Ribs Are Fragile Things

If I’ve been sort of quiet on this blog for the last few days past the Being a Better Writer post, well, it’s not without reason. I had a bit of an accident Saturday, and yesterday I finally decided to go see a doctor and get a verdict. The result? I’ve cracked at least two of my ribs and torn up my abdominal muscles nicely. On the one hand, this means that it hurts to breath and I can’t go do a lot of my favorite summer activities for a few weeks. On the other hand, short of disrupting my sleep schedule and bringing in some pain, there’s little to it to prevent me from writing, so now is the time to see how many short stories I can get done in the next week or two.

And on the third hand, if that’s a thing, it’s more experience I can put back into my writing. Because now I have first-hand experience on exactly how it feels and sounds to crack one’s own ribs, and that’s useful currency in the kind of stuff I write.

Speaking of writing, work on Unusual Events is coming along nicely. As it stands, I have one novella (SUPER MODEL) and several shorter stories done (Vacation, Monthly Retreat, and then a few older stories I just need to polish). At least, I call them shorter stories. Apparently some of them would count as novelettes. So it’ll be a pretty long short story collection—so not so short—from the look of it. But I’ve got another few stories to finish for that before I start divvying them out to Alpha readers first.

Lastly, a few weeks ago I wandered down to my local library and grabbed a book that I’d been hearing name-dropped quite a bit: Ancillary Justice. I was kind of curious to see what the hubbub surrounding the novel was all about, as there was a lot of stuff flying back and forth about it online. And while I haven’t finished it yet (I’m only about halfway through), my initial impressions are, unfortunately, very unimpressed.

I’ll do a longer writeup in the future after I finish it, but at the moment I feel as though whoever the author’s editor was, they dropped the ball. No book should make it past an editor with multi-page infodumps that cut the current sequence of events right in half. The big gimmick that to so many appeared to be a such a defining factor in why people liked the book is just that: a gimmick that has zero impact on the rest of the story so far, like a movie that is shot in black-and-white just to be black-and-white. The first hundred or so pages could be cleaned down to about thirty-five—and should have been, given how little of consequence happened. I actually fell asleep during the first forty pages.

Also, and this is one of the more interesting thoughts I had following it, but this is perhaps the first “Science Fiction” book I’ve read where I’ve questioned whether it should count as Science Fiction. Yes, I know that any advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, but let me put it this way: thus far, Star Wars has better-explained science than Ancillary Justice. I had to switch some mental gears and start calling it “Space Fantasy” in my head after the first fifty or so pages. There is zero explanation as to any “science” the story contains. Which, given the books interest in multi-page infodumps about things like coin-flips, makes it feel heavily lopsided.

To be fair, the coin thing is important to the book. But a multiple page infodump on it was not the way to present it. Which highlights one of Anciallary‘s problems as a whole: It’s super telly. Show is not something this book more than dabbles in. Which is odd, considering that it’s about an AI ancillary spread across multiple bodies. While I give it a bit of a pass on Show Versus Tell because it is an AI, it’s not enough to make up for the near-total lack of show so far.

Anyway, yes, I am being harsh on it (and I’ll probably end up rewriting a good chunk of this when I finish it). But I’m being hard on it for a reason. Ancillary Justice won a number of awards, including the Hugo, the Nebula, the BSFA, and the Arthur C. Clarke award. I had high expectations going in. I was expecting something awesome. What I got was … not.

At this point, the latter half of this book had better be just about better than anything I’ve ever read in my life if Ancillary wants to live up to its praise. Because this first half? It’s just plain disappointing. This book must have done something really special in that last half for those who voted for it to rationalize “Well, it’s tell, tell, tell and has multi-page infodumps right in the middle of conversations, but dang if that second half wasn’t incredible!”

Honestly? I hope it is. Otherwise, I’m going to be forced to place more suspicion on novels I pick up that have Hugo or Nebula awards on them because a story with this many clear flaws should not be pitched as the best novel of 2013.

Eh, I’ll finish it in the coming week, and then I’ll know. For now? Back to work.

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