Posts tagged ‘Hugo Award’

December 30, 2013

Dragonflight (Pern Series #1) by Anne McCaffery

Publisher: Ballantine PressDragonflight cover

Copyright: 1968

Pages: 309

Formats: e-format, paperback, hardcover

 

A couple of months ago I was doing some research into the first woman to win the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award when I came across the name Anne McCaffrey. Of course, this wasn’t the first time I came across the name but this time my interest was piqued to read a book written by her. I decided to go with Dragonflight because it is the first in a series and when possible I like to read the first book in a series.  I was able to download a copy from my local library and dived right in; and diving really is the best verb to use because once you get started it moves quickly from one big drama to the next. Dragonflight is a socially conscious adventure romance science fiction story.

 

Anne McCaffrey was an American-Irish author who lived from 1926 to 2011. She is best known for her Dragonrider series that takes place on Pern, a planet that is colonized by humans in the future. The original Dragonflight is the merging of two novellas “Dragonrider” and “Weyr Search.” Weyr Search” was originally published in Analog Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine in October of 1967 and it won the Hugo Award in 1968. “Dragonrider” was published in December of 1967 in Analog Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine and won the Nebula Award in 1969. Dragonflight as we know it now was published in 1968 by Ballantine Press.

 

I’m a sucker for a heroine that is both smart and romantically handicapped and Lessa, the heroine of Dragonflight, is just that type of character. Lessa is a smart, bold, passionate woman with a warrior’s heart and mind and these characteristics stay with our heroine through the story and prove to be her biggest assets and weakness. Her warrior’s heart gives her the strength to forge a complicated plan of revenge against the evil lord Fax that took over her home by killing her parents while at the same time it makes it difficult for her to let down her guard and be with F’lor, the leader of the dragon riders. Over time with gentile care from F’Lor her character grows and is able to open up and form a bond with F’lor which allows them to defend the people of Pern against the threads and internal threats.

 

Dragonflight is science fiction not fantasy even though it has dragons.  When I started the story I thought it was a fantasy because it has dragons but it turns out that if a dragon is genetically altered it is considered science fiction. Dragons and their ability to connect with humans telepathically are essential to the plot. Also time travel is an important part of the plot because it provides the heroes with a way to save the day. Mccaffrey gives a very good explanation about how it happens and even plays with the idea of crossing time lines.  The story takes place on a distant planet called Pern far in the distant future when humans have been forced to vacate the earth. The language and culture are similar to that of Europe in the middle ages with feudal systems creating the template for the social structure.

 

Because this is two novellas put together the flow of the story is different but none the less thrilling. A novella by nature is a longer version of a short story but not as long as a novel, so the main action will come sooner.  By combing two novellas there are two main action sequences so there is two times the intensity. Two of my favorite scenes from the first part or “Weyr Search” are the fight scene between F’lor and Flax for its vivid language and the intense scene when Lessa connects with Ramoth for the first time.  In the second part or “Dragonrider” there are several important firsts such as Ramoth’s and Lessa’s first flight and the first fight against the threads.   Talk about action packed.

 

Unfortunately, I did not like the ending to the second part. I like clear endings. Yes, I like a cliff hanger to keep me coming back to the next book but I didn’t feel the story ended or at least I wasn’t expecting that ending. The current story between F’lor and Lessa comes to a conclusion and the problem of how the people will fight the threads is resolved, but the story ends as they go off to battle. I would have preferred an ending where they weren’t about to go off to battle.

 

Overall, I recommend this book. McCaffrey’s word choice creates vivid images of the people and places. The story moves along quickly so you don’t even notice the number of pages. The idea of being able to telepathically connect with and bond for life with a dragon is an interesting idea. And for those that aren’t sure how they feel about science fiction but enjoy fantasy, this is a good book for trying out science fiction and vice versa.

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November 15, 2013

Short Story Review: The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu

I read ‘The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees’ short story a couple of months ago, when I was reading the “Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy for 2012.” It is the second story in the collection after Neil Gaiman, which says a lot about the writer’s ability to follow him. I had never heard of Ms. Yu and didn’t know about the success of the story or the way it is received by readers; I am thankful for my naïvety. For anyone who hasn’t read this story, I say stop now and read the story here on Clarkesworld.com don’t let the opinion of others define how the story will affect you.  It is a beautifully written story with hidden and obvious themes. Enjoy it and let your mind come to its own conclusions.

The things that first drew me into this story were the pace and the genre. I’m a huge fan of the fairy tale as a learning tool because the characters and setting are easily changeable to fit whatever setting you choose but the moral stays the same. A good fairy tale moves along at a pace differently from a novel or a short story, it has the ability to whisk you away on a journey and leave the reader contemplating its meaning and how it can be reflected in their own lives.  In ‘The Cartographer Wasps…’ Yu spends just enough time describing the settings, characters and actions to bring it to life and express her ideas but not bring down the mood, flow or sound preachy.

I don’t like when I get to the end of the story and feel the need to flip back, expecting more. I expect this from a novel, but I don’t from my short fiction. ‘The Cartographer Wasps…’ does exactly this in a good way. The story ends a little while after the last bees have managed to end the war with the wasps. Another group of bees not a part of the original conflict come across the anarchist bee writings and they are inspired. Yu doesn’t explain what they are inspired to do with this knowledge it is left up to the reader to make this judgment and that I can appreciate.  Colonialism, dictatorship, revolution and anarchy have had profound impacts on civilizations and just like in life after the major conflict is over it is up to us to create the ending we want to live.

‘The Cartographer Wasps…’ was nominated for the Hugo Award in 2012, so it was reviewed by several review websites. I am mentioning two of their websites in particular for their opposite reviews on the same story. I knew I wanted to write a review for this story as soon as I finished it but I like many found myself stumped at the ending thus it took me awhile to write one. The blog “Promethus UnBound,” believes that the story “warns of the transitive and cyclical nature of violence from thoughtless destruction to calculated imperialism.” It’s some pretty heavy declarations but the writer, Geoffrey Allan Plauche, then goes on to highlight how the story supports his theory.  The blog “Talkfiction” delves into the levels of allegorical meaning in the story in regards to revolution, subjugation, power of education, colonialism, and the desire for survival.

Overall I truly enjoyed ‘The Cartographer Wasps…’ and the reviews on the story. It takes a powerful story to inspire the reader to focus on the message behind it over the way it was written. Most of the time it is easy to focus on the writing style of the writer, I feel it stands out more than the idea behind the story, but not this time. I highly recommend this short story.