inevitable effect, and Perth has been abandoned by most of its population (the survivors only come out at night, hence the titles of the story and book) life still goes on – and one gutsy teenager is determined to get the gender reassignment surgery he needs, even if it means travelling across a post-apocalyptic Australia to do so. Ash is a compelling protagonist, and the dystopian future Isle presents is complex and fascinating: the Eastern states may have the infrastructure and hospital facilities that the West lacks, but is overcrowded, suffering from their own climate change woes, and far from a safe haven to anyone who wasn’t born there. There are so many interesting, crunchy ideas packed into this story, and I got very attached to Ash and his story.
“The Schoolteacher’s Tale,” by Sue Isle, the last story in the Nightsiders collection, chooses to focus on a character mentioned in the previous tales: a woman who has served the Nightsider community as school teacher for many decades, and is the oldest surviving member of their group. Isle portrays an old female protagonist with the same deftness with which she slipped into the heads of her younger characters from the early stories, and this different perspective on what the Nightsiders have lost and what they face in their future gives an extra weight to the collection as a whole.