And the genre-ific Locus shortlist was announced today!
But first, a recap…
April kicked off kind of late when my daily spree of 2014 BSFA Shortlist Reviews dangled into the early days of the month, in preparation for the 2014 BSFA awards held in London during Easter weekend. Then I took a break from new fiction and went back to my usual pattern of reading and posting about highly acclaimed, sometimes forgotten, SF novels of the past.
Brittle Innings (1994) by Michael Bishop– A WWII-era, southern gothic-lite tale about baseball and monsters. Literary in feel, readers not acquainted with baseball or monsters will feel right at home with Bishop’s focus on characterization, voicing, and social complexities. And Bishop really shows off his chops when he pays tribute to his inspiration. Despite my discomfort with some of the overdone character voicing, I loved this novel.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2004) by Susanna Clarke– A reread! Although Jonathan Strange has been recently dislodged by my new favorite novel, The Years of Rice and Salt (2002) by Kim Stanley Robinson, it withstood the test of time (and manic reading). Funnier and darker the second time, but just as magical. I highly recommend the audio book!
Welcome, Chaos (1983) by Kate Wilhelm– Submitted for Joachim’s Kate Wilhelm series, I was eager to try a second read from this award-winning author’s catalog. Chaos shares an apocalyptic focus with Wilhelm’s more famous Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1977), yet the two novels take completely different approaches, with Chaos abandoning the more plaintive, conflicted style of Sweet Birds for something more mainstream and suspenseful. The suspense is never quite suspenseful enough, although it is fun to watch Wilhelm’s doormat protagonist develop into a fem-inist-fatale. It’s okay, but Sweet Birds is a must read.
THEN, IT WAS JOHN BRUNNER WEEK. And I was sheeting eptified.
Stand on Zanzibar (1968) by John Brunner – A dystopic collage of media overstimulation and neocolonial globalization, this highly textured sensory experience of our own world, five years ago, predicted nearly 50 years ago. Most interesting is not what he got right, but the few things he got wrong.
The Whole Man (1964) by John Brunner– Telepathy, catapathy, and a moldy dragon make up this tale about a disadvantaged man-turned-___, well, you get it. It’s not Stand on Zanzibar, though some of the elements are there. And Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human (1953) does post-human telepathy more compellingly.
I also showed up at S. C. Flynn’s blog where I talked about myself and how the Internet apocalypse will get in the way of my desperate need to tell jokes about Larry Niven’s yammy plot devices.
Books Read, Reviews to Come
Finally completed the Bas-Lag series-ish with Iron Council (2004) by China Miéville. Meme golem. Beaten dead horse golem. The Miéville I’ve been looking for, er, golem.
And I finally found a Poul Anderson novel that didn’t bore me. Fire Time (1974) is typical Anderson: humanistic ideals on a planetary scale crammed into a short book, but this one doesn’t feel as rushed or gaping or uneven. It’s okay!
I also just completed Emergence (1984) by David R. Palmer. WATCH FOR THIS REVIEW BECAUSE THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME FUN! Basically, a girl like Buffy meets a boy like Bruce Wayne and they go on a ride-about in post-apocalyptic America. Gripping and touching… and out of print. (As Tammy keeps reminding me, there is a lot of price gouging going on with this one. If you see it for cheap on Amazon or Abe Books, snatch it!)
And sigh. I still need to post my annoyed review of Bones of the Earth (2002) by Michael Swanwick from three months ago. If you see it go up, just… just look the other way.
Books Read, Mini-reviews to Come, Maybe…
Been trying to ignore all of this SPewgo talk, but too many references to the “literary” qualities of the non-SP nominees got my feathers all ruffled, so I caved and started reading The Goblin Emperor. Still working on it. Maybe we’ll have a little chat later about Ancillary Sword and The Goblin Emperor and how they are not very literary, but actually very genre whichisnotabadthingplease don’tthrowthingsatme.
(But if all this SP whining really is just about good, old-fashioned tropiness, then the SP crowd should have no problem with this entire ballot.)
(So let’s quit pretending SPs. It’s about the politics and nothing else.)
And speaking of being VERY GENRE, and very, very commercial, the 2014 Locus shortlist was announced today. I’ve been too busy to check out any related Twitter or blog commentary, but just offhand, I’m going to assume that most SF fans are generally satisfied with this list and wish the SPewgo list resembled this.
On the science fiction shortlist, I’ve read all but Lock In, but Gibson’s The Peripheral would easily be my top choice. My affection for that novel grows more over time. My guess is that Annihilation will win this one, but Leckie’s and Scalzi’s fans have surprised me before.
For fantasy, I’ve only read City of Stairs, the mushy page-turner that did not blow me away, but I enjoyed it far more than the standard moral-boy-who-unexpectedly-becomes-royalty tale that I’m getting from The Goblin Emperor, so far. (I’m at the halfway mark.) I never read the third novel, but I always respected what Grossman was trying to do with his Magician series, and I need to pay some attention to the much talked about Elizabeth Bear. Still, I think Stairs will win this one.
Books to be Read
Towing Jehovah (1994) by James Morrow. I’m most excited about this one. His recent Galapagos Regained is already on my 2015 award potential list.
Kiln People (2002) by David Brin. I’ve been warned about this one! And it’s loooong.
Integral Trees (1984) by Larry Niven. Niven behaves better when he’s on his own. Plus, I just like the smart feeling I get when I read books with math references in the title.
Monthly Book Tallies:
Total books blogged: 5
Total books read: 4
Total books started, not yet finished: 1
Total books about outer space: 2.5 (didn’t see it coming in that last one.)
Total books about robots: 1, construct golem.
Total books about an apocalypse: 1
Total books about golems: 1
Total mentions of golems: 229
The best book of the month was Emergence by David Palmer, while The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry and Jerry was the worst. Coming soon to a Crazy Eddie point near you!