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Topic: Currently Reading 8/10

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Subject: Currently Reading 8/10
Date Posted: 8/8/2010 11:03 AM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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A SF subgenre I happen to like has to do with (secret) agents with high-tech training who have to "save the world" - I just finished Mirrored Heavens by DJ Williams and then started Iron Sunrise by C Stross.  Quite a difference between the two.  Mirrored Heavens was all action, and though I find the adventure and action kinda fun the book fell flat because the characters were like cardboard and the tech was over the top. At the end of the book I was like "who cares?"  Contrast that with Iron Sunrise which actually had a story plot and real people in it - this is why I love reading Charlie Stross. 

So what are you reading and is it any good?

Oh yeah - there's a new Valor book coming out (Tanya Huff)  YAY!  I already preordered from Amazon - can't wait!!!

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 8/8/2010 4:50 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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Hey, good news about Tanya Huff!  I thought she said she'd be writing another Valor book, but I hadn't heard a timeline.


I'm reading Calling Dr. Patchwork by Ron Goulart from 1978.  It's part of his "Odd Jobs" series, which features a husband/wife team (Jake and Hildy Pace) as investigators that take on various odd jobs.  It's an SF comedy, with the paces kind of like superspies in the future.  I actually read a short Odd Job story in the DAW 30th Anniv. collection without realizing it was part of a series. 

Last Edited on: 8/8/10 4:51 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/8/2010 8:20 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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Don't have a SF novel going at the moment (working through a pretty crappy epic fantasy novel and Lolita, and I just finished Delany's sword-and-sorcery metafiction Tales of Nevčr˙on) but I've committed to actually reading the SF that I put on my TBR stack each month and never get around to. Those are:

Invader, by C.J. Cherryh

Absolution Gap, by Alastair Reynolds

Hyperion, by Dan Simmons

Pebble in the Sky, by Isaac Asimov

Neuromancer, by William Gibson

Hopefully they're all good -- they're either classics or authors I have a good relationship with, so that is a possibility. . . the one I'm most worried about is Neuromancer; haven't read much straight-cyberpunk before, so I don't know how it'll take. :)

Subject: recent reads
Date Posted: 8/8/2010 10:30 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd Century America, by Robert Charles Wilson, 2009

Post-apocalyptic science fiction has been around for a long time, but has started taking itself pretty seriously lately, with even mainstream bestsellers like The Road, and The Passage. But in a similar vein to the rebirth of space opera as an entertaining form, Canadian Robert Charles Wilson has put some fun into this story of a not-so-much destroyed and depraved America, as a devolved future America/Canada. I especially enjoyed the failure of naive first person narrator Adam Hazzard to really understand the human nature of the people around him - and had to snicker at the Dutch and French passages that are incorrectly translated for him, or that he assumes mean something other than what they really do. By the end of the book, the larger-than-life hero Julian Comstock is trapped in his own reputation, and the outcome was fully predictable. Still, this is an off-the-wall future history, that I did enjoy.

"Fugue State", by John M. Ford, 1990 / "The Death of Doctor Island", by Gene Wolfe, 1973 / Tor Double #25

I re-read this because I had checked out from the library, and started reading, an anthology that started with "The Death of Doctor Island". I decided not to finish the anthology, but to finish the story in this Tor Double that I already owned.

"Fugue State" by John M. Ford is a Nebula-nominated novella that raises the question of what is memory. It's structured as three nested short stories involving the same characters in different roles and different settings. Unfortunately, the three stories are unrelated in almost every way, and none serve to really answer the original question, except to suppose the memory doesn't really exist in our brains, but rather our brains serve as access points to some sort of cosmic memory pool (Karl Jung?).

"The Death of Doctor Island" by Gene Wolfe is a Nebula-winning novella concerning a space-faring autonomous therapy environment known as Dr. Island, experienced by its patients as a tropical island, whose ethical scruples may allow for the sacrifice of one patient for the benefit of another. In this environment is introduced a troubled young teen-aged boy for whom the island may provide an essential lesson. A much better story than "Fugue State".


PS - Looks like next up for me is Iron Sunrise as well.

Last Edited on: 8/10/10 10:21 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 8/9/2010 6:35 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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I thought Neuromancer was very well-written and interesting.  It's one of my favorite novels regardless of genre.


I finished Calling Dr. Patchwork, and I liked it enough to start another Goulart novel, Hello Lemuria, Hello.  I guess I'm in the mood for light and goofy writing at the moment.

Subject: three recent reads
Date Posted: 8/22/2010 6:26 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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Iron Sunrise, by Charles Stross, 2004

This is the sequel to Stross's Singularity Sky.  While it does suffer from sequelitis, it does tell a thriller next adventure involving UN Disarmament Inspector Rachel Mansour and her husband Martin Springfield in the same sphere of worlds populated by humans as a result of the singularity. I especially appreciated the depth with which Stross portrays the disaffected teenager known as Wednesday.

The New Weird, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, 2008

"Stimuli" contains short New Wave and New Horror fiction pieces which the anthologists consider precursors of New Weird. These are almost all quite good.

  • The Luck in the Head, by M. John Harrison
  • In the Hills, the Cities, by Clive Barker
  • Crossing into Cambodia, by Michael Moorcock
  • The Braining of Mother Lamprey, by Simon D. Ings
  • The Neglected Garden, by Kathe Koja
  • A Soft Voice Whispers Nothing, by Thomas Ligotti

"Evidence" contains short fiction pieces which the anthologists hold as examples of contemporary New Weird writing. The writing here varies from "Immolation" (I liked it) to "The Gutter sees The Light That Never Shines" (I didn't like it)

  • Jack, by China Mieville
  • Immolation, by Jeffrey Thomas
  • The Lizard of OOze, by Jay Lake
  • Watson's Boy, by Brian Evenson
  • The Art of Dying, by K.J. Bishop
  • At Reparata, by Jeffrey Ford
  • Letters from Tainaron, by Leena Krohn
  • The Ride of the Gabbleratchet, by Steph Swainston
  • The Gutter Sees the Light That Never Shines, by Alistair Rennie

"Symposium" contains the text of discussions and essays towards a definition of the nature and role of New Weird writing. There is a lot of verbiage here that seems to boil down to New Weird being a "new" category of speculative fiction, that crosses between science fiction, fantasy, and horror - with an emphasis on the grotesque. There are some historical writings - such as that of H.P.Lovecraft, and H.G.Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau that contain elements of New Weird - which makes me doubt that this is actually a "new" subgenre. Nonetheless, China Mieville and Jeff VanderMeer and others are definitely doing something noteworthy under the label of New Weird.

  • New Weird Discussions: The Creation of a Term
  • New Weird: I think We're the Scene, Michael Cisco
  • Tracking Phantoms, Darja Malcolm-Clarke
  • Whose Words You Wear, K.J. Bishop
  • European Editor Perspectives on the New Weird, Martin Sust, Michael Haulica, Hannes Riffel, Jukka Halme, and Konrad Walewski

"Laboratory" contains a single story, written round-robin by a number of additional writers attempting to demonstrate what they feel New Weird is. The result fails as a story miserably.

  • Festival Lives, by Paul Di Filippo, Cat Rambo, Sarah Monette, Daniel Abraham, Felix Gilman, Hal Duncan, and Conrad Williams

So I do not feel that this book does a very good job of putting a clear definition on New Weird. But it did expose me to some new and good writers who are experimenting in literary sf.

The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester, 1956

I have previously read Alfred Bester's other 1950s novel -The Demolished Man. I feel The Stars My Destination in many ways is typical of 1950s thriller science fiction; in gender roles, and in the psycho-babble of the times. But still, this book is something of a stand-out with its portrayal of a very angry Gulliver Foyle, who cannot abide the hypocrisy of polite society. He is an anti-hero that the reader is forced to identify with, even as he commits atrocity. A quick read, and very interesting.  I read it as part of a bookray on bookcrossing.com, and if you are interested in joining the bookray, go to http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7155977, and sign up by contacting TheLostBook.

-Tom Hl.

Date Posted: 8/25/2010 4:35 PM ET
Member Since: 4/9/2009
Posts: 360
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Looking to start "Snowcrash" by months end. This has really been a manga month for me, 50+ volumes so far :-)