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remotevoices
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The curse’d Child.  J. K. Rowling.

 

Anyone’s real non-media opinion?  Like that can be answered.  You know, non-constructed.

 

I’m going to the well one more time.  Got a case of beer, won’t twitter for two days, and I’m going to read through it.  See you on the flip side.

 

 

 

 

Well, I saw someone who liked it on Twitter. Forget who, but it induced me to go, "Oh what the heck." 

 

I am now like hold 350 on 75 copies from the library, lol so I will get to read it sometime before Christmas if I'm lucky. Good luck, man!

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Ninefox Gambit by Yoona Ha Lee — Military SF novel about a talented junior officer who ends up being "ridden" by a legendary general to overthrow a heretical uprising against their empire. In some ways, it's a pretty good and fairly straightforward sci-fi novel, but Lee insists on cloaking a lot of his civilization's weapons and customs in strange names and never explaining their function. So even by the very end of the book, you're somewhat unsure exactly what certain things are doing. It's like a spacefaring race/races have somehow developed a scientific backing for magic, as best as I can tell. So by forcing all your empire to obey the same set of rules and observe the same rituals and holidays, etc you can ensure that certain formations have certain predictable effects, lending bonus multipliers to your attacks and defense, essentially. And the heretics are heretics because they've chosen to observe different rituals, keep a different calendar, make different sacrifices, which means that the rules of "exotics" (aka magic basically) work differently in their area.

 

Overall I enjoy it, but would have liked to be able to develop a more coherent picture of what was happening sooner.

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yoon has been writing shorts for years. my impression is that this novel comes off the back of one or two of those. though not entirely sure. i know there is a tendency for a new generation of asian writers to incorporate more asian influences into their work, and i'm sure that has been in some of the shorts. not sure if that is what is informing the novel? i've certainly seen people rave about it. i like space opera to a degree, but less keen in military science fiction.

 

i just read "the wooden sea" by jonathon carroll. heard friend talking about it on a podcast and remembered i'd picked it up in a clearance sale because i'd heard good things about him, but never read any. i don't think this is a novel one can readily summarise the plot for. a police chief in a small new york town adopts a beat up dog when it is brought to the station, then buries it when it dies shortly there after. but when the dog reappears in his car things start to get odd, odd encounters, odd objects, suggestions of an odd world. on some level it has a kind of murakamiesque feel, on another more a stealth genre influence, in that there are genre things happen, but it feels very small town literary with a hint of...

 

also been reading "20 fragments of a ravenous youth" by xiaolu guo. which as the title suggests is a story told in 20 snapshots, following fenfang's life in beijing. a 20 something girl from a small village she comes to beijing with dreams of a brighter life, which seems almost possible when she signs up for work as an extra. odd encounters with actors, directors, westerners, jumping through hoops of politics, the joys(...) of never having lines in films she appears in. i'm about half way through and enjoying.

 

also started somewhat spontaneously "her fearful symmetry" by audrey niffenegger. her follow up to the "time traveller's wife", which never seemed to do as well. and while i'm enjoying enough, it is kind of all over the place, jumping from character to character within hte narrative. elspeth is her 40s when she dies, leaving her london flat to the twin daughters of her estranged twin sister. so far we are working through the impact her death had on her lover and friends, mixed with the young twins preparations to move from america to london and an unknown situation. there are suggestions of a ghost story, but perhaps not a horror story

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finished reading "her fearful symmetry" was glued to that book, i broke its damn spine, man, i hate breaking spines, i like books to be pristine, but this book got beat up. niffenegger is an ass kicking writer, surprised she hasn't really done more - i know she has like 3-4 graphic novels, which on some levels approach worldessness (i think?), but like "the time traveller's wife", "her fearful symmetry" pulls you into really human stories, then skews them with this element that gives it unexpected results. obviously time travel there, and a ghost here - its written all over the cover, this is a ghost story, but its much more complex and rich and devastating than that.

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I have read "Her Fearful Simmetry" but I do not really remember it, so I went for my Goodreads review:

 

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It is sad when the best you can say of a book is that it was an easy read.

This is a ghost story, of a sort. It is a romance, more or less. It tries to present Highgate Cemetery, but I did not really get an urge to go and visit. It is well written, with credible characters but it does not really move me. Everything follows its predictable course, and the little surprises were telegraphed well ahead. Maybe I was expecting something closer to her first book, playing with structure and form, besides characters and plot.

Quite forgettable.

 

And indeed I had forgotten. Clearly it did not move me as it did you. 

 

We may be starting a Pathfinder RPG in autumn, so I am reading a lot of that. And I have also started Martineau's Quadrivium, a gorgeously edited book about how the past envisioned and studied the Universe, before Science came to be. 

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Infomocracy by Malka Older — Posits a future where due to various advances, we have finally ditched nation states and everyone votes for which government they want to join. Everyone is split into centenals, which are 100,000 citizen groups. Each centenal votes for a government democratically, and each government follows its own laws and negotiates treaties, extradition, citizen laws etc with other governments. You can pass from one centinal to another in a couple city blocks in dense populations, or it may be that an entire desert may barely be a single centenal. (I hope I am spelling that right, but whatever.)

 

Plot revolves around a centinal possibly trying to foment for war again, which has been completely eradicated a few decades ago. Basically, it was quite interesting as an antidote to the current US elections and a fun read as well. Would recommend, I think.

 

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neon fever dream - eliot peper - his previous novel got some tweetage amongst WGB folk, with suggestion it was cyberpunk, i poked it at but wasn't convinced enough to buy/read. @Digitalyn tweeted this new one, again i poked, read first few pages, and this time thought yeah ok, lets give it ago. asha is a sri lankan attending university in america - she has graduated in politics, but it hasn't really gotten her anywhere. instead she continues to make her living through teaching krav maga, which she was taught by her mentor in sri lanka. when one of her students hits on her she is confused, she has never been interested in women before. but when that student's offer of a free ticket to burning man coincides with her parent's announcement they've set up an arranged marriage she decides to take a step off the deep end. in a lot of ways this is a love letter to burning man, to the characters and their joy - but it works that into a thriller, covert deals going on, betrayals and things spiraling towards disaster. a decent page turner.

 

crashing heaven - al robertson - one of last year's gollancz debuts, which means i picked the ebook up for £1.99. i've been stung by one or two of these, so i'm a bit more hesitant to just pick up based on the hype that accompanies all gollancz's releases these days. but in the end despite reservations i did pick this up and have finally started reading, being about half way through. jack forester returns to heaven - a space station housing the last of humanity, floating above a wrecked earth - having fought in the war against the totality. jack was a prisoner of war, which has put him in a difficult position - he also has a caged puppet in his head, which is an AI cracker, which is what the war was about. people are afraid of him, he is regarded as a traitor and coward, and the license for the puppet in his head is about to expire... when it does the clauses mean that the puppet owns him, so hugo fist will have a body, and jack will be dead.

 

(one of the things that made me sceptical about crashing heaven is the gibson/neuromancer comparisons, though reading it i guess i see some of that despite it being more in the space opera post-punk genre rather than the noir/near future of neuromancer. i also note a sequel is anticipated "wrecking hell")

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Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang — The only one I've read by him before is The Story of Your Life, but his other stories are pretty incredible too. Not quite as strong, but easily much stronger than a lot of people's short fiction. In particular Seventy Two Letters and Liking What You See: A Documentary are both thought-provoking and fascinating reads. Actually, they're all pretty though-provoking but for some reason those two really clicked with me.

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When I saw the trailer a few days ago I had the nagging feeling that it must be based on something I had read. So I looked it up. The source material is an amazing story. I read the story first in Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction and even in this anthology full of great authors it stood out as being particularly intelligent. I REALLY hope the adaption is truly faithful to the story and doesn't try to Hollywoodize it.

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Ted Chiang: Yes, I bought Stories of your Life, and it was good, but compared with Nick Harkaway's Tigerman and Paolo Bacogalupi's The Wind-up Girl, which I bought at the same time, I didn't find the stories very memorable, except for Babel , which had a nice symmetrical vibe about it.

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finished "crashing heaven", it is decent, i enjoyed. not sure the world building is quite clear enough - seems like rather than aliens there was a war against AIs - the corporate everything by the license AIs of heaven verses the open source free ware of the totality. the small AI in jack's head, "hugo fist" walks a fine line - imaged as a vintage wooden ventriloquists dummy, it could verge a little into the silly, or faux horror, but the depth that is given to the war puppet and the emotional arc makes it work. which given a story of a prisoner of war, license expiration, god wars and all it may sound funny to talk about emotional arc, but certainly it is there.

 

not sure what i'm going to read next novel wise. been reading short stories since finished the above, i have a couple of best of year SFs from a few years ago - i've become bad at keeping up on anthologies, so they pile up. but always enjoy good short SF when i do get round to reading it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

ended up picking up another two of stross' laundry series, despite having had reservations after the last couple i read.

so i read "the rhesus chart" and raced through it and for the most part thoroughly enjoyed. much more than those two previous. i did find the end a bit rushed, after a... langorous build up, it was all boom, distance from action, done. but ironically i did see him tweet that he had problems with rushed endings and was all no shit.

 

been hearing about a book called "pond" by claire-louise bennett. vandermeer has definitely raved about it and i'm sure another couple of authors have. i'd missed that she was appearing at the edinburgh book festival, but whoever she was supposed to share her slot with fell through. so kelly link stepped in at last minute - which friend tweeted about. so i was totally there for link and pleased/surprised to find bennett too. "pond" is a fairly indie book, i've not been able to see it any time i;ve looked in book shops, and festival didn't have any copies till her appearance. not sure the descriptions really make sense - the idea of a woman moving from london to a remote cottage, and the idea of resilience, and perhaps becoming isolated and a little ragged. yes she is in a cottage, but deals with landlady, makes references to boyfriend, that kind of stuff. it is an odd book, clearly the narrator is the author, and it is biographical, to some extent, especially having seen her speak, this is how she writes, how she thinks. the book is episodic, leading to some suggestions of it being a short story collection. though when asked she was more interested in moving beyond ideas of novel or short, it is what it is. i enjoyed it a lot, short pieces of stream of consciousness, snapshot, dense with detail, limited on plot or things like that, but the language and flow and energy really made it for me. also very short book, so pretty quick read.

 

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Read some of The Big Book of Science Fiction 3rd Edition and finally gave up. It goes from very early sci-fi straight through to current stuff and unfortunately, I have a heck of a time reading anything much pre 1980 these days. I can still read Zelazny, but a lot of Heinlein and Asimov and such just makes my head hurt. At any rate, did find a few things I hadn't read yet amongst the newer stuff, although what the editor and I consider as good seemed to differ pretty widely.

 

Also read something called Killfile, which wasn't terrible, but wasn't great either. Largely because it seemed there was absolutely no possibility of the hero (who could read minds) ever be in any actual danger.

 

Currently working my way through Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson and quite enjoying it though. It started slowly, but now it's gone in a strange and unexpected direction and I'm having a lot of fun with it. I don't think (so far) that reading his first novel, Europe in Autumn, is necessary to know what's going on in this book either.

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I enjoyed the first, could not find the second at Forbidden Planet, so as I found other things I am going through them, as I have again a to read pile after the last trip to UK.

 

The first I have finished is Glen Cook's Working God's Mischief, fourth of the Instrumentalities of the Night series. Now that he has left the real XIIIth century behind I am really enjoying the books, but I have a weakness for him since I read the Black Company.

 

Then Michael Swanwick's Chasing the Phoenix. This one reads as a homage to Barry Hughart's Eight Skilled Gentlemen, which I love, with the Vancian Dying Earth vibe of the whole Darger and Surplus series. I enjoyed it much more than the previous one, Dancing with Bears.

 

And I finally got Stephenson's Seveneves, so plodding through it. I am also reading a historical recreation of Venice, Venice on five ducats a day.

 

In the pile is Anderson's Imaginary Cities that I got in Edinburgh, Akers' The Pagan Night, and a few others.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"infinite ground" - martin macinnes - just finished this and not sure what to make of it, not sure i am convinced it has a satisfactory ending, though sometimes the problem becomes a matter of what would be satisfactory, what does make sense after all that build up. a scottish writer, a nicely designed hardback, a novel set in south america, it has something of the surreal, not quite magic realism, but perhaps in that direction. a retired inspector is requested to look into a missing person's case. carlos got up from the table during dinner, in a restaurant, at a family reunion and never came back. from the start things are odd, the inspector finds that he has interviewed an actress playing the role of the missing man's mother, that the company he works for is in midst of a merger so has no name, that the company has numerous odd things, suggestions of carlos having a medical condition. as the book progresses there is a certain fevered approach to the inspector, is infected by the suggested condition, is he delusional, is there a case at all, with that comes a certain level of unease. it continues to escalate throughout, but one of the side effects of that is the narrative becomes a kind of fever dream, the speculative whirls of the inspector's thoughts almost become a disorientating fever dream rather than a story. the cover has a quote from jeff vandermeer who suggests you are unlikely to have read anything like this, then giving a list of comparable authors. with that there is a degree you could compare this to vandermeer's "authority", the uneasy corporate world of his southern reach trilogy, with the work place and police authority stuff. i was also perhaps reminded of leena krohn's tanelorn, the letters from a strange city, as the city the inspector was in increasingly felt detached from what he knew, that detachedness of telling someone about something strange, rather than being there. and perhaps, there is a parallel to tom mcarthy's "satin island" (which i am part way through), the stream of consciousness kind of approach, the speculative thought on reality, taking a certain esoteric train as it goes. like i say, not sure what i made of this, i think it was interesting read, some good disorientating sections, but it was a slow read, and it certainly isn't for everyone.

 

when strangers meet - kio stark - can't remember how i first came across kio, was a number of years ago anyway. she had a site called "municipal archive", which was a series of short posts, about encounters with strangers. conversations on trains or in shops, the kind of thing to some extent that miranda keeling does on twitter. kio went on to teach courses about talking to strangers, particularly to technologists - strangers are the people who will use your technology. she also wrote a novel "follow me down", which i enjoyed. this is a short book, following from her courses, and having done a TED talk on the subject of strangers and engagement. this was published by TED, and covers the idea of strangers, the role, the dynamics, the benefits we get from unexpected encounters and how that can brighten our day. it is a quick read, much of what is in her TED talk (see youtube, etc) is in the book, interspersed with her municipal archive type examples.

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the graces - laure eve - french writer, living in the UK, my impression is she tends to write YA, has a handful of novels. i follow a number of authors on twitter, who tend to RT new releases by friends, which is how i became aware of this new novel. i've been stung a few times this way, so i can be cautious. but finding a copy in book store, with pretty cover, i read the first few pages. it seemed promising. the graces are witches, everyone in school says so. young and beautiful the three teenagers are the centre of everyone's attention, even if there are dark rumours that haunt the family's past. river is new. something happened that she and her mother have moved town as a result, her dad is gone. sure, she is attracted to the the male twin, along with every other girl in school, but perhaps with magic she can fix her life? as the book progresses river works her way into the lives of the graces, her attitude being different from anyone they've met before. but of course, something has to go wrong. during the last third i thought it might fall apart, i was liking the feel and tone of it, but as the shit hits the fan things change and the question becomes can the author pull off that narrative shift. i think in the end she does, the end satisfied and i enjoyed the whole thing. was curious to reach the end and see there is already a sequel set for next year, with it likely being a trilogy. in someways it felt compact and strong enough as a stand alone, but i guess the relationships and characters still have some mileage and it will be interesting to see what the next step is.

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Revelation Space, Alastair Reynolds — Finally read this massive tome. It starts quite slowly, IMHO and it's not until somewhere near the 1/3rd mark that you are finally seeing the interconnections between the characters and such. Not sure if I liked it enough to move on to the next book or not.

 

Terms of Enlistment, Marko Kloos — In the spirt of Starship Troopers and Forever War, this is your basic futuristic enlistment, tour through basic, and military career (or at least the start of one) of a young man from the projects. And apparently in this future, much of North America is housed in the projects now, barely getting by on government rations. The biggest draw is that the military feeds you real food and will actually pay you some cash at the end if you survive your tour of duty. All in all, a reasonably decent book. It's not Forever War, but it's pretty entertaining for the most part. It's also part of a series, it seems, so if you want to see how things turn out with our hero's career, you gotta wait for book 2, etc.

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i was always disappointed by "revelation space", i had issues with plot holes. which frustrated the hell out of me given how acclaimed it is. though, also because i'd read a number of his shorts and enjoyed those. i have another 2 in the same series that i never got round to reading. i did enjoy his most recent series "poseidon's children" much more, though found it ironic when i was looking at book 3 on amazon last week and all the reviews that hated all the things i liked because they weren't the things i didn't like about revelation space. so it goes.

 

i've started jeff noon & steve beard's "mappalujo". i had pre-ordered this from the small press who published it, who fucked me over by never actually sending me the book - they had some issues, and there are different people running the press now, but i still have a fucking receipt and they've never once replied to my emails. but that is beside the point, i ordered another copy from amazon at least knowing that way i'd be covered, and that arrived like 2 days after my order! story is set in city where everyone wears masks, where celebrity is everything, where things are getting weird. 50 pages in and enjoying so far.

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