great SF books

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Re: great SF books

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Due to work and travels it's been I while since I've posted here, but I Just finished Aurora, magnificent, I guess it is the SF book of 2015. All SF fans who haven't read KSR, or thought the Mars trilogy was too much info dump, please do check out Aurora and 2312.



AURORA --- Kim Stanley Robinson (2015)

This is only the second Robinson novel I've read, but both this and 2312 have propelled him to the forefronts of my favorite authors list. Aurora is Hard SF as it should be done, and as a realistic, meticulously researched book about a generational interstellar ship, it should be obligatory reading for any aspiring SF author that wants to write about spaceships.

For after reading Aurora one has 2 options as a SF writer: truly address the problems Robinson brings up, or just make a jump to the kind of magical, in-full-control-of-all-matter kinda SF - like Banks' Culture novels, or to a large degree even Reynolds, whose Hard SF tag suddenly seems a bit less merited after reading Aurora. Hard SF is not only about the impossibility of FTL. It's also about aging ecosystems, and so much more. This book deals with microbiomes as well as with macrobiomes, and can double as an highly entertaining, emotional and at times funny introduction to numerous hot topics in early 21st century science.

Both approaches have merit. Banks' way of doing things allows for a more outrageous imaginative range, and definitely has heaps of interesting things to say about real, present day human society as well, but Robinson may ultimately be the better one in that latter respect. Aurora again clearly proves that good SF always is good, well grounded Social Sciences Fiction as well.

As a novel itself, Aurora is a masterly crafted. It's even meta! Robinsons' narrative choices are highly original and add another interesting layer of content to the story. As it is a layer about AI and the nature of decision making, perception and consciousness, it ultimately is a layer about ourselves too, and Robinson again shows his powers as an allround science writer, tackling ancient psychological-philosophical problems full on, in a manner that fully resonates with my own views on the matter: consciousness as we experience it is ultimately an illusion.

In a way this book is a depressing read on our abilities to ever escape the sun's inevitable demise. Yet it is hopeful too, since in Aurora humans have figured out a way to survive the coming climate catastrophes. Who knows? Howbeit, I haven't come across a better future guide than Kim Stanley Robinson.

Highly, highly recommended.

5/5


---------


Recently also finished the massive first book of a projected 10-book fantasy series:


THE WAY OF KINGS --- Brandon Sanderson (2010)

I liked this book a lot, mainly because it's a neat and at times moving story with some lovable characters that do stuff that appeal to the warrior mage-prince that has been lurking somewhere in me ever since I was a kid.

Yet, there are some minor things that keep this book from being a literary and artistic masterwork:

The worldbuilding is good, but it feels a bit like painting by numbers at times - yet not enough to be irritated by it. Not everything feels fully fleshed out (or even necessary, like the spren), but I guess one should withhold definite judgement on that until the entire series has finished.

There's too much repetition in the novel: certain traits of the characters - Kaladin and Dalinar especially - are repeated over and over. Some other stuff is repeated too. This makes the book drag a bit at times, but again, not enough to be irritated by it. It feels like Sanderson explicitly tries to write for an as big as possible audience: aside from the lenght, he doesn't ask a lot of his readers, it's all easy peasy.

The final quibble I had with the book is the language. It's not bad and it does its job, but it's stale and bland and dull. In over thousand pages, I didn't come across one sentence or image that struck me as interesting. That's a real shame for any book, since its artistic medium are words: The Way of Kings would translate easily into a movie, without losing anything. Also, the curse words and related expressions ("Storm you!") are just plain silly, and they even put a small dent in my suspension of disbelieve every "storming" time.

I'm eager to continue with the second book, and I guess the best is yet to come. Since The Stormlight Archive is going to be 10 books, and the story only really takes off in the final 200 pages of this first book, judging by that curve, the final couple of books should be as epic as epic can be. The Way of Kings is entertaining and solid, and as such definitely recommended.

4/5


-----------

And before that, I read yet another subpar Reynolds:


CENTURY RAIN --- Alastair Reynolds (2004)

Not Reynolds' best at all, but not a disappointment like both Pushing Ice and Terminal World.

Basically an original take on time travel that isn't time travel, and some other likable SF ideas, coupled with a detective story. Fast moving and interesting enough to keep oneself entertained, albeit predictable. Near the final 200 pages (of 600), it becomes a bit too much though, with lots of action that drags at times, and basically always is resolved by yet another deus-ex-machina.
The book should've been 100 pages shorter, and it had been better if some stuff hadn't survived the cut, like the Amusica virus, that doesn't advance the story one bit and has a silly back story. Reading the acknowledgements at the novel's end, Reynolds read some Oliver Sacks and wanted to incorporate some of it, willy nilly.

The characters are also very good as guessing key plot elements.

A final remark on the "war babies", viscious adversaries to the protagonists. Evidently, Reynolds kinda reverse engineered a familiar trope in horror movies: scary ghoulish children, like those in The Grudge, are given a credible SF backstory. If it weren't so obvious, it might have worked well, evoking a shiver instead of a chuckle.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as a starting point for Reynolds' newbies, but I did enjoy it. I just hope he returns to the Revelation Space or House Of Suns universe before he decides writing a sequel to Century Rain.

3/5


---------


And finally, an Asimov review:


THE CAVES OF STEEL --- Isaac Asimov (1954)

It's heralded as one of the best books Asimov ever wrote, but to me The Caves of Steel felt pretty pulpy. Maybe there's not a lot to be expected from a mere 200 page novel released in 1954.

There's really not much meat on the bone storywise: it hardly does anything new to the revolutionary ideas Asimov introduced to humanity in the earlier robot stories, and it basically just toys around a bit with them in what is just a plain, straightforward and wooden detective story.

It's also not nearly thought out as well as any of the books in the Foundation trilogy, which came out a few years before, and that's a shame. Here, Asimov writes about a robot that talks and understands English very well, and can even mindread pretty complex mindsets as the emotional ability of a human to kill or not, yet doesn't understand or even heard of terms/words like "mercy", "forgiveness", "curiosity" or "bible". That's just inconsistent writing, sadly only for the sake of a few pages with some vague ethics 101-stuff.

There's also another annoying problem: while there are some interesting (and probably visionary) bits about ecology, overpopulation and the limits of Earth's resources in the book, and hence about the reorganization of cities, there's absolutely no justification for the fact that those cities on future Earth aren't open to the air, the sun, the weather. 'Caves of steel' seem like a neat idea, and make for a good title, but as consistent world building goes it's dead in the water.

Finally, on a surface level the book seems to radiate a message of peace and understanding, since it's about adjusting and overcoming prejudices - but actually --- tiny spoiler alert --- the main character's development is the only one in the book, and paraphrases as this: "human is nudged to overcome fear of robots due to mild drug administered to him without his knowledge".
Still, it definitely was a mildly entertaining, fast read with some nice SF tidbits. So, those who have an interest in Asimov or 1950ies SF should give it a chance, for sure.

3/5

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Re: great SF books

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I've finished the 1000-page sequel to one of the fantasy books reviewed above. It won the Legend Award recently. At the moment I'm reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, another fantasy title (Jane Austen meets Harry Potter, it is said), but after that, I'm getting back to SF, with Seveneves from Stephenson, some more Kim Stanley Robinson and some lesser know Frank Herbert... Promise!


WORDS OF RADIANCE (2014) - Brandon Sanderson

A lot that I have written in my review for The Way of Kings, the first book of The Stormlight Archive, is true for this second book: it's entertaining, there're interesting characters, the language is unimaginative, there's too much repetition, the story tends to drag at times, and it appeals to the reader's heroic self.

What's different? The world-building feels a bit better, but that's mainly an effect of being more immersed in Roshar, not necessarily better writing. All and all, the unique features of this world (the prevailing stormwinds) are still underdeveloped and don't have a real influence on the Rosharean societies' structures or people's behaviour. Alethkar particularly could've been whatever standard medieval fantasy kingdom, except for the fact that some of the animals have shells, and some trees pull in their branches. Features like these are more gimmeckery and embelishments, not stuff that drives forth the story. The storms only really play a role as a factor in the magic - storms recharge stuff with magical energy, that's about it. And although lots of animals and plants have evolved like such and such because of the wind, knights still ride regular horses. Can't do without horses in high fantasy, it seems.

It also turns out that the spren are indeed an important, necessary part of the story - but I still don't feel they are well conceived. The metaphysics of this book are an awful mess: there's a kind of platonic divide between a world of ideas and the world of men, and some unclear stuff about the reality of God and gods. But then again, the remaining books in the series will undoubtedly clear things up a whole lot, so maybe I should refrain from judgement on the magic. Still, a true masterpiece, even as part of series, shouldn't feel disjointed on that part after more than 2000+ pages in. So, up unto now, this series feels like B rather than A-list material.

Storywise, Words of Radiance rests mainly on one narrative device: main characters not telling other main characters of their true abilities. That gets tiresome after a while.

The finale doesn't offer a lot as compensation, since about everything that one expects to happen, does happen. Still, I'm intrigued by the the story and some of the characters, and it will be interesting to see where Sanderson will take us in the 3rd book - there's a lot of Roshar that remains to be discovered, and I feel that with the completion of this second book, the stage has only now been truly set. While this book was quite predictable, I have no idea whatsoever where Sanderson wants to go in the remaining 8 books of this series.

On a sidenote, the art in Words of Radiance didn't add as much to the story as it did in The Way Of Kings. It feels a bit contrived, and it sure doesn't come across as authentic: printing a few pages on fake parchment grey doesn't do it for me. Final quibble: Sanderson should drop the titles for the chapters, they're generic and add nothing at all.

Final verdict: recommended, if you liked the first book, and don't mind to again read a 1000+ page novel. It's simply more of the same indeed... not necessarily a bad thing, as it worked great as escapist vacation reading...

3.5/5

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Re: great SF books

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Finished the multiple award winning book about 2 English magicians. I don't talk a lot about the plot in the review, so I'll copy past a blurb first. Fans of Jane Austen, Bronte or Dickens or should check this out too. It's really something special, don't be put off by the fantasy tag, its very much it's own thing and very much a comedy of manners too.

English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.

But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England's magical past and regained some of the powers of England's magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.

All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington's army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange's heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.

Sophisticated, witty, and ingeniously convincing, Susanna Clarke's magisterial novel weaves magic into a flawlessly detailed vision of historical England. She has created a world so thoroughly enchanting that eight hundred pages leave readers longing for more.



JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL --- Suzanna Clarke (2004)

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a long book that takes its time to set everything up. I don't think I've read a book that has slower character development - except for books that don't have any character development at all.
In the first half, it reads more like a collection of anecdotes, short stories and miniatures about magic, folklore and society, which are nearly all interesting, well-crafted, oddly poetic and at times charmingly witty. Still, the actual story only takes off after about 400 pages (in my pocket edition of 1000 pages). It took me quite some time to reach that mark. I considered giving up around page 300, since not that much was happening, but kept on reading because Clarke's language and descriptions have an eerie yet funny character that retained a sense of promise about the story itself. 100 pages later, I was fully gripped. The entire book, which has been rightly dubbed a comedy of manners too, has a reflective, ironical vibe, and as such it is very, very English - for lack of a better word.

Lots has been written about this acclaimed book. Let me suffice with saying that it is utterly original, and a genuine feast of the imagination.

Highly recommended, if you are willing to invest the time.

4.5/5

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Re: great SF books

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Back to SF with an old Hugo winner!

"It is a tale of revolution, of the rebellion of the former Lunar penal colony against the Lunar Authority that controls it from Earth. It is the tale of the disparate people--a computer technician, a vigorous young female agitator, and an elderly academic--who become the rebel movement's leaders. And it is the story of Mike, the supercomputer whose sentience is known only to this inner circle, and who for reasons of his own is committed to the revolution's ultimate success."


THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS -- Robert A. Heinlein (1966)

First things first: although it is not without troubles, I enjoyed The Moon is a Harsh Mistress a lot. It's exciting and interesting, even half a century after it was first published. A classic, yes.

So, troubles? The main problem is the pacing. The narrator - one of the main characters - doesn't dose his telling one bit. He simply starts, and he rushes to the ending, all in short, chronological paragraphs. There's a lot of information to digest, with lots of detail, at a high tempo. As a reader, there was not a moment to breathe. The book follows this template: "This happened, we planned this, we did that, repeat ad infinitum." Boring in a way, but the story told is action packed, so you just tag along. Heinlein lets his narrator speak in a kind of mildly broken English - but whether this is a hybrid form of English spoken on the Moon, or just echoes the Slavic roots of the narrator isn't really clear. He uses some Russian words, and, more annoyingly, he hardly uses any articles. It gives a bit of flavor to the book, true, but makes it harder to read too. I would have dropped the no-article gimmick, since it doesn't really advance the story. The choice Heinlein made for the narrative voice also results in a book that is mainly telling, there's hardly any showing - some readers might object to that. (The same goes for the lack of character development.)

Narrative technicalities aside, Heinlein is an interesting, fairly original thinker. I say fairly, since the subject matter of the book was undoubtedly shaped by the Cold War context it was written in. The book reads as a revolutionary manual, and makes some interesting observations about human societies. This is definitely "social sciences fiction" too. Although some of Heinlein's projections are probably off (rather naive thoughts about what would happen on an isolated moon with a 1 to 10 female-male ratio, or about the self regulating peacefulness of a lawless Luna full of convicts,...) or outdated by contemporary science (like the fact that Loonies live a lot longer because of low gravity), there's a LOT of other, dead-on thought packed in the 288 pages of my pocket edition.

To end, since this book deals with AI too, I want to stress Heinlein's hands on take on consciousness, being alive, etc.: right away in the opening chapters the narrator brushes of possible critical remarks as just semantics... For all practical purposes Mike, the sentient supercomputer that plays a big role in the story, is alive indeed: Heinlein is my kind of no bullshit philosopher.

This was my first Robert A. Heinlein. I'll read more of him someday.

Recommended.

3.5/5

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Re: great SF books

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THE DIAMOND AGE --- Neal Stephenson (1995)

As a big fan of Anathem (one of my favorite SF novels) and Snow Crash, I had high expectations for this book. Although The Diamond Age, or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer has its merits, and is often entertaining, ultimately, I was disappointed.

The problem with this book is that it tries so hard. It's so obviously textbook postmodern (mingling of genres, of high & low, of the Victorian age & cyberpunk, etc.; there are abrupt switches in point of view, storylines cut short, odd jumps ahead in time, etc., etc.) that it all becomes a bit tiresome after a while. In the same postmodern vein, some of the ideas are so obviously, outrageously over the top (nanocomputing via mass orgies, anyone?) that they ultimately fall flat on their faces.

There's the obligatory postmodern meta-ness too, since, well, this is a science fiction book about a fictional high tech book. That part works rather well though, and is truly clever.

So, I'm not saying there's nothing to like in this book. The first 400 pages of my 500 page edition had me gripped. There's a sense of wonder and mystery, and some interesting characters. The stories that Nell, the young girl, reads in the primer, are original and sometimes hauntingly beautiful - this mixture of fantasy-ish fairytale material and SF is echoed in books like House of Suns and The Three-Body Problem. So, yes, it's a good read for quite some time, but near the end, I couldn't really care for what happened to the characters anymore, in part because it was becoming predictable and repetitive. The ending felt a bit rushed & haphazard, and too much of an actionflick pastiche.

Aside from the climax that maybe was too climactic, my other main problem with this book is the fact that Stephenson's prose is often so dense it becomes a chore. There's heaps of detailed descriptions, larded with Stephenson's favorite technique: the enumeration.

It usually follows this same pattern: character enters new scene, which is described in detail for some pages, and then something happens to the character, such as dialogue, for about half a page. The descriptions are wild, Stephenson's imagination vivid, but at the same time there's hardly any variation in the writing, which makes it boring after some time.

This book simply is more pretentious than Snow Crash, and because of that, less fun.

By all means, if you liked other Stephensons, give The Diamond Age a chance. It's not bad. But, be prepared for tons of sentences like:

"The Coastal Republic checkpoints at the intersections of the roads were gray and fuzzy, like house-size clots of bread mold, so dense was the fractal defense grid, and staring through the cloud of macro- and microscopic aerostats, Hackworth could barely make out the hoplites in the center, heat waves rising from the radiators on their backs and stirring the airborne soup."

I cannot stress the brilliance of Anathem though!

3/5

-------------------

SLOW BULLETS --- Alastair Reynolds (2015)

First things first: when I received this book after ordering it, it felt like a total rip off. Slow Bullets is not much more than a short story printed in a large font to spread it out over 190 pages, and then sold for the price of a regular novel, although it's hardly a novelette.

Marketing & packaging aside, the content doesn't amount to much. Slow Bullets is underdeveloped. Not a lot happens, it's basically a couple of people waking up on a sleeper ship without knowing where they are and what year it is. They then find out because someone tells them, and then they try to cope with the fact that the ship's vast memory banks are slowly degenerating.

Memory is the theme of this book, but it's hardly explored. Reynolds just scratches the surface. What's the interplay between the memories kept in the slow bullets and peoples' real brain memories? It's never explained nor shown. These slow bullets are personal thumb drives that are inserted with a kind of gun and move on their own through the body to their designated place someplace in the chest. For a supposedly highly developed star faring culture with automatic robot surgeons that's a messy and lengthy way of inserting a memory bank. Again, Reynolds didn't think a seemingly nice idea through, why would he, since it makes for a good title, and an early torture scene! At the end, there's a page and a half about the link between memory and identity, but again, it's hardly developed and as a result it doesn't have depth.

To add insult to injury, there's some superficial stuff about religion, since part of the war in Slow Bullets was about "the Book" and its different interpretations. We even get 2 pages (1% of the page count) full of insightful discussion of this "the Book", that goes like this:

character 1: "There's also a lot of common sense in it. Just basic good advice for living a decent life, being kind, thinking of your neighbours and so on. My father was a devout man, but also honest in his business dealings. He took that from the Book, even though it brought trouble on us as a family."

character 2: "Then the Book can damage, if you follow it too literally."

Nuff said.

This entire booklet felt like a draft, trying to put 2 or 3 ideas randomly together, and not even expanding upon them. The sad thing is that this could have been a great story, one that did live up to the blurb of the backcover ("a vast conflict between hundreds of worlds..."), but then it would have needed at least 4 times as many pages. Slow Bullets never felt vast, and never felt like something written by one of the "mastersingers of Space Opera".

No character development. No world building. Totally random aliens with godlike powers that serve as the explanation for the backstory, reversed dei ex machina.

Readers new to Reynolds should start with the amazing Revelation Space or House of Suns, and Reynolds veterans shouldn't start with high expectations - I, for one, was disappointed.

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Re: great SF books

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I've started a blog for the reviews.

It's called WEIGHING A PIG DOESN'T FATTEN IT.


There are two new reviews up:


Ancillary Sword (2014, Ann Leckie)

&

The Diamond Age (1995, Neal Stephenson)


Just click to come over and read...

Thanks!

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Re: great SF books

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ICEHENGE - Kim Stanley Robinson (1984)


After reading 2321 and Aurora, and watching a lot of his talks and interviews on YouTube, Kim Stanley Robinson propelled himself to the forefront of my favorite authors. That is because he combines different persona in such an interesting way: a great observer of humanity, a sharp scientific mind, a poet, and a radical, utopian dreamer. I want to read everything he wrote, and so I started one of his first novels. Does it hold up to his most recent work?

(...)

Please click here to read the bulk of this review on my blog...

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Re: great SF books

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new review of a short story collection of the acclaimed Hugo winning Chinese author:


THE WANDERING EARTH - Cixin Liu (2013)

The book features 11 stories, mostly about 50 pages each. The translations were done by Ken Liu - who also translated The Three-Body Problem - and Holger Nam. Four of the stories won the China Galaxy Science Fiction Award. I'll use the title story to point out some general remarks about this collection, and give a quick write-up and a hint about the subject matter of each of the other stories afterwards.

(...)

In a way, most of these stories are about the tension between hope and the inevitability of demise; and the insignificance of the individual when compared to the whole of society or the whole of the universe. In that sense, Cixin Liu clearly is an Eastern writer. The mild strangeness of these Chinese stories may well be an additional delight for most Western science fiction readers that crave Otherness.


Please click here to read the bulk of this review on my blog...

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Re: great SF books

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Just finished & reviewed:


VIRTUAL LIGHT - William Gibson (1993)


I was disappointed with the highly acclaimed classic Neuromancer, but I thought Gibson nonetheless had an interesting way with words, so I decided to give another one of his novels a chance. Virtual Light is mostly set in San Francisco, and is mainly a thriller about a bike courier that steals high-tech sunglasses with important data on them and finds herself chased by the male protagonist and an assortment of goons, dirty cops and a hit-man with gold canine teeth.

The cyberpunk/scifi component isn't that important actually, and (...)


Please click here to read the rest of this review on my blog.

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Re: great SF books

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Again a fantasy book. Next up is Luna: New Moon by McDonald.


CITY OF STAIRS - Robert Jackson Bennett (2014)

This book is okay, but it's not that original as some claim it is, and it lacks overall depth. The basic premise of an imperialistic continent conquered by its slaves after its gods were killed is quite original, sure, but the details are all more or less standard.

Bennett seems unwilling to make consequent choices, just for the sake of the not wanting to write about a standard medieval world, but still ends up writing about something that feels like a generic fantasy world.

Still, all things considered...

(...)

Please click here to read the bulk of this review.

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Re: great SF books

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A new favorite! Get it! Read it!


LUNA: NEW MOON - Ian McDonald (2015)

This hammer of a book is about freedom, and its opposite. Freedom from gravity, freedom from criminal and civil law, sexual freedom. Being in enclosed spaces the entire time. The cost of air, the fear of depressurization. The crushing demands of family. Inevitability. Being bound by contracts, contracts, contracts.

(...)

Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It, click here.

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Re: great SF books

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double post
Last edited by schiksalgemeinschaft on Sat Nov 21, 2015 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: great SF books

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An old Hugo winner this time...


WAY STATION --- Clifford D. Simak (1963)

Way Station is firmly rooted in its time of publication. While the language and descriptions are still worthwhile, the themes of this book seem dated and naïve. Simak tells the story of Enoch Wallace, a soldier that survived Gettysburg and afterwards was chosen by an alien to transform his parental house in a secret way station for all kinds of different alien travellers. Enoch is to be the keeper of this station, and doesn’t age any more. At first, the story holds tremendous promise. (...)


Please click here for the full review.

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Re: great SF books

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Next up a rather long review of a strangely marketed new fantasy novel by historical novelist Cecelia Holland...


DRAGON HEART --- Cecelia Holland (2015)

I started this book with the wrong expectations. The title, the text on the dust jacket, the cover art and the Kim Stanley Robinson quote on the cover – “Holland’s vision is constant, and her books keep going deeper. This time, she takes the sea dragon and the castle by the sea and plunges them right into your subconscious.” – all promise a story about, yes indeed, a dragon. That, Dragon Heart doesn’t deliver.

(...)

Holland’s prose is rather dry, but precise. The fact that she has managed to write a book about which I can’t seem to make up my mind intrigues me. Somewhere in the future, I will definitely try Floating Worlds – her 1976 science fiction novel – and one of her historical novels too.


Please click here for the full review.


Thanks for reading!

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Re: great SF books

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BANKS BANKS BANKS !?

Inversions --- Iain M. Banks (1998)

When cancer tragically stole Iain Banks from our world in June 2013, I still had 4 of his books on my TBR-pile. Surface Detail, Inversions, The Algebraist and Transition. I decided to savour those, since there would never be the joy of waiting for a new Iain M. Banks to be published again. I decided to read Surface Detail first, so that I at least could achieve some kind of closure with the Culture series – Surface Detail being the last Culture novel I had to read. After more than a decade of near abstinence of fiction, it was this series that really turned me into an avid fiction reader again. As such, they will always occupy a special place in my memory. A friend of mine told me he liked The Algebraist – a non-Culture SF novel which features sentient gass giants among other things – a lot, and found Transition to be one of the wildest books he ever read. That set the order for the remaining books: read Inversions first, then The Algebraist and end with Transition, maybe in a year or two, three.

Over a week ago, I decided to start Inversions.

(...)

Please click here for the full review.

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schiksalgemeinschaft
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Re: great SF books

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Seriously, fantasy readers take note, this is really good stuff. Might be of interest for about anybody with an interest in well written stuff.


SHATTERED PILLARS --- Elizabeth Bear (2013)

It’s always a thrill when the second book you read of an author turns out to be as good as the first. Thrilling, but sometimes daunting too, since it usually means my TBR-pile grows with a substantial number of titles. 26, in the case of Elizabeth Bear. Shattered Pillars is even better than Range of Ghosts, the book it is a sequel to.


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Re: great SF books

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I've finally tackled Seveneves in a rather lengthy review...


SEVENEVES - Neal Stephenson (2015)

What a beautiful behemoth of a book the first hardcover edition is… 861 pages, quality binding, and 4 top-notch illustrations that really enhance the story. It’s a feast to hold in your hands. Stephenson clearly is on top of the commercial food chain. And when one starts reading, the first sentence (“The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.”) hits you like the instant classic first line it is. The first 50 pages are excellent, thrilling, and command a feeling of tremendous promise that is rare in any genre.

Gradually, technological and scientific exposition over. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But (...)


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Re: great SF books

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Finished the last of the much hyped trilogy. You should read it too...


ANCILLARY MERCY - Ann Leckie (2015)

Ancillary Justice was a book about the non-existence of free will, and Ancillary Sword was about love. Ancillary Mercy adds the theme of identity, and what it means to be a Significant being. From the very first pages Leckie (...)


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Re: great SF books

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Just finished a disappointing read of a short Le Guin classic, and a rather lengthy ranting review of it...


THE LATHE OF HEAVEN --- Ursula Le Guin (1971)

I came to this with high expectations, since I loved The Left Hand of Darkness, and I loved all the interviews and talks with Le Guin I’ve read or seen. This short book seems almost universally loved by the reviewing community too, and many people report that there is lots of food for deep thought in it.

For sure Le Guin has a vivid imagination, spelled out in beautiful prose. There’s great lines to be found throughout the 182 pages.

(...)

But I’m sad to say The Lathe Of Heaven left me frustrated by its sloppy content. (...)

There is a lot to be said for Acceptance as a way of being, and my beef is not with Taoism. My beef is with a few false dichotomies Le Guin introduces, and a caricatural treatment of utilitarian, pragmatic politics.

(...)


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Re: great SF books

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Finished an early novella by KSR. Tasty stuff!


A SHORT, SHARP SHOCK --- Kim Stanley Robinson (1990)

(...)

The themes of the book are rich & diverse, and have to do with companionship, sexual attraction, the nature of time, memory, the inherent miscommunication between individuals, aesthetics, geology, the animalistic nature of man, the freedom of waves, and being determined by one’s surroundings. The novella’s world – a ridge among the equator of an ocean world, circling it like a spine – determines the narrative structure too: there’s nowhere to go but forth, following the path among the ridge. Or not?

(...)

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