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Reamde was my less favorite Stephenson, till I got Seveneves. He has been relegated out of the hardcover club. It does not really mean I only but hardcovers, as I usually prefer the airport paperbacks, but that I will usually buy it as soon as I can, no matter what other people say. Most people in the club are dead, but there are a few living ones. Less than used to be. Murakami, Gibson, Mieville, Swanwick, Martin, Wolfe, Cook, a couple Spanish authors, (Antonio Muñoz Molina and Javier Marías). Stross and Stephenson were kicked out a few years ago. I am sure there are others that do not publish that often.

 

Maybe it is reading about both at the same time, but there are surprising similarities in the way to Tiranny of both Lenin and Caesar, using the two tools of loyal military units and mob rule. I suppose it is a fairly easy state failure mode, giving power to the one with the right tool for his own problem. Hitler, despite the existence of the SA, did not have the army, but the controllers of the army allowed him to push forward.

 

As all the historyis a bit dry, and Mieville has so far avoided language acrobatics, I also started Noomik's Uprooted. A book for this times, and so far the right fairy tale for this generation. Let's see how it evolves.

 

As I mentioned above, I read Gnomon in three days, which is actually normal for me with Harkaway, who I have realized is in a probationary hardcover status. As soon as I finished I started poking holes in it that did not crop during the read, swept by the abundance of shiny things to distract me. A good editor and possibly a wider reading circle would have helped avoid the obvious ones, and maybe improve the ending. At least I spotted the plot twist early.

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REAMDE was interesting. The first time I read it, I was not that impressed. However, now it has jumped up the hierarchy quite a bit as I realize just how much I enjoyed the characters in it, not to mention the genius of T'Rain and some of the AR stuff he forecast that may well be in our near future.

 

Seveneves, I barely tolerated. And the DODO book didn't really grab me either, although I admit it is just about exactly what would happen if a black budget goverment agency got their hands on time travel. But on the other hand, Anathem is so flipping amazing, I will continue to buy and read Stephenson pretty much no matter what at first release.

 

Speaking of Swanwick, I just finished rereading Dances With Bears and I can now move onto reading the new Richard K Morgan Thin Air.

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On 12/18/2015 at 9:59 AM, heavyboots said:

Ghost Fleet, P. W. Singer — I am not sure exactly what to make of this. Had some interesting ideas and about a 15 page reference section at the end backing up all of the assumptions these guys made, so I guess it's probably fairly "accurate"? At any rate, it's basically about World War III, as started by Chinese aggressors feeling their Wheaties after kicking out all the current corrupt bureaucracy. As such, there's a lot of face-palm-worthy heroics by heroic 'Mericans, some interesting tech and some interesting ideas about how hacking and drones will play a part. 

 

FYI, I happened upon this when reading back pages of this thread.  Singer works for New America, which has offices in my building. I don't know him, though I saw he was promoting this book online a lot.  He is expert in military technology, procurement and policy.  He started Corporate Warriors about mercenary soldiers while at the UN.  Fiction is a new format for him.  If he says it though, it is likely he knows what he is talking about.  I tried to start Ghost Fleet but found it too Tom Clancy-esque for my tastes.

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Just finished Mr Penumbra's 24 hour Bookstore - a light, and entertaining read... The only puzzle I have is what were the readers - Tyndal, Lapin, et al. - actually doing? Did they have the key to each book and were they just decoding it? Maybe I missed something. They all seemed to know which book they wanted next. How?

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Thin Air by Richard K Morgan — If you enjoyed the heroes from Altered Carbon and Thirteen, you'll probably enjoy this guy too, since he's very much the same bitter anti-hero that we've seen Morgan write before. This takes place about the same time or possibly slightly later than Thirteen and definitely in the same universe.

 

The story and setting are pretty fascinating though. Set on Mars, the whole Mariner Valley (aka the Gash) is abuzz over the discovery that the latest incoming ship from Earth is chock full of auditors. Our anti-hero, Veil, is an ex-"overrider", which is basically the guy they stick on a ship to make sure pirates can't hijack it. He's now doing various illicit and licit activities to keep himself afloat on Mars and ends up through a series of misadventures being tasked to guard one of the Earth auditors as she hunts for a guy who won the Earth lottery (aka a full-ticket ride back to Earth if he wants it) because he's the first winner to not cash in his ticket. Cue hijinks.

 

At any rate, much like the aformentioned Morgan novels, this one was also a pretty quick read for me as it was hard to put the damn thing down. Possibly one or two too many twists by the end to maintain plausibility, but still pretty enjoyable overall. Check it out if you like his previous stuff for sure.

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23 minutes ago, heavyboots said:

Set on Mars, the whole Marianas Trench (aka the Gash) is abuzz over the discovery that the latest incoming ship from Earth is chock full of auditors.

 

image.png.9e5d63ab271af5387494030c57e07a8d.png

 

I think you mean "Mariner Valley" or "Valles Marinares" ;)

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Half of me is too unoccupied, and deeply wants to find some text which is just so overly, analytically dense to parse, in the hopes of realism in science fiction.

 

The other half seems to be content with having ‘Shonen Jump’ on my phone, obviously because of ‘Food Wars’.  Obviously.  Like everyone else I would figure. 

 

I would like to mention that I like the idea behind “The Comiq”, by Kazuki Takahashi, a lot, because it shows how powerful the leap of faith can be in anime, even when the material is downright goofy and not realistic by any stretch of the imagination.  If all anime begins with the same basic underneath, I haven’t seen this one done before, even if it has been somewhere. 

 

No, really.  Conrad?  Food Wars?  Conrad.  Food Wars.  Hmmm.  Not that Conrad did science fiction.  If only…

 

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Street Freaks by Terry Brooks — This was definitely a YA book, and not a great one, alas. Kid wakes up one morning to biologist dad calling him to say "get out of the house, now!" and police busting down the door. Runs to The Red Zone and ends up hiding out at a custom street car garage staffed with ex-biological experiments while megacorps hunt him. Hijinks ensue…

 

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 edited by N. K. Jemesin — Some great stories in here and some that I literally read a few pages of and couldn't handle more, so skipped. I guess I would have liked it better with less fantasy, tbh. Although at least one of the better stories was fantasy, so… I dunno.

 

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi — The second of his Interdependency series, and if you enjoy his writing, you'll enjoy this book just fine. Lots of political intrigue and backstabbing with a modicum of space exploration, etc. Looking foreward to the third one now!

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On 11/12/2018 at 9:54 PM, StageDrifter said:

Half of me is too unoccupied, and deeply wants to find some text which is just so overly, analytically dense to parse, in the hopes of realism in science fiction.

 

 

Try Gnomen

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as usual, i've fallen behind in posting here. so, as usual, apologies for what will likely end up being a bigger post than intended.

To revisit my previous post, particularly in light of having seen Maria Dahavana Headley on her Mere Wife tour. It has kind of been bugging me that I think I played it down more than I intended. Reading it after Malka Older, who is so entirely my cup of tea, probably detracted because my enthusiasm wasn't as high for Mere Wife as State Tectonics. But Mere Wife is really good, and was a real delight to see her read from it and talk about the book.

Enclave - Anne Charnock - picked this up after Neil Williamson flagged a few Newcon bargains. It is set in an uncertain near future, follow a young boy who was an economic/climate refugee, but ended up recruited(/enslaved) by a family in The Enclave, a kind of housing scheme. I really liked the world building and the characterisation, but was really frustrated by the fact it felt like a 1st chapter, like total set up, for something bigger. Instead it is a short novella with a lot of build up.

Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand - I heard Hand being interviewed on the Coode St podcast about this novella, and it had been one I'd been meaning to read. In novella terms it was priced higher than most other comparable works, but in the end I decided to just splash out, which for all my "I bought this cheap" I do do. A band on the drift between folk and rock, between obscurity and mega stardom, go into a remote country mansion to get away from the publicity and scandal surrounding them, to focus on the music, man. There they work together, smoke, fuck, compose some incredible and transcendent music. The story is told in the form of an autobiography, interviews with the main players carried out decades after the fact, so they are given the full weight of hindsight, of being a story about people that were super young and filled with such potential from the point of view of their older wiser selves, who survived what their was to survive. I already knew the "twist" of the story (not sure it counts as a twist), so on one hand I spent half the read waiting for it to happen. So to a degree it felt slow, but as it builds one gets a feel for the subtlety: the slow weird build as the characters talk about rooms they only ever found once, the disturbing things they found in there, the obscure warnings and looks of suspicion from the locals, culminating in the punchline. I really enjoyed this.

Cottingley - Alison Littlewood. Another of the Newcon novellas that were on special offer. Written as a series of collected letters, an old man has his own encounters with the Cottingley fairies around the same time as the famous photos. Building through a sense of wonder, and an attempt to engage with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to provide him with more evidence of the existence of fairies, to a growing horror and tragedy. Around the middle I did find that it dragged, partly down to that letter format thing, but on the whole I enjoyed.

I bought most of the Newcon items that were on special, but I'm pacing myself through those. But I did use it as an excuse to re-read Neil Williamson's Memoirist, which I still feel is one of the finest pieces of contemporary/near future science fiction, though of course all the tech and music stuff are key triggers for me anyway.

I'll Go On - Hwang Jungeun - the 2nd novel by this Korean writer to be translated to English by the Sheffield based Tilted Axis, who specialise in translated fiction (Korean, Thai, Indian and Uzbek so far). I really enjoyed her first novel, so picked this up as soon as it came out and read it quick. It is perhaps a degree less weird than One Hundred Shadows, but there are odd elements and dream influenced elements, which are part of Korean culture while feeling kinda magic realist to us (in same way as the like of some Haruki Murakami). Apparently this novel was originally serialised in Korea, so it is told in three parts, each from the POV of one of the main characters. Two sisters find their lives shattered when their father dies and his family essentially steals all the money from them, their despondent mother moves them into the cheapest and nastiest basement flat which is barely partitioned from the next door family. Fortunately, while their mother neglects them, the woman and her son in the other half of the flat take them under their wing. Now grown up, the three children are adults and still entangled in each other's daily lives. The main narrative is triggered over speculation as to whether the younger sister is pregnant, the confirmation, and the struggle not to repeat the mistakes that lead to their own situations. Which sounds mundane for this audience, but it was a delight, lots of stuff about food, about dreams and instinct, and I guess not a lot happened, but I just enjoyed.

Embers of War - Gareth L Powell - Was a little tentative about this, I don't really want to read war novels at the best of times, and these are not the best of times. But Gareth has a certain buzz, and I know a lot of people who have encountered him at cons/on social media, and I know a few them have read(are reading) this one. Set post war, but still informed by the violence of the war (which leads to some gorier scenes I am less keen on). Appalled by the final massacre of the war, a medic and a soldier from one side and an intelligent combat ship from the other side quit, and join the House of Reclamation - a universeish wide Thunderbirds/Interplanatary Rescue service. The story follows this team as they rush to the rescue of a downed cruise liner. Switching between the views of the captain, the mechanic, the ship and then also to one of the passengers from the crashed ship and an intelligence agent who has been sent on a mysterious mission to the crashed ship. A lot of it feels like an Iain M Banks template, the building blocks are very much an unwritten Culture novel. Put aside the best of Iain's work it perhaps doesn't hold up, but that isn't necessarily fair, certainly Iain had his patchier, more over written Culture novels (which may be heresy to some, but it is my opinion). I found this solid, well paced, well written, thoroughly professional and enjoyable, and if many of us could crack a template and execute it as admirably I think we'd be pretty happy with that.

Again reading graphic novels, this time more SF/weird than superhero (which are fun cartoons compared to more thinky pieces): Punks Not Dead, Death or Glory, Isola, Paper Girls 4, Gideon Falls, Infidel, Royal Boiler and Girl Town. Also picked up Tillie Walden's SF slab On A Sunbeam, which I'm going to have to dedicate some time to fully appreciating.

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I found Embers of War very good. Particularly in retrospect. I doubt if anyone will ever achieve the soaring imagination of Iain Banks. I recently read the whole Culture canon from end to end. Incomparable.

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Yall make me feel really lazy ;)

 

I am finally starting A Wizard of Earthsea and so far I am loving it.  I feel as if Ursula K. Le Guin's estate should have sued Bethesda games though, since Skyrim seems to have mined a lot of basic ideas from here.

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8 hours ago, gil said:

I found Embers of War very good. Particularly in retrospect. I doubt if anyone will ever achieve the soaring imagination of Iain Banks. I recently read the whole Culture canon from end to end. Incomparable.

 

couple of folk i spoke to had said they'd struggled with it, didn't engage initially, which is why i was so conscious as i was going in what was going on and how well it was being done. and i knew banks was an influence on the work, but it was fascinating to see which boxes were ticked.

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The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross — Yet another in the Laundry series, this one is getting pretty far out into an alternate reality. Basically, elder powers are now running both the US and the UK, and the elder power in charge of the UK doesn't like what the ones in the US are doing (cough summoning Cthulu cough). So various and sundry Laundry characters are dispatched to the US to find the President (who has been forcibly removed from the population's memory) in hopes of cracking things open and returning the US to a more normal state. Hmmmm, I feel like Stross has basically lost all hope for the political direction of both our countries and is sorta allegorically representing it in his fictional universe as elder powers rather than just hateful people and technology run amok and tipping the scales towards the nastier side of human nature through microtargeted fear and hate speech. But at any rate, if you're into the Laundry books, this is middling to better than middling for the series. I enjoy the main character quite a lot, so that tips the scales to a strong positive review from me. Plus, it was interesting to see Trump and May's governments basically represented as evil incarnate, lol.

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20 hours ago, heavyboots said:

it was interesting to see Trump and May's governments basically represented as evil incarnate, lol.

 

Oh, I think it is interesting to see them do that for themselves IRL, I'm not sure Stross would need to strain much to make that work.

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Finished A Wizard of Earthsea and the wonderful afterword Le Guin wrote for it years later. Quite amazing really, a completely different take on fantasy from the Tolkien-esque focus on power and war.  

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Barbary Station by R. E. Stearns — In a future in which humans have at least colonized the solar system if not further (I'm a little unclear on that), a couple of college grads with dim employment prospects in an overcrowded solar system decide their best employment opportunity is to hijack a colony ship and use it as a resume to join up with a pirate gang. Kind of waffles between YA and slightly more sophisticated than that. Some interesting ideas about AI and had a lot of fun with the "survival on a station controlled by a hostile AI". Interesting enough I'm gong to read the sequel.

 

Blackfish City by Sam J Miller — This is definitely one of my favorites so far from 2018. A montage of various characters from all walks of life, living in a post-Jackpot future where the rich have set up enclaves around the world and refugees have flocked to them, generating a nice one-percenter situation for rick to continue to rule in comfort. This one is about a city set up in Antarctica, powered by geothermal. However, there's a disease called Breaks that is threatening to overwhelm the city and a woman riding a boat towed by an orca shows up, threatening to further destabilize the situation. Seen from the perspectives of some of the rich, some of the wann-be rich, and some of the lower class, not to mention the destabilizing forces. Really enjoyable writing, characters, and a fascinating future in general.

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If you're still a printed book reader, Amazon has $5 off $20 of printed books with coupon NOVBOOK18 until 12/1. I just picked up Cory Doctorow's Walkaway and KSR's New York 2140 for $20 (softbound) thanks to it. :)

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