Discussion Forums - Science Fiction

Topic: 2011 SF Challenge: MARCH/APRIL DISCUSSION THREAD

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
Page:   Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: 2011 SF Challenge: MARCH/APRIL DISCUSSION THREAD
Date Posted: 3/1/2011 2:47 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
Back To Top

Previous, related posts:

2011 SF Challenge -- LISTS ONLY THREAD

2011 SF Challenge -- DECEMBER DISCUSSION THREAD

2011 SF Challenge -- JANUARY DISCUSSION THREAD

2011 SF Challenge: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION THREAD

 

Welcome to month #3 of the Challenge! What are you in the middle of, and what are you planning on reading next?



Last Edited on: 4/1/11 1:49 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: TomHl update
Date Posted: 3/1/2011 1:32 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

I'm in the middle of two books right now:

  • Work that has won the Arthur C. Clarke Award - Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson (2003)  Historical fiction involving 17th century mathematicians Newton and Leibniz as well as a number of fictional characters.  Very very long - 3 volumes made up of 8 novels - 3000 pages.
  • Non-fiction work related to the genre - The Hidden Reality, by Brian Greene (2011)  An overview of physics concepts relating to parallel universes.  It's about as good as possible without doing the math.

Besides that I'll be reading whatever the yahoogroups hard sf groups selects for March.  And probably also a re-read of Heinlein's Have Space Suit Will Travel, for which I am launching a bookcrossing bookray.

-Tom Hl.

Brad -
Date Posted: 3/3/2011 12:47 PM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2009
Posts: 200
Back To Top

The Lathe of Heaven - by Ursula K. LeGuin.  Much like The Lefthand of Darkness, I found the plot interesting, but the book to be somewhat uninteresting.  Not sure if her style of writing or what.



Last Edited on: 3/4/11 10:35 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/4/2011 2:42 AM ET
Member Since: 4/5/2010
Posts: 120
Back To Top

Just finished Caves of Steel by Issac Asimov for the SF Mystery slot. 

Date Posted: 3/4/2011 3:03 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
Back To Top

 How'd you like it? It was one of my very earliest SF loves. . . but it probably looks quite different if you aren't 13. :)

Date Posted: 3/4/2011 3:12 PM ET
Member Since: 4/5/2010
Posts: 120
Back To Top

Considering it was my first Asimov book I really enjoyed it. I plan on reading the other two books in the "trilogy". 

 

I just started A Stainless Steel Rat is Born by Harry Harrison. It's suppose to be a SF Comedy but we'll see. 

Date Posted: 3/4/2011 4:13 PM ET
Member Since: 1/29/2009
Posts: 122
Back To Top

I just finished Multiplex Man by James P. Hogan. It feels like an SF version of Atlas Shrugged, except that instead of heading to Colorado, they go to the post-Cold War Soviet Bloc and offworld (no spoiler), Although Hogan is a prolific author (30+ books), this is my first experience with him. So I have no idea whether this is a constant theme or not. It's easy to see why this one won the Prometheus Award, given for Libertarian-themed SF. I'd give it about three out of five stars.

Date Posted: 3/6/2011 12:44 AM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
Posts: 95
Back To Top

Still ocassionally picking up Green Mars, whenever I can get a lunchbreak to myself. I blame Perdido Street Station for taking up all my night-time reading hours. :P

Subject: Neal Stephenson
Date Posted: 3/7/2011 11:29 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

QUICKSILVER, by Neal Stephenson, 2002

I've decided to count this in the non-sf by a genre writer category rather than the Arthur C. Clarke award category.

I've probably mentioned this before, but Quicksilver is the first of Stephenson's three-book Baroque Cycle.

  1. Quicksilver (2003)
  2. The Confusion (2004)
  3. The System of the World (2004)

Within Quicksilver (the book) are three novels, which were in 2006 published as individual mass market paperbacks. The three novels within Quicksilver are

  1. Quicksilver
  2. King of the Vagabonds
  3. Odalisque

Quicksilver (the novel) is not so much science fiction, as I expected from Neal Stephenson, as it is historical fiction set in the late 17th and early 18th century. The main character is a fictional contemporary and friend of Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibnitz, named Daniel Waterhouse. The plot moves from event to event within his life, without any real interconnecting suspense. The attraction for me was in the bringing to life of the people and times, their attitudes towards "Natural Philosophy" (science), and Stephenson's digressions.  But pretty dry, from a plot and character point of view.

King of the Vagabonds is the story of the rogue Half-Cocked Jack Shaftoe and the young woman Eliza who he rescues from a Turkish harem at the siege of Vienna. They make a unique and entertaining couple as they find their way across Europe. King of the Vagabonds is definitely more character-driven and humorous than Quicksilver (the novel). But there is absolutely nothing science fictional or science historical going on in this middle novel of the book - although I am wondering why Enoch Root seems to be ageless.

As I had hoped, the independent story arcs of the first two novels do intersect in Odalisque, and there is a little more plot tension. Near the end, Stephenson drops in one or two cliffhangers, so as to lure me into reading the next volume - but I think I'm going to resist for a while.

Writing like this leads one to a lot of reflection. I noticed that a lot of really extreme political changes can take place during one man's lifetime, and as bad as the Republican/Democrat stuff is getting here in Wisconsin right now, that at least the cities are not burning, and no heads are on spikes. I was interested to hear an explanation for Newton's search for divinity within mathematics, although I suspect what I read is more Stephenson's than Newton's ideas.

Last note is that I have traveled repeatedly on business to the vicinity of The Hague, and especially enjoyed the settings there. I've also been to Paris and Vienna as a tourist, so some of the more famous landmarks from those places were also familiar. The one major place in this book I haven't been is London - and I am very grateful to Stephenson for including the map. This is my fourth book of the year with a setting in London, and finally I can see where, for example, St. Paul's is. 

-Tom Hl.

Has anybody read The Confusion (volume 2), and would you recommend it?



Last Edited on: 3/7/11 11:30 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: reading and stuff
Date Posted: 3/8/2011 12:55 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
Back To Top

Just got back from an awesome vacation.  Got to see the space shuttle launch - great experience!  While waiting on the causeway for lift-off, Hubby and I were part of an excited, wise-ass, knowledgeable, fun, geeky, high-tech crowd of people which made the 4 hour wait bearable.  NASA security and perfect weather made for a long wait, we had to be early for a good spot.  I set up next to this gentleman from Toronto who just happened to be a big Neal Asher fan (like me).  And I got a great digital video of the launch.  Super cool, only two more launches, I recommend the experience if you're into that kinda thing.

Got several books read, including Usurper of the Sun.  It was choppy/jumpy like Tom said, but overall a fairly good read.

Speaking to the count regarding Connie Willis books, I read Blackout last year, so I'm counting All Clear as one book.

I have Quicksilver in my TBR but don't know when I'll get to it, I have to be in a mood to read something other than SF. 

Starbound - maybe there was enough of a debris field left for mass - to cause the tide flow.

Been reading anthologies and SF mags mostly, easy to pick up and put down. 

I've only read 3 books from the Nebula nominee list.  Nothing else appeals to me - can anybody give a recommend? 

Date Posted: 3/10/2011 3:24 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
Back To Top

 Just finished: Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010
Filled with: Yarn, by Jon Armstrong
Other categories this work could fill: SF dealing with gender roles

My capsule review: A couple elements of this book were absolutely brilliant; the rest was either boring or problematic.

My full review, no spoilers, here.

Subject: robots/artificial intelligence
Date Posted: 3/12/2011 9:39 AM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

SOLIS, by A.A. Attanasio, 1994.

I read this book because it was the March 2011 selection for the Hard SF group at yahoogroups/goodreads. I'm also counting it in the "robots/artificial intelligence" category of the 2011 sf challenge here. Compared to some of the books I've read earlier this year, it was quick and easy.

Solis starts from the severely impaired point of view of Mr. Charlie, as he comes to consciousness 1000 years in the future, after his brain was frozen upon his death in our own time. I enjoy being thrown into a setting that seems non-sensible at first, and having to puzzle out what is going on, so this was a great hook.

It is all soon becomes clear that Mr. Charlie is at the center of a property dispute between various post-human groups, all of whom would agree that he is not one of the legitimate parties. Attanasio gives a tour of his far-future solar system and settles in on a quest for Solis, a more-or-less retro human enclave on Mars. The setting of the story is too far-future to be given serious analysis with regard to known science. At times I felt like I was reading a Kilgore Trout novel full of outrageous concepts and characters, given with little or no justification. New and weird characters continue to be introduced, well into the second half of the story, which detracts from the original and interesting characters of Charlie himself, Mei Nili, and the androne Munk (who gets involved because he was programmed to be fascinated by archaic humanity).

Overall, I give the story a medium rating. It has a lot of interesting concepts that should have been better developed.

-Tom Hl.

Date Posted: 3/16/2011 7:43 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
Back To Top

Just finished: SF dealing with race
Filled with: Fledgling, by Octavia E. Butler
Other categories this work could fill: None

My capsule review: Science Fiction concerned with Big Issues rather than Big Ideas; meditations on race and power and especially consent, all wrapped up in a tight thriller plot.

My full review, which does spoil some of the details of the first few chapters, here.



Last Edited on: 3/16/11 9:25 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/18/2011 12:50 AM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
Posts: 95
Back To Top

Tom - Your review of Solis made me laugh. Radix was exactly the same.

Brad -
Date Posted: 3/18/2011 9:14 AM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2009
Posts: 200
Back To Top

Giving up on Under the Dome by Stephen King.  Before I started it, I had guessed that since it's over 1,000 pages I would eventually give up on it and I was right.  Despite being 300+ pages in, I feel like absolutely nothing has happened.  The start was great, but there's too many characters.  You read about what is happening with each character in large detail, too much detail for me for that many characters.

Subject: runners-up for awards
Date Posted: 3/20/2011 12:34 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

HAVE SPACE SUIT-WILL TRAVEL, by Robert A. Heinlein (1958) ***

I remember reading Have Space Suit-Will Travel from the library as a kid, and bought my own copy in 1980 in order to re-read it. I see from my notes that I read it again in 1991. I read it this time probably the fourth time in my life. There is little doubt in my mind that it was books such as this one that led me to pursue the career I have, now in biomedical engineering. Heinlein even calls out specific engineering schools for praise - the one I went to actually shows up in his Revolt in 2100. What engineer would not enjoy being praised the way Heinlein does? Does not feel pride at their ability to simply solve problems in their head? At the same time, there is an arrogance in Heinlein's politics, with which I am not comfortable.

I've read most of Heinlein's books, and I again enjoyed this one as a re-read, but without the sense of nostalgia it elicited, I probably would not feel the same.  For example, when I recently read Citizen of the Galaxy for the first time, It was not the same.  Here's the full list of  the "Heinlein juveniles":
1. Rocket Ship Galileo, 1947
2. Space Cadet, 1948
3. Red Planet, 1949
4. Between Planets, 1951
5. The Rolling Stones aka Space Family Stone, 1952
6. Farmer in the Sky, 1953
7. Starman Jones, 1953
8. The Star Beast, 1954
9. Tunnel in the Sky, 1955
10. Time for the Stars, 1956
11. Citizen of the Galaxy, 1957
12. Have Space Suit—Will Travel, 1958
A lot of science fiction writers have been labeled as "the new Heinlein" by publishing houses more interested in selling books than accuracy - but I will recommend Bujold's Falling Free to any who are interested in that. 

This book was nominated for 1959 Hugo, losing to A Case of Conscience, by James Blish.  I think the correct book won.

 

DYING INSIDE, by Robert Silverberg (1972) ****

The book is a character study of a middle-aged man who is losing his telepathic ability to read minds. It is divided between flash-backs which explain his present malaise, and events in the current day (1970s). As much as he resents his own inability to resist reading the minds of everyone, including lovers, and spoiling those relationships - this ability has come to define him and he does not know how to live normally.

At the beginning, it is told in first person, and spoken to his ability, as if it was another person within his own head. Throughout much of the book, the details of one particular relationship he has had is held at a distance, as he resists telling the reader about it. Late in the book, when that relationship is finally exposed, it is again told in first person, and spoken to her. I was beginning to suspect that she has somehow become a part of him, but the truth is more mundane than that, and I was actually disappointed. The story of that relationship just did not seem to stand out as any more significant than his others, to me. So while I do feel this is a very literary, insightful, and well-written novel, I have trouble putting aside that one disappointment.

It was runner-up for Nebula Award in 1972. It lost to The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, and is definitely better than that one. However, Isaac Asimov probably deserved an award for lifetime contribution to science fiction, and that would explain the award.

-Tom Hl.

Subject: BSFA or Clarke award category
Date Posted: 3/27/2011 3:13 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

AIR: OR, HAVE NOT HAVE, by Geoff Ryman (2004)

To date, this is my best book of the year. Air won the British Science Fiction award, the Arthur C. Clarke award, and the James Tiptree award, and was nominated for many others.

wikipeidia has a nice non-spoiler summary of the plot concept, so I'll just quote it. "Air is the story of a town's fashion expert Chung Mae, a smart but illiterate peasant woman in a small village in the fictional country of Karzistan, and her suddenly leading role in reaction to dramatic, worldwide experiments with a new information technology called Air. Air is information exchange, not unlike the Internet, that occurs in everyone's brain and is intended to connect the world. After a test of Air is imposed on Mae's unprepared mountain town, everyone and everything changes, especially Mae who was deeper into Air than any other person."

I was fascinated by the portrait of complex individuals of the village Kizuldah in the last days of a traditional central Asian culture. Just as the expansion of Mae's universe to include the national capital, and even the Western world, begins to wear repetitious, dramatic events threaten the entire village. The book is successful simply on a plot level, but there is more.

Mae is pulled through a meteoric transition from her traditional culture to an advanced information age. Of course, gender roles are an early casualty. We observe this through Mae's evolving eyes. Far from the woman=good;man=bad theme typical of the 1970s gender fiction, I saw that Mae's perspectives on the subject are limited by her own prejudices as well. For example, there is a double standard in her classification of aggressive males as "sharks"; while non-aggressive males are "boys". But gender is only part of it. It is an openness to change, and fluidity, that primarily characterizes the difference between old and new. What is gained and what is lost?

Air itself is given a series of meanings. First, it is a technology of nearly limitless mind-to-mind information exchange. Then, it is an 11-dimensional physical reality of string theory and inflationary cosmology, as described in Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe. Finally, it is the spiritual component of nature in one of the traditional cultures of the fictional region. The unification of these three diverse concepts into "air" gives the novel rare philosophical power.

I highly recommend this book.



Last Edited on: 3/28/11 12:29 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Subject: Air
Date Posted: 3/28/2011 3:21 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
Back To Top

I TOLD you this was a good book.  Can't really believe that the baby survived.

______________________________________________________________

Air itself is given a series of meanings. First, it is a technology of nearly limitless mind-to-mind information exchange. Then, it is an 11-dimensional physical reality of string theory and inflationary cosmology, as described in Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe. Finally, it is the spiritual component of nature in one of the traditional cultures of the fictional region. The unification of these three diverse concepts into "air" gives the novel rare philosophical power.

_________________________________________________________________________

what what what???  I grok the mind to mind concept and the spiritual component of nature but I guess I need to read Greene to fathom 11-dimensional physical reality of string theory and inflationary cosmology    But regardless of all the layers Tom gives to this book, it's a great read.  Five stars from me!

 

 

 

Date Posted: 3/28/2011 9:31 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

"I TOLD you this was a good book." And you were right. The book has been on my tbr list since you recommended it a year or two ago or whatever it was. Thanks. Are the other Ryman books as good, or is he a one-hit-wonder?

The references to string theory are in the explanation that Mr. Tunch gives Mae when he is driving her back to her village. He says it is the basis of the technology for all the odd effects his research center is able to accomplish. I figure the wierd pregnancy and birth must be some unexplained consequence of it too. It doesn't actually make any sense from a physics point of view, but he lifted the vocabulary, and intended the connection, for sure.  I might not have noticed, except that I'm reading Brian Greene's latest book right now as well.

-Tom Hl.



Last Edited on: 3/29/11 9:46 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Ryman
Date Posted: 3/29/2011 12:49 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
Back To Top

Air is the only book I've read.  WAS (revisit the Wizard of Oz) might be worth seeking out.

I finished How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe - meh..... lots of SF time travel metaphors (ie, are you living in the past?  future? Come to grips with your parents, etc.).  Just not my kind of thing - really a philosophy book.  There were funny bits..... but only 3 stars from me.  I classified this as meta SF, mainly because some research on the internet turned up an article on the book and defined it as meta.  I don't fully grasp what is meant by a meta book. Anyways, got it on the Kindle but unfortunately it's not lending enabled.

Also read an Edward Lerner book (Small Miracles) - hey I like this author!  I had only read the Larry Niven books that he co-wrote in the puppeteer setting.  I'll definitely look for more by Lerner.  I put this under mundane SF even though it has nano-technology.  Read several definitions of what exactly mundane SF is, some said nanotech was OK, some definitions said no.  Kept my interest, 4 stars. 

Date Posted: 4/1/2011 1:50 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
Back To Top

Seems silly to start a new thread for April when there're only 19 posts in the thread for March. . . does anybody mind if I make this thread for both months?

Date Posted: 4/5/2011 2:04 PM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
Posts: 95
Back To Top

Due to my run of bad luck in the fantasy section, I decided to switch back over to sci-fi for awhile. I finished Chthon by Piers Anthony on the 1st. A fairly interesting love/hate story, but I'm going to have to read it one more time before I decide whether or not I liked it. The plot is nonlinear, and that may make for a richer experience the second time around. I think Anthony himself was hinting at reread at one point. -1 point for dropping a pun, though. 

I'm more than halfway through Cherryh's Invader. I'm enjoying this sequel far more than Foriegner, which wasn't all that bad in itself. Cherryh's writing style can drive me crazy sometimes. If her characters don't have enough to do they start to fixate on the same issue, and go over it again and again and again in their minds until even *I* start to feel neurotic. She is giving her diplomat plenty to keep him busy in Invader. Foriegner had him locked away in a castle with nothing to do but wonder what the heck is going on. These books are worth reading just to meet Ilsidi. I love that old woman. 

The revolution has finally started in Green Mars. Hopefully the pace will pick up again. After Sax's little adventure, Stanley pulled that action-at-a-distance thing I hate so much in literature. Why tell the story through a character's eyes when they aren't even a participant in the action? And after all those pages devoted to introducing the reader to the third generation, too. 



Last Edited on: 4/5/11 2:04 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/5/2011 3:07 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
Back To Top

Ilisidi is AWESOME. But I can only take a limited amount of Bren before I want to strangle him. . . Be warned with book #3, though, that the ending leaves a bit to be desired. . .

Date Posted: 4/8/2011 8:57 AM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
Posts: 95
Back To Top

I just finished book 3. :) Bren's okay, it's Jase I want to strangle...even if he was actually kind of justified in acting like a five-year-old. 

Date Posted: 4/8/2011 10:00 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
Back To Top

LOL, Jase disappointed me. He seemed like he could be awesome at first. . . then, yeah, started acting like a 5-year old. I'm hoping there's going to be some sort of reveal (at least in pieces) about weird ways the ship culture has changed and turned people all weird. . . (I'm exactly as far as you are now, so this is pure speculation. Finished #3 a few months ago and had to move on the other stuff for a bit.)

Page: