October 2015 Monthly Reading Review

Bete1Grass1

And so it seems I have a Halloween tradition now, during which I forego my evening workout to sit on the couch and type up a monthly reading review while waiting for tiny beggars to ring the doorbell. Fewer and fewer trick-or-treaters every year is another thing that’s happening. Full bowl of candy just sitting here right now.

It might be because of the sandworm infestation we’ve been having here in Arrakis, though these particular sandworms have fangs and rattles and have been biting the neighborhood dogs. Photos pop up daily on the neighborhood online social network (this is a thing now… oh the drama) of giant rattlers slithering around on my streets.

It goes without saying, I’m not out jogging outdoors much anymore— ah, excuse me. Customers. In tutus.

…And, it also goes without saying, gardening has become a guerrilla war zone, and our hyper-organized garage now feels like a gauntlet of never-before-noticed hidey spaces.

But what am I doing blabbing about my snake anxiety. You’re here to snoop on my book readin’.

But first!

BOOK AWARD NEWS!

cuckoosongThe British Fantasy Society held their 2015 awards banquet last Sunday and people won things. I have a real disconnect when it comes to finding fantasy I like and what everyone else likes. Francis Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song won the Robert Holdstock Award, but I read it for the BSFA shortlist and it just wasn’t filling enough.

And speaking of fantasy awards, the 2015 World Fantasy Awards will happen this weekend and I have read all but one on the novel shortlist, so maybe that’ll be interesting. I think VanderMeer’s Annihilation is most likely to win, though, much as I felt that the magickal tea party section was a slap in the face, I most enjoyed Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks novel out of that entire group. City of Stairs was too manipulative and sentimental for me, while The Goblin Emperor wasn’t much different from any other reluctant-heir-takes-the-throne type tale.

OTHER BOOK AWARD NEWS!

Because there just aren’t enough SF book awards—oops, just a sec. Mexican wrestler at my door.

Anyway, because there just aren’t enough SF book awards— sorry, Cookie Monster and Jason are in need of organic grahams and vegetarian fruit chews. (Yes, I am THAT neighbor.)

ANYWAY, because there just aren’t enough SF book awards—jesus… I don’t even know what she was supposed to be.

Hmph. Now that the opportunity for effective sarcasm has passed, let’s just say a lot of SF book awards already exist, yet people clamor for more and I don’t really get it, (and I definitely don’t want to vote on “Best Villain” because I don’t think a single book I liked this year involved a so-called “villain.” It’s 2015: villainy is a fluid construct).

QuestionMark1COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO THAT, I will be hosting my own niche SF book award ceremony this month! Except it’ll be a blog post, not a ceremony. And there won’t be trophies or anything like that. And it won’t really be a good award because, if this blog has demonstrated anything at all, it’s this: if I really like a book, it’s probably not gonna win any real awards.

I am the litmus test reader for not winning book awards. This is the service I provide.

So, yeah, watch out for my very special book award cere-phony coming soon.

And back to our regularly scheduled program…

Books Blogged

DestinyTimesThree1Three to Conquer1

October started with a review of Brown Girl in the Ring (1998) by Nalo Hopkinson, which I was so excited to read but then it felt just like most other ‘80s and ‘90s SF I’ve read where there’s just not much more going on beyond a strict genre plot. I was hoping ’98 would be late enough to see some of that post-2000 sophistication that I’ve enjoyed, but I’ll have to keep reading in order to fully understand the turn-of-the-century evolution from drab to fab SF.

It still doesn’t put me off Hopkinson though; it was the ’90s, after all. I will be reading her new short story collection soon and Midnight Robber (2000) is further down the road.

Then I put my best fungus forward and, instead of reviewing Zelazny’s [pause]…And Call me Conrad (1966), I mostly talked about the crime fiction tropes in SF, especially the unshakeable white dude ‘tude, and why I like it more in modern SF. And I also let Delany and Merrill duke it out with each other for a bit and ended up agreeing with both.

As serendipity would have it, my next book reviewed was Eric Frank Russell’s Three to Conquer (1955) which was MORE CRIME FIC SF! AND THE GUY CALLS A LOW-IQ WOMAN A SLUT! So I just spent the whole post trying to rename the book something more appropriate. I also made fun of fuzzy cardigans, or whatever that thing is.

And I ended the month on a high note, reviewing Fritz Leiber’s impassioned invisible-epic Destiny Times Three (1945!), an exciting read on multiple levels and my favorite Leiber so far. So glad I snagged a 1st edition for that one!

Books Read, To Be Blogged

TheMoonisaHarshMistress2TheBeauty

October began with speedier-than-usual reading progress, so my oooohShadowTBR list got a good workout. But then I got too bold, too ambitious, and I wound up one book short on my committed TBR. GRRRR.

Books I finished:
Brightness Reef (1995) by David Brin
The Moon is a Harsh Mansplainer (1965) by Robert Heinlein
Spin (2005) by Robert Charles Wilson
Grass (1989) by Sherri Tepper

Books finished from the oooohShadowTBR:
The Beauty (2014) by Aliya Whiteley
Bête (2014) by Adam Roberts
Scale-Bright (2014) by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Books I finished on November 1st, but I’m counting it for October anyway dammit because that was a lot to read and why the hell does short fiction always feel like such a commitment?:
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, the James Tiptree Jr. collection (1990)

Books I didn’t finish because I am a failure:
Not This August (1945) by C. M. Kornbluth
The Satanic Verses (1988) by Salman Rushdie– Totally not about Halloween! At all! Ripoff!

So, Kornbluth’s book will be tacked on to November’s monthly draw, and I think I’ll postpone the Rushdie until Thanksgiving Break, just so I have time to READ it. The Rushdie selection came out of nowhere. I’ve always admired him for his the political and atheist commentary, but I’ve never read his fiction. When I heard he was releasing a new novel this year, I decided I should at least read his best known work first. I originally snagged it as an audiobook, but it’s just not working for me. The narrator is a bit too dull to keep my attention, and the text is too rich to comprehend by partial osmosis. It’s going to require undivided concentration (meaning: no driving at the same time), although I’m certain I’ll miss a lot of things anyway because I am so religion illiterate.

Books To Be Read… From the Cards!

ThePastelCity1Not This August (1945) by C. M. Kornbluth
Remake
(1995) by Connie Willis
The Squares of the City (1965) by John Brunner
Accelerando (2005) by Charles Stross
The End of Eternity (1955) by Isaac Asimov
The Pastel City (1971) by M. John Harrison

Have I ever talked about my first M. John Harrison? No? Good. Let’s not go there. Let’s just say an M. John Harrison space opera novel should never be anyone’s second-ever space opera novel. (Dune was my first– more sand opera than space opera.) Not for the uninitiated. I had no idea about space opera and I certainly had no idea about Harrison. I am much better prepared for it now and would likely get more out of Light today, but I’m more curious about the Viriconium series.

In addition to all those books, I, for some reason, think that an entire week off for Wanksgiving will give me ample opportunity to start my 2015 reading. Have my failed reading ambitions taught me nothing?

But anyway, here’s what you really came for…

Monthly Book Tallies

Total Books Blogged: 4.
Total Books Read: 8, if I cheat a little about the Tiptree book.

Total Books about…

Aliens: 3
Robots/AI: 2
A Whole Lotta Feminism: 4
A Little Bitta Feminism: 3
Gender tone-deafness from a sexually insecure idiot: 1
Mansplainers: 1
Sapient animals/vegetables: 4 Romance subplot that didn’t turn me off: 3 Sort of blaming vegetation for social ills, but metaphorically: 2

Worst book of the month: TANSTAFUCKOFF.
Best book of the month: Bête by Adam Roberts.

Halloweenly Beggar Tallies:

The treats are all gone. I have already been harassed by teenagers for turning off the porch light. I guess Halloween still lives, despite the rattlesandworms.

… And now begins a week of subconscious circadian stress that makes me feel like I’m running late to work every morning.

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37 thoughts on “October 2015 Monthly Reading Review

  1. S. C. Flynn says:

    As ever, very entertaining. Light by.MJH did not work for me

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I had no idea what I was reading at the time and I hardly remember it now. I believe it won the Tiptree Award, so I’ll be looking for those elements next time I read it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah hahahaha. I can’t wait for your awards. I also enjoyed sitting with you while you got trick or treaters, since we didn’t get any. Obviously I suppose (or not? Anyway, no Halloween in Germany, though it is starting to catch on).

    Thanks to you Bete is going to the top of my list for 2016. Yey! Until then I am going to be trying to remain single minded about my goals for 2015. Hahahaha, yeah right. Knowing me that means I will end up reading TOTALLY different things than I goaled or even dreamed of.

    Also can’t wait to hear your thoughts on The Beauty.

    But most importantly, I’m reading Remake this month too! (If I don’t go off all of my goals, that is.) So yey. And I keep looking longingly at Viriconium, even though secretly Im a little afraid of it. But also really excited. So maybe we’ll end up reading that at sorta the same time this month too. WHO KNOWS.

    I don’t really understand the call for more awards either. Mostly because I feel like I can barely keep up with the ones that exist, why make more I will never manage to follow or care about? Of course, while I find awards interesting, I don’t tend to subscribe to finding them important, so maybe that’s the thing. It almost feels like a battle for power at the end of the day. A “Who has been ordained to name the best things best and be taken seriously?” pissing contest. I like the reading lists they generate, sometimes, well, when they are interesting so maybe I should just say rarely, and am addicted to the Hugo drama though, so maybe I’m just full of shit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I always thought Halloween was strictly a USian thing, but lately I’ve seen non-‘Muricans talking about Halloween, so it’s kind of confusing. I mean, not that confusing, because if you’re going to copy a US holiday, Halloween is probably the best one we’ve got.

      You will be getting my thoughts on Bete and The Beauty next week. Working on it right now 🙂

      I’ve started Viriconium already (I just listed The Pastel City, but I think I might just bulldoze through the whole omnibus). I’m still in the early pages, but I think you have nothing to fear. because. I’m. pretty. sure. it. will. feel. very. familiar. to. you.

      Awards are meaningless. But they also contribute to a great deal more income and book deals for the winners and shortlistees. So while my interest in awards lists initially started as way to read only the good books (ha!), it has now evolved into an interrogation of sorts. Some undeserving legacies need to be stricken from the record, while some molding masterpieces need to be republished.

      And yeah, the Hugo drama is alternately repulsive and alluring. I was so good about ignoring it until something-I-can’t-even-remember set me off this summer, lol.

      Like

      • fromcouchtomoon says:

        And Remake! OMG TANDEM READING BUDDY TIME!

        Like

        • WOOOOOOOO. I enjoyed that with Iron Council. Huzzah. Glad to hear about Viriconium, though, yeah, I did have an inkling it might feel familiar thanks to some other weirdos I like to read…

          “Some undeserving legacies need to be stricken from the record, while some molding masterpieces need to be republished.” This could be your blog tagline. Heh.

          Liked by 1 person

      • marzaat says:

        Kind of like being a censor in the Roman Republic — striking the unworthy off the rolls: “I render this book ignominia.” Maybe you can hand out (virtual) certificates to the demoted books.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. PS “The Moon is a Harsh Mansplainer (1965) by Robert Heinlein” AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA

    Liked by 1 person

  4. S. C. Flynn says:

    No Halloween in Ireland, but I lived it through Megan’s post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. thebookgator says:

    I’ve been wondering how you were doing, as I hasn’t seen any posts through my email in awhile. Entertaining review. You made me laugh with your comment about being a litmus test. I have such a hard time reading older SF works because they are so culturally dated for me. I don’t think I’d enjoy most of the works, but I always enjoy your reviews! Loved the asides of the trick-or-treaters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I still post once per week, except I occasionally skip a week and double up the week later. I usually post late on US time, so maybe you’re missing them. I follow so many blogs that sometimes earlier posts get pushed out of my notifications.

      I enjoy the potluck feeling of cracking open a vintage SF novel and never knowing what I’m getting. The element of surprise makes them fun to write about, and they can sometimes be infinitely more engaging than contemporary fiction.

      That said, Bete and The Girl in the Road have kind of ruined me for my regular reads. Having a hard time getting settled into other books lately.

      Like

  6. Here I was thinking it was an awfully quiet month on the couch… but four out of eight reviews, that’s about how many posts I had in both Sept and Oct, and one more than July. Maybe I’m still in Couch-withdraw after dosing on daily Hugo ‘5s and BSFA’s. Your October reviews were all awesome, even if the books weren’t… and I’ll still probably try out some of the hardboiled nincompoops 😛

    I look forward to your awards — I can only imagine how awesome your awards post is going to be! Does Heinlein win lifetime achievement in misogyny? Is Mieville’s award made out of calcified bodily fluids? The suspense is killing me! (No pressure 😉 )

    Luckily, it’s too cold for the sandrattleworms here. Instead, we’re infested by rabid skunks. (I’d almost rather have the rattlesandworms…)

    Also, ZOMG you drew Harrison’s Pastel City! Joachim convinced me to pick it up earlier this year, and I’d penciled it in for late November.

    Like

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Hmm, I didn’t realize I was being so quiet, but this entry did post late this week and I hardly ever do morning posts. I have been quiet online lately though. Just tired of staring at screens all day, so that’s the last thing I want to do when I come home. I suspect you know the feeling…

      I think I’ll double-post over the next two weeks, though, so there’s that.

      … which means, I’m expecting more BTY&C in return 😉

      Actually, contrary to my Couchian ways, I won’t be doing mean and snarky awards (I just don’t have enough calcified bodily fluids sitting around), but it’s an idea I wanted to do this summer, but now seems like a better time. We’ll see what everybody thinks…

      Liked by 1 person

      • fromcouchtomoon says:

        And I’ve started The Pastel City already and I want to just go ahead and read the whole omnibus, but I would’ve held off to read it at the same time as you. As I told Nikki above, I think it will feel very familiar to the three of us and… I’m very, very curious about what you’ll think.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hadn’t seen any updates on Goodreads so it probably looked quieter than it was. And yeah, I completely understand the terrible dull stare of a screen… I’m two reviews behind, but don’t really want to stare at the monitor any more. Stupid daylight savings time doesn’t help.

        I can definitely get behind positive awards; some awesome books never get read because readers don’t see anyone promoting them. Now you’ve got me even more curious about your award categories and winners and such…

        Liked by 1 person

        • fromcouchtomoon says:

          Shit, yeah, Goodreads. I should update that. I think I’m trigger-shy after my Rushdie fail. It was a bad call to think I could fit that in, and I’m usually so good about forecasting my book progess.

          And as for rattlesandworms v. rabid skunks, I’ll take the former, but better yet, I think we’ve stumbled upon Syfy’s next big hit.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I for one am looking forward to your awards. Whoever wins, I bet the post will be hilarious. And no princesses at your door for Halloween? There’s always quite a few of them each year around here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Ah, thanks! I think it will actually be a nice, supportive post, so maybe I’ve gotten everybody’s hopes up for the wrong thing :-/ I do have, er, things to say about matters, so that usually ends up being more funny than serious. (At least, that’s what I tell myself that when people are laughing at me.)

      The first two in tutus may have been princesses of a conglomerated constumed type, but no, no princesses that I can remember. In fact, now that I think about it, I didn’t see a lot of gendered costumes. Cookie monsters, rock stars, and ersatz superheroes for the most part.

      Like

  8. Rabindranauth says:

    Between you and Matt I really need to get around to Adam Roberts. Your awards are gonna be the highlight of this year 😀

    Also, Wanksgiving sounds like a pretty epic masturbation joke. I’m gonna have to remember to use it, bahaha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Yes, you and everybody else needs to get around to Adam Roberts. You have enjoyed his short fiction, though, which is something I need to get around go.

      I have a Mexican husband who’s never heard of Thanksgiving, and a disconnected family that I barely keep in touch with. Thanksgiving is lame for people like me. Wanksgiving is much more interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rabindranauth says:

        Thanksgiving isn’t even a thing in Guyana – our society hasn’t become Westernized, to that extent. Yet. Only a matter of time. People already dressing up for Halloween as if they were to try trick or treating they wouldn’t get shot, and kids these days are talking about ‘summer’ as if we get winter -_-

        Liked by 1 person

        • fromcouchtomoon says:

          Well, as I told Nikki above (or below, hard to tell on this app), if you’re going to adopt a US holiday, Halloween is probably the best one. Sad to see other places adopting Western traditions, though, especially when Halloween and T-Day are already watered-down, co-opted celebrations. The US should have a Cultural Appropriation Day, instead. That’s a real US tradition.

          Like

  9. Jesse says:

    It will be interesting to hear your thoughts on Viriconium. The four books together is an experience unlike any other in genre. Moving from traditional genre to surrealism to something like magic-realism, Harrison proves himself a prose master. I have Light sitting on my shelves and will someday read it. What was your hang up with the novel?

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I’m glad to hear that Viriconium opens up more throughout the later stories. It feels rather traditional so far…

      I can’t remember much about Light; it was so long ago when I read it. I think it was too experimental for me, which wasn’t my thing at the time and besides, I wasn’t familiar enough with the genre to know what he was experimenting with. That’s my theory, at least.

      I mostly remember feeling uncomfortable with it. I think there was this cold sexuality about it that made me think it was sexist. I know now that it won the Tiptree Award, so I think it’s safe to say that I completely misjudged the book. Look at me! I’m a grown up now!

      Like

      • Jesse says:

        Congratulations! 😉 I hope someday to join you!

        Yeah, besides some interplay between hero/anti-hero, The Pastel City is a straight-forward story. What’s interesting to me is that Harrison does it so well. There are mainstream writers who would kill to be able to produce such a polished book. And yet it always feels like he’s just playing in the genre sandbox… A Storm of Wings is when Viriconium really starts to expand. Bu I won’t spoil it further. Enjoy!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Echoing what everyone else is saying about Viriconium, I was reminded of a short essay I wrote at Uni a few years back, so uploaded it with the thought that you might be interested in reading it.

    http://warstub.blogspot.co.nz/2015/11/viriconium-and-lesson-learned.html
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Nice essay! I’m not feeling very vertiginous at the moment, but I’m still in the first book. It’s a nice book, the metal bird is cool, but no sense of awe just yet. I keep confusing his pronouns, too. A sentence describing two men is followed by a sentence about “him” and there have a few times when I’m not sure which “him” he means.
      I’m just along for the ride right now; not feeling very engaged.

      Like

      • Jesse says:

        If literature is not appreciated as art, then the Viriconium books can be a tough swallow. The Pastel City is standard character A talks with B, then event 1 happens, etc, i.e. literature as story. The Viriconium novels and stories after, however, are far less “standard” in their approach, i.e. more artistic (in the graphic sense). Much like Ballard, Harrison uses words to convey an experience and evoke sub-conscious thoughts and feelings through imagery and scene and less character or event. He is also playing with the idea of setting in a world that seems ostensibly fantastical, meaning one must expect the abstract. I would guess this is why you appreciate his use of language at the word level but are less certain on the larger import of those words collected into a “novel”. Like approaching different kinds of art, e.g. comic books vs. impressionism, the reader must adapt their perspective to the material if they want to gain a better appreciation. And if you just don’t like Harrison’s more experimental work, then so be it. Not everybody likes Warhol or Rothko, either. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, Jesse – exactly. But what I found quite interesting was that the last story in the omnibus (Masterworks) collection – A Young Man’s Journey to Viriconium – was the easiest and most enjoyable to read. It was like Harrison had stripped away all the wordplay and just written a story, therefore, it became the story I enjoyed reading the most.

          None of this is good or bad, unless it’s personal taste, but for me the experience alone of reading Viriconium was worth it, not just because of what I got out of it (some song lyrics).

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jesse says:

            Megan, don’t read what I’m about to write as it will spoil Viriconium. 🙂

            The last story may be one of the easiest as it is the connection of Viriconium to the real world – if I remember correctly.

            Anyway, is your song available for listening anywhere? Something inspired by Viriconium is sure to be unique.

            Like

          • RE: Song
            If you contact me via my website/bandcamp by email, I can forward a bedroom recording with the lyrics.

            Like

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