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Topic: SF Challenge 11/1/09-10/31/10: DISCUSSION THREAD (1/10)

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Subject: SF Challenge 11/1/09-10/31/10: DISCUSSION THREAD (1/10)
Date Posted: 1/1/2010 3:26 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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Now entering month #3 of the SF Challenge!

Hope you all had a wonderful New Year's celebration -- now get back to your reading! :)

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 8:15 AM ET
Member Since: 6/26/2006
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I'm still reading The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card - and I haven't decided which category to put it in yet. :)

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/1/2010 9:25 AM ET
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I finished Finch by Jeff VanderMeer last night for the Steampunk category.  I liked it, but I wish I'd known ahead of time that this was VanderMeer's third book set in the same world (Ambergris).  He says this one is a stand alone novel, but answers questions raised in the other two.  The writing style is odd, with a lot of sentence fragements representing stream of consciousness flashes.  It's not bad, but it is hard to keep up with the flow sometimes.

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 9:53 AM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
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I'm going to start putting the books I've read into categories and see what I need.  I'm still reading The homecoming series by card (omnibus of first 3)   My plan is to read hyperion next.
 

Subject: set in a human interstellar empire
Date Posted: 1/2/2010 10:38 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
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The Currents of Space, by Isaac Asimov, 1952

This is one of Asimov's Galactic Empire books, precursors to his Foundation series.  Together with The Stars Like Dust, and Pebble in the Sky, the Galactic Empire books are not a trilogy as sometimes described, but just novels set in the same universe before Foundation.  In this one, the empire led by Trantor has consolidated a million solar systems, or about half the human inhabited galaxy.  These books seem almost tailored for the sf challenge category "set in a human interstellar empire".  Fortunately, there was one book in the sequence I had not previously read, and this was it.

Asimov gives us Rik, an enslaved mill worker on Florina with amnesia, as he begins to remember.  But there is no real time for character development, as the stakes immediately start getting piled higher and higher, through successive social strata, until war and peace in the galaxy hang in the balance.  The novel also works as a science mystery, as various players try to explain why Rik was psycho-probed, and by whom.  Unfortunately, Asimov's science concept - that novas are induced by currents of carbon flowing through the galaxy - has long been discredited, as he explains in a 1982 afterward.

I probably would not have read this if not for the sf challenge, but it feels good to have filled the gap in my reading of Asimov.



Last Edited on: 1/2/10 10:44 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Subject: Mendoza in Hollywood, by Kage Baker
Date Posted: 1/5/2010 12:28 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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1/4/09
Just finished #7: Superhuman, which I filled with Mendoza in Hollywood, by Kage Baker

My capsule review: The weakest of the Company novels so far, and one that had me irritated by the implied gender roles, but certainly still strong enough for me to continue the series. I am very glad it will be returning to Joseph's narration with the next installment!

My full review, no spoilers: http://community.livejournal.com/sf_book_reviews/90008.html

Subject: Herland
Date Posted: 1/5/2010 10:28 PM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
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I can't classify Herland (Charlotte Perkins Gilman) as a science fiction novella.  Some people do and when I started reading it I thought it would be.  It's more a commentary on society.  Sort of a philosophical or political statement in a way.   3 young american men find a new society in a uninhabited area.  There are no men and the society is quite different from our own.   So I may count it for this sci fi challenge but I think it might fit better in the fantasy challenge somewhere.

Subject: male first-person narrator
Date Posted: 1/7/2010 9:38 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
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Glasshouse, by Charles Stross, 2006

I suppose I could be a smartass and count this book for both the male first person narrator and female first person narrator categories, but I'm going to try to finish the challenge without any double-counting - so male first person it is. 

Glasshouse is set in the same universe as Accelerando, but some gigaseconds later in time.   It's just as creative as Accelerando, with mind-bending concepts all over the place, but more focused on a few main characters.  Robin wakes up in a clinic in the 27th century with most of his memories missing, and someone is trying to kill him.  In order to hide, he signs up to be downloaded into a simulation experiment that recreates life during humanity's dark ages (that would be now, when people live like animals in the biological forms they were born with).  This is a thriller set in a post-human universe, but the part of the plotting that takes place within the world of the retrograde experiment makes things more understandable to us 21st century-type readers.  Along the way it makes some interesting/amusing observations about gender and sexuality as well.

This book gets a high recommendation from me.



Last Edited on: 1/8/10 11:18 AM ET - Total times edited: 4
Subject: Charles Stross
Date Posted: 1/7/2010 10:34 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
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This book gets a high recommendation from me.

__________________________________________________

Me too, he's on my list of favorite writers.  He keeps an interesting blog at http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static

And yousa, sound the trumpets I think I've found myself another favorite writer - K.A. Bedford.  I'm reading Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait.  It's really good, I'm only about 60 pages into it so far.



Last Edited on: 1/7/10 10:36 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/7/2010 11:08 PM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
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my reminder list keeps getting longer & longer - This challenge is great! 

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/10/2010 12:06 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
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I finished The Third Lynx by Timothy Zahn this evening.  It's the sequel to Night Train to Rigel, which I read in 2005 (there is now a third book, and a fouth coming this year).  It was OK, but not great.  I seem to remember Night Train to Rigel as better.  The plot seemed kind of rough in this one, but I don't want to give away any spoilers, since it builds on the first book.  Anyway, I am counting it for category #31 - galaxy with humans and aliens interacting.

Date Posted: 1/10/2010 8:14 AM ET
Member Since: 6/26/2006
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I started Doomsday Book yesterday.  I only read the first chapter, but I think I'm going to really enjoy it.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/10/2010 10:16 AM ET
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I read the first 135 pages of Doomsday Book, and I've set it aside.  It was really dragging for me.  I've never been a fan of time travel books.

Date Posted: 1/10/2010 2:13 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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I read the first 135 pages of Doomsday Book, and I've set it aside.  It was really dragging for me.  I've never been a fan of time travel books.

Sadness! But I understand. . . I read Doomsday Book and enjoyed it years ago, when I always finished everything I started, so I don't really remember if it was slow. I rather think it was, because it is a looooong book. And after I finished it didn't occur to me to seek out more by Willis, so while I enjoyed it I must not have loved it at the time. I didn't become a Willis fan until I randomly encountered some of her more humorous novels (To Say Nothing of the Dog, Bellwether) and I think that's where Willis really shines.

I'm glad you're enjoying it though, Britney!

Date Posted: 1/10/2010 2:28 PM ET
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I'm not findiing Doomsday Book that slow (I'm at page 116 now).  I do find the parts set in the present (or rather, 2054) more interesting than Kivrin's delirious adventure in whenever she is, but I find that true of most of my (very limited experience with) time travel.

Time travel is such a hit-or-miss area.  I watched the Disney movie Meet the Robinsons a few weeks ago and the time travel was so horrible that I couldn't even find the movie cute.

Subject: work written before 1950
Date Posted: 1/13/2010 10:52 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
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Synthetic Men of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1939.

Burroughs started his Barsoom (Mars) series in 1917, and this book was written 22 years later, after his fame had been well established for a generation. It's a reunion of a few established characters, but mostly the adventure of Vor Daj, a young guard serving John Carter, the Warlord of Mars. Shortly after the action begins, Vor's brain is transplanted into the body of a vat-bred brute where he remains for most of the novel, frustrating his desire to be in love with the beautiful Janai. The story was made more interesting for me than it might have been, by the necessity for Vor Daj to keep his true identity secret from Janai. This is the second 1930s science fiction I've read in the past year where the hero falls totally in love with a girl based on about 30 seconds of seeing her, before the plot separates them again. The 30s must have been an interesting time!

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/15/2010 8:05 PM ET
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I finished The Myriad by R.M. Meluch this evening.  I am counting it for the "non generation space ship" category, and it's also military SF.  It's kind of weird...I was reading along, thinking it was a great story, then the last 25 pages ruined it.  I still want to read the next book in the series, but I am definitely not as excited about it as I was.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/16/2010 5:20 PM ET
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I finished my Hard SF book today, Eon by Greg Bear.  It wasn't bad, I guess, but it sure seemed long and convoluted, and not really all that interesting to me.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/17/2010 9:10 PM ET
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Back again!  I finished Wetware by Rudy Rucker for the Philip K. Dick award category.  It is the sequel to Software, which also won the same award.  Both are imagintive cyberpunk novels and I highly recommend them.  They're also short, if you're looking for a quick read.

Subject: written the year I was born
Date Posted: 1/19/2010 8:14 AM ET
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I found an interesting website called the SF Timeline (http://www.magicdragon.com/UltimateSF/timeline.html).  I went to the page for the decade I was born in (1950s) and found approximately 20 SF books published from each year, some with quick plot synopsis.  I had read a few from 1955 (such as The October Country, by Ray Bradbury and Tunnel in the Sky, by Robert Heinlein and Earthman Come Home, by James Blish), and decided to look for The End of Eternity, by Isaac Asimov which I had not yet read.  No library near me has it, and it is out of print in paperback.  Finally, I was able to trade away one the books on my shelf for a credit to order it from this site - and I just read it.  I think I am now fully in the grips of SF Challenge mania.

THE END OF ETERNITY, by Isaac Asimov, 1955

The concept is that time travel was discovered in the 24th century, and that in the 27th a continuum known as "Eternity" was established. Eternity is a habitation outside of "Time", where agents study and make changes to reality after careful mathematical study of "minimum necessary change" versus "maximum desired effect" to improve the lives of the most number of humans. For example, they have repeatedly made revisions of history such that nuclear weapons are never discovered. But the inhabitants of Eternity carry memories of the original reality from which they were recruited, and are of course only human. For the sake of forbidden love, Andrew Harlan is willing to sacrifice history. Unfortunately, the contemporary reader will have to cope with some pretty juvenile ideas about "girls", but Noys Lambent turns out to be a bit more than you initially might think.

I enjoyed Asimov's complex chain of cause-and-effect logic that traces through his unique conception of the multiverse. For that reason, and because this book in the end brings about the universe in which his Foundation future history exists, I would put this book onto the short list of the most important Asimov together with Foundation, I Robot, and Caves of Steel.



Last Edited on: 1/19/10 10:43 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: good link!
Date Posted: 1/19/2010 9:54 AM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
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Tom-

Thanks for the link!   The green background is a little obnoxious but the content makes up for it.  I will be back to reading science fiction as soon as I finish all my mystery & fantasy overdue library books!  The ones I'm probably going to read next are The Years of Rice & Salt (Kim Stanley Robinson) and Non-Stop (Brian Aldiss)

Date Posted: 1/19/2010 2:25 PM ET
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Tom: Thanks for the link as well! Someone on Shelfari (where I also posted the challenge) was having trouble finding something in his birth year, so I passed on the info.

I'll be back to SF again soon too. . . I've been distracted by trying to get a good start on the fantasy, mystery, and classics challenges, and I barely noticed that I was falling behind on this one! Just picked up The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee (which is going to be my YA selection) and while I feel like I would have enjoyed it more if I found it 15 years ago (when I was a YA, lol) it's reading pretty quickly. At least. . . it was reading pretty quickly until I lost track of it in the mess that is my bedroom at the moment! I need to do laundry. . . ;)

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/19/2010 3:27 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
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What? I read about half of The Silver Metal Lover and would never have thought of it as YA.   

I checked the 1981 selections on that link for the year I was born, but didn't see anything exciting.  I'll probably stick with Niven/Pournelle's Oath of Fealty.

Subject: Re: Silver Metal Lover
Date Posted: 1/19/2010 8:19 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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I know there's a fair amount of sex in it, but (1) I think there should be a fair amount of sex in anything remotely realistic aimed at teenagers, because that's what most teenagers spend most of their time thinking about, and (2) the whole diary-style narration plus the theme of the narrator breaking away from her creepily stifling mother really seem teen-oriented to me. I'm only about 50 pages in, so I may have to reevaluate, but so far that's my plan. :)

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/19/2010 10:29 PM ET
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I guess I think of "Young Adult" fiction in terms of pre-teen rather than teenagers.  Certainly by the time I was in high school I was reading adult level books, so maybe I don't see the distinction between teen and adult as far as reading level goes.

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