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Topic: 2013 SF Challenge /DISCUSS /January 2013

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Subject: 2013 SF Challenge /DISCUSS /January 2013
Date Posted: 1/1/2013 9:23 AM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
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2013 is here!  In case you are just joining the discussion, click here for an explanation of the 2013 SF Challenge.

So what book are you starting this year's challenge with?



Last Edited on: 1/1/13 9:22 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 1/1/2013 3:19 PM ET
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I bought a ton of Vonnegut a month ago, so I plan to start off both 2013 challenges with Bluebeard.  I've no idea if it's actually science fiction or not.  I guess I'll see when I get started reading it.



Last Edited on: 1/1/13 3:20 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/1/2013 3:52 PM ET
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Bluebeard is one of my dad's favorite Vonneguts, though I've not gotten around to it yet. I didn't get the impression it was SF though, sadly. . . 

Date Posted: 1/1/2013 8:25 PM ET
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I won't be too bothered if it's not science fiction. I just won't be able to double count it which isn't a big deal. 

My favorite Vonnegut book so far (Mother Night) wasn't sci-fi either.

Subject: #30 Collection of stories, all by same author
Date Posted: 1/2/2013 10:22 PM ET
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After the Apocalypse; Stories, by Maureen F. McHugh (2011) ****  

This new collection of Maureen McHugh stories are mostly set in near-futures brought about through a slow slide rather than a sudden apocalypse as the title might suggest. If there is any apocalypse, it is more in the inner lives of the characters.  These are strongly and fascinatingly character-oriented stories, some are little more than pure character studies.  If I ever were to try to write, this is writing I would want to study.  But at this point, I read the collection for entertainment purposes.  A few fall kind of flat once the characters are established, but those that work, work really well.  As far as I'm concerned, the best of this volume are "Useless Things", about a woman eeking out an economic existence in the desert where she creates lifelike dolls for online orders, and "The Effect of Centrifugal Forces", about a daughter trying to find a place for herself as her parents self-destruct, and "After the Apocalypse", about a mother and daughter walking from Texas to a rumored Canadian refugee camp though a collapsed America.

I've previously read all four of Maureen McHugh's novels.  If you are unfamiliar with her work, I think I would recommend China Mountain Zhang as the place to start.



Last Edited on: 1/2/13 10:46 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/3/2013 12:58 PM ET
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Nope.  Bluebeard isn't science fiction in the slightest.
 
I was liking it all the way through, but when he revealed what was in the potato barn, everything started clicking and "like" turned to "love."  PhoenixFalls, I agree with your dad.  It's one of my favorite Vonneguts so far - it ranks right up there with Mother Night.

 

Date Posted: 1/3/2013 1:14 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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Melanti -- Guess I'll have to move it up my TBR then. My tastes agree with yours more often than they do with my dad. ;)

Brad -
Date Posted: 1/4/2013 8:00 PM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2009
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Guessing I probably won't be posting here as much because as it stands now, the technology gods are against me. My computer crashed, posting on the smartphone is a pain. Editing my list won't happen on the smartphone.  Sadly the PBS android app doesn't have the discussion forums.  Work for some reason I can't log into the site, but it isn't blocked so I can browse.

So I'll be limited to posting at the library and such.



Last Edited on: 1/5/13 2:31 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Subject: chat
Date Posted: 1/6/2013 11:56 AM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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I forgot where I saw this (NPR maybe?) but 2312 was supposedly one of the best SF books of 2012.  I'm halfway through it.  It's typical Kim Stanley Robinson and it's definitely keeping my interest up.  There's a backstory about Alex (who is dead) and a love story (I think??) between two characters who are both male/ female, and periodic check-ins with another character who I can't figure out but must be important.  I say this is backstory because what interests me is the picture Robinson paints of humanity in the year 2312.  He does it with lots of description, lists, abstracts, and high-tech big words (most of which aren't in my Kindle Fire dictionary).  It sparks the imagination, you have to fill in the blanks yourself.  Challenging read.  Amazon has reviews all over the place, lots of people don't like the book.  I think it's pretty cool.  I put it under SF mystery but it would fit better under the hard SF category (like TomHl has it). 

Also read a nebula nominee - Mechanique Tales of the Circus Tresaulti (sp) - is this fantasy? not really.  magic?  high-tech?  dystopia?  steampunk?  meh - I didn't think I'd enjoy this book, but I was wrong ---it was also a good read.

Discovered on my Kindle Fire how to sort by publication date the new SF books coming out.  Yousa, have to keep my paychecks coming in for awhile.  Haven't touched the TBR - dang it.  Also discovered lots of new Dr. Who books - dang it, dang it, dang it.  

PhoenixFalls - really like your review blog.  Have you heard anything about the Tanya Huff book The Silvered (or something like that)?????  I'm not into fantasy but really enjoyed Huff's urban fantasy stuff, thought I'd give this one a try - downloaded a free sample and trying to find time to read it. 



Last Edited on: 1/6/13 12:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/6/2013 1:00 PM ET
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Alison -- Thanks! I've never read any Huff, for some reason. I do have Sing the Four Quarters on my never-ending TBR pile, though I don't remember now why I picked it up. Let me know what you think of the sample, whenever you get around to reading it!

 

I'll probably be starting the challenge with Karen Lord's The Best of All Possible Worlds, but not for a week or two.

Subject: #28 Work written the year you were half the age of your birthday this year
Date Posted: 1/9/2013 6:33 PM ET
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2312 on my kindle will have to wait a little longer.  I did use the dictionary more than once while reading the free sample before buying it.  I have an airplane trip coming up, and that one will be good for not carrying a stack of books with me.

So, let's see, the year I was half the age I will be in 2013, turns out to be 1984.  On Mt. TBR, the only book I have that was published in 1984 is The Merchant's War.  But that is the sequel to The Space Merchants, which I have also never read.  So there you have it; now reading The Space Merchants, by Frederick Pohl and C.M.Kornbluth, from 1952.

-Tom Hl.



Last Edited on: 1/9/13 6:38 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Subject: #10 Science Fiction Mystery
Date Posted: 1/9/2013 8:57 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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Halting State, by Charles Stross (2007) *****

Wow. That'll teach me to pass over a book because the cover blurb mentions a bank robbery by orcs and a dragon.  It's a fast-paced, thrilling, near-future, hip, relentlessly creative, smart-alek, criminal investigation - and it doesn't hurt if you already speak Unix. The orcs and dragons are merely avatars in a massively multiplayer online game, but the stakes in this newly independent Scotland are very real. I think the icing on the cake for me was when the superconducting magnet of the quantum computer quenches. I'm a biomedical engineer working in the field of magnetic resonance imaging, and a superconductor quench is something very real in my life. So I'm giving this top recommendations. 

The book was nominated for Hugo and Locus award in 2008.  Besides Stross's 2011 sequel Rule 34, there is a further sequel, tentatively titled The Lamda Functionary that is contracted for release in 2014.

Subject: Lambda Functionary
Date Posted: 1/10/2013 12:10 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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OK - Ready to preorder with one click.

--------------------------------------------------

side note - finding 2313 very thought provoking.  As I live during "the dithering" era, can't help but wonder how future generations will judge us.

Read Tanya Huffs' The Silvered sample download. Werewolfs utilized/recruited in war.  Looks well written, but sorry, not in the mood. Might pick up at a later time.



Last Edited on: 1/10/13 12:20 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/11/2013 1:12 PM ET
Member Since: 5/10/2009
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PhoenixFalls - I gave Sing the Four Quarters 2 1/2 stars.  It's not terrible.  It's just a fluffy and rather predictable romance novel, which isn't to my tastes.  I know you have more tolerance for romances, so you might like it better than I did.  As for why you may have picked it up, it has a very laid back approach to sexuality.  From what I remember it's sort of taken for granted that everyone is bisexual.  The heroine starts off in a lesbian relationship, though the main love interest is male.  Maybe that's why?  
 
 
I started off the SF challenge with Octavia Butler's Wild Seed.  It wasn't as uncomfortable a read as most of her other books -- which is both good and bad.  Reading it wasn't making me cringe, which is good I suppose but I've come to expect Butler to really challenge me with new ideas and this book didn't do that.  
 
Due to last year's fantasy challenge, I read lots of Caribbean based books in the last couple of months, and in most of the books the history of slavery played a huge role.  So it could be that I've just read too much of it too quickly.  I'm going to give it a month or two before moving on to the next book just in case.  
Date Posted: 1/11/2013 4:42 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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Melanti -- Ah, yes, bisexuality as the standard would be a reason I'd pick something up. Though bisexual female character ending up with a male character in the end has started to bug me since I realized it almost never goes the other direction -- only explicitly lesbian characters end up with women. So I'll have to keep that in mind.

I don't remember which of the other Butler books you've read. . . I found it more challenging than Fledgling, but I haven't read more in her catalog yet because the rest look like they're going to be REALLY depressing.  But yeah, just overexposure through all that Caribbean reading might be the culprit too. And of course, Wild Seed is just kind of old too. . . a lot of the stuff presented in it has probably been internalized by some of the recent authors you read, and by the audience at large so newer authors don't have to do as much hand-holding.

I don't know if I'm actually making sense here though, so I'll shut up now. . .  ;)

Date Posted: 1/11/2013 6:14 PM ET
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Well, to help further, the female love interest is only in the first few chapters.  I don't remember if they explicitly break up, but it's fairly evident that their relationship isn't going anywhere.  There's never (at least that I can recall - but it's been a few years) a push to choose between X or Y.
 
Of Butler, my first book was Kindred -- pretty tame by her standards, but interesting.  Then I read Fledgling which really disturbed me.
 
I read the Xenogenesis/Lilith's Brood trilogy -- oh, November or so.  It plays around with the same consent issues that Fledgling plays around with, though at least most of the characters are adults.  There's a lot of "oh, well, your mind says 'no', but your body says 'yes'. So, you must mean 'yes'" and lots of mind manipulation to get people to agree to things in the first place. So, then, does it count as consent if half of you consents? Does it count when you've been forced to change your mind?  What about if they changed your mind months/years/decades ago so that you consent now?
 
And it spends a lot of time on trying to figure out what being human means.  Lilith is changed - little by little - into something else, and at each step of the way there's something to make you wonder if she still counts as human or not. 
 
I don't exactly ENJOY her books, but I always feel like the time to read them was well-spent, if that makes any sense.
Brad -
Date Posted: 1/20/2013 2:29 PM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2009
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It's a mixed bag so far for me

Loved The Day of the Triffids (John Wyndham) and Mammoth (John Varley).  Both I was sucked in, with I expected from Varley.  Day of the Triffids reminded me of Earth Abides (enjoyed that a couple of years ago) in the pacing and writing style

Gave up quickly on Turnabout (Thorne Smith).  I found the characters annoying and the plot uninteresting.

Was sort of enjoying The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (Philip K. Dick) but couldn't see myself reading the rest of it, so I stopped reading it.  While I still would put PKD in my top 2 favorite authors, that's all 3 of his Valis trilogy books that I gave up on (maybe I finished The Divine Invasion, can't remember for sure).

Reading right now West of January (Dave Duncan).  While I'm not sucked in, I'm enjoying it enough that I'll probably finish it.  Also reading Stand on Zanzibar (John Bruner); at first I thought I'd be giving up on it pretty quickly since I was annoyed by all the made up words in Bruner's trying to "world bulid", I felt like I needed a glosory to read it, but I've started to get somewhat into it.



Last Edited on: 1/20/13 2:39 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 1/24/2013 12:34 PM ET
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Brad - I read both Day of the Triffids and Earth Abides last year.  I really liked both of them.

I read another of Wyndham's books.  Chocky.  It's sort of a cozy first-contact/horror novel.  It wasn't as good as Day of the Triffids or Midwitch Cuckoos, though it was still enjoyable.  One of my favorite parts of first-contact novels are the culture clashes.  And while there's a little bit of that here, it's all third hand, so it isn't as direct.

I'm going to put in the First Contact slot for now, but I'll probably move it to the British Author's category later.

I also read Eden by Stanislaw Lem, which is another first contact novel.  It reminded me of his more well-known book, Solaris.  It has a similar theme - miscommunication between humans and aliens, though not to the extreme that it took in Solaris.  I really am impressed with how Lem acknowledges how different humans and aliens are likely to be.  I think that SF authors tend to assume that alien culture is going to be comparable to human culture, when really they're probably going to be so different as to be almost incomprehensible - at least at first.

I'm putting this in the translated author slot for now, though I'll likely move it to the first-contact slot if I can.

Brad -
Date Posted: 1/29/2013 7:15 PM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2009
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Melanti- I added you on Goodreads; accept if you wish. I don't put everything on Goodreads, just some.

 

Finished a couple of books-

The World Wreckers by Marion Bradley Zimmer.  I loved this book.  The setting of Darkover was neat, the different characters were great.  The talking about gender and sexuality is a big reason why SciFi is so appealing to me and MBZ did a great job.  Reading this I'll certainly put other Darkover books on my to-read lists.

Finished West of January by Dave Duncan.  I almost gave up a few times, but pushed through it.  It just didn't keep my interest enough, but it was a good plot idea.



Last Edited on: 1/29/13 7:19 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/29/2013 9:22 PM ET
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Yay! The World Wreckers has always been one of my favorite Darkover novels, and it's not one that gets mentioned a lot. Glad you enjoyed it Brad!

Brad -
Date Posted: 1/29/2013 9:36 PM ET
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Which Darkover books would you recommend next? I may have to try and fit them into the challenge.
Date Posted: 1/30/2013 1:45 AM ET
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I'd say read the duology The Spell Sword and The Forbidden Tower next -- set a generation earlier than The World Wreckers, they have another Terran being forced outside his formerly comfortable heterosexual box, a Darkovan man questioning the rigidity of gender roles as they relate to telepathy and the Towers, and the development of a polyamorous relationship.

And then the three Renunciate novels, The Shattered Chain, Thendara House, and City of Sorcery, which are set at the same time and explore more the womens' side of things and which feature one of my favorite supporting characters in all of SFF, an emmasca woman (don't remember if you would've encountered that term yet -- it's someone who's been physically neutered).

Subject: good reads and rambling
Date Posted: 1/30/2013 1:07 PM ET
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Finished 2313 and I'm kinda conflicted about it.  I don't think this book is for everyone, doesn't really go any where.   But the same can be said of KS Robinson's climate change novels.   Is there gonna be more, like a series? If you Bing for a review of KSR's 2313 there are several good ones on-line.  Well, I liked the book but it did take me a long time to read, it kept getting bogged down.

Hey, fun read, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Also, half-way through Great North Road by Peter Hamilton.  Really nice space opera- I need to read more of Hamilton's stuff.

Picked up Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand for two bucks today.  Not my kind of read, but if I finish the book, it can fit into the Tiptree spot. 

Also found Nexus by Ramez Naam, an author born in Egypt.  His pic has him with carmel colored skin and jet black hair, so I'm gonna go with the  non-Caucasian category.  Anyways, he's living in Seattle (support local authors!) and the reviews of his book are great. 

Finally - Darkover books rock, lost a summer of my life reading 'em all.  Got Hastur Lord in my TBR pile, it's probably got gender issues - oh yaaa - hey hidden story in Darkover - no guns!  Forgot about that.  

Reminds me, I want to pick up the Stephen King - Guns.  Anybody read it yet?

Date Posted: 1/30/2013 2:31 PM ET
Member Since: 5/10/2009
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I guess I'm the only one who never got into the Darkover books much.  I've only read Landfall and Rediscovery.  I tried to pick up some more, but I'm creeped out by some of the unsubstantiated rumors about her personal life.

Alison, I realy liked Waking the Moon, though it had some issues.  It does pick up the pace a bit about a third to half the way through.

 

Brad - the more the merrier on Goodreads! 

 

Date Posted: 1/30/2013 4:15 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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Melanti -- Those are, like, the worst Darkover novels. I mean, there are a lot of ways that Darkover ultimately fails in terms of its worldbuilding (Bradley didn't care about maintaining internal consistency) and in terms of its exploration of gender and sexuality (most of them were written decades ago, after all) but there're MUCH better Darkover novels than those. Not that you have to read them, of course, but if you ever do wanna give them another try. . . ;)

But now I wonder what rumors you're talking about! I've never looked much into that sort of old gossip. . . you've got me curious!

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