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.)
Then 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!
Then, 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.
Finally, 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.)
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!