In an effort to clear my backlog of books I’ve read but not reviewed, I’m posting short review roundups. I already wrote a post on the best of the 2015 books I read that didn’t get Hugo nominations. Today’s post is on the 2014 Hugo Awards finalists that I read but didn’t review.
The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia
I was introduced to Larry Correia when Warbound was nominated for a Hugo in 2014. And I’m damned glad for it. In The Grimnoir Chronicles, it’s the 1930s and magic has returned to the world. With Germany out of the picture—the Germans were a little jumpy about Hitler after the zombies during WWI—Imperial Japan plays the heavy (and the horrors of Imperial Japan have been underrepresented). It’s got a bruising ex-con and a feisty Okie orphan for the leads, airships that make sense (there are magic users that can control the weather and fire, and Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin himself was a “Cog”), noir sensibilities, inventive worldbuilding and magic, killer actions scenes, and lots and lots of guns.
The Tao Series by Wes Chu
I have a review up of Chu’s Tao novella The Days of Tao, but the main Tao trilogy is better and a better entry point. Roen Tan was just an overweight IT guy until he was in the wrong place at the wrong time (proof positive you should devote as much effort as possible when in Chicago to avoiding Michigan Avenue) and gets caught up in a clandestine conflict between warring alien factions. Who have been stranded on earth for tens of thousands of years, who can only survive on earth living inside humans or other animals (communicating basically telepathically), and who have inhabited most of the great leaders of history. It’s a solid spy thriller series that is often very funny (especially The Lives of Tao) and has a great sci fi twist.
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
Wizards in pinstripes using magic to handle the bankruptcy of a god? This should be right up my alley. And, to a large extent, it is. And it’s obviously brilliant, but I sometimes found myself asking what the point was. Regardless, this is a really inventive, well written world that I need to revisit.
Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross
I had been wanting to read Stross forever. I wound up walking away from Saturn’s Children so nonplussed I never made it to the actual Hugo finalist Neptune’s Brood. Stross, like Gladstone, is obviously brilliant, but the issues with Saturn’s Children are much greater than those of Three Parts Dead, primarily a plot that is borderline incoherent. Which is too bad, because Stross’s vision of a post-humanity solar system populated by our android descendants is packed full of ain’t-it-cool hard sci fi.