Category Archives: scifi

Usurpers in Asimov’s

I just realized I didn’t post about it here — my short story “Usurpers” is in the current month’s Asimov’s, my first sale of a short story to a science fiction market. I love the story and I’m happy to see it in Asimov’s, which I’ve been reading for ages and am huge on.

I was thinking about writing an “author’s commentary” on it, but I don’t want to spoil it — and I’m not sure how much demand there’d be for that anyway.

But yeah, check it out.

Little Brother review

Little Brother, TOR, available at fine retailers or online for free (!), Cory Doctorow.

For starters, I’m reviewing as an adult science-fiction reader. It’s being sold as a young adult book, but genre classification’s always a bit of a joke, and to deal with that point right off the bat: it’s a good read as an adult science-fiction reader.

When I was at Clarion West, I was talking to Patrick Nielsen Hayden, the supremely awesome Tor editor, about free books and some other good stuff and he gave me the pitch for this book, and I said “I’d buy that” after the first sentence. The one sentence pitch is: “It’s a group of teenagers who are in San Francisco when terrorists blow up the Bay Bridge and every chapter revolves around a different type of security vulnerability.”

Here’s the good stuff —
– It’s funny
– It’s fast
– It’s well-paced
– It’s interesting and technically sound
– It’s at times brutal and heart-rending
– It’s entirely too plausible
– There’s an immense amount of really-well done throwaway detail that I just loved. Really, if you read this while paying attention, you’re well-rewarded.

There were times, as I rushed through reading it (and I burned through this one) that I wanted to punch something, or start crying. I felt a lot of the frustration, anger, and terror I’ve felt watching my country in trouble these last few years, and it wasn’t pleasant having those emotions stirred up.

The bad:
– I read the ending and was immensely dissatisfied with the resolution of… some things.
– I’m not sure if this is me versus the YA aspect or what, but I pretty much figured out every character arc and twist in the initial subtle hint. You may see what I mean when you read it. This didn’t at all distract from my enjoyment of it, and it also means you’re ahead of some of the characters sometimes, but… I’m having trouble expressing this well. The characters and their motivations are entirely plausible, but the impact of some developments is lessened when you know with absolute certainty they’re coming and at a certain point in the book you know your predictions are always going to be right. I kept expecting a second level of complexity, if you will, and it never came.
– There are a couple scenes, especially towards the end, that don’t reallllly make sense if you think through what everyone’s doing from their point of view, and that didn’t stop me from reading, but it did detract from the plausibility the book had earned up to those points.
– It is at times a little too obviously exploratory, to the point where a character could in the middle of dialogue, say “And if you want to know more about this and other great topics, head to your local library!” and it wouldn’t be jarring. That… I love my dialogue, and this kind of pained me.

To circle back around, though:

I’m a choosy sci-fi reader, and I read it straight through, enjoyed it immensely. “Rollicking” would be a fine adjective to use. I would want to buy it for my kids, were they teens. I love this kind of openly social, political sci-fi, where we can talk about how technology affects us for the better and worse, how it can free and constrain us, and I loved the book.

I’d say if you’re an adult and you haven’t gotten into Doctorow’s stuff, I might recommend “Eastern Standard Tribe” for the same kind of really-fast-paced excellent writing with a higher reading level, but even that doesn’t have the politics I hunger for. “Little Brother” rocks out.