September 2015 Month in Review

TheGirlintheRoad2DestinyTimesThree1

After a relatively unproductive summer on the TBR front, I made up for lost reads and overcame my projected numbers. I am still drawing from my stack of TBR cards, but I’ve also added books from my shadow list. Oooh… shadow list… more on that below.

Books Blogged

A steady month of blogging, with one review posting each week. This pace will probably continue, although I might double that for a few weeks in November.

TheKappaChildThe Kappa Child (2001) by Hiromi Goto
I loved this Tiptree-winning novel about phantom pregnancy, abusive family systems, and LGBTQ romance much more than I expected. I kind of regret summarizing it as being about “phantom pregnancy, abusive family systems, and LGBTQ romance” because it makes it sound like every other book on the literary shelves, which doesn’t convey the novel’s crisp, weird essence. Okay, forget that I said it’s about phantom pregnancy and abuse and romance. It’s not about those things…

Tales of the Dying Earth (2000 omnibus) by Jack Vance
I said I would just stick to the Cugel stories, but I ended up reading the entire thing… which made me wish I had just read the Cugel stories, and maybe that first volume, but I should have skipped the Rhialto stories. Rhialto is boring.

Cuckoo’s Egg (1985) by C. J. Cherryh
I think I enjoyed reviewing this more than I enjoyed reading it. It’s basically written for Middle Grade-Young Adult readers, which means my mind probably drifted a lot while I was reading this, but when I sat down to review it, I discovered a lot of little nuggets that made this book slightly more than just a kids’ book. It’s also interesting to note that its arc is very similar to that of Ender’s Game, its 1985-Hugo shortlist peer.

The Time Ships (1995) by Stephen Baxter
Seeing as this BSFA-winning novel is an *authorized* sequel to The Time Machine, I also included a mini-review of H. G. Wells’ 1895 classic. The Time Ships is inventive and true to form, though I was disappointed that Baxter spent most of the time Nivving-out on machinery and didn’t shine the spotlight on Wells’ more central socioeconomic extrapolations.

Books Read:

I managed to read all of the books drawn for the month and reviews will be posting over the next few weeks. A quick rundown:

BrownGirlintheRingBrown Girl in the Ring (1998) by Nalo Hopkinson
Urban fantasy that’s a bit on the thin side, though the horror elements did invoke real physical reactions. (I nearly vom’d during a particularly gory scene, although it may have been food poisoning.)

This Immortal (And Call Me Conrad) (1965) by Roger Zelazny
My first Zelazny! More macho than I expected.

Three to Conquer (1955) by Eric Frank Russell
Body snatcher fic with a gumshoe atmosphere. The word slut is used at one point, so…

Destiny Times Three (1945) by Fritz Leiber
A brilliant little WWII-inspired piece about alternate timelines that was meant to be much grander.

Short Fiction Read

DangerousVisions1My long, lazy reads have been replaced by short fiction collections and I. Finally. Finished. Dangerous Visions (1967). It’s mostly just straight white dudes palling around with other straight white dudes, and it just reinforced my opinion of solicited themed anthologies because contributors gotta force out something that fits The Theme, and maybe it’s just too forced and not very inspired, so maybe the editor just needs to say, “Never mind, everybody, I’m cancelling the book. Not enough good stuff came in.” I realize that DV is significant for delivering New Wave to the mainstream, but I’m just not buying that this stuff is 1967-dangerous when I’ve read older stuff that’s much more incendiary, (and from the same writers!). And anyway, you can’t call it Dangerous Visions and then put Larry Niven in it. You just can’t. (And Niven’s was one of the more interesting pieces, believe it or not, and it was weird because it was all about organ donation paranoia, which is something I’ve never understood and it’s probably because I’m too young and missed that controversy, but seriously, when I’m dead, you can have whatever you want.)

But anyway, Dangerous Visions. I’ll talk about that later. Lol.

The Shadow Books List…

If you follow me on GoodReads (which you should, because I have no idea how to find people on that site, and there are lots of scary people on that site, but since I mainly just dart in-and-out on social media, GR makes it easy for me to creep on people’s reading choices while I’m waiting in line in the grocery store. But only if they find me first because, as I said, I can’t figure out how to find people). Ahem, anyway, if you follow me on GoodReads, you may have noticed that I detoured from my vintage TBR and started reading more recent releases again:

The Girl in the Road (2014) by Monica Byrne. Yes.

Elysium (2014) by Jennifer Marie Brissett. Yes.

 

Yes, I’m up to something… more to come…

Books to be Read:

Time to draw again! What books will I be reading this month?

wpid-wp-1443666228404.jpg

Om nom nom. Jack can haz book burger?

 

Initial thoughts:

Brightness Reef (1995) by David Brin
I’ve already started this. I had to really amp up my disbelief suspension system in order to enjoy Startide Rising (1983), but an old short I recently read by Lisa Tuttle has instilled my greater appreciating for dolphin uplift fiction. Still, Brin is hit-and-miss with me. I thoroughly enjoyed Glory Season (1993) but finishing Kiln People (2002) was a chore.

Not This August (1955) by C. M. Kornbluth
I enjoyed The Space Merchants (1953), and people say Kornbluth is the better half of the Pohl/Kornbluth duo, although I do have a great deal of respect for Pohl from what I saw in Man Plus (1976), which I think a lot of readers have unfortunately dismissed.

Grass (1989) by Sherri S. Tepper
I knew I would end up drawing this right after admiral.ironbombs reviewed it. I knew it.

Spin (2005) by Robert Charles Wilson
I read this one a long time ago and enjoyed it. I remember very little, and I suspect my tastes may have changed and I might not be so satisfied this time around. We’ll see.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1965) by Robert A. Heinlein
Finally. I’ve read some of his worst, now I get to read what people call his best. Talk about setting aside prejudices… I can do this. (Plus, we all know I’ll be reading McDonald’s latest release, Luna, very soon, and I bet this will make for nice background reading for however McDonald decides to blow away the old Heinster.

AND…

Long Lazy Read/Short Fiction Collection:
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree, Jr.
While everyone else is reading Letters to Tiptree, I’ll be reading this. (Already started. Loving it so far!)

Monthly Book Tallies:

Total books read: 8 – Take that, August, with your lame books read tally!

Total books about:

Spaceships: 1

Aliens: 4- 2 invasions, 1 capitalist hegemony of the cosmic kind, 1 just normal aliens, you know.

The Multiverse: 3

Robots: 0 (this dry spell has got to end. I like me some robots!)

Organ donation paranoia: 2 (includes that Niven short from DV)

Too much macho (or maybe the novelty of reading old SF award noms has worn off and my abnormally high tolerance has finally reached its tipping point): 3

Hydrogen-powered continental bridge that metaphorically acts as an umbilicus between cultures, characters, & sanity: 1 (Can there be more, please?)

Worst book of the month: Three to Conquer (1955) by Eric Frank Russell

Best books of the month: The Girl in the Road (2014) by Monica Byrne and Destiny Times Three (1945) by Fritz Leiber. Shivering brilliance, those two. Legitimate flaws, but goosebumps.

 

See you next week, when I discuss the pros and cons of psychic babies.

 

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18 thoughts on “September 2015 Month in Review

  1. Rabindranauth says:

    Nalo Hopkinson sounds really good but her writing reminds me too much of my high school Lit classes, lol. Talk about getting scarred.That’s an interesting list of books on tap though. I think I waant to see what you make of Sheri S. Tepper most.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I was afraid of that. Brown Girl in the Ring is her first book, so I was hoping her writing gets better over time. I was surprised by how very genre it is. The bad guy is quite cartoony, Not much nuance going on.

      Like

  2. Oh oh oh I’ll be crossing my fingers and hoping Spin gets chosen (will you be drawing out of the jack-o-lantern? 😉 ) I read Wilson’s The Affinities this year and my feelings were a bit mixed on that, and now I’m curious about his book that won the awards.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Actually those cards are all from a much larger stack, so I’ll be reading all five of those books, including Spin! (I just included the jack-o-lantern to be festive :-/)I’ve read another of RCW’s, Blind Lake, and it was pretty lame and TV-ish, but I think Spin is better than that. We’ll see if it holds up.

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  3. I’m a huge fan of Fritz Leiber’s work. A very underrated writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Oh, me too! He was ahead of his time and such a dynamic writer. I’m always glad when I have a Leiber to read! And Destiny Times Three– wow! I’m so impressed by what he was doing in 1945!

      Like

  4. YEEEEEY books. I like these end o’ the month wrap ups a lot. Also the fact that you have a shadow list, whatever that is and whatever you’re up to…

    Look at that, I am actually excited for you to read a Heinlein book. I suspect that there are some truly gruesome (re: sexist-y) things in it that I totally missed the first time. I was totally concentrated on his depiction of revolution at the time of reading. And while it is pretty interesting, I kind of felt like he majorly copped out in actually talking about how revolutions happen via literal deus ex machina. I will be very interested to hear if you have any thoughts about that specific aspect, particularly because it is almost all I can remember about the damn thing.

    Chris read Grass and now you’re going to read Grass which means I am probably next to catch this contagioun. But hey you never did mention Titus Groan again after drawing it (you did draw it once upon a time already didn’t you?)…did you end up skipping over that one? It is still staring down at me from my shelf, but I think it’s going to take me a while to get to it, what with being fully engrossing in Dune right now and probably being voted into reading Oryx and Crake next and having gotten two new Connie Willis books to further inspect her humor and its effectiveness/cheapness.

    I am forever going to hear Rabi saying that about Nalo’s writing in my head when I read her. I am doing so right now, actually, her recent short story collection. So far so good but you know me and short stories…sloooow and dragged screaming into them, basically.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I’m kinda excited about the Heinlein, too. I might read that one starting on Monday. I’m sure it’s super sexist and uncomfortably right-wing, but it’s the moon, so you can’t have than many women walking around half-naked and subservient, right?

      I LOVED TItus Groan, but I think I’m going to finish the whole trilogy and then write about it. It’s so gorgeous! It feels more like literature than genre, so that might bore some people, but god, Peake’s way with words makes me breathless. Gormenghast is coming up soon!

      “…Willis books to further inspect her humor and its effectiveness/cheapness.” Hmm, I never thought of her that way, but I don’t remember her being very funny in Blackout/All Clear. I’ll have to keep that in mind when I read my next Willis (also in the stack for some day soon).

      As I told Rabi above, I was hoping to discover that Hopkinson gets better over time. BGitR is her first book and it’s pretty superficial. I could lump it in with the Vinge and Stross and Sawyer books I’ve read– just basically plot-driven and dialogue-driven, not very rich or vivid– which is kind of what you want from a unique urban fantasy setting. Still, I’ve not read another urban fantasy setting like it, and she manages to retain the traditional values of her characters, while still making feminist statements, which I appreciated.

      I plan to read Hopkinson’s latest collection, so I hate to hear you’re dragging on it. You know I’m the same way with short fiction– but the James Tiptree I’m reading right now is such an easy read, as was Butler’s Bloodchild collection. My goal is to force myself to read one short story collection per month, so maybe I can train myself to be a better short fic reader. (Next month is this Cuban SF writer named Yoss! So intrigued by that one!)

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      • Yeah for Titus Groan! Very happy to hear that you liked it. I bet I’m going to die for the language. Yey.

        I think I’m dragging on the Hopkinson collection entirely for non-book-related reasons though. It is on my phone and I don’t much feel like reading digitally right now and, yeah, short story collection. I’ve only read one and I keep thinking about it and wondering what will happen, which is a good sign for sure. But also Dune has taken over the reading plate, so.

        As for Willis, yeah in Doomsday Book I only felt like there was attempted humor that was unsuccessful for me, she seems to like to use straw men characters that are only in there for humor and aren’t quite 3D people. She did that in Bellwether, but there were some other funny things about it, and it all sort of made sense in the end. Her speeches are all pretty amusing too, so I am hoping for a few laughs in these next two.

        As for the Heinlein I seem to remember he attempts to depict polyamorous relationships in that one, but that they kind of just look like a sort of marriage harem…

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        • fromcouchtomoon says:

          If Hopkinson’s short story collection is as superficial as Brown Girl in the Ring, then her writing just may not be for me. But I’m also going to give Midnight Robber a try.

          I had such a hard time reading Dune, but I figured you would probably like it more than me. I think the “opera” part of “space opera” just turns me off. (And Paul gets under my skin.)

          EVERY book Heinlein writes seems to include some element in which he solves the problem of “how can I get laid by more women”? It wouldn’t bother me from any other author, but Heinlein can’t see beyond his penis to go beyond sexualizing and patronizing women. And he seems obsessed with strictly delineated gender differences. It’s really, really, really hard to avoid psychoanalyzing him…

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  5. The batch you drew last month was pretty interesting. Well, except for the Baxter, which seems to hit the point where my disinterest of ’90s books dovetails into my disinterest of sequels not written by the original author. And the Eric Frank Russell, you have to really be in the mood for ’50s SF when you read him (though, strangely, Leiber is one of those authors who can defy time and space and remain readable forever).

    The batch you drew for next month was flippin’ awesome. Tepper and Kornbluth I really enjoyed, but I can see why they may not be your faves, particularly the Kornbluth which is very, very ’50s at times. I wasn’t as impressed with the Brin, but I don’t remember it being as bad as Kiln People… then again all his Uplift books kind of blend together in memory. Heinlein! It’s supposed to be a good one this time. I mean, so is Starship Troopers (spoiler: unless you love oligarchic civics lectures, it’s not), but y’know. I haven’t read Moon yet even though its his magnum opus, so I’ll rely on you to tell me what I’m missing out on.

    Also awesome that you’re reading last year’s Tiptree winners. I’ve seen them on Kindle sales so I picked them up (the $1.99 impulse buy will be the death of me). And Mervyn Peake, another strong contender for “great author not enough people read…”

    Like

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      “my disinterest of ’90s books dovetails into my disinterest of sequels not written by the original author.”

      LOL. No kidding. The ’90s really are a bad decade for SF. I’m curious about the moment SF vaulted out of the cookie cutter cliche niche of the ’80s and ’90s and we started getting rich, intriguing books in the aughts from people like Ian McDonald, Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, and KSR (who was already doing this in the ’90s). I wonder what prompted that change in taste from fans and authors.

      Eric Frank Russell- I think I’m getting over my disgust with him. It started out enjoyable– for that decade, but then the macho talk and “slut” happened and I was over it. We’ll see how my review turns out after I’ve had some time to digest it.

      Heinlein is getting on my nerves right now. “Magnum opus” is what people call it, but I see no difference between this and anything else I’ve read by him. Mainsplaining, patronizing schlock driven by dumb dialogue. So much expository talking. I thought I would have qualms but ultimately be impressed with The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but basically Heinlein can just fuck off <– is pretty much all I've been saying in my head when I read this book. He is a dick, and I'm glad he's not around anymore. His kind needs to die off. It's that simple.

      So, I'm doing Spin next week, THEN Tepper, THEN Kornbluth. I hope to end the month on a good note 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. […] dangerous than any other imaginary genre cabal), I would like to mention Adam Roberts’ Bête (ooohh, there’s that shadow TBR again…), which defies that “I got this” garbage with a resonating intimacy that exposes white male […]

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  7. Yo, people, you can follow From Couch to Moon on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/couchtomoon.

    That’s the beauty of social media. You may access her snark everywhere, all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Eliza_Mariah says:

    I will definitely check out the Monica Byrne and Fritz Leiber.

    I remember being disappointed by DV and thinking that Ellison’s editorial policy seemed to consist of inviting his drinking buddies to submit stories. The phrase “muscular writing” kept coming up in the introductions to the stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I completely agree with you about Ellison’s editorial policy, although, according to Christopher Priest’s survey of the situation, it sounds like the unpublished third DV came to be “anyone who happens to be getting attention at the moment… and this moment… and this moment…)

      I hope you love the Byrne and Leiber. I am a convert to most of Leiber’s work, and I will preorder anything Monica Byrne writes in the future.

      Like

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