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earlier burfling | later burfling

Hugo Nominees - "Championship B'Tok"

Title: "Championship B'Tok"
Author: Edward M. Lerner
Published in: Analog, Sept 2014
Slates: Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies

Synopsis: We open with Lyle Logan playing chess with his piloting artificial intelligence Corrigan They are on their way to the Kupier Belt to repair MS129, an autonomous mining ship which has mysteriously stopped responding. Lyle reaches MS129 and is surveying its damage when something jabs him in the back and orders him not to move.

We never hear of Lyle again.

Instead, we find ourselves in Ariel Colony, on the Uranian moon of the same name, where the United Planets government has been keeping the survivors of a K'vithian incursion. We meet Carl Rowland (station chief for the United Planets Intelligence Agency), Corrine Elman (worlds-famous reporter) and Grace DiMeara (pilot of Elman's personal spaceship). Elmath is on Ariel to interview Glithwah, the "Foremost" of the K'vithian (aka "Hunters", aka "Snakes") colony. Carl is trying to figure out why the Snakes keep on having industrial accidents. Suddenly, Corrine reveals a vast interstellar conspiracy to Carl. Meanwhile, Glithwah is gloating over how the Snakes have taken stolen Boater tech and used it to rebuild their fleet. Carl arrives for his monthly game of b'tok - the "traditional Snake game of strategy" whose four-dimensional board evolves on a turn-by-turn basis. This time, the game is based on the Battle of Midway, with Carl playing the US (and losing badly). Meanwhile-meanwhile, Corrine is flying out to her next set of interviews, on board the starship Discovery, under construction in Saturn orbit - only her media access is suddenly denied. Meanwhile-meanwhile-meanwhile, Carl is trying to plant surveillance gear in the quarters of a Snake sculptor, when the whole place blows up …

My reaction: I was quite irate to realize that this story doesn't stand alone; instead, it is part of the InterstellarNet series (published by FoxAcre Press). Lerner is too busy serving up new plot threads to actually resolve any of them (the Lyle Logan subplot being the first of many examples), let alone provide enough backstory for new readers to get their bearings. This can work as the first few chapters of volume X of a series; it's an utter failure as a standalone novelette. While the actual writing isn't horrible, the incomplete and confusing plot means I'm putting this below No Award.


Originally posted at http://edschweppe.dreamwidth.org/194471.html - comment wherever you please.

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