Saturday, April 26, 2008

Best sf for children and teens 2007.

Given that sf is getting a very raw deal in the Norton Award, here is my list again.

My top pick has to be Stephen Baxter's The H-Bomb Girl,. London: Faber and Faber, 2007. (parallel worlds, time travel, teens and up).

Runner up: Oisin McGann. Ancient Appetites. London: Random House, 2007. (alternative Ireland, queer protagonist, very strange machines, teen and up).

Other fantastic books:
Bertagna, Julie. Zenith. London: Picador (PanMacMillan), 2007. (post-global warming, pre-teen and up).
Daley, Michael J. Shanghaied to the Moon. New York: Putnam & Sons, 2007. (conspiracy space adventure, pre-teen and up).
Lennon, Joan. Questors. London: Puffin, 2007. (parallel universes, DNA puzzles, conspiracy, queer protagonist, pre-teen and up).
McGann, Oisin. Small Minded Giants. London: Doubleday, 2007. (corporate conspiracy, ice ages, pre-teen and up)
McMullen, Sean. Before the Storm. Melborne, Victoria, Australia: Ford Street Publishing, 2007 (time travel, saving the world, pre-teen and up).
Reeve, Philip. Starcross. London: Bloomsbury, 2007 (steam punk, tale of derring do, pre-teen and up)
Rex, Adam. The True Meaning of Smek Day New York: Hyperion, 2007 (alien invasion, girl and cat save the world, non-white protagonist, pre-teen--unlikely to appeal hugely to older readers).

O.T. Nelson "Award" for insane libertarian sf for kids that has no idea at all how communities really survive in times of trouble:
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life as We Knew It. New York: Harcourt Inc., 2006.

Expelled "Award" for telling lies to children about Darwinism:
Coleman, MIchael. The Cure. London and Australia: Orchard Books, 2007.

Andre Norton Award for YA Sf and Fantasy

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling, J. K. (Scholastic Press, Jul07)

Total nomination list:
Vintage: A Ghost Story, by Steve Berman (Haworth Positronic Press, Mar07)
Into the Wild, by Sarah Beth Durst (Penguin Razorbill, Jun07)
The Shadow Speaker, by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu (Jump At The Sun, Sep07)
The True Meaning of Smek Day, by Adam Rex (Hyperion, Oct07)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, Jul07)
Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog, by Ysabeau S. Wilce (Harcourt, Jan07)
The Lion Hunter, by Elizabeth Wein (Viking Juvenile, Jun07 (The Mark of Solomon, Book 1))

Friday, April 25, 2008

London calling Neptune: Mansfield, Keith. Johnny Mackintosh. London: Quercus, 2008.

Fun, but too many ideas. Johnny lives in a children's home. He's fantastic with computers. He gets kidnapped, discovers a sister, is taken off by aliens, given a space ship, sent ack to Atlantis, discovers his mother is something terribly important and is quite obviously going to tun out to be a relative of the Emperor of the galaxy (who looks suspiciously human).

On the other hand the London setting is lovely, the space ships living beings, and some interesting stuff about aliens.

Godzilla in London: Enthoven, S. Tim, Defender of the Earth. London, Random House.

Tim is a genetically engineered T-Rex. Chris is a fourteen year old boy. Together they will defend the earth against a scientist who has turned himself into nano-machines.

It makes no sense, the science is terrible a T-Rex can't sleep on it's side, and it can't cope with nano machines) and it all ends up very spiritual with Tim inheriting the mantle of Defender of the earth from a Kraken, and Chris discovering that he has to identify with the world in order to save it, but it's still sort of fun and a honest and open homage to Godzilla.

One really irritating thing tho was the idea that no one would want to join the scientist as nanomachines. I can think of several hundred people who'd jump at the chance.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Locus Award Finalists

Extras, Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse; Simon & Schuster UK)
The H-Bomb Girl, Stephen Baxter (Faber & Faber)
Magic's Child, Justine Larbalestier (Razorbill)
Powers, Ursula K. Le Guin (Harcourt; Gollancz)
Un Lun Dun, China Miéville (Ballantine Del Rey; Macmillan UK)

Congratulations to all. But I confess to having my fingers crossed for Baxter

Karen Traviss on Not Reading

One of my favourite authors talking about not being a reader.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

End of the Line

I sent the manuscript of the book to a copyeditor yesterday and from there it will go direct to the publisher. This blog is going to remain as an archive resource, and I may occassionally add to it (there will be a post about a new YA collection next month), but I won't be actively searching for books any more. However, from now on, it will be an "open" blog. If you find a cool book you want to talk about, send me a write up (spoiler's allowed) and I'll post it here.

I've listed all the books I consulted over the past five years here:

If you want to add to the list so that no one ever has to engage in the kind of foraging I've been doing, please send me references. I'll also be maintaining my database so that I can assist with queries, so also give me a short summary and some key words (themes, setting etc).

Thank you all for keeping me company the past few years. Knowing there were people out there has been very reassuring.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jonathan Strahan (ed) The Starry Rift (New York: Viking, Penguin), 2008.

Jonathan Strahan’s The Starry Rift is a really excellent YA sf collection, for 12 yrs and up. It contains thought provoking stories by some of the best writers in the field and they are all science fiction. There isn’t a fantasy story in the lot. I know that sounds odd, but you'd be surprised at how many sf and fantasy collections for kids I have upstairs which contain very little science fiction.

As I can't say what I want to say about this book without major spoilers, I'm going to delay my comments for about a month.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

British Values Win Out: Ronsson, Robert. Donovan Twins: Olympic Mindgames, Roswell Encounters. Brighton: Pen Press, 2008.

Sophie is the youngest competitor in the Olympics. Her twin brother Jack is approached by an alien to try and capture another alien. Sophie wins a bronze for the team (no easy victories here), Jack plays bait for the alien. Lots of good stuff like discussion of various scientific and technological information. Lots of silly stuff such as another alien using Jack and grooming him for his role in the capture of the other alien (left a bad taste in the mouth actually). Also, really, really poorly written. But despite that it had the flavour of a Wollheim or a Bova. I'd rather like to get my hands on this chap because there's real potential here.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Web Series, from Orion.

The Web, 2027
Baxter, Stephen. Gulliverzone, The Web: 2027. London: Orion Books, 1997.
Bowkett, Stephen. Dreamcastle, The Web: 2027. London: Orion, 1997.
Brown, Eric. Untouchable, The Web. London: Orion, 1997.
Graham, Joyce. Spiderbite, The Web. London: Orion, 1998.
Hamilton, Peter. Lightstorm, The Web. London: Orion, 1998.
Furey, Maggie. Sorceress, The Web. London: Orion, 1998.

The Web, 2028
Baxter, Stephen. Webcrash, Web 2028. London: Orion Books, 1998.
MacLeod, Ken. Cydonia, The Web 2028. London: Orion, 1998.
Lovegrove, James. Computopia, The Web 2028. Computopia: Orion Books, 1998.
Furey, Maggie. Spindrift, The Web 2028. London: Orion Books Ltd., 1999.
Cadigan, Pat. Avatar, The Web 2029. London: Orion Books Ltd, 1999.
Brown, Eric. Walkabout. London: Orion Books Ltd, 1999.

These books are quite old now. I read a few of them at the time, but didn;t read them all, and didn't read them in order, so hadn't quite registered that there is a story arc. In the 2027 books the web is threatened by a sorceress, in the 2028 books aliens download themselves into the web, never quite arriving as each book seems to be "wow, aliens have arrived".

The books are uneven and the quality is where you would expect it. The standouts are Baxter, Hamilton, MacLeod and Cadigan, with the Joyce not so hot, but clearly leading towards the really outstanding YA material he has produced more recently. Joyce may actually have suffered here because most of the protagonists are only *just* YA, in one or two cases pre-teen, and his more recent and better works have used older teens. Baxter is also interesting because although his books are excellent in many ways (and I'd hold up Webcrash as one of my favourites because of the intricate advice on how to build a wooden rocket ship with Viking technology) he really doesn't know how to write for kids here: there is too much backfill and info dump. Fascinating to compare this to H-Bomb Girl in which he has the confidence to just let the readers work it out for themselves. MacLeod's Cydonia is a slightly bemusing second read: I hadn't registered the degree to which nothing happens. In this book a boy gets caught up in a conspiracy in the web, set in the consiracy web site Cydonia. Except that there turns out to *be* no conspiracy, except in the mind of a web cop and an observation AI who have both gotten caught up in the paranoia of the web location Cydonia and lost the firmly cynical perspective of its child users.

The best of the lot tho' is Avatar by Pat Cadigan. A boy who has been paralysed and lives in a low tech community gets taken around electronically by a friend. When she accesses the web--against the wishes of the community--she is ejected from her body by an alien. He must go into the web to rescue her. In the end tho' it's the alien he liberates. His friend chooses to stay in the web, and he opts for a prosthetic body. Lots of excellent things about choice, lots of real thought about the possibilities that the web creates for all sorts of people. And fun. Lots of fun.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Boys Will be Boys...: Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, Tor, 2008.

There is an explosion in San Francisco. The authorities use it as an excuse to crack down on this city of hippies and queers and other undesirables, and generally speaking, as too many American teens have discovered, just being young makes you undesirable.

There is a full review over at Strange Horizons. Doctorow's Little Brother ticks all my boxes: it's about building seemingly irrelevant skills, because one day they may be necessary, it's about tyranny and the kind of education you need to fight back, it's bouncy, irreverant and a demanding read. The politics are real and so are the technical details. It's a handbook for bringing down your government.

I hope it wins the Prometheus Award. I hope it wins the Andre Norton and the Golden Duck. I know I'll be nominating it for a Hugo next year.