Novelettes were not as good as novellas. The main theme was violence and war as several nominees were from the rapid puppies list. And even the one story which didn’t originate from there was overviolent with more swearing than I have read anywhere for long time. King’s story was pretty good but as it belongs to a different genre (it perhaps could best be described as fantastical horror), it is hard to compare with the others. I wasn’t a great fan of any of the other stories. I am not sure if any of these are good enough for an award. I was toying with “no award” on the first place, but decided against that. Folding Beijing was a decent novelette and I decided to put it on the first place. King’s story is another which will be above “no award”.
“Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb 2015)
Peking consists of three cities that coexist at the same place. The first city is where the rich people live, and the third is where waste recyclers live. Every city folds away and its inhabitants are in suspended animation in a cocoon when it isn't their turn to be awake. A man from the third city makes a journey to the first to earn a great reward. A nice idea, but there are some structural problems and the story seems fairly fragmented. It isn't a bad one, though. And it feels even better after I read the other nominees.
“What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
A soldier wakes inside an apparent virtual reality simulator. He assumes that he has had an accident, and his body is being repaired by nano-machines, but the simulation is pretty low quality, and his is all but forced to perform simulated combat runs against the alien enemy (which is almost beating the human forces) in the real world. Have they been captured by the enemy. or what is going on? A fairly good but pessimistic story with more than a few holes. I suspect there would have been volunteers, and the arguments the characters themselves stated against the simulation being by the Earth forces were valid. Also, smoking in the future? In space? Really? The writing was ok.
“Flashpoint: Titan” by CHEAH Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
Unknown spaceships attack the colony on Titan. Joint American and Japanese forces beat them, but not easily. It turns out that this was preparation by the Chinese to conquer the colony and get control of most of the volatiles used as fuel for space ships. A lot of long battles, not much else. Also, extremely, unreasonably, evil Chinese. Some very strange tactical errors. (Retracting heat radiators is apparently a very aggressive maneuver, which surely means hostile intent. Hostile spaceships on a clandestine suicide mission on ships rigged to self-destruct retract their heat radiators – and tell everyone they are hostile even before they attack)? The battles were fairly entertaining in spite of that, though.
“Obits” by Stephen King (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner)
A young journalist works for a sleazy net site which specializes mostly on mocking celebrities. He is writing a column where he writes insulting obituaries. He isn’t too happy about his job or pay and decides to quit. To get out some of his anger, he writes an insulting obituary about his obnoxious boss. Next day, she is dead. Surely that was a coincidence. Next, he writes an obituary about a sleazy record producer who murdered the main character's favorite singer (Andi McCoy!) and is in prison. He is killed in a prison quarrel. What should he do next? Pretty good story which written in a clear style; typical for King.
“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed, Feb 2015)
A tough mercenary woman is forced to rescue a son of a crime lord from some sort of computer system – and at the same time, find and rescue his partner’s consciousness from the same system. The story has a pretty unsympathetic main character and a vast amount of swearing. Swearing almost never irritates me, but this story passed my threshold. I wasn’t too keen on the writing – it felt fairly confusing. In part that was intentional, but I really didn’t get why exactly I should care for these protagonists.
My voting order will be:
1. “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb 2015)
2. “Obits” by Stephen King (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner)
3. No award
4. “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed, Feb 2015)
5. “What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
6. “Flashpoint: Titan” by CHEAH Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)