Solaris (1961) by Stanislaw Lem

Solaris2Somehow, somewhere in my readings, I mistakenly picked up on the idea that Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker (1937) and 1961’s Solaris by Polish writer Stanislaw Lem (whose name is the worst kind of tongue twister*) are novels of similar substance. I’m not sure what misled me to that assumption, but while they both share the “sapient celestial object” concept that is central to both novels, they are entirely different, with Solaris being a traditional sci-fi story in the generic tradition, gleaning elements from sci-fi pulps and Lovecraftian horror, while Star Maker‘s greater scope functions strictly as an existential examination of humanity. While Solaris also does the whole “existential examination” thing, it’s not monopolized by that conceit– it easily functions as a just-a-story. What similarities do exist are likely due to Stapledon’s influence on Lem, as is the case for a large segment of science fiction writers who grew up under the legacy of sci-fi’s staple don.

In Solaris, we meet Kris Kelvin, who arrives on the Solaris Station after years of space travel, only to discover the station in disarray, with one colleague dead, another isolated in his lab, and another drunk and making vague, ominous threats. Continue reading

Binti (2015) by Nnedi Okorafor

In the spirit of the newly announced BSFA shortlist, let’s go topsy-turvy and start the week with a 2015 review. This book happens to appear on the list.

 

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

BintiNnedi Okorafor’s Tor novella Binti first caught my attention with its cover: a solemn young woman smearing an orange paint on her face, situated over a starfield background. I normally dislike covers with people on them, but the look on her face is so disarming. What is she up to and what is that substance, exactly? Continue reading

BSFA Awards 2015 Shortlist Announced

The biggest, the most exciting, the most SUPER event of the year! So THAT’S why they were out of party foods at the grocery store today…

The British Science Fiction Association announced the shortlist nominees for the 2015 BSFA Awards. The winners will be announced on March 26 at Mancunicon (Eastercon) in Manchester. This is one of my favorite SF book awards to follow, a great place to discover and celebrate excellent and sophisticated speculative fiction. The BSFA isn’t immune to cheesy sci-fi, but it’s not the pasteurized disappointment certain other big name SF book awards prove to be year after year.

The 2015 BSFA shortlists….

Continue reading

Recommended Recommended Reading Lists, plus Locus List Addendum

On Monday, the long-awaited Locus Recommended Reading list hit the digital cosmos, and everyone gathered ’round to see if their favorites made the cut. Locus coverage often feels a little stale to me, but the publication of this list is exciting because it essentially kicks off SF book award season. I have learned to anticipate its release during my short history of SF book award voyeurism.

The 2015 Locus List is pleasing in some ways, perplexing in others, but short-reaching and predictable in almost all the ways. It’s a good place to start, but the Locus list is the beaten path, and not the place to go for discovery if you’ve been paying attention to buzz all year. Along with great reading recommendation responsibility comes great book lover criticism– that’s how the saying goes, right?– so I’m sure there’s been plenty of “but what about–?” omission nods from fellow readers. I saw a few surprising omissions I’d like to acknowledge, as well as some other recommended reading lists that venture away from the generic and routine.

SURPRISING OMISSIONS
Continue reading

Reading Month in Review: January 2016

It’s been a good winter. Five days of winter, exactly. Spread throughout the past two months of mild spring temps. In late December, we had three days of snow. Snow that stuck. Snow that piled. Snow that didn’t melt as soon as it hit the ground, or turn to slush the moment the sun rose the next day. Plus, we had one day that was chilly and windy, and last week we had another day that brought an afternoon of sleety snow. That didn’t stick. Or pile. And did melt as soon as it hit the ground. That’s my kind of winter!

And it was 78 degrees and gorgeous yesterday. (Today is Has-Anyone-Seen-Toto windy, my neighbors have a car-sized tumbleweed stuck in their yard, and I can’t find my garbage bin. But that’s beside the point.)

My reading pace has been just as agreeable and occasionally odd as the weather, sticking with fair weather SF the majority of the time, but occasionally delving into other book categories, which has, much to my surprise, reinvigorated my reading pace, rather than burdened it. It’s a pattern I think I’m going to stick with for a while.

But this is a SFuh blog, so let’s get to the SFuh.

BOOKS READ Continue reading

SF of 2015: Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson

EuropeatMidnightThe Medical Faculty had been the last to fall. The Faculty Members had fought down to the last man (loc. 327).

Europe had been like a huge asylum, a deafeningly noisy and busy place. The Community seemed to be in a dream, drifting along in slow gentility (loc. 5583).

‘It’s the end of borders,’ he told us. ‘A quite simple trick of topology. It’s not magic’ (loc. 4402).

 

I may have been the only one who, just over a year ago, clapped the cover shut on Dave Hutchinson’s underdog hit, Europe in Autumn, with no expectations for a sequel.

Continue reading

Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick

Ubik 1Are you bored with writing yet another Philip K. Dick book review? Do you sometimes have a hard time distinguishing between PKD stories? Do you worry that everything that can possibly be said about PKD has been written already, even by PKD himself? Well fret no more! Perk up your PKD blog posts with a quick game that everybody’ll love! With PKD Bingo, you’ll make your point in the half the time, and without all those extra words. Your readers will say, ‘Christ, I used to think your SF blog was only so-so. But now, wow! With PKD Bingo, I feel like I really know Dick!’ And remember, blackout winners will receive a lifetime supply of empty aerosol cans! Continue reading