Nebula Awards OT

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Wed May 15 00:42:38 EDT 2002

On Wed, 15 May 2002 00:48:49 +0100 (BST), lazy lousy lizzie jane wrote:

>I was just looking at the Nebula nominees; the winner is Quantum Rose by
>Catherine Asaro, and I was wondering if anyone had read it.  The nominees
>can be viewed at

I haven't read _Quantum Rose_, but I've read her other books in the same
series.  They have been gradually getting too sexually graphic for my taste,
which is why I haven't read this one yet.  But I like the setting and the
characters.  The series' premise--well.  That's sort of complicated.
Essentially it breaks down into the following:  by virtue of their unique
genetic heritage, a certain family (I can't remember their family name,
Valdoria or something) rules this galactic empire (called the Skolian
Empire).  While many people in the empire are psychically sensitive to a
degree, only members of this family are powerful enough to power and
maintain the network that keeps the empire together.  Their mortal enemies
are the Aristos, the offspring of an experiment many centuries before that
tried to enhance the mental capacities of earlier members of the ruling
family.  Instead, it created a race of monsters who feed off the emotional
and physical pain of others--the stronger the psychic, the greater the rush.
Guess who the Aristos would love to get their hands on?

The stories are all set more or less within the boundaries of the above
conflict.  I liked _Primary Inversion_ and _The Radiant Seas_ the best, due
to my interest in the main characters.  My problem (aside from the
sex/torture thing) is that the saga spans so widely across space and time
that I found it difficult to stay interested.  _Catch the Lightning_ was
also pretty good.  I was extremely surprised that Asaro won, not because her
books are bad, but because they didn't strike me as the kind of book that
normally does win.  But what do I know?  

Anyway, she is very popular among the romance-reader crowd and has won
several awards for the romance in her science fiction.  She will be editing
an SF/romance crossover anthology called _Irresistable Forces_, due out in
2003.  Lois McMaster Bujold fans should look for this one, as her
contribution is "Winterfair Gifts," the story of Miles and Ekaterin's
wedding.  (_Diplomatic Immunity_ is very good, by the way.)

>The only one I've read is Connie Willis' _Passage_, and I was quite
>rooting for that (in what little part of my mind actually knew that this
>was going on); I'd be interested to hear what those of you who have read
>more of the books think.

I just re-read _Passage_ for my reading group (one of our members belongs to
SFWA and every year we read at least a few of the Nebula nominees).  I liked
it better the second time because I could see how Willis was hinting at
later themes from the very beginning.  It's still not my favorite, but it's
a very good book.  Strong characterization and an interesting premise,
well-written, and sweet and bitter by turns.  She's probably the only writer
in the world who could write a book about near-death experiences that I'd
want to read.

On the others:  _The Tower at Stony Wood_ is probably my favorite of
McKillip's recent novels (the ones that are appearing, like little jewels,
in small-sized hardcover).  As I told Hallie privately, my great sorrow is
that I'm no longer connecting emotionally with her books like I used to.
She's writing what she wants, and she's doing it beautifully, but that's all
they are to me.  It's sad.  This is still a very good book, though I have
been arguing with my SFWA friend about whether this is Rapunzel (her theory)
or the Lady of Shalott (mine).  (Someone told her that McKillip was working
through a bunch of fairy tales.  This does not, however, explain _Song for
the Basilisk_.)

Tim Powers' _Declare_ is just fantastic.  I had trouble remembering that it
wasn't _Cryptonomicon_ due to the coincidence of the time periods, but
that's my problem, not his.  Powers is in some ways the ultimate conspiracy
theorist, though of course he's not actually one; he simply sees connections
that few people would ever consider.  Nephilim, Noah's Ark, the "angel" of
Moscow (was it Moscow? Or some other city? I can't remember), cold iron,
World War  Compared to his other books...I think _Last Call_ and
_The Anubis Gates_ are better.  But the point really isn't to compare him to
himself, right?

I really have no idea why _Mars Crossing_ was nominated.  It's the story of
a Martian expedition that is plagued by disaster, and their only chance for
survival is to trek halfway across the planet to a spaceship that will only
carry two of them.  This is mixed in with the histories of the characters.
However, the two plot lines don't ever really reinforce each other.  About
halfway through it also becomes a murder mystery.  So we have three separate
novels: mystery, thriller, and character study.  It *looks* really good,
like a deeply-layered masterpiece, but it's actually quite shallow.  They
should have nominated _Deepsix_ instead, by Jack McDevitt.  If you want a
good science-fiction thriller, read that one.  Even though I knew perfectly
well how it was going to end from the very beginning, seeing it unfold was
incredible.  And I love McDevitt's blending xenoarchaeology with typical
science fiction stories.  (Oh, actually read _The Engines of God_ first,
because _Deepsix_ refers to it and you'll learn what the big mystery from
_Engines_ is.)

We will be reading _Eternity's End_ later this year.  I tried starting
earlier in the series, to get an idea of the history, but _Panglor_ bored me
out of my skull and I was afraid to try the next one.  Maybe later.  I'm not
holding it against Carver, because _Panglor_ is one of his earliest books,
and the star rigger concept is fascinating.  But it will have to wait for a

I haven't read _Collapsium_ and don't really feel like it, because I have
too much else to read.  I won't be reading _A Clash of Kings_ because I
dislike being dragged through the mud.  Yes, it is a fantastically
well-plotted series.  Yes, Martin is really good with the epic form.  But I
found myself believing it was good because it was so dark and "realistic,"
and I had to slap myself around for a while until the feeling passed.

Had I been voting--and I'm sure the entire world of SF fandom breathes a
sigh of relief that I did not--I would have had trouble choosing between
_Declare_, _Stony Wood_, and _Passage_.  But I think I would have eventually
gone with _Passage_.

Melissa Proffitt
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