[Spoilers–Enter at your own risk]
This is one of my favorite times of the year because the semester is winding down, allowing me more free time to read the Nebula nominees, too. If I have time, I usually pick up some of the Hugo nominees. This year, however, I suspect I’ll be focusing mainly on the Nebulas due to the Sad Puppies takeover of the Hugo ballot.
The list of nominees for 2014 is here. Due to several friends’ recommendations, I started with Annihilation. It’s the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer. Here is a review at i09 covers more of the details. I tore through it faster than any novel I’d read in years and felt a need to hide under my bed with a blankie when I finished. It left me with a sense of delicious disquiet. Although I usually write more about sociology, this book explored concepts of psychology in fascinating ways.
The protagonist and narrator, a biologist, is sent with three other women to explore Area X: an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist, the leader of the team. All the previous expeditions had failed, ending in the deaths of all of the team members. Fascinating group dynamics were presented like trust and distrust, in-groups and out-groups, as well as leadership style. The plot is gripping and the unreliable narrator fascinating. It seems that she may have been psychologically unusual before going to area X, which may be an advantage for her. The mystery, as well as the disconcerting, slow building horror, have me ready to read the second and third book. The book left me with many questions.
However, I’m currently reading The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu, a Chinese author. The book was translated into English by Ken Liu. I’m about a quarter into it and can’t wait to read more. Yesterday, I spent about thirty minutes reading about black-body radiation online to better understand the book. I love how science fiction forces me to stretch my knowledge. My focus in school was on the social sciences so I love a good opportunity to learn more about science. For example, I’ve been listening to an introductory, astronomy podcast from the Ohio State by Professor Richard Pogge since last fall. I’m on the 28th lecture, and I’ve found the podcasts both informative and entertaining at points. The only challenge I’ve faced is that while I’m driving, I wish that I could see the examples that he’s showing his class. I search for examples online later. Listening to these podcasts this year has led me to a deeper appreciation of The Three-Body Problem and will hopefully help me with writing my own fiction.