What SF/F Book Are you Reading? .. Redux

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Klaus, Aug 31, 2011.

  1. Out Of My Vulcan Mind

    Out Of My Vulcan Mind Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Since I last checked in I've read or listened to:

    - The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

    - Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum (audiobook read by Margaret Wooster)

    - The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

    - The Skylark of Space by E.E. Smith (audiobook read by Reed McColm)

    - The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs (audiobook read by Brian Holsopple)

    - The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon
     
  2. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm just starting Earth Abides.
    I'm in for a depressing ride here, folks...
     
  3. Klaus

    Klaus Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Been meaning to post here for a while… since last report I’ve read Existence by David Brin, which I really enjoyed. It’s an interesting homage to Stand on Zanzibar in some ways, some overt and some not, which I wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t just read the other… I’ve not seen the connection made elsewhere but it’s pretty obvious. I know there’s some unhappiness here w/Brin’s style but I liked it in this case. A very thought-provoking book on many levels, from its take on autism to the Fermi Paradox.

    I also undertook a delightful excursion to the past [and the future] and re-read Julian May’s Saga of Pliocene Exile for the first time in over 15 years. It’s still one of the most stunning sf epics ever written IMHO, setting the standard for how to do a big work like that. I’m going to re-read Intervention and the Galactic Milieu trilogy also soon. It’s too bad we probably won’t see any more from May [she’s 81 and hasn’t published anything in a long time :(] because she never disappoints as far as I’m concerned.

    And I just finished Fate of Worlds by Niven and Lerner, which is the wrapup to both the Fleet of Worlds and the Ringworld sagas… I thought it was excellent too, and it was cool to see both Ausfaller and Louis Wu in the same book again. It leaves both series in an interesting place.

    On to a little mental floss, the latest 2 books in Turtkledove’s The War that Came Early series about WWII starting in 1938 instead of 1939.
     
  4. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    So having dutifully gone through Uplift I'm now on the fourth novel of Iain M. Banks' Culture books (a read I hope to top off with the recently released Hydrogen Sonata). They're... not bad, and an non-hierarchic post-scarcity super-freedom oriented interstellar culture is one with an obvious appeal for fans of, let's say, an unnamed but prolific utopian-leaning franchise.

    But they're seldom as fun as they promise to be. Again not bad, solid stuff, wouldn't have read three already if I disliked it, etc.

    Also somewhere in the middle of Osama by Lavie Tidhar. A private detective is hired by a woman to go hunt down an author of lurid paperbacks, works of fanciful fiction about an imaginary terrorist organization called al-Qaeda and their series of unlikely attacks.

    It's not bad, though I am a sucker for this sort of thing (shades of The Man in High Castle frankly).

    I wasn't going to read this anytime soon (six Brin novels this year was quite enough thank you) but goddamn it Klaus don't tempt me with Zanzibar comparisons.

    By most accounts I'm familiar with (thinking William L. Schirer here) that would have been a shorter war.
     
  5. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    But Asimov himself beat you to it
     
  6. Klaus

    Klaus Vice Admiral Admiral

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    :D It's definitely intentional on his part, in as much as he's trying to give a wide picture of what this future would look like whilst advancing the plot as well. It doesn't have some of the "data dumps" that Zanzibar does, but it does use the term "Scanalyzer", for example... and the waning of nation-state power in favor of corporate entities. The AI question is much more in the forefront, as one would expect given where we are today. The second most important issue in the book after trying to answer the Fermi Paradox is what it means to be human in the context of emerging AI, increasingly merging our brains with technology, and genetic advances that allow the rebirth of Neanderthals, among other things.

    One of the truly fascinating ideas is that what we call "autism" may in fact be a subcategory of humanity whose advanced information processing abilities have been misunderstood because it comes with problems in normal communication skills... and that the merging of human and computer mind might not only set them free from that limitation but also provide them with an information-rich paradise in cyberspace which they are uniquely qualified to utilize.
     
  7. Set Harth

    Set Harth Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Damn. :lol:
     
  8. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    So, read Carnifex by Kratmann and ordered Kremlin Games, Ring of Fire III and something else I can't recall right now. Actually put it in my cart like 2 weeks ago and just got around to ordering it-I'll update after it arrives.
     
  9. Starbreaker

    Starbreaker Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    [​IMG]

    I was in the mood for some high-end horror, and I'm really enjoying the book so far.
     
  10. gblews

    gblews Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    "On Basilisk Station" and "American Gods" -- about halfway through both.
     
  11. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    American Gods wasn't bad, I read it earlier this year in preparation for the HBO series. It reminded me a lot of Small Gods but otherwise good fun.

    Had half a mind to read On Basilisk Station for a while - Baen offers the first book of the Harrington series temptly for free, and I've enjoyed the heck out their Vorkosigan and Retief stuff - but been putting it off. Maybe if more concrete news materializes out of their movie/TV/whatever project I'll give it more thought.
     
  12. mclea1mm

    mclea1mm Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    I'm in the middle of 'The Prefect' by Alistair Reynolds, and while it's not too bad, I find the descriptions to be heavy handed and the dialogue to be far too expository. This also made me feel a bit like I was being told how to feel about the characters, too. I guess just not enough nuance for me. It's the first book of his that I've picked up. It's something of a mystery/detective novel in space, but its not very strong as far as that genre goes. I saw 'Robots of Dawn' mentioned a few posts up, and while I wasn't crazy about that book either, I thought the detective element was much stronger there.

    The other is 'Hegira' by Greg Bear. I'm much more impressed by his ability to show me this world through his character's experiences, so it's been interesting to compare it alongside 'The Prefect.' I have read a few of his books and recommend him favorably. 'Hegira' so far seems like a more traditional quest story.
     
  13. Professor Zoom

    Professor Zoom Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Nomad of Time by Moorcock.

    Not what I expected, but having a good time.
     
  14. Klaus

    Klaus Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^I have that on the shelf, read a lot of Moorcock back in the day but never got to that one...
     
  15. trekkiedane

    trekkiedane Admiral Admiral

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    Not 'fun'??? -I think they're hilarious!!!

    The names people have, the names drones have and -especially- the names the (space)ships have are pure comedy :lol:

    The games that are played are too close to things seen on television for comfort - but over-the-top funny.

    The descriptions of sexual acts, too, are funny.

    The extreme descriptions of war, torture and other evil, that people do or think, are -although deeply disturbing- hilarious!

    Sure, I'm a fan! (currently halfway through The Hydrogen Sonata (that piece of music -and the instrument it's written for- is in itself a great joke (so far anyway).


    My first M. Banks was Excession, the conversations between Ships made me a fan of the entire Culture-universe. :)
     
  16. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I guess I'm used to a more breezy, plot-focused style whe I'm reading space opera. Banks has a much greater interest in setting up the scene and dawdling on details and letting plot unfold organically in the background - which is all, you know, not bad, but I'm not exactly eating these up as I was with Bujold last year, where it almost felt like I blazed through an omnibus sometime before breakfast.* Banks can be genuinely interesting in his massive Big Ideas being thrown around - there's decidedly cinematic imagery in Consider Phlebas - but I'd be lying if I said I found it as engaging. That's why I'm just pegging it as a 'fun' gap, as it'd sound kind of weird to complain that a writer is giving attention to detail to things in his book.

    And yeah, the names of the ships are cool as is their attitude (and again the general anarchic-government-by-haphazard supercomputer whim is one of the best parts of these books, and I'm particularly liking how Excession is going into that at greater length then previous novels), but I wouldn't call these books particularly funny. Even ignoring the unfair comparison of Douglas Adams, John Scalzi has waaay more jokes in his Old Man's War series and they sparkle.

    *It'd be fair to say that Bujold has an extremely narrow focus on her plots. You can sometimes almost list the named characters on one hand, and there's rarely a stray scene that doesn't either give character development to a key principal or furthers the plot in some way. It can lead to the books feeling altogether a bit too tidy, but I'll be damned if they weren't addictive as all hell.

    PS: Just... what is it with Banks and the word escarpment, anyway? Just when I thought he was using it a little much he goes ahead and makes it a class of starship too.
     
  17. trekkiedane

    trekkiedane Admiral Admiral

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    ^All right, we agree, they're not 'funny' as in comedy - but 'funny' as in filled with little things that might make you laugh.

    I admit to liking his prose, then, filled with these little funny things and, yes, the details that make up the background to any Culture-novel; the three-to-four-hundred first pages of a five-to-six-hundred-pages Banks-novel are naught but a set-up for the story -but what a set-up!

    (ETA: Oh, and I'm pretty sure he's read some Adams :lol: )
     
  18. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You should get around to it-it is not only fun but(I believe) what inspired Heinlein to write Job.
     
  19. Klaus

    Klaus Vice Admiral Admiral

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    As it turns out, I have them in both the all-in-one SFBC edition you're referencing and in the individual paperbacks. [it really was quite a Moorcock obsession for a while lol]

    I'll get them in the queue.

    ...and the PBs have these lovely old covers:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2012
  20. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Banks' straight novels are quite good too. In fact, his best book is probably The Bridge. The Wasp Factory is a dandy thriller, as is Complicity. Crow Road is also excellent.

    Moorcock's peak was probably Behold the Man. The Cornelius Chronicles are entertaining in a Robert Anton Wilson sort of way. The Nomad of Time ties in somehow, to the detriment of both series. But I can't read any of Moorcock's fantasy series, which make Tolkien look like Shakespeare. Nor can I get through any of his pastiche pulp constructs.

    Given the relative impossibility of separating new SF from the fantasy, most fiction I read is the stuff from the few big names cranking anything out: Brin's Existence (falls apart, relies too much on his weak political thinking); Robinson's 2312 (excellent); Reynolds' Blue Remembered Earth (not finished, looks promising); Slonczewski's newest (excellent); Scalzi's Redshirts is on reserve.
    I suppose when the Big Name SF writers die, I won't know any new ones and I won't read SF anymore.
     

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