November 2014 Reading Review


Another month has come and gone and I managed to get some fine SF reading done in between avoiding news coverage of events that reinforce my pathetic retreat from the world of humanity, and hosting traditional holiday events of which I dislike, and half of my family dislikes, and the other half doesn’t recognize because Mexico, and we usually don’t do anything for T-day, but this year, hey, we’re in the same town let’s do something, how about you baste a turkey and sugar up some yams, and can you make a salad for work because everyone loves your salads and this will be perfect for this season of boost the economy in the name of family and imperialism…

Oh, hypocrisy, you wear me out sometimes. And yet, I wear you so well…

In my personal and very subjective SF reading news, November was a month of body modification themes (both voluntary and forced) and my first tastes of big time vintage authors of whom I plan read more: Galouye, Wolfe, Pohl, Silverberg.  My reading progress fared as planned, despite a deliberate slowdown just to catch up on reviewing. And, I think I finally exhausted my brief interest in new releases, so I hope to back off the buzz-bait for a while.

Books I reviewed:

I started November with a review of Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs (2014) a big buzzy release that’s all the rage right now. I enjoyed it, but not as much as most people, and I had hoped for more depth. It’s a nice, pleasant read with a syrupy ending that most people will enjoy. As an adult woman, with male homosexual friends, I thought the book had some moments that seemed stereotyped and a bit Will & Grace-ish. I also guessed the ending way before it was over—something to which I am totally not accustomed with my usual “mind-bendy” reads. BUT YOU’LL LOVE IT. YOU SHOULD TOTALLY READ IT! CALM DOWN BENNETT FANS! WE CAN LIVE IN THIS WORLD TOGETHER! MAY HE WIN ALL THE AWARDS! (eh, he can have the World Fantasy Award, and save the rest for somebody else.)

darkuniverse1Then I reviewed Daniel Galouye’s brilliant Dark Universe (1961), a post-apocalyptic allegory of an allegory, modeled off of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, from The Republic. For fans of direct religious criticism, this is an awesome read. Fans of linguistic studies will enjoy the morphology of language that Galouye uses to highlight the relationship between social dogma and misunderstanding. And for fans of Greek philosophy, Galouye did it better than Plato. Just sayin’. (Oh, and I mocked Plato with my own version of “The Allegory of the Cave.” As you do.)

Of course, I jumped, nay, I back-handspringed with a double twist, to get my hands on William Gibson’s latest, The Peripheral (2014). It has that Gibson chewiness I crave, despite some thin subplots and the jolty back-and-forth narrative that time travel sometimes requires. For some readers, the cryptic word coinage might induce anxiety and/or headaches, for others, it might induce disinterest. Not my favorite Gibson read, but I enjoyed it and I think it’s a good intro to Gibsonian style. And 3D printing!

Shadowofthetorturer1Then, I did a stupid thing and reviewed Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer (1980) without reading the rest of The Book of the New Sun tetralogy, and I read it without any preparation. Boy, do I feel dumb. Turns out this book is all about allusions, and I thought it was all about this dude traveling around, checking out boobs. In lieu of a review, I had a conversation about my mistake with Gene Wolfe. Sort of.

Books I have read but not yet reviewed:

Forthcoming is my review of Frederik Pohl’s Nebula-award winning Man Plus (1976). About a man who is biologically and cybernetically modified to withstand the Martian atmosphere for future colonization, and ends up resembling a castrated bipedal fly with bat wings. But he still gets the girl in the end, so yay! At times fun, other times interesting, other times flimsy, interlaced with subtle undercurrents about manhood, but I’m surprised it won the Nebula over Kate Wilhelm’s delectable and poignant masterpiece, the Hugo-winning Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1976). (Seems like Pohl should have gotten the Hugo, and Wilhelm the Nebula, based on today’s trends at least. Pohl’s is more of a fannish book, whereas Wilhelm’s deserves more critical recognition.)

I also recently completed Robert Silverberg’s alien autobiography A Time of Changes (1971), also a Nebula-winning novel. In a world where saying “me,” “myself,” and “I” is forbidden… It makes me wish I hadn’t skipped reading Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem (1939) this summer when I was reading the Retro Hugo nominees… And I can’t believe I would ever write that sentence.

TheScar1Finally, I also just wrapped up my lazy, long read of the month, China Miéville’s The Scar (2002). Just when think I’ve maybe outgrown fantasy… I really, really, really dig this book. So much so, that I’m not even going to tally up the pretentious and disgusting word choices of this author this time. (But I’m not apologizing for my Perdido Street Station post. That had to happen.) I would have completed this novel sooner, but I’ve been doing half of this read as an audiobook (the narrator is the best I’ve ever heard, tentacles down), and I wasted a week or two trying to overdose on a particularly addictive song that I just couldn’t get over, instead of listening to this book. WORST SONG CRUSH EVER… stupid Cherub.

November Book Readin’ Tally:

Books about outer space: 1 (but I bet it’s actually 2 because ALLUSIVE METANESS MIGHT BE HAPPENING!)
Books about AI: 2-ish (twist ending, OMG!)
Books about body modification: 3 (and I didn’t even read Delany this month. What gives?)
Books with “greenery as thick and cloying as vomit”: Guess. Just guess. (Broke my promise, already.)

FlowMyTears2Upcoming December Reads:

To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971), Philip Jose Farmer
Flow my Tears, the Policeman Said (1974), Philip K. Dick (MY FIRST PKD! SO NERVOUS!)
Jack Glass (2012), Adam Roberts (Matt said he would read this one with me. Expect our tenuous friendship to end. Again.)
The Space Merchants (1953), Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth (So flippin excited for this one!)

No long lazy read for this month, as I have a big non-SF related project to focus on, but I expect to be able to squeeze in the next installment of Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series, The Claw of the Conciliator (1981). I may have to call up my buddy Gene again as I wade my way through his dense allusive content, but it’s all in an effort to become transformed, mind-blown, and amazed by Wolfe’s literary skills by the end of this series.

Allusive illusions don’t elude me now!

20 thoughts on “November 2014 Reading Review

  1. Tammy says:

    Oh wow, I loved FLOW MY TEARS, although it’s been a while since I read it. Maybe time for a reread. Hope you enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I’ve heard so many good things about it, but PKD’s trippy reputation has always put me off. By now I’ve cut my SF teeth on enough trippy books, so I think I’m ready!


  2. Rabindranauth says:

    “Books with “greenery as thick and cloying as vomit”: Guess. Just guess.”


    Hah, I really need to read The Scar soon. One of the bookclubs I’m in on Goodreads are supposed to be starting it soon, so I’ve been waiting, but I may get a jump start on that soon!

    I also picked up Gibson on your advice. Probably won’t be reading it for a little while, though :/

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I don’t think I’ve heard any bad things about The Scar from anyone. It’s just so good… I’m begrudgingly kicking myself for ditching Mieville so long ago. I haven’t felt that way about a fantasy novel since I read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell about 10 years ago. So dense and imaginative and the lead character is truly wonderful and flawed and un-clichéd.

      You’ve read a lot of fantasy, so I’ll be curious to see your opinion, as always 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. romeorites says:

    I have one of those anecdotes that started my introduction to Philip K Dick. Im a bass player and have been for many years and even have the obligatory tattoo to prove it, anyhoo, I was (and am) still a fan of a certain bass player named Stu Hamm, and purchased his solo album which is full of bassy goodness loved the titles of the songs , namely Radio Freed Albemuth (the album name and first track) and Flow My Tears.
    It was when I was in a book shop, I was looking at the Sci-Fi section (and this was before I had read any Philip K Dick) and I noticed on the shelf a copy of both Radio Free Albemuth and Flow my Tears and said to my friend “Hey! look this guy has written books to go along with Stu Hamm’s album.” I was, of course, immediatley corrected on this and now you can all rest easy with this knowledge. It took me a while to re-earn my geek badge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Hahaha! Your anecdote earned a literal lolz from me! (Says the former guitarist for a really lame short-lived high school garage band, so high fives!)

      I read that Silverberg actually does tend to glean inspiration from music, namely Bob Dylan, I think. It said he had some copyright issues with at least one of his book titles.


  4. Great galloping galaxies.


  5. “It makes me wish I hadn’t skipped reading Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem (1939) this summer when I was reading the Retro Hugo nominees… And I can’t believe I would ever write that sentence.” SNORT. Wow, wishing you had read Rand instead of wishing you had never started one of her books. Hard to imagine. I tried to read the big fat one, umm, what the fuck was it called? Something something trains and boring as fuck and I’m not reading this if it sucks so hard just ten pages in.

    Anyway, I am excited and nervous for your first PK Dick read too. You like the mind bendy stuff, so theoretically you should like him, but I don’t know if that book is really the best one to start with, that is if you are me hoping that you end up really loving him. Since I want everyone to join my PK Dick cult. Radio Free Albemuth and Man in the High Castle are my personal favorites.


    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Lol… I’ve read excerpts from Rand’s stuff and I have no interest in reading more.

      I’ve got a few PKDs on my list, so I won’t stop at Flow My Tears, even if I don’t like it. The Man in the High Castle is on my list but I’ve not heard much about Radio Free Albemuth. Definitely something I will have to check out.


  6. S. C. Flynn says:

    Thanks for this; your reading programme is very similar to mine at the moment. Among others, I am also looking forward to going on with the Gene Wolfe series to see how much I missed the first time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Then perhaps you will be able to send some hints my way if I get stuck on Claw of the Conciliator. I can’t decide if I should go in with some research under my belt, or just surrender to the experience 😉


      • S. C. Flynn says:

        I can’t promise to be much use re Mr Wolfe; so far he’s been too subtle for me. I would recommend research; I will be doing that myself.
        I normally like to go in cold, but I think that this is a case where some prior prep is useful.


        • fromcouchtomoon says:

          I’m the same way. I prefer to not let other opinions color my experience with a book, but I wondering if Book of the New Sun would best be marketed with an abridged version. I could use some footnotes. “In this passage, the play is actually a comment on the false nature of the narrative so far…” and “In this passage, Agia’s nudity is simply gratuitous and has no deeper meaning. Best to move on…” 😀


  7. Joachim Boaz says:

    Did you enjoy Silverberg’s novel? I really enjoy some of his work….


    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I did! I think I saw that you prefer Dying Inside, which is on my list, but A Time of Changes was cool. I think I will enjoy exploring more of Silverberg’s oeuvre.


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