Book Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona is actually my twelve-year-old daughter’s book. I knew it was good when she didn’t even want to put it down long enough for us to check out at the book store. When she finished it the next day, I knew I had to read it myself. I’m so, so glad I did.

So, apparently Nimona started life as a web comic,  but to read the whole thing now you have to buy the book.

It’s totally worth it. You should go buy it right now. Maybe even buy two copies, because this is a book that I could easily see reading over and over again. Also the sort of book that your friends aren’t going to return after you force them to borrow it, so it won’t hurt to have an extra copy laying around.

The art is simple, especially at the beginning, which again betrays  Nimona‘s internet origins, but I found it enjoyable to see the work evolve over the course of the story. Noelle Stevenson’s style is fluid and impressionistic. Every panel looks as if it’s in motion, which adds a sense of realism that is reflective of the naturalistic portrayal of the characters and their relationships. At the same time, Stevenson avoids realistic or consistent color schemes in favor of constantly changing palettes that tell a story of their own and convey moods extremely effectively. I especially liked the oranges in the middle of the book and the acid greens near the end.

Nimona herself is a great character. Though at times she skirts a little too close to Manic Pixie levels of quirkiness, she doesn’t exist in service to anyone’s story but her own. I love the growth of her friendship with Lord Blackheart, and it’s nice to see a bit of gender role reversal here, with Nimona as the rash, bloodthirsty one and Blackheart as a temporizing force and voice of reason. Blackheart and Sir Goldenloin are both nicely written, with a good backstory, and the ending of their story feels organic and earned. I also really appreciate that the only other two significant characters, The Director and Dr. Blitzmeyer, are women, another smart authorial choice that avoids the fantasy convention of marooning female characters in a sea of testosterone. While Nimona doesn’t get much interaction with these women, just their existence avoids one of the biggest problems I tend to have with fantasy stories in general.

The thing about Nimona is that it’s utterly charming. It’s funny and smart and sweet and deploys its pathos in exactly the right ways at exactly the right times to tug at the reader’s heartstrings. Like many web comics, it does tend to meander now and then, but the story is overall well-conceived and deftly executed with a minimum of sidetracking so that it’s cohesive when published in a single volume.

Nimona is a great book and a fast read, and it might (probably) will make you cry. Highly recommend.

 

I will def see The Martian if Neil DeGrasse Tyson tells me to

Full disclosure: I will definitely be seeing The Martian anyway because it comes out right before my birthday and I loved the book. But this new trailer thingy with Neil DeGrasse Tyson in it is really excellent:

I also read a couple of interesting pieces about the movie over the weekend:

The SF Bluestocking 2015 Summer Reading List Report

Well, perhaps predictably, I have not managed to finish my own summer reading list. Best laid plans, and all.

Breaking my foot back in May and being laid up with that most of the summer sounds like the sort of thing that would have given me all kinds of extra time to read, but instead I’ve found myself in a bit of a reading slump and spent most of the first half wallowing in pain and self-pity. The last month or so since getting my cast removed has been a significant improvement. Though I’m still not 100% better, I’ve started working out again, and this week I think I’m going to start walking daily to try and work back up to doing 2-3 miles a day like I was before the broken foot–ideally before it gets too cold and unpleasant for me to be out. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to enjoy the last bits of summer that are left, going to outdoor plays, checking out food festivals, hitting farmer’s markets, and just generally trying to be out of doors as much as I can.

The good news is that I think I’m coming out of the funk I was in most of the summer. The bad news is that I’ve so far been doing other stuff besides reading, and I’m also behind on some writing stuff as well. While I’m finally catching up on my reading some, I’ve not yet gotten back on track with writing book reviews, though that’s changing as well. I should have reviews coming out this week and next for The Fifth SeasonNimonaRat Queens Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery, and The House of Shattered Wings. By then, I should also be done with The Dark Forest, and hopefully that will get me more or less back on track with what I’d like to be doing in terms of output.

So, here’s what I did manage this summer:

  • Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer – This one was on my list, and I finished it. Review here.
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – List, finished. Review here.
  • The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton – List, finished. Review here.
  • Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older – List, finished. Review here.
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – List, finished. Review here.
  • Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke – List, finished. Review here.
  • The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán – List, finished. Review here.
  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – List, finished. Review here.
  • The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard – List, finished. Review soon.
  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu – List. Currently reading.
  • Spindle by W.R. Gingell – Self-published by the author. ARC received through NetGalley. Finished. Review here.
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – NetGalley ARC. Finished. Review here.
  • Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley – NetGalley ARC. Finished. Review here.
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – Borrowed from my 12-year-old. Review here.
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery – Not on my original list. Review soon.

I actually didn’t do too bad, all things considered. Fifteen books in the last two months. Ten of the fifteen from my original reading list, plus five that weren’t on there. Of the five books that I didn’t get to, one I’ve sort of lost interest in due to mediocre reviews (The Invasion of the Tearling), one is an ARC that I will definitely be reading within the next month (The Heart Goes Last), two are more literary works that I really could read anytime (Station Eleven and The Buried Giant) and one (The Magicians) is the basis of a tv show that I’m looking forward to, but that won’t be starting until at least February of 2016, so it’ll keep, too.

Probably a couple of these will make it on to my fall reading list, which can be looked for this week as well. It looks like I probably won’t be as lucky with ARCs this fall as I was over the summer, but there are plenty of upcoming releases that I’m pretty excited about that I’m sure will keep me busy. Which doesn’t even touch on the new fall shows I plan on checking out, which will be another separate post in the next week.

Weekend Links: August 29, 2015

Godzilla

These gorgeous Godzilla posters by illustrator Laurent Durieux have already sold out over at Darkhall Mansion, but you can see more of his work at his website. (h/t io9)

Probably the biggest news of the week has still been Hugo Awards stuff. I said my last piece on it (previous pieces are on my personal Tumblr) the day after the awards, but there have been a lot of other great pieces published this week:

In other, less frustrating, news:

Finally, if you’ve already read N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, go read her most recent blog post about it. If you haven’t read The Fifth Season, what on earth are you doing reading anything else?

 

2015 Hugo Awards – The Year of the Best Case Scenario

The lead up to this year’s Hugo Award ceremony reminded me a little of the 2012 election. All the polls and buzz at the time (and for months in advance) seemed to indicate that inveterate slimeball Mitt Romney was going to lose, but Mitt and Fox News seemed so convinced that they were going to win that I found myself in a knot of stress until Ohio was called for the President. In much the same way, the majority of reaction and community response to this year’s Puppy slates has been decidedly not in the Puppy’s favor, but they’ve seemed so certain all along that they were going to prove, well, something. Like the jerkwads at Fox News, they seemed certain that they were going to win–certain enough that they had everyone else on edge.

Even streaming the Hugo Award ceremony, the tension in the room felt palpable Saturday night, and it wasn’t until the announcement of the winner of the first major award that the atmosphere began to lighten. Anyone following the Puppy mess very closely knew that the John W. Campbell Award was going to be the bellwether, and as soon as non-slate nominee (the single non-slate nominee for that award) Wesley Chu’s name was read, it was as if everyone there breathed a collective sigh of relief and started to actually have fun.

The rest of the ceremony went off without a hitch. There were a couple of very nice acceptance speeches–Wesley Chu’s was notable, as well as Julie Dillon’s, Ken Liu’s (accepting for Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem), and those from the editors of Journey Planet and Lightspeed Magazine. David Gerrold and Tananarive Due were excellent once the mood in the room loosened up. Connie Willis was wonderful.

There were a couple of real surprises in store, which was nice. Unsurprisingly, No Award was the big winner of the night, taking five categories in which the Puppies had managed to secure all of the nominees. In more interesting news, though, Orphan Black won in Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), which is excellent. It’s a great show, and it’s nice to see it finally getting some awards recognition (although Tatiana Maslany’s Emmy nomination this year is promising). In Best Graphic Story, Ms. Marvel took home the rocket, which was surprising to me, at least–I was fairly certain it would go to Saga.

Perhaps the biggest upset of the night, though, was in the Best Novel category. I LOVED The Three Body Problem, but it seemed to be considered a long shot to win. Most of the speculation I saw leading up to the awards seemed to agree that Best Novel would go to either Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor or Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword, and the reaction to The Three Body Problem‘s win seemed to be generally pleasant surprise, but surprise nonetheless. It’s the first ever translated novel to win a Hugo Award, which makes the win historic as well. And if that wasn’t enough to hammer home the point that the Hugo Awards are about progress and change and forward thinking, the Best Novel winner was literally announced from space.

The full list of 2015 Hugo winners:

  • Best NovelThe Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor Books)
  • Best Novella – No Award
  • Best Novelette – “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed, April 2014)
  • Best Short Story – No Award
  • Best Related Work – No Award
  • Best Graphic StoryMs. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal (Marvel Comics)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”
  • Best Professional Editor (Short Form) – No Award
  • Best Professional Editor (Long Form) – No Award
  • Best Professional Artist – Julie Dillon
  • Best SemiprozineLightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams
  • Best FanzineJourney Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Colin Harris, Alissa McKersie, and Helen J. Montgomery
  • Best FancastGalactic Suburbia Podcast
  • Best Fan Writer – Laura J. Mixon
  • Best Fan Artist – Elizabeth Leggett
  • The John W. Campbell Award – Wesley Chu

Probably the best general piece published this weekend about the Hugo Awards was over at Wired: “Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards and Why it Matters”.

io9 gives us an idea of the Hugo Awards we would have had if it wasn’t for the Puppies’ slates.

If you’re into that sort of thing, you can just read the full 2015 Hugo voting stats for yourself.

Black Gate is succinct in saying “Dear Puppies: Your Taste Sucks”.

And Foz Meadows’ piece is worth a read, “Hugos and Puppies: Peeling the Onion”.

I’m not naive enough to think this mess is going to be laid to rest after this, especially not when Vox Day has already published like eight posts since Saturday night threatening that he’s going to keep trying to destroy the awards. However, just looking at this year’s voting stats, it seems to me that his claim of 400 voters is actually somewhat exaggerated. I’d guess there were closer to 275-325 dedicated Puppy voters, and so I’m also guessing that Day’s claims that there are many more where those came from can be largely chalked up to Day’s delusions of grandeur.

I expect that there will be a Puppy slate or two next year, but I don’t expect they will be as successful as they were this year. We certainly aren’t going to be free of the Puppy whining and pouting (when they aren’t insisting that they were wildly unsuccessful on purpose) for some time, but I imagine they will lose interest after 2016. Surely, by 2017, someone, somewhere will have done something to earn a harassment campaign from these assholes that will direct their attention elsewhere.

Weekend Links: August 22, 2015

Robert Jimenez’s art for a new set of Firefly trading cards is excellent.

The big news this weekend is going to be the Hugo Awards at Sasquan, but before that happens there are a few last minute pieces to read on the controversy:

In other, less frustrating news:

Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings hit shelves this week. I haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet (still savoring The Fifth Season), but there’s been plenty of other stuff to read about it in the meantime:

Notable interviews this week:

This week, my internet reading seemed to largely focused on just a couple of themes. The first one? Diversity:

The second major theme in my internet reading this week was nostalgia:

Miscellany:

 

Sci-fi and Fantasy books, tv, films, and feminism