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The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Anders — Not 100% sure what to make of this one. I definitely liked parts of it, but I feel like there were parts that… maybe didn't need to be there or needed better editing. She does very strong characters though, which probably makes it worth the read if you find the idea interesting. Basically, after we've finished destroying Earth, humanity sets off for the stars in a generation ship in a desperate last-ditch bid to survive, and we find them on a planet that is tidally locked, living on the terminator line and gradually losing their technology doing the usual stupid human things. Someone gets kicked out of town and accidentally makes contact with the native race hundreds of years later and hijinks (very, very gradually) ensue. One thing that did niggle at me a bit is that three quarters of the characters she's tracking are gay, bi or some possibly asexual or in denial? While I have no issue with it the main characters being gay, it felt really strange to meet like a total of two or three straight characters in the entire book.

 

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear — Quite entertaining big-idea space opera about a young woman who's part of a salvage crew stumbling across the equivalent of elephant poachers (if elephants were sentient) way out in the middle of nowhere. Hijinks ensue, ancient artifacts are discovered, etc etc. The main character gets a teensy bit tedious from time to time—she does a lot of self-analysis and self-flagellation, but for the most part this book when by quite quickly and enjoyably.

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Currently reading Shadows of the Short Days by Alexander Dan Vilhjalmsson having seen him on a panel at Gollanczfest. Icelandic dark fantasy, reminiscent of China Mieville.

 

Also doing a re-read of Gibson in preparation for The Agency - started with The Peripheral then cycled back round to the beginning with Neuromancer and Count Zero. Next up, Mona Lisa Overdrive.

 

Also been reading a lot of Christian/Miles Cameron historical/fantasy. I recommend The Masters and Mages series which has just completed.

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The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal — A giant meteorite hits off the coast of DC in the late 1940s, wiping out the government and a lot of the eastern seaboard. After some intense calculation, scientists realize the water vapor thrown into the atmosphere is going to set off a massive global warming event, which starts a mad scramble to get us to a settlement or colony somewhere off-planet. Told from the perspective of a woman who desperately wants to be an astronaut, refighting all the social mores and gender prejudices of the era. Actually fairly interesting to the point that I've got the second in the series checked out and ready to read.

 

Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow — Mostly checked out because it promised a new story by Bacigalupi, but it turns out I'd read that one before. A lot of other interesting ones I hadn't though, including stuff by Analee Newitz, Nnedi Okorafor and Charlie Jane Anders. Quite strong stories throughout.

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The Rosewater Redemption – Tade Thompson – The third volume of Tade's Rosewater trilogy, and I think you definitely need to have read the other books to get this. Definitely part of a series it builds on the events of the second book, the clashes, the civil wars, and expands the cast further. Chunks of this are told from the POV of bicycle girl, though the POV shifts through chapters, hitting the characters that were established as leads in book 2, as well as continuing to give Kaaro a significant role in the whole. I enjoyed this book, I enjoyed the series, and hard to say anything about that without getting into spoilers for the series, but a lot of it is that the series isn't entirely anything I've seen before (even if bits are perhaps familiar), and as it went on I didn't really know where it was going, and Tade kept pushing it further out.

 

Our narrator is an old woman, one of only three people living in a cluster of summer homes during the winter. She is a bit of a character, hates her name, and tends to use nicknames, so the novel starts when her neighbour Oddball comes to tell her that Bigfoot has died and they should take steps to ensure he is treated with dignity. But Bigfoot's death is just the first in the locality. Obsessed with astrology and animal welfare, she calculates the charts for all that die and tells all who'll listen she is convinced that the animals are taking their revenge. This is the second novel by the Polish author to be translated and published by Fitzcaraldo, following Flights which won awards, and both novels have got a decent buzz. Throughout I was reminded of the writing of Magnus Mills, peculiar little communities, where strangers come to town, or a single event occurs, which transforms the lives of the contained community. There is a lot of that here, and a similar kind of black humour, low level absurdity in the process. The blue covers of Fitzcaraldo's books in some way suggest that they could be difficult to read, but this is the second novel I've read from the small press and I've really enjoyed both (I have another 4-5 sitting on my shelves to be read).

 

 

 

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https://www.orionsarm.com/

 

This is great -- a grand sweeping space opera of a community world-building exercise, which spans thousands of years.  Looks like it's still under development too.  As with Wikipedia, you can get lost in the cross-references and wander around in this thing for days.  Of particular interest is the number of extinct species, fallen empires, derelict ships and other artifacts, some of which are many milllions of years old.  It aspires to cover a truly inhuman time-scale.

 

I'm not sure if `space opera' has the right connotations, because they strictly limit themselves to the physically possible.

 

 

Cheers,

Patrick.

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Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou. A non-fiction account of the Theranos affair. This is a salutory and disturbing tale of what happens when grandiose self-belief loses all touch with reality and moves to Silicon Valley. The supporting cast includes Henry Kissinger and General James "Mad Dog" Mattis. The most insane true story I've read for many years. The litigation continues to this day...

 

After Atlas by Emma Newman. A bleak, Earth-based follow-up to Emma's Planetfall, which I really enjoyed. This is very different, and I enjoyed it even more (I burned through it in a single day). Future police procedural, heavy on augmented reality and interesting tech, with a big dollop of dystopia thrown in to really mix things up. Did I mention the bleak?

 

This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan. A novel that soon begins to take on a distinctly "This Is Spinal Tap" shape, borrowing heavily on the Oulipo school of writing (so you can have fun spotting the techniques as they crop up). It's the tale, told through interviews and recollections, of legendary 80s pop group Memorial Device. The blurring of fact and fiction is so well done that it's difficult to know where reportage stops and invention begins - I suspect that even a citizen of Airdrie, where the novel is set, may find themselves wondering if they attended one of the band's gigs back in the day.  I got a lot out of this one, possibly because I was even more heavily in to music in the 80s than I am now, and almost certainly because I'm very familiar with the sort of authorial tone that crops up in band fanzines.  Really enjoyed this one.

 

Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O'Neill. Another novel that shows strong Oulipo influences, chronicling the remarkable lives of sixteen obscure (i.e. fictional) Australian writers. If you know even the tiniest bit about Australian literature, you'll recognise what's going on; this one really did have me laughing out loud. It takes a while for the scene to be set, but when the gags start landing I was howling.  The final joke, which has been set up for almost the entire book, pays off *perfectly*. And like This Is Memorial Device, even the index has jokes in it.

Edited by Chris H
typo
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The Future In Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz — Some of the ideas in this were great, and she's gotten a little better at characterization but the book still leans much more heavily on the ideas than the characters. On the other hand, she definitely wrote some of this from raw personal experience, I think, which makes it pretty intense in places. And you have to respect her for that. All in all, worth a look from the library at least.

 

The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal — Second in the series about female astronauts in an alternate America. Still a lot of fun. This time they're training to go to Mars and actually journeying to Mars. As with the first book, a lot of exploration of issues of gender and race.

 

The Sol Majestic by Ferrett Steinmetz — I didn't actually finish this one. It was a very strange idea for a book, to be honest. Starving philosopher literally staggers into a booth where people are being interviewed to have a free meal at some restaurant of galaxy-wide reknown and is dragged into a strange life there. I was excruciatingly bored by about halfway through and I had a lot of other books to read so I just abandoned.

 

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley — This one was… really weird. It's some future corporate dystopia where the only way you can get health care and such is to sign up with a corporation and the only path most people have into a corporation is via the military. All the corps are fighting Mars, mostly because Mars broke free of their rule? And their troops are transported to Mars with some janky teleportation technology that goes terribly awry for some small percentage of the soldiers, making them skip randomly around in time. Naturally, hijinks ensue. I'm still not sure if I'd recommend the book—it's pretty unrelentingly bleak and I never did click completely with the main characters. Maybe worth a glance to see if he clicks better for you though.

 

Radicalized by Cory Doctorow — While Cory and Annalee write a similar style of idea-and/or-morality-driven fiction, he's just a ton better at it than she is. I almost always like his characters and want to know more about them, and that's the case in this book of 4 short stories too. I especially enjoyed "American Bread", about hacking all the DRM'd machines in an apartment complex. This is on my list of books to buy now.

 

Interference by Sue Burke — The follow-up to her first novel about a planet where plants domesticated animals instead of the other way around and also the colonists sent from Earth, this explores what happens when those whacky Earthers come to visit after many generations of colonists have lived in harmony with the plants. Still very interesting reading, and it doesn't skip forward through time as much as the first book so you get to bond with people more. Worth a read.

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Read(ing) by Jeff Vandermeer: "The Strange Bird" which is really an alternative viewpoint of the world created in his brilliant novel "Borne", wherein the motivations and perversions of the antagonist are laid bare by a creature of dubious origins yet beautiful innocence.

"Annihilation" Which they made into a movie that wasn't terrible, but doesn't even bear a striking resemblance to the novel. The novel is atmospherically creepy as hell, and builds in suspense and mystery while it continually ratchets up the terror quotient.

"Authority" is the sequel to "Annihilation", and the second of what Jeff calls "The Southern Reach" trilogy. It begins right where "Annihilation" ends...

Vandermeer is a very good storyteller, and is able to create a fully developed world in scene after scene of paranoid intrigue, otherworldly mystery and human frailty. He has a very dense prose, quite reminiscent of Mr. G, and is quite thoroughly readable. After I read "Borne", I knew I'd be reading all of his books.

Cannot recommend enough.

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Been meaning to do recap of what I read in December, now is as good a time as any.

 

The Magicians - Lev Grossman - Third time I've read this, last read before reading the final volume. Funny how a book changes, as we change, and in this case after watching the TV adaptation, which in places is faithful and in others is wildly different. Against a background of 2019 and particularly the election, my reading this time was particularly bleak - part of the core message of the book being that no matter how Quentin's dreams are met he will never be happy. For those that don't know, it is Harry Potter if he went to wizard school at 17 and had dreamed of Narnia his whole life. Still fascinating on how it approaches magic, and again interesting to see how this fits with the Russian novel Vita Nostra, which Grossman described as an influence on this novel.

 

Hatful of Sky - Terry Pratchett - 2nd of the Tiffany Aching novels by Pratchett. Again, I assume more folk have read more Pratchett than I have. More exploration of magic, and its relation to the land, and how there can be different measures and approaches. Tiffany having being hailed a witch in book 1 goes off to train, but that takes her away from home and the land that informs who she is. And what she learns along the way... I enjoyed a lot, easy and pleasing.

 

Uprooted - Naomi Novak - read this in paper at same time read Hatful on kindle, and they are very complimentary reads. Every 10 years "The Dragon" takes a teenage girl from the lands he protects from the DARK EVIL WOOD and they are transformed by the experience. Agnieszka convinced that her prettier more skilled friend will be picked is thrown when she is instead picked... because she is a witch. The story follows the torment between the two - him with his rigid book magic and her with her weird unpredictable intuitive magic. And there is a dark evil wood, which will destroy everything, hilarity ensues (it doesn't, but drama and action does). Been recommended loads of times, and lives up to that pretty well, though in the end turned out I had no idea what to expect.

 

The Haunted Girl - Lisa M Bradley - another of my random story bundle reads, this one was part of Latinx batch. I thought it was a short story collection, as often is the case with these bundles. But it seems to be more of a mix of poetry and stories. With the poetry I think I probably missed a lot, I just don't get it. But fortunately the poems were reasonably narrative, and those worked with the stories to form a less seen side of American urban fantasy - vampires, saints, ghosts, shape shifters - but from a different culture/community than the mainstream. Which was a big strength and selling point.

 

Starling Days - Rowan Hisayo Buchanan - Rowan's 2nd novel, picked up at Edinburgh Book Festival I think...where I saw her talk and a brief conversation, and she recognised me from twitter, which was nice. I first came across her work in short stories, which lead me to her 1st novel Harmless Like You, and on to this 2nd. Rowan is mixed race, came out as bi during an interview, and has experience with depression - all of which are factors in this novel. The depression in particular is at the core of this novel, with suicidal themes through out. The story alternating between husband and wife viewpoints of Oscar and Mina, Mina struggling with her depression and Oscar struggling with how to deal with his wife. They leave New York for London, hoping change of scene will help, but when Oscar has to go on business trip and Mina explores her attraction to Phoebe things get messy. Not my usual reading on surface, but Rowan's writing is really good, though with the themes this was at times a difficult read.

 

Regards VanderMeer, I think the Southern Reach is his strongest work. I struggled a little with Borne, was just too bleak. Though, I expect I'll still be picking up Dead Astronauts when it comes out here. (He has been touring US with the new novel, though not sure if that is finished now). I just picked up Shriek in the sales, which is one of only a few I don't have.

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Tom Baker and James Goss, “Scratchman”.  The book looks to be written with want of acting in mind, which is kind of neat, as some sentences hang with absence of interpretation.  Meta spoilers:  There are two manipulations, a good and a bad.  The bad manipulation is framed by a character, the notion being a person told they make no difference over and over again, then confronted with an offer which makes them seem big, meaningful to others.  (The offer entails a bad thing or bad things.)  The good manipulation is by the story, which moves from a classical play between the old existential ‘hell is other people’, retreat into self, which can go into a kind of hate disease, as positioned against the need to help others because this is important, into something far more interesting making the whole read worth the contemplation:  What happens, the way it happens, all of that is really a magic charm that mediates the problem of when a person, perhaps in old age, wants to get away from a particular relationship (say a relative in normal context) which one really can’t get away from, unless one dies.        

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I am quite behind in my reading, and even more in my reporting.

 

Got Uprooted six months ago. Really liked it as a darkish fairy tale, mixed in with Polish self destructiveness. 

 

Killing Commendatore, from Haruki Murakami. On the surface it seems a typical Murakami novel, with a guy in his thirties lost and bewildered that just plods along being nice. But there are other currents, and it is probably the most explicitly sexual of his works. The fire at the end seemed too neat an ending, but in any case you have to choose your own interpretation. I do not remember if I mentioned Men without women, a collection of short stories. Maybe too similar, but he handles the format very well. 

 

Following with my second favourite Japanese writer, Hiromi Kawakami. I just read her The ten loves pf Mr. Nishino, where she presents a male character from the reminiscences of ten women that loved him, and at the same time presenting ten different pictures of Japanese gitls and women. Quite different from Murakami style. I still prefer he better known book, Strange weather in Tokyo. 

 

Tim Powers' Alternate routes, a kind of revisit to his California ghost stories, but with a twist, as the power source are the highways. Weak, which is a pity in a writer I like a lot, but with some moments of greatness, Similar in that respect to his previous novel, Medusa's web. To wash the bad taste I ended up rereading the California series: Last call, Expiration date and Earthquake weather.

 

I also got as a present Martin's Blood and Fire, a kind of history book on the Targaryens, and as dry and unexciting as most history books. 

Edited by Psychophant

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There's more than one Japanese writer? ;)  I should really check out more literature from Japan but not sure where to start.

 

As I've been home a lot, reading slowed down considerably (I mostly read on trains or otherwise on the road). I'm finishing up Ted Chiang's collection of stories "Exhalation". As expected there are a lot of interesting ideas and original takes on SF, so it's a joy to read. 

 

I also picked up Stephenson's last book "Fall or Dodge in Hell" from the library, but have not started yet. 

Edited by Wanderer

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Huh, curious that I've not seen new Hiromi Kawakami, Strange Weather and Nakano Thrift Shop seemed to do quite well, and I enjoyed both. Looks like there are more listed from small press that I've not seen as well. I started her collection of three long shorts, Record of a Night Too Brief, but that first piece was an incoherent dream piece and I never got round to reading the other two (I would have sworn it was still sitting on pile beside my home desk, but apparently not). Will still look into her new stuff though.

 

I'm still on hold with Commendatore, finding it really slow and the translation/writing seems overdone so that it is repetitive. I'll get back to it though, Murakami does remain one of my favourite writers. And I have Alternate Routes sitting on my kindle, it sounded curious when I read about it.

 

Just finished "Gideon The Ninth" by Tamsyn Muir, which is one of the most hyped books I've come across in a long time. Authors falling over themselves to sing its praises as far in advance of an actual publication as was possible. Which, honestly, starts to become a pain in the arse, yes, yes, we get it, we should all read this book that you got to read and we'll not see for another year, thanks. On other hand, given how many of those authors are folk I do enjoy, generally, I did get a little curious. With that, this wasn't necessarily the bat shit, lesbian space necromancers I was lead to believe. Gideon in an orphan, raised in a nunnery, she is raised with the daughter of the lord and lady who run the sprawling gothic crypt/church/death cult. They are best friends, except for the stabbing, the skeletons and general hatred for each other. So when the 9 houses are called together to visit the sprawling, near derelict mansion of the First, home of the Undying Emperor, Gideon gets to be Harrow's other half. So 8 couples, and a twin, turn up at the home of the First, where they are set on a treasure hunt/murder mystery. Oh, and each couple is comprised of each houses's top necromancer and sword wielding bodyguard, and each house has their own peculiarities which makes the other houses despise them, with the skull face painted bastard house that should have died being represented by the necromancer Harrow and swaggering swordswoman Gideon. On some level it perhaps reminds of Knives Out or The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, it feels like it should be an Agatha Christie whodunnit, with locked rooms, puzzles and twists, only with a lot more skeletons and walking dead. Tonally it was actually much more understated than I expected, subtle given the way it had been talked up, which in someways was a good thing. Overall, I enjoyed this a lot, crammed it into the post new year/pre-return to work work, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable page turner. I may have some reservations about the ending, but likely minor all things considered.

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On 1/3/2020 at 5:56 PM, remotevoices said:

Regards VanderMeer,


I <i>really</i> enjoyed Borne.

I don't know if he's going to tie the Southern Reach into Borne/Dead Astronauts via the company or what, but that blue fox referred to in the synopsis of DA is from the Borne universe, as is the company itself. The fox guides the titular "Strange Bird" through some pretty messed up tribulations....

I find a strange beauty in the bleakness of the alternate dimension dumping grounds the company made...

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It is not really new, as most translations are made years after the Japanese publication (except for Murakami, of course). But Foyle's was promoting it last summer when I was in London.

 

I liked Vandermeer's City of Saints and Madmen in a queasy, uneasy way. But the following books, Veniss Underground and Shriek left me quite cold, so I have not read anything he wrote after that. Maybe I should give him another chance.

 

But as Frank Zapa said, "So many books, so little time."

 

On the other hand, as Murakami makes Nagasawa (Norwegian Wood) say, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

 

I am on a strange Japanese mood, because we had decided to return to Japan for our 20th anniversary, but it is likely we will do something different. 

 

So I am in the middle of Dale Furutani's Matsuyama Kaze trilogy, in French, and also got as a present a Spanish book doing an in depth analysis of Hokusai's 36 views of Mount Fuji.

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It's funny, I got into Vandermeer through a mutual friend, Jesse Bullington. Jesse wrote "The Sad Tale Of The Brothers Grossbart", "The Enterprise of Death" and "The Folly of the World". I wrote a amazon review of "The Bros. G", and ended up corresponding with Jesse, eventually sending me his gally sheets for "Enterprise".

 

Imagine my delight when I found out the name of his agent at Orbit books was, at the time, a certain mr. Jack Womack.

Small, and funny smelling.

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Tried to read Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James but just… could not. It's on everyone's best of lists, but I was pretty well bored and lost within a couple of pages. For that kind of book to work for me, I've got to be quite heavily invested in the characters and the protagonist is not someone I would ever want to have a conversation with or anything  like that. Some of the writing is quite eloquent and there were scenes that I enjoyed, but overall it couldn't hold my interest enough to continue.

 

On the other hand, Catfishing on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer was hilarious good fun! It's more of a YA read, but the AI is such a positive influence in the book that you can't help but want things to go well, even as they go oh so badly for a while. I think I read this one in about 3-4 hours in a single sitting. In some ways it reminds me of Agency just because they both have thoroughly enjoyable AIs in them.

 

And… that's what I'm doing now is re-reading Agency so that it will be fresh in my mind when it drops pretty soon now!

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Started on Fall or Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson. I didn't realize it was in a way a sequel to Reamde (which I own but only vaguely remember). It was only after a few pages in that my brain went "hey, these characters seem vaguely familiar". I either didn't read the cover and blurb closely enough or it doesn't mention it at all (which would be weird). Anyway, a couple of dozen pages in, Stephenson seems in good form in this one. 

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Circe - Madeline Miller – this one has been a big one, lots of press, stocked by supermarkets, and all that. Witch/goddess/mythology, sure that sounds like my cup of tea. And it is, quite enjoyable. I perhaps expected more, given the buzz, but it is fine (one friend suggested it was “a big ovaries” book, when I suggested I was slightly underwhelmed, so I guess that explains everything?). Anyways, Circe, daughter of the titan Helios who sided with Zeus in the war of the Heavens. Nondescript to look at, a mediocre human voice, not nearly as powerful as her siblings. Still, she manages to find her ability to shift reality through witch craft and get exiled for the rest of her days in the process. A lot of the book is spent on her naivety, her expectations of what will happen, her bluster/arrogance, and the resulting disappointment. Then there is a good chunk set on her island, which is quite nice, wild and rambling and idylic. There excursions and encounters, monsters, gods and goddesses, encounters with significant humans, the full spectrum of Greek mythology. At times perhaps Circe is too passive, too naïve, too much a witness to other people's story, which is where that little niggle comes from. But I did enjoy.

 

High Tower Gods - CL Corona – the latest novella from Cat Hellisen's alt-pen-name, and I gather a piece set in the future of a world she has previously explored in other works, which I have not read. The main character is a proto-immortal science-alchemist who has been instrumental in creation of chimera-cyborg-slaves. She lives in the middle of nowhere, continuing her studies into the esoteric, and making sure no one notices that she never ages. Until there is a murder, which threatens her legacy, and she finds she must meddle once more in city affairs. Decent, quick read, with no experience of the world I felt it could have been explored more, could have been a novel, which in someways is a good thing?

 

Gamechanger - LX Beckett – Probably reasonably unknown, I encountered Beckett for their piece in F&SF in...2018. It was a near future SF piece, following a musician journalist Woodrow Whiting, weird art and conspiracy. It touched on a number of important, interesting things, and I enjoyed a lot. We talked in passing on twitter and they mentioned the novel Gamechanger as being the follow up/expansion – lead narrators being Woodrow (and old bloke) and his grown up daughter Rubi. Though there are other narrators, like the AI conspiracy, the weird and elusive anti-social character, Rubi's nemesis, and their daughter. So environmental collapse, but unlike Gibson's Jackpot, where shit hits the fan and only the rich survive, the population goes through Setback (collapse) and Clawback (recovery). Where everyone has to come together, where the economy is replaced by pro-social, environmental supportive reputation culture – you held or your #triaged. Things aren't perfect though, progress maybe plateauing and Rubi is pissed that she failed a law exam because she was playing her part as celebrity gamer, and support for her pet ocean cleaning/oxygenating project had collapsed. So she is throwing herself at her legal career, and determined to revive the project, while her gaming nemesis is determined to get her back for the big new game. Meanwhile her dad is still haunted by his past and has gone out looking for the truth. Over 500 pages makes it a dense read, lots of world building about the environment, technology, culture, gaming, characters, the tensions and drama, but as it all falls into place it gains momentum and I enjoyed reading a lot. Beckett pitches it as hopeful cli-fi, I'm not 100% convinced that it is as hopeful as she would like and little things niggled, but it did provide a contrast to most of the other ballpark books I can think of. Half way through Stross RTd author Alyx Dellamonica, who was mentioning that they were actually LX Beckett, so a pseudonym for a work that is a change from Dellamonica's previous novels (though perhaps touches on some of the more SF works earlier in their career).

 

 

The Awesome - Eva Darrows – Maggie is a 17 year old monster hunter, apprenticed to her mum, who is a loud rock and roll loving gun toting bad ass, and what Maggie aspires to. As a trainee there are only so many things she can do, and as a virgin she can't go anywhere near vampires, because virgin blood puts young vampires into a frenzy. So Maggie has to go out and get laid, which gets messy, then the testing to see if the messy was maybe effective enough gets even messier and... hilarity/carnage ensues. A quick crude urban fantasy, feeling much more tongue cheek and ribald than most of the genre. A lot of daft fun.

 

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Catfishing on CatNet - Naomi Kritzer - One assumes that everyone is familiar with the short story Cat Pictures Please? (go, read! again! http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritzer_01_15/) This short novel from Tor Teen is a sequel to the short story, and given the indication at the end that there is another book soon, then the start of something bigger? Stef is a teen girl with no IRL friends, because her mum keeps moving them every few months, afraid that Stef's dangerous father will catch up with them. Her only friends are on CatNet, a forum for people posting cat pictures - after a short time on the board, members are added to a private chat group (a Clowder, like a group of cats), where they will get on with every member. The narrative alternates between Stef and CheshireCat, a member of her Clowder, a member of all the Clowders, all the board moderators...the AI that runs the forum and wants to have friends and see cat pictures. In a new school, Stef finds herself disconnected again, desperate to move on, till she suddenly makes a friend, and before her mum falls ill, and the shit hits the fan. This was great, light, diverse, total page turner, I just found it so much fun.


The One That Comes Before - Livia Llwelyn - I had noted Llwelyn after reading and listening to one of her shorts, and planned to follow her work up. Which is what brought me to this novella. The words horror/weird get used in discussion of Llwelyn's work, and I have mixed feelings on those genres - some of it is wonderful, and some of it is mince, and I'm not sure I know enough to pick reliably. This worked as being exactly my sweet spot. Alex is a receptionist in a prestige publishing house, dreading Monday morning, trying to gauge how she is going to balance her alcohol intake between now and payday. Which has her lying awake listening to the horrors in the night, super tired on the way to work with her must have coffee. The latest rich bitch intern bugs her, only there because daddy is well placed, swanning round the office with her diamond pierced gills and being all superior to the ugly, ageing, alcoholic receptionist. But Alex quickly realises today is different - something bad is going to happen, and as things get messy she wishes she had followed the urge to not come in to work. It balances utter mundanity, shitty work colleagues, office politics with a constant low level weird (the air conditioning is shoggoth generated, which is the only explicit lovecraftian reference). Short, sharp and that creepy pleasure.

 

Now reading: Agency

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Just re-read the Infomocracy series by Malka Older. So good! The only frustrating things about the series are that she doesn't really ever explain how they got from here to there, with the UN suddenly running Information and fostering micro-democracies everywhere and the old governments fading away. Also, she has a thing called "The Lumper" that lets her discount almost all gun-play and drop it from her story. It really stands out as weird because AFAIK it's not at all based on actual physics in a book that's pretty obsessive about feeling realistic in terms of economics, politics, and relationships so as such it sticks out like a black cat napping on white sheets. The trilogy is still well worth reading (or re-reading) though.

 

Failed my saving throw against anxiety caused by Liz Phair's Horror Stories so I only ended up reading about half of that one.

 

Currently reading Collected Fiction by Hannu Rajaniemi, which is a bunch of excellent short stories by him. I'd read a couple of them already, but they're all good.

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Slowly making my way through Stephenson's Fall or Dodge in Hell. I'm about halfway in, maybe. My opinion on it so far is that it is on par with the Baroque Cycle. So, among his best work in quite some time really. 

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I've been meaning to keep up with Stephenson's writings but he is not making that too easy! Just started on Reamde after finishing Seveneves on the plane from London meet. So far so good, and since I'm a rather a gamer type, there's quite a solid whiff of Doctorow's "For the Win!" in there, but in pleasantly Stephenson-ish style, of course. 

 

Beyond that, I'm stuck in the middle of the Wizard & Glass, 4th book of the Dark Tower, for quite some time now, and browsing through the excellent Soonish by the Weinersmiths, got it for New Year's - it is very entertaining even if not much new stuff for me as a science/space nerd, and hilariously presented.

 

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