Jan. 28th, 2012

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For the first time ever I'm going to read the P. K. Dick award nominees *before* it's awarded.  I figured I could commemorate this with short commentary.

I will note that these first four books are the ones that didn't have a long hold-line at the library -- this suggests that the ones I *haven't* read yet are the ones which are especially beloved.  

Deadline, by Mira Grant:  Really tried to keep an open mind while reading this -- I don't usually like zombie stories.  But the protagonist in this one was a metaphorical zombie.  Early on, he makes it clear he's sleepwalking through life, waiting for revenge, and has nothing else to live for.  And I couldn't hold on long enough for him to develop into anything more. Got bored, put it down. This is a rare response from me, but a noncompelling protagonist *and* zombies was just too much for me.

The Company Man, by Robert Jackson Bennett: my favorite of these first four.   Steampunk noir alternative history in the pacific northwest with just a frisson of horror.  Populated with actual three-dimensional characters, for the most part.  I'm disappointed that something historical set in this area only managed a bare two sentences about the Duwamish.  I realize this is faint praise, but both steampunk & alternative histories are notorious for genociding people of color or otherwise not bothering including them in the story, and this book didn't go that far.

The Other by Matthew Hughes: This book *nearly* examined the power-structures behind self/other.  Maybe the subtext -- the protagonist was thoroughly Other on the planet he found himself, but never stopped reminding himself that he's the cosmopolitian, they're barely-civilized and backward -- was intentional.  And if I squint a little, it's a tale of colonialism and what happens to the people left behind once the colony's resources are spent on the exploiter.  But I suspect that the tale I enjoyed wasn't actually the tale I was reading.

The Postmortal, by Drew Magary:  I realize I'm a bit behind the times but this shallow faux-irony doesn't do anything for me.  The first-person real-time narration hides any complexity the main character might have.  The men in the story are barely two-dimensional, and the women are so flimsy as to be practically nonexistant.  The novel's schtick is a metaphor for abortion, complete with clinic bombings and public controversy, but it was impossible for me to care because there wasn't a single character whose fate I bothered to wonder about.  Didn't finish this one either.

I hope that the library's hold system has accidentally crowdsourced some information about quality, here.  That would mean the other nominees are better, and that's why there wasn't a queue for these.

Or perhaps I'm just hopelessly parochial in my speculative fiction tastes.

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