Profile

Cover photo
Beth Zuckerman
Attended University at Albany, The State University of New York
Lives in Berkeley, CA
147,159 views
AboutPosts

Stream

Beth Zuckerman

Shared publicly  - 
 
I love China Mieville's writing, but I did not love This Census-Taker. It's a psychological, coming of age study with very little action. Not to sound like a puppy here, but this is not to my taste.

The story involves a lonely boy in an isolated home with a difficult father. His father kills things and drops them into some sort of cenotaph. At the beginning, we are told that one of the things the father kills is the boy's mother, leaving the two of them even more alone together. The rest of the book reveals events leading up to the moment of the murder, and the aftermath of the murder, in a jumbled way reminiscent of Pulp Fiction.

The book explores the ways in which the condition of childhood, dependent and unable to take care of oneself, can be an enormous trap. It is told sometimes in the third person, but at other times, the narrator seems to need to distance himself from the misery of it all, and switches to the third person. It's a depressing tale. A depressing tale can be uplifting if the hero finds a way to overcome the circumstances. But the hero here, as a child, is, as I say, trapped.

The end surprised me, but not in a pleasant way. The desperately-sought relief from the grimness was insufficient. I know Mieville is a grim writer, but the grimness is usually accompanied by very inventive and creative ideas and characters. This work is lacking in those redeeming qualities.

I do not know whether This Census-Taker fits in the Novel or Novella category, so if anyone actually finds it worthy of nomination, that determination will need to be made .
1
Add a comment...

Beth Zuckerman

Shared publicly  - 
 
Have now added The Drink Tank and Journey Planet as nominations for Best Fanzine, and Christopher Garcia for Best Fan Writer. Good luck, Chris!
1
Add a comment...

Beth Zuckerman

Shared publicly  - 
 
Eric Zuckerman has a Hugo-eligible work for your possible nomination consideration in the Best Dramatic Presentation--Short Form category:

Title: Messages to Orbit: https://vimeo.com/150464018 Writer/Director: Eric Zuckerman
Studio/Series: Kosher Ham Studios

I'm also nominating John O'Halloran's 2015 Hugo Awards Photo Collection for Best Related Work. The publisher is Ohana TyeDye Photography.

My Best Novel nominations are: 

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
Barsk by Lawrence M. Schoen
The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu

Still working on the Short Story category...
1
Add a comment...

Beth Zuckerman

Shared publicly  - 
 
Wesley Chu's Time Salvager, replete with action and adventure, is an exciting read. I am a big sucker both for time travel stories and for postapocalyptic fiction, and this book manages to be both. In a dark future where a quickly mutating disease has infected the earth, ChronoCom sends chronmen on dangerous missions into the past to salvage supplies and equipment to help humanity survive in this dystopian universe. The ethics of time travel are, of course, extremely complicated, and Grace Priestly (the "Mother of Time") developed a strict set of rules for protecting the timestream. Chronmen may only enter areas that are doomed, must enter very close to the time of an area's doom, and may never retrieve people from the past. Of course, as is always the case with stories like these, rules are made to be bent.

The book opens with a bang as we are introduced to 93-year-old Grace, about to die on a heavily damaged spaceship, as a chronman comes back to retrieve some of her notes. The action is intense from page one. 

The women characters are particularly well-carved. From Grace, still full of fire and blatant sexuality at 93, to Elise, the practical scientist, to Kao, the arch-villain, each has a distinct and powerful personality. 

For Hugo nominations, we are faced with the perpetual dilemma of whether to nominate books whose stories are not yet complete. Time Salvager is not an entire story in itself like each of the Ancillary books, but neither does it end on a cliffhanger like the first two volumes of the Newsflesh series. It's more like the books of the Neanderthal Parallax, where the story ends with some manner of resolution, but not a complete one. Nervous as it makes me to endorse a story with an unknown conclusion, I think the general wisdom is that we nominate books we like even if they do end on cliffhangers. I am seriously considering Time Salvager for nomination.
1
Add a comment...

Beth Zuckerman

Shared publicly  - 
 
Gregory Maguire's After Alice is one of those more literary works, more character-driven than plot-driven, that the puppies so hate and that I don't generally particularly care for, either. But Maguire's writing is so thoughtful, so clever, so deliberate, that I enjoyed it. 

After Alice is two stories, set in Victorian England, where Lewis Carroll penned the original works. One story is about Alice's friend Ada, who falls Down the Rabbit Hole after Alice and wanders through Wonderland, meeting the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Red Queen, Humpty-Dumpty, and all the other characters, always trying to catch up with Alice. The other story takes place above ground, back in the real world, and is about Alice's older sister, Lydia. Lydia and Alice's father meets Darwin, and Lydia meets an American man who has brought back an escaped slave child named Siam. I found the story about Lydia and Siam, with all of its insinuations about Victorian sexual repression and philosophy about the origins of humankind, more interesting than the story of Ada in Wonderland.

After Alice is about the human imagination. I felt a bit like the book was too short, that too many details were left to the reader's imagination, but perhaps Maguire wrote this way intentionally. The wording of the novel is extremely careful; every word has been purposefully selected. In this respect, the book is lovely. This will not be a Hugo nominee, but it is a fun little read.
1
Add a comment...

Beth Zuckerman

Shared publicly  - 
 
The Dark Forest is the follow-up novel in Cixin Liu's Hugo-winning The Three-Body Problem. It suffers from the classic problem of being the second novel in a trilogy, and lacks the excitement of the first book.

We have already been let in on all the secrets. We know what the three-body problem was all about, we know the reasons for the game, we know about the existence of the... augh, spoilers for the first book! The Dark Forest is all about how humanity can deal with an impending attack by a species who can witness all of its communications. Four "wallfacers" are appointed, humans who are assigned to work on a method of fending off the attack without discussing their thoughts with anyone. Four "wallbreakers" are also appointed, to ensure that the work of the wallfacers is not somehow discoverable. Great shenanigans (and battles in space) ensue.

The writing lives up to the quality of The Three-Body Problem, and we also get more insights into Chinese culture and history. However, as the story takes place after the Cultural Revolution, it is not as educational in this respect as the first book. Generally speaking, The Dark Forest lacks the gripping drama of The Three-Body Problem. Much of the story takes place 200 years in the future, and the imaginings of future technology are fascinating.

For now, I await the opportunity to get my hands on the concluding novel, hoping it will live up to the first volume.
1
Add a comment...

Beth Zuckerman

Shared publicly  - 
 
Since Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky is such a San Francisco book, I'm going to describe my feelings about it with a San Francisco anecdote. Once upon a time, there was a camera obscura overlooking the beach behind the Cliff House. It had a sign outside saying, "$1. Your money back if not simply delighted." I thought that "simply delighted" was rather a major claim, and went in expecting to be something less than "simply delighted." However, I was simply delighted by the camera obscura, and I wouldn't even think of asking for my dollar back. That's just the way I feel about All the Birds in the Sky: I am simply delighted.

Charlie tells a coming-of-age and love story about the archetypes of witch and mad scientist. The archetypes, and their respective groups of friends, are extremely well-realized. Since this is a coming-of-age story, we get to see them bumbling through their early attempts at applying their respective talents, their frustrating failures and eventual maturation.

Since the story is set in modern San Francisco, it is imbued with all of the insanity of modern urban life. The stupid parents, the annoying school administrators, the brutal bullies--no one has captured the misery of adolescent life this precisely since Buffy.

The writing is brilliant. Elaborate, flowery descriptions are juxtaposed with street slang in an incredibly hilarious fashion. Together, it all manages to sound unbelievably earnest. In the midst of all this, this book explores Big Themes, morality, science vs. magic, environmentalism, the future of humanity and its planet, etc. It does so in a most disarmingly earnest fashion.

I was completely taken in my Charlie's fun little book, hanging on its every word and smiling the whole way. I will disclose that I do know Charlie personally, and have for a very long time. I think, though, that you will love the book even without knowing her. I hope that Charlie will win a Best Novel Hugo and I'll get to say I knew her when.
1
Add a comment...

Beth Zuckerman

Shared publicly  - 
 
To my Hugo ballot from yesterday, I have just added, in the Best Short Story category, The Body Corporate by Mark Pantoja. What a wonderful, scary tale of a desperate world fighting corporate oligarchy. You can find the story here if you'd like to read it in time for the nomination deadline tomorrow:

http://giganotosaurus.org/2015/09/
By Mark Pantoja. People most in need, need the most help, my father used to say. That's what I thought when I saw the Corporate bleeding on my porch that night. I gave it a soft kick. It didn't move, just lay broken in the firelight coming through my front door. But something moved inside the ...
1
Beth Zuckerman's profile photo
 
I can't seem to edit my post, but the category should be Novelette, not Short Story.
Add a comment...

Beth Zuckerman

Shared publicly  - 
 
With The Annihilation Score, Charlie Stross has pleasantly surprised me. While retaining much of the satiric and irreverent flavor of the previous Laundry novels, this book tells a much more serious tale.


I wrote in my review of 2014's The Rhesus Chart that I was tired of the Laundry series and wanted Stross to write another Halting State book instead. I also wrote that The Rhesus Chart had taken some surprising twists at the end that might convince me to read more Laundry novels. This review will, necessarily, contain spoilers for The Rhesus Chart.


The Annihilation Score is told from Mo's, rather than Bob's, point of view. Mo's and Bob's marriage is on the rocks, because at the end of The Rhesus Chart, Angleton died and left Bob to become the Eater of Souls. Mo's magic violin of bone, Lecter, has some serious problems with that. Mo's voice is more anxiety-ridden and less sans-souci than Bob's. She's concerned about her marriage, her career at the Laundry, and how invisible she's become in society as a middle-aged woman. She's appointed to run a new group, affiliated both with the Laundry and the police, to help contain an outbreak of superhero conversions in the English population by channeling the newly-empowered into police work rather than vigilantism. Mo takes her job very seriously.


Unlike the previous Bob-narrated Laundry books, which were mostly just silly fun, The Annihilation Score is a book about relationships: Mo's relationship with Bob, her relationship with Jim (her potential new cop boyfriend, otherwise known as Officer Friendly), her relationships with her female colleagues (one a vampire, one a mermaid, both of whom have previously had various levels of intimacy with Bob), and her relationship with Lecter, the soul-sucking violin who manipulates Mo's dreams. Stross also penetratingly addresses the uncertainties of midlife. His use of the female voice here is fascinating.


As my hopes for another Halting State novel dim, I'm quite intrigued by what Stross has done here with Mo, her angst, and the Laundry. The Annihilation Score is enjoyably both serious and humorous, and I look forward to more.
1
Add a comment...

Beth Zuckerman

Shared publicly  - 
 
We have to look at Lawrence Schoen's Barsk as something like The Three Body Problem, in that it is a great story that requires some forgiveness of the highly speculative science.

Barsk is about a society of elephants isolated on a planet whose surface is mostly water, by agreement with a larger Alliance who controls most of the universe. The elephants have the ability to create a drug, koph, which enables certain elephants, Speakers, to communicate with the dead. The process is dependent upon memories of the person from when that person was alive. A raging despot from the Alliance becomes obsessed with controlling the production of koph.

The characters are brilliant. They range across many personalities and mammalian species, but each one, from the hedonist otter to the administratively effective sloth, is carefully created and described. Particularly imaginative is six-year-old Pizlo, an albino elephant with no capacity for feeling pain. Pizlo has some telepathic and precognitive abilities that lack even the marginal scientific explanations that Lawrence gives the Speaking, but he is so forthright and sweet that it is easy to forgive the author here.

The story is very well told, and its resolution is fully satisfying. I had just a couple of dissatisfactions. In the very first chapter of the book, one of the elephants makes a wood carving of which he is particularly proud. The carving is mentioned once again a few chapters later, but Lawrence never returns to it. I would have enjoyed the ending more if it had come back to the carving again to tie things up. More seriously, I found one major plot point implausible. To describe it here would be severely spoilerish, but I'd be happy to discuss it privately.

I will disclose here that Lawrence is a personal friend of mine, not an intimate friend, but I do know him. If you're willing to forgive science that veers into the highly speculative realm, and I think the story here is sufficiently enjoyable that we should, you will hang on to every word of this delightful book.
1
Add a comment...

Beth Zuckerman

Shared publicly  - 
 
Chimera is the satisfying conclusion to Mira Grant's Parasitology trilogy. Continuing the theme from my reviews of Parasite and Symbiont, the earlier novels in the series, I will say that this book is good, but that it's not as good as Newsflesh. Newsflesh was a very unique series, not just a thriller but a political satire, using zombies to make a point about excessive security apparatus, with an interesting exploration of recent changes in the field of journalism thrown in for extra fun. I hung on every word despite some very serious flaws in the narration. Parasitology mostly lacks the satire elements and is just a thriller.

In my review of Symbiont, I wrote about how much I appreciated Fishy, a character who believes that the zombies aren't real and that he is playing a video game rather than living a life. I had missed the Irwins from Newsflesh, and Fishy is the Parasitology character who most closely echoes them. In Chimera, he just gets even better, by which, of course, I mean crazier, throwing himself into zombie hordes to perform heroic rescues. These nailbiting scenes are where Grant shines.

Ultimately, Chimera and the rest of the Parasitology series are very good thrillers, but, because they followed Newsflesh, they left me disappointed.
1
Add a comment...

Beth Zuckerman

Shared publicly  - 
 
While reading John Scalzi's latest book, The End of All Things, I was distracted by trying to figure out whether I was reading a novel, or a series of novellas or novelettes. Scalzi has done something new and clever here, written what I believe is a novel comprised of a series of four vignettes, each told from a radically different point of view, each more or less a complete story in itself. And yet the entire work also fits together as one continuing story, set in the Old Man's War universe, where a stealthy new organization called the Equilibrium is out to foment trouble between the Conclave and the Colonial Union. It's actually pretty brilliant.

I'm sure most of the rest of you will enjoy the story, but there is too much intrigue for me. Behind-the-scenes diplomacy, not quite my thing. I'm sure the point of view characters, from a number of different species, are all brilliantly clever. The first story, told from the point of view of a brain in a vat, was the most interesting to me. What's left of that character is certainly brilliantly clever.

The storytelling is all in Scalzi's typical humorous style, with much of the plot conveyed in the form of dialogue. If you love Scalzi, if you love Old Man's War, you'll love this. It's more lighthearted than the works that I ordinarily enjoy most, but it does have something interesting to say about the nature of war and peace, and I did like it quite a bit. 
1
Add a comment...
Story
Tagline
Science fiction fan, aerial dancer, cyclist, photographer, gamer, naturalist, geocacher, SCUBA diver, adventurer, never a dull moment.
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Berkeley, CA
Previously
Schenectady, NY - Albany, NY
Education
  • University at Albany, The State University of New York
    1987
Basic Information
Gender
Female
Relationship
Married