July 2015 Review of Reviews and Upcoming August Reads!

PKDstoriesCienAnosdeSoledad1LastandFirstMen2

With the exception of the books pictured above, it was a month of a Whole Lotta Meh. (That other Zeppelin song. You probably don’t know it. It’s pretty underground.) I blew up blog readers and inboxes as I edged toward the end of my Hugo ‘5s challenge this month, and, as usual, I left some of the least exciting novels for last. Oops, and sorry about that.

But that means it’s time for a new reading list! I’ve complained before that January is just not the right time to mark the new year, and technically my life is ruled by the academic calendar, so August always feels like the best time to set new goals and… so exciting… SET UP A NEW READING SPREADSHEET!

(which I already wrote up months ago and I am super duper excited about it!)

But now, I need a new, fun way to randomize this shit, so we don’t end up with another July of meh…

2015AUGA

Whaddyathink? It contains a mix of Hugo ‘6s, some Masterworks, some Nebulas, and even a random Tiptree or two…

Now, time to draw a few for the month. I always prefer to sample from different decades…

2015AUGC

Wonder what that will get us…

2015AUG5
Oof…

Er, that was a practice run. Let’s try it again…

2015AUGB

That’s much better! I’m excited now!

Did I just hear a few cheers for the Vance? I do believe I did.

So, we’ve got a Tiptree winner (Goto), a commissioned sequel for The Time Machine (wtf???) (Baxter), and Cherryh, whom I have read before and liked okay, but it was a long a time ago and we need to get reacquainted. I tossed in Vance and Peake because I’ve been bit unfair to the fantasy world, but that’s because I spent my pre-blog years reading crap fantasy by authors whose names I can’t even remember, but maybe I’ll reawaken my love for the subgenre if I dig into some seminal works, now that I know where to look.

Mid-Year Stats

As of today, I am on my 48th book for 2015, which is the Dangerous Visions (1967) anthology that I’ve been sipping all month. I read 89 total books last year, but I’m really, really, really going to try to slow down and read/review no more than one fiction book per week because my reviews are getting sloppy (“aren’t they always?” shut up.) and I tend to jog a lot more this time of year. Plus, I’ve got a stack of non-fiction books, mags, and journals that I suddenly care about… it’s like I suddenly care about the real world again what’s that about? I blame The Years of Rice and SaltThat did it to me.

July Stats

2015AUGBOOKS4

2015AUGBOOKS2

Total books read: 9
Total books about space: 6
Total books about robots/AI: 4.5 (anthologies mess up the tallies)
Total collection/anthologies: 2 (A PKD collection and Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind)
Total books about bobbles: 1
Total books about incest: 2
Total books en espanol: uno, con algo de ayuda del audio en ingles porque el dialecto colombiano es un poco dificil. Fue marvillosa, betedobleu!
Total meh: 4, if that sounds low, that’s because some of those meh reviews were about meh reads from last month.

Best books of the month: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. You have to read Aurora. You must read Aurora. Also, Cien Anos de Soledad by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, because it is wonderful and gorgeous and funny and dark.

Both of these novels seem different, but they make great companion reads. Both directly comment on the consequences of isolation, the importance of community, the meaning of “home,” and the realities and unrealities of revolution. Whether you’re making little gold fishes or investigating alien pathogens, the lesson is that your ancestors’ selfish decisions will haunt you forever. Your ancestors son pendejos.

Total books failed to read: countless. I had this great big plan to read some postponed-for-whatever-reason 2014s and some buzzed about 2015 releases on my summer break. Plus a Tiptree collection. Then jury duty, gardening, and random summer vacay events happened. Five weeks ago me is so dumb.

Now, on to The Dying Earth!

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22 thoughts on “July 2015 Review of Reviews and Upcoming August Reads!

  1. Jesse says:

    Be careful with the Vance. There is the original The Dying Earth collection, which features ten or so stories penned early in Vance’s career. Then, there is the later Tales of the Dying Earth compendium, which comprises four Vance “collections”. I use quotes because two of the “collections” are in fact the linearly concatenated adventures of the one and only ne’er do well, Cugel that read more like a duology than short stories. For me, the original Dying Earth stories are nothing special, but I know much of the genre community are enamored by them. I find them in the minor leagues compared to the charm and imagination invested in the two Cugel books. (If I want enjoyment of the purest, I can’t think of any other books than Cugel’s I’d rather read.) Written almost thirty years after the original Dying Earth stories when Vance had really found his voice, they feature the author in peak form. Thus, you’ve been warned.

    Another warning, I believe the Cherryh title is part of a series and may require prior knowledge. I’d check it out before beginning.

    Very curious about the Goto title… Never even heard of it.

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    • I have had The Dying Earth stuff on my list forever as well, so this is very interesting to hear Jess. Will beware.

      Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Well that puts me at ease, because I did have some confusion when looking for it. I saw both The Dying Earth and Tales of the Dying Earth and ISFDB didn’t do much to differentiate between them. I assumed that Tales was probably expanded in some way, so I went ahead and ordered that. It sounds like you’re saying that’s the best place to start and, if I decide to be a Vance purist, I can always go back and read the O.G. And your advice has never done me wrong 🙂

      I did make sure that the Cherryh title didn’t require any pre-reading, since she’s fond of serials. It does stand on its own, in fact, it’s the first of an omnibus.

      I am also curious about the Goto title and I’m kinda thrilled that I drew that so soon. Of the Tiptree winners I haven’t read, which is a most of them, it piqued my interest the most. It sounds like the kind of voice I’ve been craving to read lately, especially after haughty Heinlein and cold Kress and stale Stross. I hope it turns out to be a unique piece that doesn’t deserve its obscurity.

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  2. WOOOOOO. I like your new system. Looks fun. Also: I am glad you put that first pick to bed and picked again. A Feast for Crows? Whoa. That is an intense thing to have on a random draw list.

    I am really excited about your final picks for this month, particularly Titus Groan as I just got a copy and want to read it as well. Maybe I will even manage to read it this month too, and we can compare our long-winded notes eventually. It sounds so interesting, though I am a little worried about the lack of a good story that Rabi mentioned recently.

    I want to read The Dying Earth as well, but who am I kidding, that is so not happening this month. I am still plodding through Shriek at a leisurely pace, and it is a lot of fun, but it feels like this is going to be a slow and leisurely kind of reading month. And I still want to make sure I don’t weight too heavily toward “reading only dudes” as I so often do. Ho hum.

    Are you going to write something for here about 100 Years of Solitude? Because I am dying to hear about the experience of reading it in Spanish. So fucking jealous. Yey.

    Also: jury duty! (Ugh.) Hope the summer vacation things were awesome.

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    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Fun, isn’t it? Always looking for a way to shake thing up!

      I have some real doozies in that deck (two more Larry and Jerrys! TWO!). I knew I would have to get around to GRRM one day. I read the first and it was all “winter is coming” and direwolves and blah mantasy and I didn’t care to go on. I’ve decided to just read them out of order as they come up on the list. I’m sure it’s nothing a wikipedia entry can’t fix if I get lost.

      100 Years of Solitude- I don’t think I can do it justice in a blog post. Really, it’s just so much. I think I would just write words with exclamation points. Garcia Marquez is amazing and I’m sure I missed so much. His words, oh his words, and his sentences, and how those words and sentences say so much without bulking up the prose… he is a beautiful genius. While reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder why I am wasting my time on all of these SF dildos when Marquez is the real fucking thing. I seriously thought maybe I should pack this blog in and go back to reading literature.

      But spaceships…

      I think the Spanish version adds to the character of the novel because Marquez uses a lot of antiquated colombiano phrasing, antiquated even for his time, I think. In comparison, the English version reads a little sterile, though it was interesting to see the translator’s word selections. Not close to the word selections I made in my own head, but that’s only indicative of my broken and very literal level of fluency.

      My first three days of summer vacation = jury duty. And I went in with the mantra, “I’magoodcitizen, I’magoodcitizen, I’magoodcitizen.” So, I didn’t complain, thinking I’ll get to take a stand and maybe save somebody’s life. Or thwart a racist jury. Totally gonna do those things. But then it was just some greedy bastard who took an ex-employee to court because he decided that she requested too much vacation backpay on the paperwork THAT HE APPROVED AND WAS WELL-DOCUMENTED. As soon as we could deliberate, I was like, “Screw that guy. I want to take him to court for wasting three days of my life. NOT GUILTY.” So I guess I did save somebody because I did have to swing some votes, it just wasn’t as romantic as I had envisioned.

      (And I think I shocked the rest of the jury because I didn’t say a word for three days and then blew up with THAT.) (Oh, related note, PKD short fic is brilliant for when you’re stuck doing jury duty in the Texas court system and that UPTIGHT, FASCIST BAILIFF KEEPS TELLING YOU TO SPIT YOUR GUM OUT. I’m hungry, mofo. Quit oppressing me.)

      The vacation things were mostly staycation and make-cation. Home improvement stuff. Which turned out well.

      Damn, this comment reply is ridiculously long. I wonder what strangers think when they stop by…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe reading the GRRM books out of order will turn out to be the best possible way to consume them. I mean, shit, reading them in order didn’t do much for them for me. I enjoyed them in a way (though not so much the last one), though the books themselves, last stand, made me not want to keep reading the series. The commentary surrounding the books is far more interesting. Once I heard a few geeks spinning theories of what they thought might happen (a couple years after I finished with that dragon dance whatever the fuck one), I found myself re-interested for the first time. Which says a lot about those books.

        I will admit to being glad that I have not yet had to do jury duty by living too far away. I have never heard one positive story about it. Though I am also glad you got to rule against that stupid guy. Everything else, fucking annoying. And three whole days of your vacation eaten away! Ugh. But hey PK Dick short fiction for the paranoid conspiracy win! I really like his short fiction. I think the lack of depth that is so often an issue in his novels is a lot easier to swallow in short form where you can just sort of ride out the ideas on their short little waves and then move on.

        What will the hilarious exploits of Larry and Jerry bring this time?! (Still picturing them as a wacky cartoon duo running away from a cat. Hey! Maybe the cat is a reviewer. Cartoon gold. Hahahaha.)

        “While reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder why I am wasting my time on all of these SF dildos when Marquez is the real fucking thing. I seriously thought maybe I should pack this blog in and go back to reading literature.” Amen. Though really, I can’t see myself ever giving up either. They provide interesting counterpoints. Or in some cases, just blatant proof that the thing I am currently reading is utter shit…

        Liked by 1 person

        • fromcouchtomoon says:

          I am all for Larry and Jerry cartoons. Somebody should do that.

          PKD short fiction is perfect for his flimsy ideas. Still, I’ve barely scratched the surface of his novel work. Dr. Bloodmoney is in the stack!

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  3. That is a really fun system to pick your books, the randomness of it really appeals to me. But like you I’d probably end up going through at least one “do-over”. I think both your draws would have led to great/interesting months though, except maybe the downer of A Feast for Crows.

    And yes, Aurora is on my list. If I can’t get to it this month, it’s certainly lined up for my Sci-fi November.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      We’ll see if I can be more disciplined in the future and NOT do any do-overs. Otherwise, I’ll end up with another December or January full of books I’m not that excited about. Which brings up the question why I’m reading books I’m not that excited about in the first place, but I’m just weird like that. I like to read broadly.

      Yes to Aurora! That’ll be a great choice for Sci-fi November!

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  4. Yvo says:

    I like your system for picking your next reads! I really need to start reading in Spanish again; somehow having to use it all day makes me prefer reading in English haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I think if I lived in a primarily Spanish-speaking country, I would probably crave reading in English, too. But Garcia Marquez is ideal in Spanish, which captures the novel’s essence better than English. And I needed the practice.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. On the brightside, you made it through the Whole Lotta Meh unscathed, so there’s that, right? It’s all downhill from here. Also very curious how you feel about reading Marquez in the original, since the translated editions of his work are already remarkable.

    That looks like a fun system for randomizing your reading, but man those first picks are brutal. The Postman? Brutal. A Feast for Crows? Double brutal. Two Hard SF novels? Twin brutal. I’d take the Ed Hamilton though, even though it’s probably not as good as what his wife (Brackett) was writing at the time. Given its date I have to assume it’s one of his Captain Future stories though.

    For your re-picks, Titus Groan is AMAZING. Not the kind of read that comes to mind when you hear “fantasy,” but all the better because of it. It’s another fantasy of manners written with a breathtaking command of the English language. It may not grab you, but I have hopes since you liked Norrell & Strange. That Cherryh I haven’t read yet; it’s actually a standalone novel, as the series it’s in is only linked thematically (the “Age of Exploration” series, with three unrelated books about … er, exploration).

    Vance’s Dying Earth books are faves of mine, but The Dying Earth itself is probably the weakest, a fixup of loosely-related science fantasy stories. Some of them I love, some of them are pretty meh. Have to agree with Jesse that the Cugel the Clever books are some of Vance’s best, nay, the best in terms of pure entertainment and love of language—picaresque adventures in witty wordplay. The first one is a fixup, but the meandering plot is part of the charm; the second I’m pretty sure was a novel, but its plot is even less straightforward than the first.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      As I told Nikki above, I don’t think I can do a proper post (or even an improper Couch-style post) on CIEN ANOS. It was all wonderful and I went on for about two paragraphs in my response to her, so yeah… The English version is remarkable, but the Spanish adds to the historical essence and personality of the novel.

      I DID NOT KNOW ED HAMILTON WAS LEIGH BRACKETT’S HUSBAND. Cool! All I know is the pseudonym of “Brett Sterling” sounds a bit too James Bond-y for me, even though I know he predated James Bond. Just a bit too white-bread/oiled hair/shiny cufflinks for my taste.

      I am excited for TITUS GROAN. So glad you approve of that one! And I knew enough about CUCKOO’S EGG to know that it is a stand alone/1st of an omnibus. We’ll see how that one goes.

      As for Vance’s DYING EARTH, as I told Jesse above, I was a bit lost trying to figure out what to get and ISFDB wasn’t a lot of help. I finally went with TALES OF THE DYING EARTH. It sounds like you both recommend going with that one, and you have never led me astray…

      speaking of which, I must go over to your blog and yell at you for selling Mieville so well, like I have time to read another book.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. wildbilbo says:

    Ok – so are you saying Aurora is good or…?
    🙂
    I’m currently finding myself reading a lot of ‘brand new books’ – ones released this year or last (even an ARC right now) – I think I’ll just go all out and buy this one shortly.

    (also I like your reviews – they are not sloppy:))

    Like

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Crap! Did I forget to say it? Aurora is good! He does Hard SF and literary technique so well. It’s a beautiful novel in story, structure, message, and metaphor. So brilliant. (You know, in case I didn’t already say that ;-)) I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

      And thanks. This fall should bring some interesting books that I care to spend more time reviewing.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wanna whole lotta meh. Wanna whole lotta meh.

    Liked by 1 person

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