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Topic: It's December. . . what SF are you reading?

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Subject: It's December. . . what SF are you reading?
Date Posted: 12/1/2009 5:09 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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Last month's completions:

Vanishing Acts: A Science Fiction Anthology, ed. by Ellen Datlow. Rated three stars. SF Challenge Book
Archangel, by Sharon Shinn. Re-read.
D.A., by Connie Willis. Rated four stars.
Inside Job, by Connie Willis. Rated five stars.
Farthing, by Jo Walton. Rated five stars. SF Challenge Book
The Prefect, by Alastair Reynolds. Rated three stars. SF Challenge Book


Up next (well, unless new stuff comes from PBS or I get a hankering to reread something or I find something fabulous when I visit Portland and Powell's):

Absolution Gap, by Alastair Reynolds Challenge Book

All the Windwracked Stars, by Elizabeth Bear Challenge Book

Carnival, by Elizabeth Bear Challenge Book

Dust, by Elizabeth Bear Challenge Book

Ha'penny, by Jo Walton (I'd love to make it a challenge book, but I think I've filled all the categories it counts in.)

Hyperion, by Dan Simmons Challenge Book

In the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker Challenge Book

Invader, by C.J. Cherryh Challenge Book

The Light Ages, by Ian R. MacLeod Challenge Book

Moon-Flash, by Patricia A. McKillip Challenge Book

The Silver Metal Lover, by Tanith Lee Challenge Book

Six Moon Dance, by Sheri S. Tepper Challenge Book

Slow River, by Nicola Griffith Challenge Book

The Speed of Dark, by Elizabeth Moon Challenge Book

Wild Seed, by Octavia E. Butler Challenge Book

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 12/1/2009 5:52 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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I am working on a bunch of challenge stuff, slowly.

Eon by Greg Bear
Doomsday Book by Connie WIllis
The Integral Trees by Larry Niven
Count Zero by William Gibson
Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology

I also got a collection of Bruce Sterling's short stories, but I don't think it really fits the challenge.  I am also reading part three of Marsbound by Joe Haldeman in Analog, but since I read parts one a two months ago, it's not for the challenge either.  But I am looking forward to the sequel, Starbound.

Date Posted: 12/1/2009 7:58 PM ET
Member Since: 10/31/2009
Posts: 84
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I am currently reading an ARC of the newest Wild Cards novel, Suicide Kings.

The only other sci-fi I expect to get to this month is The Unincorporated Man by Dani and Eytan Kollin.

Date Posted: 12/2/2009 2:49 AM ET
Member Since: 4/6/2009
Posts: 27
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I'm currently working on The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem.   I'm just amazed it's translated from Polish.   The humor seems so idiomatically English.


Also, it's a popular wish list item, so I'll try to hurry!

Last Edited on: 12/2/09 3:14 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/2/2009 11:27 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,522
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Pulled three out of the garage and posted them; then I decided to read them first. The Knight and Knave of Swords by Fritz Leiber, Azazel by Asimov, and an anthology of stuff from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction,

Subject: The Healer's War
Date Posted: 12/3/2009 6:26 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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The Healer's War, by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, is a contemporary/historical slipstream fantasy set in a realistic Vietnam War setting.  It won the Nebula Award for best novel in 1989, and so that's the category I'm counting it in the sf challenge.  Maybe the fact that I just got back from Cambodia is a factor, but I felt this authentic-feeling experience of a female Army nurse in "Nam" was very compelling, even before the entry of any speculative elements.  The actual magic is slipped in slowly without disturbing that realism.  Now, I'm just a few years younger than the generation of Americans that participated in that war; but I went to engineering school immediately after high school at a time when at least half of my classmates were vets and I recognized a lot of the pidgin Vietnamese/English slang that Scarborough uses heavily in this book.  I am highly recommending this read. 

Last Edited on: 12/3/09 6:26 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/4/2009 3:39 PM ET
Member Since: 2/28/2009
Posts: 875
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I am currently on the Traveler Series by John Twelve Hawkes.  I finished book two : The Dark River and will start on book three: The Golden City as soon as my husband has finished the book.

I am listening to Orson Scott Card's Shadow Puppets as an audiobook.

I will also read: Earth Abides.  Don't know the author, but it is about a lone survivor of some post-nuclear catastrophe.

Happy reading!

Paul H. (PaulH) - ,
Date Posted: 12/5/2009 1:18 PM ET
Member Since: 6/27/2008
Posts: 146
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I've been more fantasy oriented this year, but I finished the book I read at lunch for work, so will be taking Ben Bova's anthology Tales of the Grand Tour to start on Monday.

Date Posted: 12/6/2009 11:52 PM ET
Member Since: 3/15/2008
Posts: 389
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I just finished Falling Free, by Lois McMaster Bujold. I've read and enjoyed everything else by her but for some reason I'd skipped over this one. And hate to say it, but....it's kind of blah. Very readable as is all her work, but I didn't get that involved in it.

Subject: Grand Master
Date Posted: 12/7/2009 11:04 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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The Voyage of the Space Beagle, by A.E. Van Vogt, 1950.  Imagine a 1000-man starship, whose five year mission in space is discover strange new worlds, seek out new life, to boldly go where no man has gone before. On board are a collection of scientists organized by department - among them a single Nexianist, whose science is the interconnection of all sciences, and whose singularly logical thinking saves the ship and crew from strange aliens and psychic threats. No, not the Enterprise, but the Space Beagle. This is a fix-up of four episodic stories written in 1930s through 1950, when they were assembled into a novel nearly 20 years before Star Trek. The similarities end there, and this is in fact a different universe than Star Trek, but I have a feeling I know what Gene Roddenberry read when he was a kid. Reading this book was a strange experience, as the prose is clearly leaps and bounds ahead of other space opera from that era, and yet the characters are very flat, the society is rigidly hierarchical, and there are no women characters at all.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 12/10/2009 9:57 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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It's not a normal SF book, but I did finish Under the Dome by Stephen King today, and it is at least semi-science fiction.  I liked it, but I can't say it's one of my few favorite Stephen King novels.  I don't feel that it fits any of the challege categories very well, in case anyone had an eye on it.

Subject: Tiptree Award winner
Date Posted: 12/13/2009 10:37 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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Walk to the End of the World, by Suzy McKee Charnas, 1974

This is going to be my first negative review coming out of the sf challenge.  It starts with the cover art.  Image a guy in a jock strap backhanding two scantilly clad young women kneeling before him, presided over by a giant Billy-Idol-like angry face.  I kid you not.  The setting of the story is a post-apocalyptic world of scarcity run by rigidly hierarchical, woman-hating, and stupid men.  There are slave women, but they live in total degradation, and are peripheral to the main story.  Just when two of the male characters begin to develop signs of genuine affection, and there seems to be some sort of explanation for why the society is so warped, the whole thing blows up again with characters striking out at one another for reasons I can't understand. There could be some meaning behind it like everyone is a victim of their upbringing, but it's just not worth digging for. The book deals with gender issues, hence the retrospective Tiptree Award.  But I can't see how this book could have also won some GLBQ award, because I can't decide if it's more offensive to gay men or to straight men.  Apparently, there are three sequels.  Sheesh.

Last Edited on: 12/17/09 3:05 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 12/14/2009 5:26 PM ET
Member Since: 6/26/2006
Posts: 6,633
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I've started to feel completely behind in the challenge, so I just started The Folk of the Fringe by Orson Scott Card.  I'm not far enough in to have an opinion yet. :)

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 12/14/2009 6:15 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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I liked The Folk of the Fringe, but it is definitely Mormon-biased, and not in a kind, tolerant way. 

Date Posted: 12/14/2009 6:37 PM ET
Member Since: 6/26/2006
Posts: 6,633
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I haven't expected kind and tolerant from Card since I learned of his views toward homosexuality. :P

Subject: non-human point of view / science fiction masquerading as fantasy
Date Posted: 12/17/2009 10:11 AM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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Pilgrimage, by Zenna Henderson, 1961

This novel is a fix-up of stories/novellas published in magazines during the 1950s.  The concept is that a spaceship of aliens crashed in the American Southwest sometime shortly before 1900, and their descendants are partially assimilated.  But they have a variety of psychic capabilities that keep them apart from human society.  Many are widely separated, only dimly aware that they are different . A lot of the stories are of self-discovery and the sense of homecoming in being not alone.  Henderson's theme is that differences are a gift, and gifts should be used to make a better world.  I know that sounds kind of sentimental, but I find that I do in fact agree.

The People: No Different Flesh, by Zenna Henderson, 1967

This is a collection of related stories, providing more coverage before, during, and after the stories included in Pilgrimage, as published during the 1960s.  It's probably best to read the two books together. The magical abilities of the The People are assumed to have a rational basis, but without an explanation given.   The sentimentality of Henderson's writing was becoming increasingly religious by this time, but essentially the stories are of the same nature. 

-Tom Hl.

Last Edited on: 12/20/09 5:01 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 12/29/2009 12:31 AM ET
Member Since: 11/14/2006
Posts: 2,552
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Last Edited on: 12/4/15 5:04 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Subject: work by an author I haven't read before
Date Posted: 12/30/2009 10:32 AM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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The Suicide Plague, by Ed Naha, 1982

As some of you know, I had a goal of reading ten new authors in 2009, and that I did some raiding of MrsTomHl's shelf in early December in order to come up with the last four.  This book completes my goal, and has been counted in the forum challenge in that category as well.

Hard-boiled reporter for the last print newspaper in America Harry Porter investigates the unexplained suicides of thousands of teenagers across the country, to uncover a conspiracy that runs much deeper.  Just as he begins to suspect a government connection, his newpaper adopts a "good news only" policy, and he is assigned to report on the recently powerful Church of the Ancient Astronauts.  The descriptions of Harry's hard-drinking and womanizing tend toward comic exageration, and there is strong reflection of 1980s culture and current events.  Still, it is a fun read

Ed Naha has written only one other original science fiction book that I can find - The Paradise Plot, featuring the same Harry Porter character, but he is primarily know for screen writing.  His best known movie is Honey I Shrunk the Kids.

Subject: Young Adult
Date Posted: 12/30/2009 11:06 AM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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Powers, by Ursula Le Guin, 2007

This Young Adult SF novel won the 2008 Nebula award. It is Le Guin's third in the Annals of the Western Shore - the earlier books being Gifts, and Voices. The three novels take place in geographically separated areas on an unspecified planet with technological development roughly like medieval Europe. The plots are sequential in time, but concern different characters, and the books can be read as stand-alones.

I have not read Gifts or Voices - if I had I probably would have recognized the names of some background characters and places tangentially mentioned in this book, but that is really not necessary to enjoy the book. However, I have read Four Ways to Forgiveness, and the themes of slavery versus justice, and the cultural diversity of humanity, as well as the anthropology of marsh peoples remind me somewhat of Werel and Yeowe from Le Guin's Hainish universe. Having recently visited SE Asia, I found myself envisioning those people as looking and living like Cambodians, although the culture is not the same.

This is a young adult novel in that the most important characters are teens, but beyond the plot events, Le Guin has layers of meaning making this a worthwhile read for adults as well. As a non-reader of the earlier books, the ending seemed somewhat abrupt and YA-like, but I do not feel this was very objectionable. I highly recommend this book to adults and youth, and will be looking for the earlier books as well.

Last Edited on: 12/30/09 11:36 AM ET - Total times edited: 2