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After the Coup by John Scalzi
Scalzi always writes amazing character dialogue and fully half of this 20-page story is a simple discussion. In the conversation, Scalzi's able to subtly but clearly set exposition, motivation and the structure for the story itself. And he does it with his usual humor, which typically draws out a couple of laugh-out-louds.
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*Benchwarmer * by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn
The authors also do a superb job at making you care about the characters and their relationship because they show that it means something to each of them. The themes that pervade the story carry weight. It's not just loneliness, but also a feeling of being loved and being needed. It helps that the story's straightforward prose whisks the story along. All of this conspires to give Benchwarmer an emotional strength that, while reminiscent of the Toy Story films, stands quite well on its own merits.
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Down on the Farm by Charles Stross
Aside from a somewhat rushed ending, this novella is another delightful entry in Stross's Laundry series, not to be missed by anyone who's a fan of the adventures of Bob Howard and soul sucking, brain eating creatures computationally summoned from the beyond.
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Black Swan by Bruce Sterling
Black Swan contains a large enough amount of socio-political commentary and prognostications to be current even as it meddles with alternate reality and conceptual technology, but fortunately it’s far from being didactic. On the contrary, it’s a fairly engaging amalgamation of all too familiar facts of life and science fiction. There is an uneven texture to how the story unfolds, foregoing significant back story in favor of the next big reveal, but whether it’s attributable to the plot urgency of the short form or to the narrative shortcuts indicative of blogging overpowering the journalistic sensibilities of the narrator is basically beside the point.
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A Water Matter by Jay Lake
Lake writes some really, really good SF, and this is more straightforward fantasy than I normally read. I enjoyed it – as he invariably does he puts effort into creating an interesting background to his story, rather than relying on a standard heroic-fantasy quasi-medieval setting, and doesn’t go for the stereotryped roles women often have, and in this story features a woman facing a mortal challenge from a powerful adversary, and having to rely on her cunning and skills, and those of her colleagues, to meet that challenge. It’s visceral in terms of the action and the denouement, and altogether worth the read.
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The Astral Disruptor by Rhys Hughs
Rhys Hughes is Wales's best kept literary secret.
Influenced by Borges, Calvino and Stanislaw Lem, Hughes's fiction is both intellectual and hilarious with plenty of jokes, puns and satirical side-swipes to keep the reader constantly amused.
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Errata by Jeff VanderMeer
When it comes to sheer storytelling prowess with more than a handful of meta, ‘‘Errata’’ starts with a bang – ‘‘I am surrounded by cavorting freshwater seals and have two pearl-handled revolvers in my lap, a bottle of vodka in my right hand, a human body in the freezer in the kitchens behind me, and a rather large displaced rockhopper penguin staring me in the face’’ – and never stops until the odd yet inescapable end.
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*Wikiworld * by Paul Di Filippo Di Filippo's cyber-future is wiki culture taken to logical extremes. (Indeed, the reference-laden text screams to be read alongside a computer pointed towards wikipedia.) For example, people use their wiki connections, implemented via subcutaneous RFID devices, to vote on matters both regional and national. Although the extrapolation of current cyberculture reminded me of Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Di Fillipo's near-future setting is brilliantly distinctive; one that is simultaneously grim (Can drowned world scenarios be anything else) but cool. Very well done. [SF Signal]