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Topic: SF Challenge DISCUSSION THREAD (5/10)

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Subject: SF Challenge DISCUSSION THREAD (5/10)
Date Posted: 5/1/2010 1:43 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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Welcome to the month of May!

Well, like I said in the Fantasy Challenge thread. . . what has been the biggest disappointment to you in the challenge so far? Was it terrible, or just so-so? And would you have read it even without the challenge spurring you on?

None of the books I've read for the challenge have been bad. . . but a couple were not quite as good as I expected. Those would probably be The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, and The Speed of Dark, by Elizabeth Moon. The Adams just wasn't as funny as I expected (though really, what could have lived up to all the hype surrounding the book?) and the Moon was rather too flawed in its execution, though I admired the attempt quite a bit. But still, it's been quite a good challenge for me so far, probably because I've filled all the categories with books I planned to read anyway. ;)

Subject: disappointment & book chat
Date Posted: 5/1/2010 10:35 AM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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1.  With myself.  I tell myself I'm gonna read so-and-so, then I get bored/distracted and end up putting the book down and not getting back to it.  Argh.

2.  Farthing.  Well, I grew up on mysteries and I love Agatha Christie.  (I have 25 of her books on my shelf, waiting to be reread so I can post 'em).  Anyways, Farthing was very much like an Agatha Christie but without the "happy" ending - there was no justice here. Yes, I saw that ending coming.   Thought provoking book, but it left a bad taste.  (Hmm, why does Arizona come to mind????)


Just finished Changes by Jim Butcher.  This book had vampires in it, so I'm gonna put it under the vampire SF category even though I really think vampire stories should not be an "SF" category and fit better as a "HORROR" category.  And let me just say this, wow, what an ending!!!  And if you feel bad, go to Jim Butcher's website for good news.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 5/1/2010 11:59 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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Happy May Day! 

I haven't had as much time to read lately, so I'm definitely falling behind. 

As for disappointment...I admit I'm disappointed with the entire challenge.  Of the 18 books I've read, none really blew me away.  Some were entertaining, but none were great.  The worst was The Integral Trees by Larry Niven.  It was a real grind to finish, and I was double disappointed because I think some of his writing is excellent.


I do have another question...for the "Anthology" category, are we counting single-author collections?  I've always thought of collections and anthologies as different categories, so I wanted to check.

Date Posted: 5/1/2010 2:12 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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Allison -- So sorry you didn't like Farthing! It's true. . . one of those hallmarks of the Golden Age mysteries (well, most mysteries) is that justice is served and the bad guys get put away. . . and that isn't what Farthing delivers. I hadn't thought of it that way -- I was just so tickled that Walton captured the whole British country house mystery feel so well. . .

Matt -- Well, I envisioned "Anthology" as meaning something including multiple authors, so I wouldn't count a collection of one author's work. But I don't know that that's a hard and fast rule. . .

Subject: it's may
Date Posted: 5/1/2010 2:39 PM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
Posts: 455
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I have had no time to detail the books I've read lately but I have been able to read some.  The worst book I read was Blue Light.  

I did have the intention when I started these challenges to read every book that I started.  I'm now re-evaluating that intention  

Although the challenge is great for trying other types of books I don't believe it's supposed to torture us.  I have enjoyed reading other sub-genres

(and I have to say this weird hard return in the forum is odd and is hard to deal with) (my apple hard drive failed and I'm using an apple laptop and it's acting strange)

and I had no idea that I generally read  so many books defined as space operas and apocalyptic.

I hope soon to sort out all my challenge books and figure out where I am.  I think i have been reading more fantasy than sci fi lately. 

I will be back online soon with at least a few books I really didn't like and some that were really enjoyable -edward bellamy for one

Subject: CHRONOSEQUENCE, by Hilbert Schenck, 1988
Date Posted: 5/9/2010 10:17 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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This first contact story begins with a narrative of a narrative found in an old manuscript, a sort of old-fashioned frame that I like. While the outcomes of the earlier storylines are superficially known, the details surrounding critical episodes on a small transient island on the shoals near Nantucket are revealed slowly. Eventually, the concept of an alien presence that is only capable of communicating during moments of deep human intimacy comes clearer, through the eyes of the contemporary character. The story works this fascinating concept of the nature of an alien, without anyone actually ever seeing it. The characters are well developed even if having been highly manipulated by the alien in their human relationships. However, the verbal dialog describing sex and love is so stilted as to distract from the story itself. The only excuse I can think of is that Hilbert Schenck came from a generation that just did not know how to talk out loud about sexuality. Still, I found the book fascinating.

Subject: STAR LIGHT, by Hal Clement, 1971
Date Posted: 5/18/2010 11:02 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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This is a follow-up novel to Hal Clement's 1954 classic "Mission of Gravity". It's a hard sf novel that is set half on the surface of the ammonia/water high gravity planet Dhrawn told from an alien non-native point of view, and half on an orbiting space station told from a human point of view. The aliens, that resemble intelligent house centipedes, have been brought from their high gravity home planet Mesklin by the humans, and given a unbalanced mixture of high and low technology suitable to their primitive background. But don't underestimate the wily Mesklinites, who connive to obtain more and more technology from the somewhat foolish humans. Yes, I cheered for the aliens! The intricate plotting is dependent on information control through time-delay communication from planet to space station. But the ending is somewhat weak, more a logical outcome than dramatic.
Subject: May reading of note
Date Posted: 5/21/2010 11:34 AM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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The Empress of Mars, Kage Baker:  Enjoyed this- it's like reading a western, but the action takes place on Mars.  Humorous.

Growing Up Weightless, J Ford:  This was a Philip K. Dick winner.  A right-of-passage novel, very involved and high tech.  No explaination from the author as to what's going on, so not an easy read.  I also enjoyed this book.

Tunnel in the Sky, R Heinlein:  Read this because Matt thought it was scary (when he was younger).  I don't recall ever having read this Heinlein (OMG, surprised I am!).  Since I don't remember it, I'm counting it in the challenge.

Nine Layers of Sky, Liz Williams:  Shaping of a parallel universe (and our own) through dreams.  Very little science here, mostly social commentary.  Takes place in Russia.  It was an easy read, only gave it 3 stars.

Last Edited on: 5/21/10 11:37 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: DINNER AT DEVIANT'S PALACE, by Tim Powers, 1985
Date Posted: 5/26/2010 7:27 AM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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It had been so long since I last read this Philip K Dick award winner and Nebula award nominee, that I really couldn't remember it very well. But I do remember that I didn't like it as much as I did this time. As a re-read, I'm not counting it in the challenge. The novel starts as a post-apocalyptic story in the Los Angeles area, but after a while it becomes clear that there is more going on here. It seems an alien is living among the post-Angelinos, shaping a religion in order to feed its own psychic vampirism. Conceptually, this is all a little wierd, but really this is just a creatively imagined adventure story about Gregorio Rivas, itinerant musician and deprogrammer-for-hire. I especially enjoyed his becoming acquainted with Sister Windchime; sometimes I just wanted to shake Rivas and tell him to wake up.
Date Posted: 5/30/2010 9:47 AM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
Posts: 402
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Finished my first Joe Haldeman book : "Camoflage". The book was quick and fun. Haldeman is the real deal though. The story was a little sappy but he really kept me interested.

Subject: question
Date Posted: 5/31/2010 11:11 AM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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I can't find the thread where we discussed -

26. Work with a third person omniscient narrator

Anyways, would the Connie Willis book Blackout come under this category?


I've had to work five days a week for the past three weeks.  Yikes, this is NOT normal for me.  Not enough time to read or work in my garden.  ARG!

Date Posted: 5/31/2010 10:40 PM ET
Member Since: 1/29/2009
Posts: 122
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I just finished Ship of Fools by Russo, and highly recommend it. I used it for Philip K. Dick Award, but it could also be used for generation ship or first-person male viewpoint character.