Ah, the lonely life of a Bureau42 book reviewer. Lots of people here have watched the relevant shows and movies and are willing to share their views; not so many have read every novel or short story. I’m skipping the standard review system, dividing 42 points among the five Hugo-nominated stories for 2003, and providing links so you can find and read’em. All of the linked sites have reproduced the stories with permission. Enjoy.

“Creation”
Jeffrey Ford
Originally published in Fantasy and Science Fiction

A child’s sense of the fantastic permeates this brilliantly-written story. We get a kind of imaginative creation of a living man– one of speculative fiction’s oldest dreams– and a sympathetically-rendered boy’s encounter with the realities of life and death. Ford’s wordsmithing, his understanding of detail places this among the best written stories nominated this year, though this is not in any real sense SF.

(10)

“Falling onto Mars”
Geoffrey A. Landis
Originally published in Analog.

A fascinating account of Martian history, using the familiar SF premise of a hostile planet becoming a penal colony for the unrepentant and the unwanted. Landis’s blunt style suits an account of this rough future history. The story features grim lifeboat politics (reminiscent of some harder Golden Age SF) plausible science, and an intriguing twist. What it lacks is a strong sense of the characters and personalities.

(7)

“‘Hello,’ Said the Stick”
Michael Swanwick
Originally published in Analog

Swanwick has authored a Hugo-nominated novel and two of the nominated short stories for this year. “‘Hello,’ Said the Stick” presents a whimiscally sinister encounter between futuristic barbarians and high-technology. He nicely suggests the context through conversational snippets; a greater physical sense of the environment would have been good.

(8)

“Lambing Season”
Molly Glass
Originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction

A well-written enigma of a story about the relationship between a character and her environment: it might have appeared in a more conventional literary magazine, if more of those still existed that really paid. What qualifies this as SF is a Twilight Zone-like encounter with an alien presence that seems to function as a kind of metaphor– though I’m not entirely certain for what.

(8)

“The Little Cat Laughed to See Such a Sport.”
Michael Swanwick
Originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction

Swanwick brings back two rogues from a previous short story. Here, Darger and Surplus plot in a future Paris, a Belle Epoch enhanced by sophisticated technology and genetic tweaking. The ending is a little pat, but the tale makes an enjoyable read.

(9)