Reminder – Last week for Aurora Voting

A friendly reminder to those eligible that the voting for the Aurora Awards closes this Saturday. If you’re a member of the CSFFA and haven’t voted yet, click on this link to access the ballot. Voting for the awards is done based on ranking, and voters can abstain from voting in some categories if they’d like.

If you’re in need of a refresher before voting, below is a list of all of the nominees for Best Novel, and their reviews on Northern Tomorrows:

My Real Children by Jo Walton
The Peripheral by William Gibson
The Future Falls by Tanya Huff
Echopraxia by Peter Watts
A Play of Shadow by Julie Czernada

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The Peripheral, by William Gibson

peripheral

The Peripheral, by William Gibson

Published October 2014 by GP Putnam’s Sons

Things have been rough for Flynne and Burton since the end of the war. Fortunately, Burton gets benefits from the VA, so he and his sister can still make ends meet, but it hasn’t been easy for them. So when what seems like a simple job comes up – fly a drone around in the beta for some new game – it seems like a perfect opportunity. What they don’t realize, though, is that playing this “game” is going to suck them into a world of time travel, alternate realities, and remote-piloted automatons.

At its core, The Peripheral is classic Gibson – as always, he approaches sci-fi and technology from an immersive, street level perspective. There’s no hand-holding for the reader, and Gibson discusses concepts like haptic feedback, automata, and nanotechnology with the understanding that the audience will already be familiar with them. In the hands of a less competent author, this might become confusing, but Gibson tells his story well enough that the audience remains intrigued until they’ve become fully familiar with them. It’s not necessarily an easy novel to get into from page one, but the payoff is absolutely there for readers that stick with it.

The future Gibson presents in The Peripheral is a terrifying dystopia, but a fascinating one as well. Climate change and other disasters have decimated the global population, with only the wealthiest and most corrupt surviving it. At the same time, it doesn’t really present as a dystopia for those living in it, which creates a unique moral tension when reading the scenes set in that time period. History might be written by the victors, but the future is determined by them.

While Gibson is often known as being a concept-driven author, one of the most enjoyable aspects of The Peripheral is the character-driven focus. Many readers have commented on how engaging of a protagonist Flynne is, and Netherton provides a fun straight-man to her while being an intriguing, empathetic character in his own right.

Smart, challenging, and engaging, The Peripheral is a wonderfully put-together piece of science fiction.

A Play of Shadow

PlayOfShadows

A Play of Shadow, by Julie E Czernada

Published November 2014 by DAW

A Play of Shadow continues the story of Marrowdell that began in A Turn of Light, Czerneda’s last work. In it, we see Jenn and Bannan’s relationship continue to develop, until some unexpected visitors force them to go on an unexpected journey to help rescue Bannan’s sister from peril.

One of the most intriguing things about the first part of this series was how it inverted the story of the hero’s journey through the magical world that Czerneda established. Central to that was the fact that Jenn couldn’t leave the village of Marrowdell. Her ability to now do so is explained neatly enough, but it initially feels like a difficult idea to accept. It’s a testament to Czerneda’s ability that in the opening act she manages to convince the reader that not only is the journey possible, but that it’s one that Jenn must take.

The characters remain a strong selling point for the book – Jenn and Bannan remain their noble, likeable selves, and the new additions of Bannan’s family provide an interesting context to help us better understand the man himself. The other Marrowdell residents take more of a backseat this time around, but they’re almost all still there and remain their naive-yet-complex selves.

One particularly interesting part of the text is the role that mirrors and reflections play throughout it. This is explicitly true in the plot, with a magic mirror playing a role at one part, but also in the contrasting images of Marrowdell and Channen on opposing sides of the Verge. It will be interesting to see how this affects any later parts of the story – the two books published so far work wonderfully as counterparts to each other, and it seems like there would be little i f any space for another book to fit.

Echopraxia, by Peter Watts

Echopraxia, by Peter Wattsechopraxia_FC

Published August, 2014 by Tor Books

Horror and science fiction have a long history beside each other – one that stretches back as far Mary Shelley defining the modern science fiction novel with her Frankenstein. Often, though, when the two genres mix the horror is formed from taking the science fiction a step too far – we make contact with aliens, but they’re parasites that burst through your chest, or we perfect cloning technology, and create dinosaurs that kill us all. In Echopraxia Peter Watts manages to merge these two worlds in a very different manner, instead taking his usual penchant for hard, fact based science fiction and trying to understand concepts such as vampires, zombies, and alien blobs through that lens.

Continue reading “Echopraxia, by Peter Watts”

My Real Children

My Real Children by Jo Walton

Published May 2014 by Tor BooksMyRealChildren_Jo-Walton

My Real Children is the story of Patricia Cowan, a British woman that in 2015 is a patient in an old folks’ home, suffering from dementia and spending her days “very confused” in the words of her nurses. We soon come to learn the reason for Patricia’s confusion – she’s experiencing two different sets of memories. In one set, she married Mark, her university paramour, and settled down in the life of a housewife. In the other, she ended the relationship with Mark, embarking on a career as a teacher that eventually leads her to Beatrice, a scientist and fellow educator.

My Real Children is marketed as a story of alternate timelines and history, and it is, but on a more essential level it’s a story of the pursuit of a meaningful life, and the wildly variant forms that that pursuit might take. In both timelines there is a background of international events and news, with the characters’ lives intertwining and influenced by them, but those events are ultimately unimportant to the story – this is a story very clearly centered on Patricia’s life.

Alternate history novels often fall into a simple dialectic of presenting either a utopia or dystopia, presented to contrast against elements of our own society. Walton manages to avoid that with this work, instead presenting two different realities that are significantly different from ours. In both timelines, we see moments of joy and heartbreak; a strong reminder that life is made up both, and often in equal measures. The lives that both versions of Patricia live are wildly different from each other, but in each one we see the same core of a character: a woman of quiet dignity and grace, who does her best to live a meaningful life.

This novel was an incredible work of literature. Walton creates characters that live and breathe beyond the page, and her prose is subtly beautiful and poetic. Patricia’s lives are filled with easily recognizable moments of everyday life, which makes them all the more tragic as we experience them along with her. Throughout Patricia’s lives, Walton creates emotional connections that will stay with the reader long after they’ve turned the last page.

Aurora Month

The Aurora Awards, Canada’s annual awards for excellence in science fiction and fantasy, are being awarded at SFContario 6 / Canvention 35 on the weekend of November 20-22, 2015. In preparation for the Awards, for the next five weeks Northern Tomorrows will be publishing on a weekly schedule, with a special look at all of the nominees for Best Novel (English).

People interested in voting for the Auroras can do so by signing up for a membership with the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association. Voting is currently opening, and will continue until October 17, 2015. A full list of all the nominees, in all categories, can be seen here.

Prix Aurora nominees announced

This week, nominees for the 2015 Prix Aurora for excellence in science fiction and fantasy literature were announced. Voting for the awards begins June 1 and ends closes October 17, with the awards being presented at SFContario 2015 (November 22, 2015)/

A full list of nominees is available at http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/aurora-awards/aurora-nominees/. During September, Northern Tomorrows will be reviewing all 5 of the Best Novel nominees in preparation for the end of the voting period.