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Topic: 2011 SF Challenge: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION THREAD

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Subject: 2011 SF Challenge: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION THREAD
Date Posted: 2/1/2011 11:38 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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Previous, related posts:

2011 SF Challenge -- LISTS ONLY THREAD

2011 SF Challenge -- DECEMBER DISCUSSION THREAD

2011 SF Challenge -- JANUARY DISCUSSION THREAD

 

Welcome to month #2 of the Challenge? How did your first month go? Any particular stand-out books? Any you wish you hadn't bothered with?

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 2/1/2011 6:07 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
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January was pretty good for me.  I got 5 books finished for the challenge, and no "regrets" so far:

1) The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Biopunk) - Fascinating setting and detail, but not executed as well as it could have been.
2) The Surrogates by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele (Graphic Novel) - Somewhat diverting, but graphic novels aren't my thing.
3) Kraken by China Mieville (dealing with religion) - Confusingly weird, but captivating.  I'll be looking for more of his books.
4) Plunder by Ron Goulart (SF comedy) - 11th book I've read by Goulart, if that says anything about how I like his light, humorous style.
5) The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan (nonfiction) - Excellent book.  A case for scientifically based rationalism that meant a lot to me personally.

I am not sure exactly what's up next.  I have Eifelheim by Michael Flynn out of the library.  I think it can count for the Secret History category.  I have a couple of China Mieville books on deck as well, but I'm not sure when I'll get to them or where, if anywhere, I'll stick them for the challenge.



Last Edited on: 2/1/11 7:16 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Subject: 5 sf books in January
Date Posted: 2/1/2011 6:39 PM ET
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  • SF dealing with climate change - Flood, by Stephen Baxter (2008) - finished 1/6/11 ***
  • Second Contact - Giant's Star, by James P. Hogan (1981) - finished 1/15/11 **
  • SF dealing with a secret history - Blackout, by Connie Willis (2010) - finished 1/22/11 ****
  • SF that ties in with some other medium - The Laertian Gamble; Star Trek Deep Space Nine No. 12, by Robert Sheckley (1995) - finished 1/24/11 *
  • SF Mystery - All Clear, by Connie Willis (2010) - finished 1/31/11 ****

My rating system is * for awful, ***** for awesome

Blizzard in progress here.

-Tom Hl.
 



Last Edited on: 2/1/11 6:41 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/1/2011 7:37 PM ET
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I am slow out of the gate for this challenge.

I completed:

  • War of the Worlds by HG Wells for the other medium category. I am a Wells fan. He did not disappoint on this one. It is funny how different the actual story is compared to the multiple movies and the infamous radio play. This is a must read in my opinion for SciFi fans.

I am reading:

  • The Postman by David Brin for my Fix Up Novel category. Less then a hundred pages left. This is my first foray into Brin's work and so far he has been amazing. This is completely different then the so-so movie starring Kevin Costner.  It has been a lighter read then I expected but a fulfililng one nonetheless.

Next up will be:

  • How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove


Last Edited on: 2/1/11 7:41 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: January roundup
Date Posted: 2/2/2011 11:11 AM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
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  •  War of the Worlds by HG Wells for the other medium category. I am a Wells fan. He did not disappoint on this one. It is funny how different the actual story is compared to the multiple movies and the infamous radio play. This is a must read in my opinion for SciFi fans.

brilliant - i'd never have thought of this as other medium.  i could put Alice in Wonderland in this category.  it's been over 30 years since the original read, what a weird book, for children?  i'm getting more out of it now then i did back then.  also, free download to your kindle.

can't brag like you guys, only got three books read this month on the challenge.  but i'm finding lots of anthologies in my TBR piles.

 

temp here, mid-40s, waiting for the sun so i can take the dogs for a walk - cheeky

Subject: Work that is on the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010
Date Posted: 2/2/2011 7:17 PM ET
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The challenge category for "C10. Work that is on the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010" is now available.  The list has been announced at http://locusmag.com/Magazine/2011/Issue02_RecommendedReading.html

The novel category consists of...

Date Posted: 2/3/2011 2:11 AM ET
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 Totally awesome. . . I needed a slot to put Yarn into. Thanks Tom! I'll go update the main challenge thread!

Oh, and that should make it easier for everyone who wanted to read both Blackout and All Clear for the challenge! :D



Last Edited on: 2/3/11 2:13 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 2/3/2011 5:08 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
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Interesting list.  I've read The Passage and Starbound, and wasn't overly impressed by either (even though Haldeman is one of my favorite authors).  None of the other books were really on my radar.  Maybe I'll give the Blackout/All Clear duo a shot, now that I can easily count both.

(and in case anyone was thinking about Starbound, it's the sequel to Marsbound, and does not work as a stand alone).

Subject: all clear
Date Posted: 2/3/2011 12:22 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
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thanks Tom for the list.  i predict Connie Willis will be the Hugo winner this year.

i picked up All Clear from the library yesterday (only had to wait 6 months!).  i was a little worried about picking up where Blackout left off, but i got into it alright.  my library copy had a piece of paper tucked into the book jacket with a list and brief outline of all the major characters from Blackout which helped considerably.  i've only read about 50 pages, but there's more cliff hangers here, more bombs, more action.  i couldn't help myself and read the last few pages of the book.  awwww, tearjerker alert.  not surprising however.  can't wait to finish this one.

oh heck what am i saying, just reviewed the list - haven't read Surface Detail or Matter yet but i bet Iain Banks is more than worthy of a Hugo.

oh, and Alastair Reynolds too.



Last Edited on: 2/3/11 12:29 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: yarn
Date Posted: 2/3/2011 12:32 PM ET
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phoenixfalls - did you put up a review for Yarn somewhere?

Date Posted: 2/3/2011 2:46 PM ET
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 Oh, no, I haven't read it yet. . . it's on my TBR stack for this month.

Date Posted: 2/3/2011 4:49 PM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
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I may have to read Birdbrain as soon as I can get my hands on it. Hopefully it won't be the epic quest obtaining a copy of Reamy's Blind Voices is turning out to be. 

Subject: birdbrain
Date Posted: 2/3/2011 8:54 PM ET
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just got back from the univ book store in seattle  - they didn't have it (nor Trolls).  not available on kindle yet either.  sad

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 2/4/2011 1:40 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
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I just picked up Blackout and read a few pages...is it a sequel to Doomsday Book?  I hate to say it in this crowd, but I really disliked Doomsday Book and did not finish it.  I will not be continuing Blackout, either.  Unless the rest of her writing is dramatically different, i think I'm giving up on Connie Willis. 

Date Posted: 2/4/2011 7:18 PM ET
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Birdbrain isn't even available through Amazon US. They had links to sellers, though. Maybe Powell's is one, then I can buy it and Blind Voices on the same tab. I always want the hard to find ones. :P

In the meantime, I think I'll go back to Green Mars and count it for the climate change category. I'll never get through this series if I keep putting it down to read something else. Then I might try to count Blue Mars as "dealing with the ocean"...surely someone develops that inland sea by Blue Mars? ;-)



Last Edited on: 2/4/11 7:50 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: 太陽の簒奪者 (Taiyō no Sandatsusha
Date Posted: 2/4/2011 9:01 PM ET
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USURPER OF THE SUN, by Housuke Nojiri (2002) ****

This 2002 novel was written as a fix-up of several stories published in SF Magazine, a monthly science fiction magazine published in Japan. It won the Seiun Award for best Japanese language sf novel in 2003. The English translation by John Wunderley was published in 2009.

High school astronomy club student Aki Shiraishi is the first to observe the artificial construction taking place on Mercury, and is rapidly propelled into a career in space science where she takes the lead in attempting to contact the so-called Builders. It seems they have sent automated nanobots on ahead of themselves to prepare a huge artifact to assist in their eventual arrival in the Solar System, and it is blocking enough sunlight to threaten human survival on Earth.

This hard sf novel starts in very short chapters that choppily accelerate through the years, written in the style of Arthur C. Clarke, who Nojiri emulates. However, it is not just a planetary space adventure as I had suspected, but also delves extensively into the theory of mind and both artificial and alien consciousness. By the end, I was admiring this book, my first experience with serious Japanese science fiction, and hoping to find more. Unfortunately, very little of this seems to be available in English amongst all the Manga and pop culture sci-fi that comes to us from Japan.



Last Edited on: 2/4/11 9:11 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 2/5/2011 1:16 PM ET
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Matt -- Blackout/All Clear aren't sequels to Doomsday Book, but they are set in the same world. If you hated Doomsday Book I'm going to guess that Blackout/All Clear aren't for you, as I think they're in the same part of her wheelhouse. . . but I wouldn't recommend giving up on her *quite* yet. She has two styles, of which Doomsday Book is solidly in one and about a third of her novels/short stories are solidly in another. And I have actually known several people who liked one style but hated the other. So if you wanted to give her one more try I'd recommend Bellwether or Uncharted Territory. They're very funny (in a screwball comedy sort of way) and WAAAAY shorter.

But of course you're allowed to say you hate Connie WIllis. We may think you're crazy, but we won't burn you in effigy for it or anything. . . ;)

Subject: SF Mystery
Date Posted: 2/7/2011 9:58 PM ET
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QUARANTINE, by Greg Egan (1992) ****

This is Australian writer Greg Egan's first science fiction novel. It starts as a mystery set in the late 21st century where a widower retired-cop-turned-private-investigator Nick Stavrianos is hired to locate a missing mental patient. Egan packs a lot into his vision of a future Australia, including purchasable brain mods, a runaway ozone hole, a global religious/terrorist movement, and a huge bubble artifact that seals off the Solar System from the rest of the universe. He doesn't just stick to a futuristic mystery plot line though, as Nick uncovers several layers of conspiracy until all of humanity and the universe itself hang in the balance.

Egan posits quantum wave collapse can be controlled by human brain function, taking the Copenhagen interpretation to some interesting consequences. Sweeping misunderstandings of quantum mechanics usually make me crazy, and I follow medical physics professionally, so I can tell you there is no evidence of this alleged brain function. But I cut some slack for Egan, because he is not presenting a misunderstanding as fact, but openly and wildly speculating. It is an existential roller-coaster, and I did enjoy it.

-Tom Hl.

PS - I moved All Clear to the Locus Recommended Reading List category, to make room for Quarantine as my SF Mystery category in the sf challenge.

Subject: replies
Date Posted: 2/7/2011 10:07 PM ET
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@Matt - I think Doomsday Book and Blackout/All Clear are in a very similar style - characters constantly being interrupted and hurried along and making decisions in the absence of accurate information.  So If you do or don't like one of them, it's probably a good indicator regarding the other.

@Alison - You read the ending first?  I could never do that.

@Jasmine - I guess I just assumed the climate change category was about changing the climate of Earth.  But, you know, I can see the terraforming of Mars fits too.

@All - a good 6 or 8 of those Locus Recommendations were on my wish list, but being 2010 releases, they are mostly still in hardcover.  :(

Date Posted: 2/8/2011 2:49 AM ET
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Ok, second shot at this review.  My computer shut down in the middle of the last one.

I read Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency for the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die category.  I enjoyed the book despite its choppy writing.  It's fast and funny.   What I don't understand is why it is on the 1001 Books to Read list.  While it's good, I didn't think it that good.  Especially since The Dispossessed or The Left Hand of Darkness by Leguin didn't make the list.  Is there some spark of genius or essential social relevancy that I missed?

I

Date Posted: 2/9/2011 5:12 PM ET
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Tom - It really was sort of a "duh" moment for me. I started Green Mars for the second time in December, and then put it down when January 1st rolled around. Since then I've been looking for an excuse to finish it for the challenge - to the point asking for a personal challenge category!. Here it is Februrary and just now I realized it would work for climate change. So hopefully you will all forgive me for the category calesthenics I'm going to put Blue Mars through. Not since the Silmarillion have I liked a book so much yet had such a hard time finishing it. (By the way...it's easier to read the Silmarillion backwards. The stories get shorter towards the end, and have more familiar characters. Then you can read forwards again and have a better idea of who begat whom.)

Lisa - You didn't miss anything. That's an odd entry for that list. I vaguely remember that book...thinking it was fairly amusing but not going anywhere, and eventually putting it down to read something else. I *did* like The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul, but it went somewhere. Still, even that one I wouldn't say is a book you should read before you die.

In other news...6" of snow per week and bitter cold makes for a lot of missed work and reading time! Yesterday I picked up and finished All Flesh is Grass, by Clifford Simak. Wikipedia tells me he wrote for pulp magazines for two years before quitting (and there's a short scene in this novel that hints at the reasons for that) but I would definitely say Simak has a place next to Bester, Asimov and the rest. All Flesh is Grass was a very original (even 60 years later) take on the old "aliens make contact with a small town" theme. There was also a very strong influence of fear of The Bomb in this one. Sometimes I think we owe our very lives to science fiction writers of the 50's/60's...if they hadn't stimulated us to imagine the horrors of atomic warfare, would we ever have avoided it?



Last Edited on: 2/9/11 5:22 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Subject: Feb reading chat
Date Posted: 2/9/2011 6:22 PM ET
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The Dispossessed or The Left Hand of Darkness by Leguin didn't make the list.  Is there some spark of genius or essential social relevancy that I missed? 

_____________________________________________

This resonates with me too.  I like "lists" but take 'em with a grain of salt.

So how is it that Starbound got on the Locus recommended list?  I read it back in March and only gave it 3 stars, in fact I can't remember much about the book at all.  meh.....

Haven't finished All Clear yet, got sidetracked by Yarn (Armstrong).  Terminology is delightful, but a very different and rather odd book.  I have not read Grey which supposedly takes place in the same world.

Tom:  I usually don't read the end of a book first, but All Clear is so chaotic I wanted to reassure myself it would all work out.  The brief encounters we see of the Queen and Patton (maybe Churchill?) are amusing.  Why aren't Edwards thoughts in italics?  Only on page 125 so far. 

___________________________________

 we owe our very lives to science fiction writers of the 50's/60's...if they hadn't stimulated us to imagine the horrors of atomic warfare, would we ever have avoided it?

That's rather profound.  I'm remembering Carl Sagan and his nuclear winter.

 

 

Date Posted: 2/10/2011 2:25 AM ET
Member Since: 3/9/2009
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I've just finished The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi for the Biopunk category.  This is a dark book about survival amongst corruption, scarcity and loss.  I know others didn't think much of this book but I was impressed by the world and characters created.  I wouldn't want to live there or know any of them, though.  If there was a dystopia category, this book would definately qualify.

Jasmine, I agree.  Simak is one of the early greats.  His City stories are some of my favorites.  Way Station is also very good.

Brad -
Date Posted: 2/11/2011 7:24 AM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2009
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Guessing it doesn't count as sci-fi but I'm currently reading Under the Dome by Stephen King.  If I don't lose interest and quit reading it, it'll take me a bit since it's 900+ pages long.  We'll see, it's much longer than any book I've read in a very long time, if ever.

Subject: meta-sf
Date Posted: 2/11/2011 8:14 AM ET
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SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, by Kurt Vonnegut (1969) ***

I last read this 38 years ago, while I was a freshman in college.  Given some of the other books I've read lately, this was a really quick read. I have a lot more awareness of events in World War II than I did back at the age of 18, and on this read it augmented Connie Willis's depiction of wartime England in Blackout/All Clear for me.

At this point, it seems more of an anti-war novel than science fiction, as the sf elements consist only of the caricature Tralfamadorians and Billy Pilgrim's time travelling. As anti-war literature, I picked up what I thought were some references to Jaroslav Hašek's Good Soldier Švejk, as the main character there is also a military chaplain's assistant for a time.

Fun to have re-read it, but now back to some heavier material. 



Last Edited on: 2/11/11 8:17 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
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