February 2015 Month in Review

TheFemaleMan4TheFirstFifteenLivesofHarryAugustDavy2

I’m especially happy to see the backside of February. It was a short, busy month full of major projects, desert snow (a.k.a. ice and mud), and respiratory illness (I sounded like Courtney Love and Maryanne Faithful after a duet at Lollapalooza). Due to my reading fails of last month, I kept my February reading goals attainable and met them all, but my reviews were on the low side.

Books I Reviewed, Stuff I Blogged:

The only thing good about February is the beginning of book award season, so I spent most of my blogging days recapping new book award shortlists, and assessing their overlap with my own reading selections. I’m thoroughly chuffed about the BSFA shortlist, intrigued by the Kitschies shortlist, and accepting of the politically-predictable and commercially-driven Nebula shortlist.

TheFemaleMan3I reviewed the cantankerous and witty The Female Man (1975) by Joanna Russ, which should be required reading for all humans by their 18th birthday. And if you don’t like the novel, you should be shot. In the kneecaps. Which should then be replaced with vaginas. And then you should be forced to live with other people who hate the novel and have shot-through vaginal knee caps. And we can only imagine what might happen with that. It’s the only reasonable response I can come up with. I think Professor Russ would agree.

I also posted the last of my “Conversations with Gene” series, in which Gene Wolfe and I discuss the developments of his 1982 installment The Sword of the Lictor (1982) from the surreal The Book of the New Sun tetralogy. Unlike our last couple of conversations, Gene is surprisingly lucid, and has much to say about writing technique and human nature. He also accused me of eisegesis, to which I say, JUST YOU WAIT UNTIL I POST A REAL REVIEW, BUDDY.

And finally, I ended the month with a review of The Algebraist (2004) by Iain M. Banks, which everyone seems to agree is not his best work and not the right place to begin the Banks bibliography. And I cried, “But algebra! In fiction!” But there wasn’t any.

Books I Blurbed, But Will Not Review

…….

Wait, I Changed My Mind, I Will Review Those Books, Sort of, Closer to the Eastercon, So, Sorry, I Will Probably Annoy Everybody Will Daily Posts Toward the End of This Month, But This is a Thing That Needs To Be Done Because The BSFA Nominated Some Good Books This Year And I Don’t Usually Get a Chance to Be So Squee Happy About Recent Speculative Fiction. Oh, God, I Wrote Squee Happy, Referring to Myself, This is Awful, What Has Become of Me?

So, yeah, that.

I added a blurb about The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North to my Best Novels of 2014 list. Obviously a slightly longer, more info-bytie review is coming.

 

Books Read, Not Yet Reviewed

TheYearsofRiceandSaltI finally finished my latest LLR (Long, Lazy Read), The Years of Rice and Salt (2002) by Kim Stanley Robinson. How different would history be if all of Europe perished during the Plague? Who were the other Galileos and Marxes and Wollstonecrafts of this alternate world? This novel is fire. It stirred my dormant activist soul.

I also read Edgar Pangborn’s 1964 Davy, which is as “lusty” and “ribald” as promised. It’s basically Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow (1955), but hornier and less nuanced. But the Vonnegut-like prose captured my attention, speaking truth to power in punchy lines.

I listened to the audiobook of Michael Swanwick’s Bones of the Earth (2002), and earned a few laughs on Goodreads when I posted the choicest quotes from this formulaic novel. Oh, I hate to be rude, but why? Authors, please stop. Writing just for the sake of commercial publishing really pisses me off.

TheLatheofHeaven1And speaking of Ursula! I finally read The Lathe of Heaven (1971), which has been described to me as Le Guin in disguise as PKD, which is a most apt descriptor. The Dispossessed is still my most favorite Le Guin, with The Left Hand of Darkness close behind, but this is still Le Guin being the wonderful author who we should all love and read because she doesn’t write just to publish and if there was no (imaginary, because get real, people) promise of money or attention she would still write because she has things to say, ORIGINAL things to say, and clever ways to say them, and it’s not just about characters doing things in contrived settings dammit quit wasting my time other authors who are not Le Guin or Kim Stanley Robinson or William Gibson (or plenty of others but you get me).

Books to Read in March

BrittleInningsBrittle Innings (1994) by Michael Bishop – Around this time last year, I read and enjoyed Bishop’s 1982 SF Masterwork No Enemy but Time (1982) for SF Ruminations blog effort to promote Bishop’s work. I’m curious what this ‘90s southern gothic novel about baseball will be like.

The Mote in God’s Eye (1974) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle – I participated in a recent comment discussion at Book Reviews Forevermore, and Nikki from Bookpunks vehemently warned me off the collaborative efforts of Niven and Pournelle. Something about my eyes bleeding out of my skull… So, of course, I’m reading it. Bibliomasochism is a thing and I have it.

The Whole Man (1964) by John Brunner – Most people seem disappointed with the majority of Brunner’s bibliography, so I will probably read this in tandem with Brunner’s acclaimed masterpiece Stand on Zanzibar (1968).

My LLR of the month: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (2004) by Susanna Clarke – A reread! This novel both raised the bar and destroyed fantasy for me when I read it over ten years ago, and sent me into a “There’s Nothing Good to Read” boredom spiral that lasted until started this blog. Will it withstand the test of time and honor over all the books I’ve read for this blog, or was I just a naïve post-grad graduate who was easily blown away by footnotes in fiction? Let’s find out!

I have a whole week off this month, and it’s still too cold to jog or fix up the garden, so I might be able to add in a few more books. I need to sneak in the rest of the BSFA nominees (Hardinge’s A Cuckoo’s Song and Williamson’s The Moon King) and well as some short fiction.

February Book Tallies

Total books: 6

Books about space (and not about algebra): 1

Books about robots: 0

Books about effective dreaming: 1

Books about post-apocalypse: 1

Books about reincarnation: 2, maybe 3 if you count reality-bending dream lives.

Books about orgiastic paleontologists: 1. Kill me.

 

Also, the winners of The Kitschies will be announced this week! It’s not too late to snatch up Nina Allan’s The Race or Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon (only on audio for U.S., but the narrators are brilliant) so you can be part of the cool crowd who has already read the winner. Because I will be shocked, SHOCKED, if neither of these authors win.

 

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18 thoughts on “February 2015 Month in Review

  1. Rabindranauth says:

    If you have vagina knee caps, getting a dog that likes to hump legs may be a bad, bad idea. Or a very good one.

    Brittle Innings is a southern gothic horror? Hmm. That might be enough to offset the baseball bit. That one’s on WWEnd’s Top Nominated list, was actually planning to skip it because Chinese is actually less alien to me than baseball is. And more interesting.

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  2. Books about robots: 0. Wtf.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. HAHAHAHAHA. Well you’re hilarious today. Vagina knee caps? Squee happy? Literary masochist? Hey, better you than me.

    “This novel is fire. It stirred my dormant activist soul.” Yeah that was pretty much the best thing you could have said about that book to get me to read it. WHY CANT I FINISH SHAMAN? Wait, I think I asked you about this already, but now I can’t remember, have you read Shaman and what did you think of it? I liked it enough that I can still remember everything that happened even though I put it down over six months ago…and yet I don’t feel inclined to pick it up again.

    Speaking Pournelle and Niven, hey, maybe they don’t let the racism and sexism run wild in The Mote.

    You have convinced me I should finally read Jonathan Strange. Though when WHEN CAN I READ A BOOK THAT LONG? Not until I am finished my immediate to-read shelf, which I have decided I will be decimating in three months. Or something. I wish.

    I just got a book about making Moonshine. Because why not throw in a nonsequitor while I’m leaving a comment this long?

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    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Hahaha! Love that random closing statement. And careful with that bathtub moonshine. Don’t poison yourself!

      My reread of Jonathan Strange is actually a listen this time around. I am loving the audiobook version and that may be the best way to get through this 900-pager.

      I’ve read one Niven book (Protector) and it was pedestrian and unsophisticated, but I didn’t detect any unsavory elements, in fact, I think there may have been a black character central the plot. (I think). Maybe Pournelle brings it out of him.

      I’m not in any rush to read Shaman and Antarctica, but I will jump on Aurora when it’s released this July. I love KSR in space. And he does alt-hist very well, too. And I felt the fire of this novel, but lots of reviews said they got bored. For me, this alternate world had me entranced.

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      • I guess I’m in luck. I don’t have a bathtub. So intead I can poison myself with moonshine made in a barrel! Ta-da!

        Pedestrain. Yeah that feels like an accurate way to describe Niven. If I recall correctly Pournelle has also written SF about rounding up all the people on welfare into a stadium and killing them…so yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if his influence was the major asshat infection in that pair. Have you read Ringworld?

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  4. Joseph Nebus says:

    The Lathe of Heaven is actually kind of the book that got me to start reading Philip K Dick. I knew he had a reputation for writing these crazed, far-out, psychedelic books, but if Lathe was like them, and I quite liked it, then why not? (And it worked out; I do rather like Dick’s writing, which turned out to be more rational than I had imagined from its reputation. That is, he would describe crazy scenarios, but the writing about them was rational, if you see the difference I’m drawing.)

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    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I’ve noticed the same thing about PKD’s writing, although I’ve only read the one book. And I really enjoyed Lathe of Heaven. I plan to get to more of PKD’s stuff soonventually. <— that's a word now.

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  5. Randolph says:

    “Writing just for the sake of commercial publishing really pisses me off.”

    Answering “Tell me a story” is the basis of fiction, and I think it’s a fine motivation. Writers, like everyone else, have to eat somehow. It was mostly writers scratching out a living from sf that created the field, after all.

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    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Imma let Ursula take this one: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Et9Nf-rsALk

      JustaStory stories can be wonderful. Marketing-driven plots are not, they are always obvious, and they do more damage the already disrespected reputation of genre fiction.

      It is a shame that we allow capitalism to influence art. Some very deserving, responsible authors manage to build robust careers without sacrificing their art. Most do not.

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  6. Eagerly awaiting your review of Years of Rice and Salt since I read it back in aught-two when it came out and, since blogs didn’t exist back in that primitive era, I had nowhere to store my thoughts about it save for a faulty memory.

    Davy‘s Vonnegut-like prose is probably why I have good memories of that book. But yeah, Brackett did it better, and earlier. I’m also surprised that the rest of Pangborn’s Tales of a Darkening World are more mature in comparison—I’ve read a couple of them lately in anthologies, all of them grim allegories about state control and suppression of science/the arts/freedom/whatever.

    Glad to hear you liked Lathe of Heaven—no argument here that Le Guin’s most famous novels are superior works, but I like Lathe for its underdog status… compared to said other two Le Guin novels, nobody reads it. (Also, it’s Le Guin doing PKD, so there’s that.)

    Regarding Brittle Innings, I volunteer as tribute to be the official baseball translator for all of science fiction fandom.

    Like

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I should have been reading Rice and Salt in ’02. I would have inhaled it. I had no idea about its existence.

      Do the later Davy novels go into his sailing years? It seemed so weird to me that Pangborn left out that part. Sounds like Pangborn was influenced by fears of Communism with his later novels.

      I really did enjoy Lathe of Heaven. It’s a different style for Ursula, but she does some neat things with it.

      Lol, now I know who to go to when I get lost in baseball lingo. It’s like a typical scifi gauntlet, but with baseball, instead of the usual labyrinth of tech and astronomy lingo. So far, I’m managing.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. unsubscriber says:

    Great cover for The Female Man, cracking stuff!

    Like

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