Monday, May 18, 2015

The Goblin Emperor and other Hugo musings

The Goblin Emperor 
by Katherine Addison
Published by: Tor Fantasy
Copyright: 2014
Format: paperback
Pages: 512
Genre: Fantasy
Source: own book

Summary from Amazon:
The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.
Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment. Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. 
I finished The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison this weekend and, yep, I loved it. I plan to re-read it sometime soon when I have more free time to really enjoy it. The world building is solid and intricate enough that the reading experience is immersive. Maia is a wonderful character, sympathetic, well-rounded, thoughtful and it is wonderful to see him grow and develop in the role of emperor. I also especially appreciated the deft way that the plot line involving Maia's former guardian and abuser was handled. For personal reasons I found it to be hopeful and empowering. 

It is also a really welcome relief to read about a government/court system that, while it has gotten corrupted in places, still makes enough sense to believe that at least things would be functional.  So many stories of this type have characters and fractions so bent on taking over or destroying each other that there is no way any of the actual functions of a government would be taking place. 

This isn't to say that there isn't action, treachery, backstabbing, and even front-stabbing as well but, and this follows on my last point, these actions are considered beyond the pale by the majority of the characters - even those who might disagree with Maia and his proposed actions. Wow - a book about court intrigue where the majority of the action is resolved by negotiation and diplomacy!  I love it! 

From Photography of China
I have started The Three Body Problem by by Cixin Liu and translated by Ken Liu.  I am not too far into it yet - it starts with some of the absolute evils of the Cultural Revolution and as it is portrayed in the book, it is pretty overwhelming (I am not even sure that I can do a Book Beginnings post of it). 

While I was reading, for some strange reason, I kept thinking about all those farmers forced to manufacture poor quality steel rather than grow crops, resulting in massive starvation - which was rather distracting me from the story. Maybe my brain was trying to divert me from what was happening to the academics in the story - seeing as how I am one too (an academic but not a part of the story, duh). 

It was a relief to get to the 40-plus years later jump.  

Where I had another odd problem.  Non-spoiler version - I don't know any physicists who would be that freaked out that the universe didn't behave in ways that they expected. For the people I know, that would actually be the equivalent of a shot of adrenaline. I know several people who are actually rather bummed out that nothing really strange has happened in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Either the academics in China are wildly different from the academics I know in the rest of the world (including some colleagues from Japan, Korea, and Cambodia and I don't know all where in Asia - I don't actually demand to know where someone is from when I get into a conversation with them at a conference or meeting) or the author has a rather skewed vision of what academics are really like (hint - most of them are just like - people!) Perhaps this changes as the book moves on. 

And can we please get over Einstein and Hawking! For Pete's sake - there are other theoretical physicists in the world - certainly people more relevant to where the story seems to be going - how about Mather and Smoot? Or Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa? Can we namecheck some new people here?

Anyhow - I will keep going and hope to be able to jump into some of the online discussions about this one before everyone else moves on. 

Lastly, I have also finished Totaled by Kary English. My reaction is ... mixed. It is generally well-written and has a complete story arc. The idea is interesting... OTOH this is one more story that reminded me of why I pretty much stopped reading SF shorts - I got sick of all the variations of grim. I am sick of stories where scientists in general are portrayed as unethical. And pretty damn resentful of the whole attack on intelligence in general. I really don't like the underlying concept of 'death panels' seeping through the whole thing - this meme prevents there from being a more serious conversation of what measures are necessary and appropriate under circumstances like advanced Alzheimer's or brain death. That's it - the story is a very simplistic take on something that deserves a much fuller and more nuanced exploration. It seems like there should have been something more too it. On the whole the story just left me feeling upset and vaguely ill.  I suppose that make it a successful story, if that reaction is more or less what the author was shooting for.   

Oh - I almost forgot - I also read When It Ends, He Catches Her” by Eugie Foster (Daily Science Fiction 9/26/14) - one of the Nebula Award Nominees for Short Story. I went into the story not knowing anything about it, and that helped make the story very, very effective, so I am pretty much not going to say anything about it here other than stating 1) I was quite blown away by this one - just wow and 2) this is not something I would normally read (see the sick of grim comment above) - but I did not finish the story upset or annoyed.  No - I finished that story thinking wow - that was well done. Tight, with information and a broader perspective slowly trickling in, making the reader more and more uneasy. Increasing chills and horror.  Yep - not my kind of thing at all but tremendously well done so that I appreciated it in spite of myself. 

Right - back to grading. Sigh.

Oh man - I totally forgot - I wanted to add this xkcd to my rambling about 3BP ...

 Now this ...  this is more like the physicists that I know. 


  1. Lovely review of The Goblin Emperor - I really need to read that one. And I agree with you re physicists and the unexpected, though clearly your experience with them is a lot more extensive than mine. Re Eugie Foster: I don't know if you knew that she died of cancer last year. I've heard good things about her stories, and I'm sorry we won't get any more of them.

    1. Nooooo! I hadn't heard. That really stinks - her's was the first short form story I have read so far that I actually liked and was planning to look up more by that author. How sad. (Most of the other short form authors are going on the list marked *avoid*).

      And yes, do read The Goblin Emperor! I recommend it very highly indeed.


Hi! I do read all of the comments and want to let you know that I really appreciate your stopping by and taking the time to leave a note. Work has fallen in on me and I have not had enough time to reply coherently lately so I apologize preemptively but still want to assure you that your comments are valued. I am using comment moderation to avoid using more annoying spam avoidance. Thanks for your patience.