great SF books

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Re: great SF books

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GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE - Frank Herbert (1981)

This is the 4th post in a series on my reread of the Dune books, and it became yet another lengthy text of about 8,720 words. I’ve also written long analyses of Dune, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.

My text on Dune itself focuses on the issue of Paul as a tragic hero, without free will, and has some notes on the book as a literary construction. The one on Messiah compares it with the first book, and also deals with its relationship to the concept of eternal recurrence – a strong Nietzschean undercurrent that ties into Paul not being an Übermensch – and with the relationship between prescience and the absence of free will. The article on Children is over 10,000 words long and deals with the tragedy of Alia, change as a key concept in the series, a Nietzschean morality beyond good & evil, and Amor Fati, among other things.

I’ve tried to keep overlap between this text and the previous ones to a minimum, so if you’re interested in a deep desert dive, please read those first.

Before I’ll zoom in on Leto’s conceptual character, and questions about prescience, the nature of the Golden Path and the question whether the world portrayed in this book is mystic or mechanical, I’ll try to write a proper review of sorts. If you’re also interested in the more philosophical matters, or in the various inconsistencies introduced in this novel, read on afterwards.

How to assess God Emperor of Dune in the series? In my recollection I thought Dune was by far superior to the 2nd and the 3rd book, but when I finished the series, I thought book 5 and 6 were the best. God Emperor is the only book I don’t have specific memories about anymore.

So far, my rereads have more or less confirmed my feelings: Messiah is dumbed down to the point it became bothersome – even though the emotions saved it in the end; the intrigues and Alia’s character make Children an above average read, even though conceptually it is a bit of a mess, and Herbert didn’t achieve the same purity of message as he did with Dune itself.

Similarly, after rereading God Emperor, I simply don’t have very outspoken feelings about it. It was an okay read, and by any standards Leto is a remarkable character – maybe the strangest character I have ever encountered in fiction. That by itself is an achievement.

The novel is often portrayed as heavy on philosophy, and I can understand what people mean by that, but I’d rather say it is sprinkled with tidbits that make you think, instead of calling this a philosophical book. Often these passages are mildly intellectually stimulating, but at the same time, taken at face value, generally taken the form of sweeping generalizations about humanity. Because they often lack nuance they more than once made me shrug – Herbert’s attempt at Nietzschean aphorisms do succeed once in a while, but they don’t fully compensate for the main structural weakness of this book.

(...)

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Re: great SF books

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THE HAIR-CARPET WEAVERS - Andreas Eschbach (1995, translated 2005)

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While not fully perfect, the book is a gem that combines Le Guinish calm, mythical storytelling as in Earthsea, with a space opera plot that nods at Herbert and has the outrageous imagination of Iain M. Banks. I’d say this would appeal to both science fiction and fantasy readers, and the beginning of the book also reminded me a bit of Piranesi, another gem that was still fresh in my mind.

It also features a formal narrative approach I have rarely encountered, and definitely not as honed to perfection as it is here.

The Hair-Carpet Weavers starts with the story of Ostvan, a weaver whose sole occupation it is to weave a carpet using the hairs of his three wives, who each have a different hair-color. The weaving of the carpet is an intricate job, and it takes a lifetime to complete one carpet. The next chapter features a different viewpoint, focusing on a trader in hair-carpets. Each subsequent chapter has a different point-of-view, and while each chapter could be considered as a short story, they all are tied together closely – both in theme as in time. Eschbach manages to slowly unfold the mystery of the hair-carpet weavers, and the story zooms out as it evolves, but never losing touch with the people that populate it.

The different viewpoints – they are always different, not a single one is repeated – might hinder character development, but this is not really an issue, as each chapter has its own emotional conclusion, and the bigger story does develop – as does the society it is set in. I cannot stress the mastery Eschbach shows to pull something like this off, all in a fairly short novel for today’s standards. That narrative & emotional control is much more important than the fun, but ultimately superficial gimmick – a story about weavers that is woven out of different narrative threads itself.

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TAU ZERO - Poul Anderson (1970)

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Ultimately, I can handle bad science or outdated sex stuff or weak characterization – especially in older SF. The main problem I had with this book was “Carl Reymont, a macho alpha male who beats people into line for their own good”, as a reviewer on Goodreads wrote. It is the entire ideological setup of the novel that bothered me most. Anderson writes about a character that knows best, and assumes the 50 scientists that people the ship could not function as a healthy group without a Machiavellian hero/leader/brute. It’s the kind of thinking that results in justifying violent dictatorship via elitist conceptions about the masses. Paternalistic bullshit. Yuck.

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Re: great SF books

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Seems like I forgot to update here. Quite a few new reviews since my last post...

NOVA SWING - M. John Harrison (2006)

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This was another successful Harrison for me – and like his latest The Sunken Land Begins To Rise Again, one that I will probably reread in the coming decade, just as I will reread Light. Now that I think of it, I guess I’ll enjoy Light even more now that I have a better grip on what Harrison tries to do with his books. I might even read Swing‘s last 50 pages again tonight – expect no update here however, it will be a private affair. Nova Swing is recommended, 4.5 stars – caveats below. I’ll read the final Kefahuchi book, Empty Space, sooner than later.

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AN INFINITE SUMMER - Christopher Priest (1979)

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Love, time travel, nerve agents and war are superficial similarities to some or even all of these stories, but the connections run much deeper: they deal with observing others and oneself, memories & images of each other, and how people change over time – because of observations & because of context. It must also be stressed these stories are human first, all else secondary: the war is just a setting, the sparse science fictional ideas mainly just a backdrop too.

I liked each and every story – not that I’d give every story 4 or 5 stars – but as a whole An Infinite Summer indeed is more than the sum of its parts.

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THE DROWNED WORLD - J.G. Ballard (1962)

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At times, I read up on books while reading them, and this time my explorations of other reviews significantly colored my reading, in particular the review of BlackOxford on Goodreads.

In that review, BlackOxford develops a mostly symbolic reading of the text that accuses Ballard of racism. The arguments are interesting, but the reading might be reductive. On the other hand, Ballard seems to encourage this interpretative method of searching for latent symbolism.

Before I will add my two cents to the debate – and I’ll keep it short – let me do the non-political part of the review.

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THE GOLD COAST - Kim Stanley Robinson (1988)

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Just as The Wild Shore – the first part of a loosely connected triptych, each of which can be easily read as a standalone – The Gold Coast is a book about characters & communities. It made me tear up once, and the central story hinges on the dynamics between a father and a son, and between that father and his cooperate boss.

The California trilogy might be KSR’s most autobiographical work – at least the setting is, as he moved to Orange County when he was 2. Stan was 34 when he wrote it, and it is very much a book about saying goodbye to late adolescence – the extended period of drugs, booze and parties, being twentysomething before settling down.

I’m not sure how much of an epicure KSR is or was, but Jim McPherson, the main character, is an idealist – something he shares with his inventor. McPherson teaches languages for a living, and KSR taught freshman composition. McPherson is also a struggling writer, writing poetry and history, trying to come to grips with postmodernism, something I’m sure Robinson had to do as well under the auspices of his PhD mentor Frederic Jameson – a giant of pomo literary criticism.

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Re: great SF books

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Aside the ones listed in the post above, I've also written 5500 words on The Book of the New Sun, focusing on the narrative trap Wolfe has set, and my theory that his literary sleight of hand serves a religious/mystical goal, much more than it is the supposed puzzle for the reader to unravel. There’s also a short section on free will, and it ends with my overall appraisal of the book’s enduring appeal.

THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN - Gene Wolfe (1980-1983)

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I’ve written a bit about a part of Wolfe’s politics in my review of The Knight, and I don’t want to spend too much time on that subject in TBotNS here, mainly because there is much more to agree to than to disagree with – we are on the same page about the Miracle that is Reality, and I don’t think it is always productive to zoom in on certain ideological differences. Humans are a social species, and at the end of the day we better try and get along, even with people that have different opinions.

Finally, there’s the obvious stuff: this book is brimming with imagination, written in a singular prose, the pacing is great, the construction more than clever, the setting cinematic, awesome, brilliant. The horror and the humor and the wisdom and the surprises and the awe just keep coming, page after page after page.

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Re: great SF books

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ROADSIDE PICNIC - Arkady & Boris Strugatsky (1972)

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Anyhow, I agree with Lem that the final chapter – while I sympathize with its ultimate message, “HAPPINESS, FREE, FOR EVERYONE, AND LET NO ONE BE FORGOTTEN!” – isn’t the most successful of the book. It turns something that was fairly consistent in its harshness in a kind of dreamlike carnival of the deranged. In vogue in 60ies and 70ies literature, sure, but also a bit of an Achilles heel, as I feel the mystery and absurdity of life isn’t best served with fairly straightforward mimesis of a mental meltdown in outré surroundings: it too easily turns into something cartoonish.

Is the weird truly the best form to portray the Wonder? Part of the answer to that is taste, obviously, but I think reality is strange enough as is, and it doesn’t need embellishments to drive that home. On the other hand, Redrick Schuhart’s mental fate isn’t unrealistic given what he had to endure in his fictional life, so Boris & Arkady Strugatsky get a pass for that ending, easily.

(...)

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Re: great SF books

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INCANDESCENCE- Greg Egan (2008)

“All I learnt in the void was that our best guess so far is certainly wrong.”

While not totally unfamiliar with Greg Egan – I’ve read the brilliant Schild’s Ladder, and his early Quarantine – I did start Incandescence with the wrong expectations.

The blurb of the British 2009 Gollancz paperback promises something akin to space opera:

“A million years from now, the galaxy is divided between the Amalgam, a vast, cooperative meta-civilisation, and the Aloof, the silent occupiers of the galactic core. The Aloof have long rejected all attempts by the Amalgam to enter their territory, but travellers intrepid enough can take a perilous ride as unencrypted data in their communications network, providing a short-cut across the galaxy’s central bulge.

Rakesh has waited all his life for adventure to come calling. When he meets a traveller who claims she was woken by the Aloof mid-journey and shown a meteor full of traces of DNA, he accepts her challenge to hunt down the uncharted world from which the meteor came, deep in the Aloof’s territory.

Roi and Zak live inside the Splinter, a translucent world of rock that swims in a sea of light they call the Incandescence. They live on the margins of a rigidly organised society, seeking to decipher the subtle clues that might reveal the true nature of the Splinter. In fact, their world is in danger of extinction, and as the evidence accumulates, Roi, Zak, and a growing band of recruits struggle to understand and take control of their fate.

As Rakesh gradually uncovers the history of the lost DNA world, his search leads him to startling revelations about the Splinter – and the true nature and motives of the Aloof.”

I’ve quoted it in full, because it is striking because of two things: Egan’s own rigorous ethics concerning book jackets (see my review of Schild’s Ladder for the full anecdote), and his scathing reply to a review of Incandescence by Adam Roberts in Strange Horizons. Let me try to explain, and provide my own review of sorts by doing so.


(...)

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Re: great SF books

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2 new posts, one a massive one, the 5th in my series on my reread of the Dune series.


A SCANNER DARKLY - Philip K Dick (1977)

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And while the focus is on the addicts, there is some amount of societal critique too, and just enough of the bigger context in which the broken characters function. On the other hand, the conspiratorial ending detracted from the overall atmosphere, framing what is essentially a small story in something that is too large.

I’m still in two minds about this book. Rereading the notes I took, PKD clearly wrote a rich novel, both thematically as texturally, but at the same time the book’s vibe is monotonous – suitably so, I guess, but not necessarily what I want to read. I do think Dick managed to evoke emotions, but I wonder if they will have a broad appeal outside people already acquainted with these kind of addictions.

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Full review here


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HERETICS OF DUNE - Frank Herbert (1984)

A 11,600 word analysis of Heretics of Dune that is both critical and a love letter. There are also a few open questions in the text, any help or thoughts on those would be very welcome.

Among other things, the text looks at Herbert’s narrative bluff, and examines the Bene Gesserit’s motivations. It discusses love, heresy and variation as themes in the novel, and looks at how the book’s characters are permutations of those in Dune. I try the explain why I liked rereading this book the most of the sequels, even with all its shortcomings. The most important focus of the analysis is on a major shift in the series, as in Heretics, under the influence of Einstein and quantum theory, Herbert casts prescience not as something passive, but as an active, shaping force. This sea change alters the ontology underlying the series drastically. I also look at an underlying principle Herbert uses: perception shaping reality.

Questions:

- Do any of the books written by Frank support textual evidence for the claim on the Fandom Dune Wiki that the "primary objective of the Bene Gesserit was to attain further power and influence and help to direct humanity along a path of insight and stability"?

- What is "human" about Odrade's decisions in Heretics? In what way "love" has anything to do with it?

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Re: great SF books

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Seems like it has been a few months since I updated here.

I'll just post the links, without excerpts, because it are too many reviews. A few short words below on most titles though.

Stansilaw Lem: Fiasco (1986)
Vonnegut: Breakfast of Champions (1973)
Glen Cook: The Black Company (1984)
Richard Powers: Bewilderment (2021)
D.G. Compton: Farewell, Earth's Bliss (1966)
Neal Stephenson: Termination Shock (2021)
Greg Egan: Perihelion Summer (2019)
Patricia A. McKillip: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (1974)

I'd say the new Stephenson and the Egan novella are especially recommended, they both deal with climate change, but in a very different manner. The Egan is not nearly as heavy on science/math as his other books, so if that held you back, do investigate this title.

The McKillip is spectacular. YA Fantasy, yes, but also brutally honest about romantic relationships. I will read more of McKillip in the future. On par with Le Guin.

If you like some military fantasy, check out Glen Cook's Black Company. It inspired Mazalan, but it's a bit lighter. Holds up really, really well.

The new Powers was my first Powers, and a let-down. I say more in my review, but it boils down to Powers being pretentious, and overestimating literature as a change agent.

I'll try to remember to update more frequently over here in the future.

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Re: great SF books

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I want to spread the love for Ada Palmer's Too Like the Lightning, the first of 4 book series. Really one of the best books I've read the last couple of years. Not an easy read, but wholly original, and a bit of a love it or hate it affair.

TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING - Ada Palmer (2016)

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Similarly, a few other things aren’t entirely realistic and could hinder suspension of disbelief. But also in these cases the main narrative doesn’t hinge on them. More so, they do generate symbolic effect, and as such serve the book’s content. They also remind us we are not reading an exact, realistic prediction of a future, and not a work of Hard SF either, but an artificial construction, a work of art, a piece of theater. Critics could call some of it a bit contrived, yes, but for me it all worked splendidly. Similarly, one could call out there’s a bit too much description of clothes, but it generally does serve character & world building rather than mere aesthetics.

Speaking of characters: so far this has not been a story that focuses on individual psychology. A big chunk of the sprawling supporting caste are larger than life – a president, a king, an emperor, the powers that be. Some are mere sketches so far, and might remain so. But that is not to say there is no meat on the bone either, Palmer does have something to say about humans, even though she paints these things in bright, clear strokes: love, hate, revenge, lust. And while J.E.D.D. and Mycroft are fascinating characters, all those mysteries keep their emotional development out of focus – even though I think a denouement on that front will be part of the subsequent books.

Too Like the Lightning can be very theatrical at times, and I think it is in that way we should also read the author’s notes I quoted from in the beginning. Pretentious? Yes, probably. I also think it is heartfelt, for who can fault a writer, an artist, to have ambition? To want to communicate feelings and ideas? Isn’t that the essence of a lot of art? I think it is brave for Ada Palmer to be honest and upfront about her reasons, rather than play the socially acceptable humble writer. It is also in line with another of the novel’s main ideas: Do we still aspire to greatness as a species? Do we dare dream? Do we aspire to the stars?

Normally, I leave a lot of room in between books of a series – 15 or 20 other titles. Part of that is to keep this blog varied. I will ditch that rule: I’m addicted. I’ll probably read 2 short novels first, but after those, expect a review of Seven Surrenders.

I hope Palmer doesn’t drop the ball somewhere in the remaining three books, but I have high hopes, given reviews like those on fellow blog A Sky of Books and Movies. And even if she would, that doesn’t take anything away of the mature & bold achievement that is her debut. Whatever happens, the first book of her next series – one she has been planning for years as well – will be an automatic, blind buy.


Full review here.

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Re: great SF books

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2 new reviews, one of Pacific Edge by KSR, and one on Silverberg's Hawksbill Station.


PACIFIC EDGE - Kim Stanley Robinson (1990)

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All Three Californias books are stand-alone novels, each presenting a different future for an area south of Los Angeles – one about survivors of a nuclear war, another a cyberpunkish dystopia, and this one a utopia. While there are some minor formal connections, you don’t miss a thing if you only read those that appeal to you.

I liked them all, but this might be me favorite – because of the strong emotions it evoked, even if The Wild Shore was a similar human book, and Gold Coast made me cry too – about a year ago.

I will not offer comparisons between the three books, but limit myself to examine why it still works as a utopian novel 32 years down the line, and I’ll include some notes too about its remarkable relationship to KSR’s latest, his magnum opus The Ministry for the Future.

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Full review here

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HAWKSBILL STATION - Robert Silverberg (1968)

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What’s the story about? In a future 1984 the American government is replaced by a “syndicalist” totalitarian regime. That regime sends political prisoners back to a time on Earth with hardly any life – trilobites and moss is about all that’s to be found on barren rocks. They do so via a time machine invented by Edmond Hawksbill.

When the novel starts the penal colony has already existed for years, and has grown to about 140 people – many of them suffering serious mental issues because of their ordeal. The story is centered on Jim Barrett, who is chief because of seniority. After half a year with no arrivals, a new prisoner, Lew Hahn, materializes, and he is a bit of a mystery. The other narrative pull is the backstory of Jim, who we get to know as a 16-year old joining the underground resistance almost by chance, and who we follow right up until he is sent back in time. Those flashbacks – that were not in the novella – are about half of the book.

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Full review here

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Re: great SF books

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I've also reviewed part two of Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota...

SEVEN SURRENDERS - Ada Palmer (2017)

It might seem strange for a book I thoroughly enjoyed, but this review will generally be critical – as I said, check the first review for the laudatory part, all of it still stands, even with the caveats I’ll voice after the jump.

I’ve written 8600 words. You may not want to read it all, so I’ve provided sections with a heading. Amongst other things, I will discuss the series’ metaphysics – tied with Mycroft’s status as a narrator, its seemingly essentialist outlook, the embedded case study of utilitarian ethics, the nature of J.E.D.D., the question whether this utopia could devolve into war, a gender issue and the books’ politics, intrigues and world building.

For those readers that turn to my blog for critical analysis, this is were I start my dissection of Terra Ignota. Obviously some of this criticism might change after I read book 3 & 4, but as I also draw a lot from interviews, I’m pretty confident the bulk of what I’ll say will also apply to the full series. And even if certain things will change significantly in the remainder of the series, I hope in that case my analysis will remain interesting to map how certain themes progress throughout the series.

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Full analysis on Weighing A Pig.

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Re: great SF books

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Three new reviews: a near-future climate thriller set on Hawaii, a near-future spy thriller and a 10k word analysis of Herbert's Chapterhouse: Dune.

PACIFIC STORM - Linda Nagata (2020)

Linda Nagata published her first book, The Bohr Maker, in 1995, and she is best known for her “nanopunk” novels – a genre I didn’t know existed, or at least, a moniker I wasn’t familiar with. Nanopunk is basically a subgenre of transhumanist science fiction, set in the far-future with lots of nanotechnology and brain-computer interfaces.

I had been eyeing her work for some time, nearly buying Edges from 2019, the first in the Inverted Frontier series. Not sure what held me back, but when I saw she’d published this in 2020, I decided to give it a go.

Not that this is nanopunk: Pacific Storm is a near-future thriller set in Hawaii – Nagata has been living there herself since she was 10.

The book is set at least 20 years from now, possibly even a few decades later. The United States has undergone major political change as its current political parties don’t exist anymore, and it has huge debts so China, so much the US government is even willing to lease control of Hawaii to the Chinese in exchange for debt relief.

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Full review here

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EUROPE IN WINTER - Dave Hutchinson (2016)

I read Europe in Autumn in 2016, and Europe at Midnight in 2017. I enjoyed them both a lot – Autumn was even one of my favorite reads that year, back when I read a book each week. But for some reason Europe in Winter has been lying on my TBR for nearly 5 years. I really can’t tell you why: I simply was drawn more to other books each time I needed to pick a new read.

The appeal of a review like this is limited: the third book in a series that was much praised, but that seems to have been a bit forgotten as well – even though this third one won the BSFA. Hutchinson published a final book, Europe at Dawn in 2018, as well as a solid space opera novella in 2017, Acadie.

Either way, if you haven’t read the previous books, by all means, read them – that is, if John le Carré-infused near-future thrillers appeal to you. The good thing is that you can stop after every installment: Hutchinson wrote it one book at a time, so while you do have to have read the previous books to enjoy each new installment, you don’t have to read the next one as Dave never planned a 3 or 4 book series.

That said: I had forgotten all the details of the previous books, and it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this one. That’s because Hutchinson’s main strength in these books is twofold: the world building and his knack for short stories.

Let me say something surprising about the world building first: I don’t really buy it. I don’t think Europe is under threat, not even with rising populism across the continent, Brexit and a bit of anti-EU sentiment in Hungary and Poland. I don’t see Europe fracturing soon. I didn’t think it last year, and I sure don’t think so since Russian troops crossed the Ukrainian border about a month ago.

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Full review here

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CHAPTERHOUSE: DUNE - Frank Herbert (1985)

People change. 10 years ago I read the Dune series for the first time, and it became my favorite series ever. In 2019 I started my reread of the series, and now I’ve finally come to the end of that project, finishing Chapterhouse: Dune, the 6th book. 10 years ago, I thought Chapterhouse was the pinnacle of the series – today, I think it is its nadir, and I would not call the series as a whole a favorite anymore.

In what follows, I will first try to explain why I think Chapterhouse: Dune is the weakest of the bunch. The bulk of this post will be an analysis of the book’s main themes, and their relation to the previous books.

For starters an examination of the Bene Gesserit. The main question I still had after reading Heretics was about their intentions, and I’ll check how Odrade’s emotions play out in Chapterhouse as well. I’ll also look into the question of free will again – the main issue of the first Dune. I’ve written shorter sections on change & creativity – change being the series overall constant, on Nietzschean morality – yet another recurring theme, on the obscure & conflicted nature of Mentats and, finally, on Herbert’s obsession with bureaucracy, something that popped up in Heretics already.

Before I wrote my actual analysis, I lined up 85 quotes with a total of 5500 words. Not all of those made the cut, but the text is quote heavy nonetheless. If you don’t want to read quotes, just skip them: in most cases, you should be able to follow my reasonings without them.

I’ll end with a short assessment of the series in general.

(...)

Full analysis here

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Re: great SF books

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Three new reviews: Shirley Jackson, GGK and PKD.

WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE - Shirley Jackson (1962)

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Harold Bloom is dead, and in 20 years time his work likely will only be read by a few academics. I think there’s a fair chance Shirley Jackson will still be read widely 50 years from now.

I’m not trying to dis academia, but Bloom’s tale is stark warning for us meta-writers to not confuse talking taste with pontificating. I have not read The Lottery – I will – but based on We Have Always Lived in the Castle, I’d say that Bloom’s claim about Jackson’s “art of narration” is a bit off.

The Western canon seems a bit of an outdated concept, or, at least, it is outdated as an apolitical idea: the reasons why something becomes a “classic” surely ain’t devoid of politcs. Either way, there is no doubt about the fact that Shirley Jackson belongs at least in the canon of speculative fiction – that peculiar subset of literature.

It turns out that We Have Always Lived in the Castle doesn’t contain any speculative or supernatural elements, yet it evokes an uncanny atmosphere that will delight many readers looking for Otherness. However strange it may be, Jackson manages to stay close to the human experience, and as a result she has written a book that will keep on resonating with generations to come.

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Full review here

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THE LIONS OF AL-RASSAN - Guy Gavriel Kay (1995)

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I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can’t make up my mind what I rationally think about our heroes. Is Rodrigo really a loving father if he’s absent from his family for years? If he willingly puts himself into mortal danger while he could have retired just as easily? Does Ammar deserve his ending? And how do I feel about Kay for writing a story that presents these pragmatically cruel characters as likeable, even though he also presents us characters such as Alvar and Jehane who are critical of war and bloodshed?

True – everything is grey, and reality is what it is. There are smooth criminals, sympathetic murderers, democratic elected officials that order bloodshed, and every soldier is indeed human. I know all this. But I’m conflicted about it. I guess I’m conflicted about reality? Do I kid myself when I think I would not commit atrocities beyond what’s needed for self-defense or defense of my family in a real life war context? Even if I don’t believe in free will, shouldn’t we hold soldiers and their generals to higher standards?

In the end, while Kay’s message of tolerance and diversity is to be applauded, and certain brutal scenes of heroic life & death and brought me to deep and heartfelt tears, at the same time, he wrote a feelgood book, ending with most of the protagonists happy together, sipping wine, celebrating a birthday, cosy by a fountain.

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Full review here

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FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID - Philip K. Dick (1974)

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Taverner doesn’t really experience an identity crisis and there never is any angst – it is no Metamorphosis. As a character study of downfall, or even of smug celebrity entitlement, it falls short.

It’s true that this novel is also about the nature of reality, and while for a few pages it seemed as if Dick was heading for yet another mise en abyme, near the end the reasons for Taverner’s predicament are explained with druggy handwavium. On top of that, it doesn’t hold up logically – but who reads Dick for logic anyway? So while some reviewers seem to find much of thinky worth here, this is no applied philosophy either – it’s a sandbox at best.

In the end, Flow My Tears is fairly entertaining, and there are a few pretty good scenes throughout the novel. But Dick pushes too many buttons, and, as in those vintage radiocassette players, whenever you push one button, another button pops free again.

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Full review here