May 13th, 2015

The Hugo Ballot, Part 8: Novelettes

Apparently Edward M. Lerner has been writing in the universe of "Championship B'tok" for years.  According to Analog two books are already out, and according to Amazon there will eventually be eight.  Which relieves me no end -- I thought it was my fault that I couldn't follow parts of "Championship," when really I was missing hundreds of pages of backstory.  Here's a summary, but I have to warn you that I might be completely wrong about some of this, or maybe all of it.

We start with Lyle Logan, heading through space to repair a mining ship.  He reaches his destination, leaves his ship -- and something jabs him in the back, while a voice says, "Do not move."  We never hear from Lyle again.

Then we meet Carl Rowland on Ariel, a moon of Uranus.  Once, we're told, "he had gone by a different name, had worn a different face."  Do we find out why?  Not a chance.

Next up: Corinne Elman, come to interview the Foremost, Glithwah, of a group of aliens known as Snakes.  Back to Carl again, talking to Danica, who's there to inspect a run of Snake industrial accidents.  Carl and Danica bandy theories about, with both of them concluding that the Snakes are up to something, maybe collecting the insurance from the accidents to buy alien tech.  And then other things happen -- Carl plays B'tok (a game like chess) with Glithwah while they both try to discover what the other is hiding, Corinne goes out to inspect humanity's second starship, a Snake sculptor comes under suspicion… Meanwhile, there's evidence of a conspiracy going back half a billion years.

Oh, and Corinne goes missing.  Do we find out what happened to her?  What do you think?

None of this confusion is Lerner's fault, of course.  People reading the series from the beginning know why Carl had to change his identity, and if they continue they'll find out what happened to Corinne, and, probably in book eight, why life on eleven worlds all developed at the same time.  But what I said for "The Journeyman" goes for this excerpt as well -- there's no beginning, no ending, no room for character development.  There's no way to judge the big reveal at the end, because we don't get to see the big reveal at the end.  The Puppies did Lerner no favors nominating this story; I felt lost several times, and I can't be the only one.  If they really liked his writing, they should have waited and nominated the novel.

Minor nit: How is it that people in this future remember Edward R. Murrow but not World War II?