great SF books

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billygomberg
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Re: great SF books

Post by billygomberg »

carlos wrote:
holy ghost wrote:I'm dying to read The Crystal World, which just sounds great but is not an easy book to track down...... :x
it's in print in the UK- i was lucky to stumble on a remaindered copy of the UK edition (new, $1) at Half Price Books (used books chain) here in houston a few months ago

also picked up The Drought at the same price- both are really good. i'm on the search for The Drowned World now.
I think I have both Crystal World and Drowned World in my stacks....where are you guys?

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P. Wretch
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Re: great SF books

Post by P. Wretch »

frozen reeds wrote:
holy ghost wrote:I really enjoyed The Books Of The New Sun, at times I got a little annoyed at the prose but in retrospect I keep referencing it all the time when I discuss sci fi and I'm glad I read it. Really the best sci fi I've read in a long time. What else has Wolfe done that's comparable?
Great to hear it. So glad that at a few more people have picked up this book, perhaps even on account of my bluster and hype here.
I recently got round to reading the first volume of this (The Shadow of the Torturer), and still feel puzzled by the tendency of Wolfe fans to file it under SF, when it seems to owe more to the generic tradition of fantasy (indeed, Gollancz publish it as a 'Fantasy Masterwork'). This is most pronounced in the neo-medieval setting (guilds, feudal social structure, walled cities, etc), and such set pieces as the apparently enchanted Botanical Gardens. Granted, it is implied that any enchantments may have a rational explanation (sure the remaining volumes will reveal more), but then there is also a mystical religious belief system to which most of the characters seem to adhere. (Of course, one can waste too much time on this SF/fantasy distinction, since they are really both branches of the older category of romance, and the 'dying earth' motif is common to both.)

I intend to read the rest, but maybe not immediately. Wolfe's prose style did not strike me as the main attraction: apart from his liberal use of arcane vocab (notably, as Google revealed, ancient Greek military terms), the writing is mostly quite plain, and a little ponderous. As stylists I prefer Vance (more of a hack perhaps, but a writer of grace and facility), Ballard (who dices science textbooks and Ernst-like surrealism with devastating precision: see The Drowned World especially), and Brian Aldiss, whose bleak stories - surely the equal of Ballard's - I've been looking at recently.

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carlos
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Re: great SF books

Post by carlos »

billygomberg wrote:
I think I have both Crystal World and Drowned World in my stacks....where are you guys?
i'm in houston, tx, usa- and i should point out i'm a notorious cheapskate and my search for books is always limited to bargain bins and used bookstores.

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billygomberg
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Re: great SF books

Post by billygomberg »

carlos wrote:
billygomberg wrote:
I think I have both Crystal World and Drowned World in my stacks....where are you guys?
i'm in houston, tx, usa- and i should point out i'm a notorious cheapskate and my search for books is always limited to bargain bins and used bookstores.
well that's how I found both of these. I'll get back to you this weekend when I can verify the existence of these.

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William Hutson
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Re: great SF books

Post by William Hutson »

P. Wretch wrote:I recently got round to reading the first volume of this (The Shadow of the Torturer), and still feel puzzled by the tendency of Wolfe fans to file it under SF, when it seems to owe more to the generic tradition of fantasy (indeed, Gollancz publish it as a 'Fantasy Masterwork'). This is most pronounced in the neo-medieval setting (guilds, feudal social structure, walled cities, etc), and such set pieces as the apparently enchanted Botanical Gardens. Granted, it is implied that any enchantments may have a rational explanation (sure the remaining volumes will reveal more), but then there is also a mystical religious belief system to which most of the characters seem to adhere. (Of course, one can waste too much time on this SF/fantasy distinction, since they are really both branches of the older category of romance, and the 'dying earth' motif is common to both.)
it's sf that masquerades as fantasy for large portions of the text. obviously it plays with the tolkienesque hero quest thing, so narratologically we could argue it shares a ton of DNA with fantasy, but all of the 'magic' has sf explanations and narrator just doesn't know/understand them. and in that world, people believe in religion the way that people in the real world do. doesn't mean it's an accurate picture of how anything works, just that humans are hardwired to assign mythology and spirituality to things they don't understand.

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Re: great SF books

Post by mudd »

through book one none of the SF underpinings have been exposed. i think the book is comfortable enough in either genre, though.

m

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Re: great SF books

Post by frozen reeds »

William Hutson wrote:it's sf that masquerades as fantasy for large portions of the text. obviously it plays with the tolkienesque hero quest thing, so narratologically we could argue it shares a ton of DNA with fantasy, but all of the 'magic' has sf explanations and narrator just doesn't know/understand them. and in that world, people believe in religion the way that people in the real world do. doesn't mean it's an accurate picture of how anything works, just that humans are hardwired to assign mythology and spirituality to things they don't understand.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." -Arthur C. Clarke
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P. Wretch
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Re: great SF books

Post by P. Wretch »

frozen reeds wrote:"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." -Arthur C. Clarke
That's a quote that often comes to mind when reading SF, actually, although I suppose the distinguishing criterion is whether the 'magic' is attributed to scientifically rational or irrational forces (but then even that falls down, because the spell-casting systems found in fantasy fiction tend to have their own internal rationality, which would theoretically be amenable to scientific harnessing: the sorcerer and scientist are both repositories of advanced knowledge).
William Hutson wrote:and in that world, people believe in religion the way that people in the real world do. doesn't mean it's an accurate picture of how anything works, just that humans are hardwired to assign mythology and spirituality to things they don't understand.
To what extent does Wolfe's Catholicism permeate his writing, though? The first book of New Sun is littered with references to the 'Pancreator'/'Increate'/etc, in a way that, beyond any narrative function, genuinely seems to want the reader to reflect on theological questions. I wasn't sure about the nature of Wolfe's religious convictions, but then I read his totally out-to-lunch short story 'How the Whip Came Back' (1970), in which only the wise and benign Pope tries to voice an objection when an evil coalition of secular governments (the UN) plots to reintroduce slavery.

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billygomberg
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Re: great SF books

Post by billygomberg »

yeah I do have both Drowned World and Crystal World.

they are pretty good vintagey editions in read condition. I would like them back but if interested readers are in the continental US I've got no problem mailing them out.

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Re: great SF books

Post by hnismokehash »

P. Wretch wrote:To what extent does Wolfe's Catholicism permeate his writing, though?
Wolfe's Catholicism is, I think, an integral part of his writing. There are a lot of parallels between the narrator of the New Sun books and Jesus, although the only one I can think of off the top of my head is a scene when Severian changes water to wine. And The Outsider from the Long and Short Sun books is clearly supposed to be a monotheistic deity of sorts.

At the same time, I think Wolfe's own beliefs are kind of weird. I remember reading something about him saying that he believed (I think this was probably in a discussion of the Soldier in the Mist books) that the Greek gods actually existed. The idea of beings that are far more powerful than humans, but are not God, is something he deals with in a lot of his works.

And to holy ghost, the rest of the Sun books are good, the Soldier in the Mist books are good if you like Greek mythology and I kinda liked his first novel, Peace, although it reminded me too much of Slaughterhouse Five. The fact that you can't trust any of his narrators might get a little grating, but it didn't bother me too much.

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Re: great SF books

Post by frozen reeds »

hnismokehash wrote:And to holy ghost, the rest of the Sun books are good, the Soldier in the Mist books are good if you like Greek mythology and I kinda liked his first novel, Peace, although it reminded me too much of Slaughterhouse Five. The fact that you can't trust any of his narrators might get a little grating, but it didn't bother me too much.
The Fifth Head of Cerberus is also really fucking good.
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Re: great SF books

Post by William Hutson »

wolfe's catholicism informs the writing— those are the stories he knows well enough to craft interesting allusions— but, in the new sun books, it's a trick. severian isn't jesus. those characters who make him appear that way do so quite cynically to further their own purposes. the novel's actual agents need a christ-like figure to manipulate. the rest of wolfe's books, however, are much more religiously themed— there's a morality at work, rather like with tolkien (pretty much why i gave up on him after the sun books).

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Re: great SF books

Post by makyō »

i read Swastika Night a couple of years ago and remember that i couldn't get it out of my head for quite a long time.
it's a novel by Katherine Burdekin and if you enjoy (feminist) dystopian fiction and/or alternative history stuff definitively worth checking out.

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Re: great SF books

Post by schiksalgemeinschaft »

There's a new Culture novel by Banks:

http://www.iain-banks.net/uk/the-hydrogen-sonata/

"An ancient people, organized on military principles and yet almost perversely peaceful, the Gzilt helped set up the Culture ten thousand years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they've made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations; they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence.

Amid preparations though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed. Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont appears to have been involved, and she is now wanted - dead, not alive. Aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android and a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command. She must find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over nine thousand years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago. It seems that the final days of the Gzilt civilization are likely to prove its most perilous."

looks like a much better blurb than that of Surface Detail

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Re: great SF books

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Re: great SF books

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“In a kind of middle-aged crisis, it dawned upon me that there was a possibility that music might not even be an art form.”

Morton Feldman


http://soundcloud.com/doug-holbrook

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Re: great SF books

Post by schiksalgemeinschaft »

very, very sad news, a statement from Iain Banks, posted on his website yesterday:


I am officially Very Poorly.

After a couple of surgical procedures, I am gradually recovering from jaundice caused by a blocked bile duct, but that - it turns out - is the least of my problems.

I first thought something might be wrong when I developed a sore back in late January, but put this down to the fact I'd started writing at the beginning of the month and so was crouched over a keyboard all day. When it hadn't gone away by mid-February, I went to my GP, who spotted that I had jaundice. Blood tests, an ultrasound scan and then a CT scan revealed the full extent of the grisly truth by the start of March.

I have cancer. It started in my gall bladder, has infected both lobes of my liver and probably also my pancreas and some lymph nodes, plus one tumour is massed around a group of major blood vessels in the same volume, effectively ruling out any chance of surgery to remove the tumours either in the short or long term.

The bottom line, now, I'm afraid, is that as a late stage gall bladder cancer patient, I'm expected to live for 'several months' and it’s extremely unlikely I'll live beyond a year. So it looks like my latest novel, The Quarry, will be my last.

As a result, I've withdrawn from all planned public engagements and I've asked my partner Adele if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry - but we find ghoulish humour helps). By the time this goes out we'll be married and on a short honeymoon. We intend to spend however much quality time I have left seeing friends and relations and visiting places that have meant a lot to us. Meanwhile my heroic publishers are doing all they can to bring the publication date of my new novel forward by as much as four months, to give me a better chance of being around when it hits the shelves.

There is a possibility that it might be worth undergoing a course of chemotherapy to extend the amount of time available. However that is still something we're balancing the pros and cons of, and anyway it is out of the question until my jaundice has further and significantly, reduced.
Lastly, I'd like to add that from my GP onwards, the professionalism of the medics involved - and the speed with which the resources of the NHS in Scotland have been deployed - has been exemplary, and the standard of care deeply impressive. We're all just sorry the outcome hasn't been more cheerful.

A website is being set up where friends, family and fans can leave messages for me and check on my progress. It should be up and running during this week and a link to it will be here on my official website as soon as it’s ready.

Iain Banks

- ENDS -

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Dohol
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Re: great SF books

Post by Dohol »

yeah.... this is so sad. the genre is losing it's smartest voice...
“In a kind of middle-aged crisis, it dawned upon me that there was a possibility that music might not even be an art form.”

Morton Feldman


http://soundcloud.com/doug-holbrook

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Re: great SF books

Post by schiksalgemeinschaft »

I'm a bit late to the party, but I just finished Chapterhouse Dune, the sixth & final of the series. Must say I haven't read a better series, be it sci-fi or regular fiction.

I was totally shattered by the dedication to his late wife at the very end. I expected those pages to be a final chapter when I started reading the first sentences, somehow the series couldn't have ended better.

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Re: great SF books

Post by P. Wretch »

I thought you'd bumped this thread to draw attention to the actual death of Iain Banks. At least that announcement in April permitted him to see all the obituary-style tributes before the end.

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