Discussion Forums - Science Fiction

Topic: SF Challenge DISCUSSION THREAD (7/10)

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
  Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: SF Challenge DISCUSSION THREAD (7/10)
Date Posted: 7/1/2010 3:08 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
Back To Top

Welcome to month #9! Who's on track?

I'm not, but I'm not too far behind. I've had to give up on the idea of not double-counting, but if I do double count the five I'm allowed to then I need to read a little less than four books a month to complete the challenge. Unfortunately, the only bonus challenges I'll be able to complete are ones that fill other challenges I'm also working on. :(

Date Posted: 7/3/2010 10:16 AM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

Hi folks.  Well, I finished no books at all during June.  There has been a lot going on in my life (nothing bad, just really busy), and I have been moving slowly through two difficult reading projects -

The Good Soldier Svejk, by Jaroslav Hasek (correct Czech characters not supported by this site) - I've now finished this massive work, but it will not be counting in the sf challenge.

Science Fiction Story-Reader 19, collected by Wolfgang Jeschke - An sf anthology that will count towards the challenge if I manage to finish it.  I am currently in "Hatusas", by Gheorghe Sasarman (correct Romanian characters not supported by this site).  The anthology is in German language, with Jeschke doing the translation from Romanian or whatever.

As for the challenge, if I were to use the double-counting option, I could declare myself done except for Anthology category.  But we still have many months to go, so I intend to not double-count.

I did manage to visit Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction bookstore in Minneapolis this month, and loved it.  Mount TBR has grown again.

-Tom Hl.



Last Edited on: 7/3/10 10:17 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 7/5/2010 7:48 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
Back To Top

It's been a while since I could count a book I've read for the list, but I am going to add The Passage by Justin Cronin for the New Author category.  It's a sort of SF Vampire story (created by a virus, not traditional vampires) but it's just as much a post-apocalyptc novel.  It's huge and complex, but not elegant.  For me this book dragged in many places, and seemed rushed in others.  I almost wonder if it would have worked better as a series rather than a single book.  I wouldn't be surprised if The Passage is up for a Hugo or one of the other big awards, but the style was not to my taste.

Date Posted: 7/6/2010 2:33 AM ET
Member Since: 1/29/2009
Posts: 122
Back To Top

Just finished Wind-Up Girl, and also Empress of Mars by Kage Baker. As discussed on a different post, Wind-Up Girl has multiple protagonists/viewpoint characters , but no heroes or heroines as such (except perhaps Jaidee?). Although extremely well-written, I was able to put the book down for extended periods of time - not a good sign. Its vision of the future is dense with detail, and satisfying on that level alone.

Empress of Mars was another page-turner for me - I read it start-to-finish in an afternoon. It was my first experience with Kage Baker, and I highly recommend it.

Date Posted: 7/6/2010 2:42 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
Back To Top

Yay! Glad to hear The Empress of Mars satisfies. If I have time I'm going to read it for one of the bonuses. Will you be picking up others in the Company series?

Date Posted: 7/7/2010 11:19 PM ET
Member Since: 1/29/2009
Posts: 122
Back To Top

I've got the others already. To me, that's the worst part of the Challenge. Left to my own devices, I would simply devour everything my latest favorite author has written. As it is, if we're only talking about one prequel or sequel, I've been reading them in conjunction with the books in the Challenge (e.g. I read Naked Sun with Asimov's Caves of Steel).

Date Posted: 7/7/2010 11:26 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
Back To Top

Just finished #38: Work that has won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award
Filled with: Light, by M. John Harrison
Other categories this book could fill: Hard SF (borderline); Space Opera; Work with a third-person limited multi-perspective viewpoint; Work set in a human interstellar empire.

My capsule review: Overall, this was not a book I am built to enjoy (too much futility and too little regard for individual human lives for my taste) but it is undeniably a challenging, thought-provoking, technically impressive work.

My full review, no spoilers: http://community.livejournal.com/sf_book_reviews/98961.html

Date Posted: 7/7/2010 11:27 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
Back To Top

Bob -- You only read The Naked Sun with The Caves of Steel? Every time I read The Caves of Steel I have to at least read through Robots and Empire, plus go back and read I, Robot. . . ;)

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 7/8/2010 6:54 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
Back To Top

I've started reading In The Garden of Iden by Kage Baker.  I guess I'll count it for the 1st person female category. 

Subject: Wild Seed, by Octavia E. Butler
Date Posted: 7/11/2010 3:29 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
Back To Top

Finished Wild Seed, by Octavia E. Butler. I absolutely loved it -- it hit so many of my personal buttons that I might have thought it was written just for me. :) It's fundamentally about freedom and how to build families, and it portrays a really complex relationship with overtones of abuse and dominance/submission that ends up being legitimately empowering (maintaining Jacqueline Carey's position that "that which yields is not always weak" with a great deal more subtlety). And it does all this against a backdrop that explores race and gender relations personally, rather than politically, and works in a very non-standard (and much more affecting) love story that moved me deeply. So yeah, I'm jazzed. :)

Subject: What's new with Tom?
Date Posted: 7/11/2010 10:53 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

I'm back from a week of hiking on the Ozark Trail in Missouri, and have finished three sf books since my last post.

Time Travelers Never Die, by Jack McDevitt, 2009

This recent stand-alone novel uses the time travel model where all attempts at change turn out to have been what really happened in the first place.  No changes to history can happen and no dividing up into multiple universes.  In this deterministic universe, accidental time travelers Shel and Dave find themselves entangled in both past and future events including the march on Selma, the library at Alexandria, and the death of Socrates.  Very engaging logical puzzles, believable characters, but somehow it still felt lightweight thematically.  Good summer reading, I think.

I'm counting it in the challenge as time travel.

Marsbound, by Joe Haldeman, 2008

Teenager Carmen Dula and her family are among the few selected to be among the first human colonists to Mars.  Once there, she makes first contact with alien species, but no one believes her.  This is pure formula science fiction, but the logistics of Mars colonization are state-of-knowledge.  At first I thought this must be YA, but the forthright sex scenes make me think that it is more a sort of retreaded young adult novel for readers who are now actually older.  This is not typical of Haldeman's work and far from his best work, but I enjoyed it in a nostalgic sort of way.  Another good summer read.

I'm counting it in the extra credit challenge as humans on mars.

Gifts, by Ursula LeGuin, 2004

This novel is young adult fantasy, told in that beautiful and emotional way with unspoken loss and a mixture of pain and joy that LeGuin now uses.  It is the adult story that is implied by the child's point of view story that moves me the most.   I had previously read her Nebula winning Powers, and was equally impressed by it.  It's way out of my normal box, but I am highly recommending this.  It's worth re-reading to find the layers upon layers that I expect young adults will not see.

I would probably count this as young adult in the challenge, except that I've already filled that category with Powers.

-Tom Hl.



Last Edited on: 7/11/10 10:55 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/12/2010 9:19 AM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
Posts: 402
Back To Top

I am way behind! However I did just finish the "Parable of the Sower" by Octavia Butler and loved it. The main character Lauren was a wonderful narrator.  Butler kept me glued to the book. Next I am reading "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood. I guess I have a thing for Female characters in dysotopian surroundings.    

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 7/13/2010 5:12 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
Back To Top

I just finished The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell, which I am counting for the YA category.  It's a superhero book, which I think it qualifies it as science fiction.  It's definitely not something I'd normally read, but it wasn't bad.

Subject: Octavia Butler
Date Posted: 7/16/2010 4:58 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

> However I did just finish the "Parable of the Sower" by Octavia Butler and loved it.

The sequel is Parable of the Talents.  I recommend it.

 

-Tom Hl.

Date Posted: 7/18/2010 5:00 PM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
Posts: 402
Back To Top

Just finished Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale". I really enjoyed it. More so than Butler's "Parable of the Sower" which surprised me. I guess I could see Atwood's world as a little more realistic. Now onto the next story.

Subject: Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, 2004
Date Posted: 7/22/2010 12:34 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

Made up of 6 interrelated and nested novellas, each stepping forward in time, this book is packaged and marketed as literary fiction.  However, the innermost two novellas are unquestionably science fiction, and between them take up more than half of the book.  Hence, this book was on the final ballot for Nebula award and Clarke award, in addition to various literary awards, a few years ago.  The most inner and future story "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After" is post-apocalyptic and set in a far future Hawaii.  The second-most inner and future story "An Orison of Sonmi~451" is set in a dystopian near future where Korea has risen to world domination.  The recurring theme is ascendance and descendance of power between humans and types of humans, and why.  I'm going to highly recommend this book, although some of the outer novellas don't really rise above framing for the inner ones, and the stepping backwards through their conclusions is less intriguing than the forward direction.

As for the sf challenge, this doesn't fit into any of the categories I have left open, so I'm just going to list it as my second post-apocalypse read.

-Tom Hl.

Subject: Cloud Atlas and stuff
Date Posted: 7/22/2010 5:47 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
Back To Top

Last year (or maybe the year before) the Hugo convention had a panel on the top 100 SF books and Cloud Atlas was on several of the panelist's lists.  I read the book, but can't remember it very well.  In my book journal I gave it 5 stars.  Well, I guess I'm gettin' old or reading too fast......  I do remember the book was unique in the way the stories related to each other on an ongoing time line - but couldn't figure how the title was derived?????   

Haven't read anything for the challenge lately, mostly easy books - finished Kitty Goes to War (C Vaughn), Homecoming (graphic novel by P Briggs), yet another Nightside book (S Green), Daemon by D Suarez and Steal Across the Sky by N Kress.  Steal Across the Sky was thought-provoking and kept my interest.  Can't elaborate because of spoilers, but it was satisfying. 

__________________________________________________________

Time Travelers Never Die, by Jack McDevitt, 2009..................... but somehow it still felt lightweight thematically. 

_________________________________________________________

Yeah, maybe so, but I loved this book.  I think it probably wrote itself.  To me it seemed uh..... "joyous"   - I think I already recommended it.  Oh heck, it was a fun read.



Last Edited on: 7/22/10 5:56 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Subject: Cloud Atlas, and Time Travelers Never Die
Date Posted: 7/23/2010 5:01 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

regarding Cloud Atlas:  There are a number of descriptive references to clouds in the stories.  My guess is that the title refers to the fact that clouds are of the same types in all places and times of human experience.  I just found out the book is also on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, so I got to tick off another of them on my 1001 spreadsheet.

regarding Time Travelers Never Die:  I also enjoyed the story quite a bit, but beyond the characters and plot, I didn't find anything deeper.  My expectations may have been too high...

-Tom Hl.

PS - now reading Galileo's Dream



Last Edited on: 7/23/10 5:02 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 7/25/2010 1:48 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
Back To Top

In the last couple of days I've finished:

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey for the science fiction masquerading as fantasy category

and

In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker for the female author category, for lack of a better open spot. 

 

Both books were OK, but neither was really my thing.  I thought McCaffrey's writing was not as well developed as it would become later.  As for the Baker...I do not like time travel stories in general, and this was no exception.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 7/25/2010 1:53 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
Back To Top

sorry, double post.



Last Edited on: 7/25/10 1:54 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/26/2010 9:17 AM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
Posts: 402
Back To Top

I picked up "Starship Troopers" by Robert Heinlen. I have no idea how I am going to like this or not but I thought I have to read something of his. Also @Tom thanks for the sequel to "Parable of the Sower" reccomendation. I am going to give it a go.  

Subject: category 48: Locus Recommended Reading List for 2009
Date Posted: 7/30/2010 1:46 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

Galileo's Dream, by Kim Stanley Robinson, 2009.

There are really two stories in the book - The larger one is a fictionalized biography of Galileo, and the other is a far future human society in the Galilean Moons of Jupiter.  The Jovians have developed the ability to pluck Galileo into their own time for short periods and draw him into a conflict of their own - returning him usually after administration of an amnesia drug that leaves him with only vague feelings of presque vu.  I found I was far more interested in the biographical account of Galileo's life and heresy trial, than in the somewhat flaky and thinly developed Jovians.  It's a shame the book is so imbalanced, because Kim Stanley Robinson is capable of writing detailed and comprehensive futures societies.  That said, I always appreciate the KSR's prose and learn new vocabulary in his writing.  So I give this a moderate but not enthusiastic thumbs-up.

-Tom Hl.

Subject: category 5: Alternate History
Date Posted: 7/31/2010 8:23 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
Back To Top

The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth, 2004

I selected this book specifically to fill one of my remaining categories in the challenge.  The POD here is 1940 Republican nomination and subsequent election of Charles Lindbergh for President on an isolationist platform.  Roth has done a lot of research regarding the public figures he describes, and the actual history record is outlined at the back of the book along with the text of an actual Lindbergh's speech to America First Committee's rally in Des Moines on September 11, 1941 - all of which serves to justify his speculations on the divergence from our own history.  But more important than that, this book is about the stresses of growing anti-semitism on the family dynamics of a working class Jewish family in New Jersey.  The main character is an overly sensitive child named Philip, and his family appears to be Roth's own.  I was surprised how much I cared for these characters, as I have generally disliked Roth's writing in the past.

-Tom Hl.



Last Edited on: 7/31/10 8:23 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/31/2010 8:51 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,450
Back To Top

It does my heart good to see that you all are discovering Octavia Butler. Dig deeper. There are at least five more, maybe  7 or 8, as good or better than all listed above (except Wild Seed).yes