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Topic: Best of 2011 SciFi Challenge

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Subject: Best of 2011 SciFi Challenge
Date Posted: 12/19/2011 7:33 PM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
Posts: 95
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Now that we're all looking for 2012 challenge material, I thought it might be useful if we all recapped our favorites. Some of you have been rating books as you read them (and thank you!), but I know others have mentioned books that sounded interesting, all of which I've forgotten by now. :)

I regret leaving Vernor Vinge's novels (A Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky) on my TBR list for so long. His aliens are truely alien, and Vinge has the talent to turn a skateboard riding tree into a character you will mourn for. Vinge writes nothing without good reason, just remember that when certain spiderlike aliens seem a little too....British. I'm thrilled that he has recently published a third in the series, Children of the Sky. 

Carol Emshwiller is another one of my new favorite authors. She does interspecies interaction very well, and seems to enjoy bending the first/second contact trope a little bit. The Mount featured a protaganist who had his freedom forced upon him, for example. 

Issac Asimov's Foundation was quite good. With the rate our data collection and storage technology is increasing these days, psychohistory is becoming all the more believeable. Statistics are only a matter of data, after all. In 3000 years we may finally have enough data about humanity to work with. 

I'm not particularly a fan of graphic novels, and to be honest, I think the fact that I began with Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira is responsible for that. Akira was the first graphic novel to win literary awards in Japan. Otomo makes his artwork tell the story, sometimes with pages of full size artwork and no text. This is something I've found seriously lacking in American graphic novels, which may as well just be picture-books for adults.

These books all earned 5 stars. I still recommend the 4 star books as well. You'll find ratings in the list-only thread.

Date Posted: 12/20/2011 12:25 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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Let's see. . . looking at my list, there are only two five star books I read for this year's challenge:

The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin (New Wave/Prometheus Award Winner)

Embassytown, by China Mieville (Second Contact)


But there were another five books I gave 4 1/2 stars to:

Jaran, by Kate Elliott (SF Romance)

Ringworld, by Larry Niven (Big Dumb Object)

Commitment Hour, by James Alan Gardner (Dealing with Gender Roles)

Fledgling, by Octavia Butler (Dealing with Race)

Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith (Lambda Literary Award Winner)


So a pretty good year for SF for me, given that I'm only going to make the light challenge. . .

(All links are to my reviews.)

Last Edited on: 12/20/11 12:25 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Subject: top reads of 2011
Date Posted: 12/20/2011 1:22 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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Keeping it to SF - Five Star rating:

Rule 34, All Clear, City of Ruins, The Truth of Valor and Consider Phlebas (reread)

also Ghost Story, Cryoburn and Silverborne (biased rating prob because I like the series)

I gotta get off my duff and read Embassytown.....

Last Edited on: 12/20/11 1:25 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/20/2011 1:56 PM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
Posts: 95
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Hum. You almost have me convinced to give Mieville a second chance. I noticed you chose The Left Hand of Darkness for your social sci fi category. I think you may be disappointed, as it really isn't the social commentary The Dispossed was. Gender is really just not an issue in that one, it's part of the setting. You probably won't be disappointed in the book itself, however. It's Le Guin, so of course it's well done.

Date Posted: 12/20/2011 2:32 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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I should have no problem finding a book that fits my gender category. . . it's one of my favorite branches of Social SF. I just penciled the Le Guin in there because I plan to read it next year. :)

Date Posted: 12/20/2011 5:28 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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My five-stars were Frankenstein (Mary Shelley), Air (Geoff Ryman), and Earth (David Brin).  I surprised myself by liking Earth so much; I had read it once a long time ago when it was relatively new, and didn't think much of it at the time.  We don't need to judge SF on how accurate it is at predicting, but how could he have gotten so much right regarding the world in which the story starts?

As for The Left Hand of Darkness, I think it's more speculative sociology than social commentary.  But there is social commentary behind that speculative sociology.  It is the book I've read the most number of times.  I sometimes tend to prefer hard-sf, but I respect that the societies are rigorously consistent and workable in LeGuin's writings.  Social SF is like Hard-SF regarding anthropology for me.

-Tom Hl.

Date Posted: 12/21/2011 5:07 PM ET
Member Since: 10/4/2010
Posts: 260
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Ok, I'll take a chance & post here among the die-hard science fiction readers... smiley

I didn't read much science fiction this year, but I did really enjoy McCarthy's The Road. It's actually the only book of his I've made it through.

I'm looking forward to combining some classics (HG Wells, anyone?) & more contemporary works for the 2012 challenge and thereby exploring this genre of which I know little.

Re: Mieville: I read The City and the City last year and ultimately was disappointed. I loved the writing but felt like Mieville never really brought to fruition his very interesting concept. Anyone care to share re: any of his other works (besides Embassytown, which was mentioned above)?

Btw PhoenixFalls, thanks for noting subgenres in your post -- very helpful to amateurs like me.

Last Edited on: 12/22/11 2:30 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 12/21/2011 7:42 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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I think my two favorites were Robopocalypse by Daniell H. Wilson and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, both new for 2011.  I didn't read that much SF, and a lot of it was disappointing...which brings me to China Mieville

I read Kraken near the beginning of the year, and while it was original and felt like it should be interesting, it still felt like a drag to get through.  That's the only one of his books I've managed to finish, having DNF'd The City and the City, Embassytown, and Perdido Street Station (more than once).  I think I've given him more than a fair chance...I guess I just don't care for his style.

Brad -
Date Posted: 12/22/2011 10:41 AM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2009
Posts: 200
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The runaway winner for my favorite book read in 2011 was Vurt by Jeff Noon.  Vurt was a thrill ride all the way through.  I couldn't put it down, which the timing was fortunate since I was on vacation at the time.

Other 5 star books:
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
The Identity Matrix by Jack Chalker
Camouflage by Joe Haldeman

There were some very close "misses" to 5 stars as well, getting 4.5 stars:
The PenUltimate Truth by Phlip K. Dick
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich by Philip K. Dick
Houston, Houston, Do You Read? by James Tiptree Jr.
Triton (AKA Trouble on Triton) by Samuel Delany
The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien