Month in Review: February 2016

A month of way-above averages, during which I read a lot, listened a lot, scoped SF shortlists a lot, and worked my ass off a lot, while enjoying those balmy 87 degree February days. This was not a normal month in any sense.



In book reviews, I tried to stick to a pattern of alternating vintage SF with last year’s releases.

From 2015:
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, which somehow straddles the line between generic and innovative.
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald, which anti-Heinleins its way through a bad-people-doing-things tale of intrigue.

On the vintage front:
Solaris (1961) by Stanislaw Lem, a psychologically-introspective, astronomically-extrospective commentary on the hubris of humanity.
Gormenghast series (1946-1959) by Mervyn Peake, a splendid read, possibly SF’s first comedy of manners.
Radio Free Albemuth (1976, 1985) by Philip K. Dick, to continue 12-stepping through The Exegesis.
Missing Man (1975) by Katherine MacLean, a thoroughly entertaining and provocative telepathic procedural.

Amid all that book chatter, I tossed in my uninformed book award opinions of the 2015 Locus Recommended Reading List, the 2015 BSFA award shortlist, and the 2015 Nebula and Kitschies award shortlists. I have committed to reading the BSFA list, and am tempted, very tempted to have a go at the Kitschies Golden Tentacle (newbie) list, even though I don’t have a prayer of a chance of finishing before the awards ceremony next week.

Another thing that has occurred to me since those posts: no Zen Cho Sorcerer to the Crown on any lists yet. Is that a sign of too-much-too-soon prepublication reviewer overenthusiasm or has she gone over mainstream’s head? Must find out.



Ten books. Damn, that’s a lot for me.

I’ll admit many of these are short books, and half of them were audiobooks. I think I’ve finally mastered Audible for finding cheap or free narrations, and now it’s rare that I don’t have something going on in my ears. I’ve gone from hating audiobooks to a compulsive dependence on them and while not many audiobooks are good for driving, most of them are great for cooking—which I do a lot. My mind tends to drift when driving and listening, but man, I’ve got the focus of a brain surgeon when I’m cooking and listening. And it helps to have a big knife in my hand when listening to pathetic drivel. “Fuck you, too, Bob,” CHOP CHOP CHOP.


Remember: I flipped off commercially-driven Valentine’s Day by making this my month of reading up on war and violence:

A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) by Marlon James
A hyperviolent analysis of the Cold War’s influence in Jamaica. A well-deserved 2015 Booker winner.

The Postman (1985) by David Brin
I pictured Kevin Costner the whole time, but I never had a thing for him in the first place, so that didn’t help.

Radio Free Albemuth (1985) by Philip K. Dick
so… when’s VALIS?

The War of the Worlds (1898) by H. G. Wells
I’ve listened to Orson Welles’ dramatization, but never read the actual novel. This book is yet another reason why I really, really like H.G.

Starship Troopers (1959) by Robert A. Heinlein
This book needs to buy the farm.

The Forever War (1974) by Joe Haldeman
A great response to old Heiny.

Old Man’s War (2005) by John Scalzi
Scalzi’s intro to The Forever War says it all: “I don’t really get what I’m supposed to be doing here.” Well, he doesn’t actually say that. I read between the lines.

A Feast for Crows (2005) by George R.R. Martin
Kind of not as mind-numbingly dull as I thought it would be, but man it’s long.

The Thing Itself (2015) by Adam Roberts
Not as rich and deep as the introspective Bête, but it is smart and fun, a tinkering of many thoughts and styles.

The Road (2006) by Cormac McCarthy
It’s mainly an allegory for life and faith, with a reactionary tone that I find common and overindulged in post-apocalyptic literature.

Walk to the End of the World (1974) by Suzy McKee Charnas
I’m halfway through and, so far, it’s a quiet violence. Not what I expected. Ignore the shitty cover.

Red Light: First Light (2015, 2013 indie) by Linda Nagata
Still reading. The perfect choice to round out my Military SF cram session. Wow. Hard to put down.

I’d say I’m officially caught up enough on all things SF war and oppression canon. Moving on.


To Read


The Handmaid’s Tale (1986) by Margaret Atwood- Okay, not moving on. A late addition to February’s list of violence. I don’t think I can adequately assess the value of Charnas’ Walk to the End of the World without reading this more popular successor. I’ve avoided this book for too long. I’m a grown up now. I can read things that are deemed “horrifying.” (See how I read The Road up there?)

VALIS (1981) by Philip K. Dick- as I move on to the third step of the 12-step process of the PKD Exegesis Support Group.

The Hugo/Nebula ‘6 mix:
The Stochastic Man (1975) by Robert Silverberg- yesss more Silverberg
Blood Music
(1985) by Greg Bear
The Heritage of Hasture (1975) by Marion Zimmer Bradley- between MZB and Bill Cosby… some my early influences have turned out to be major disappointments.
Ender’s Game (1985) by Orson Scott Card
Doorways in the Sand (1975) by Roger Zelazny– moving this to April to coincide with serendipitous reading group plans!
The Terminal Experiment (1995) by Robert Sawyer

The rest of the BSFA 2015s:
Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett
Glorious Angels by Justina Robson
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

And maybe, just maybe (probably) (some)… The 2015 Golden Tentacle Kitschies:
The Shore by Sarah Taylor
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett- Did you see his article in The Guardian?
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
The Night Clock by Paul Meloy
Making Wolf by Tade Thompson

That’s 15 books. I have some time off this month, but I’m being extra ambitious. 15 books is never gonna happen.


Monthly Book Tallies:

Books read: 10
Books blogged: 8

Books about Aliens: 6
Books about Robots/AI: 2
Books about Dystopia: 6
Books about Ghosts: 1
Books from the Military SF Canon: 5
Books about violence: 10
Books that were never meant to be published in this condition: 1
Books about war that refuse to confront the concept of death: 1
Books that dissect Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason through a variety of SF and literary pastiches and in a range of latitudinal settings but never directly state that the title is not just a Kant quote, but also a direct quote from War of the Worlds because you have to go stumble upon that yourself: 1


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25 thoughts on “Month in Review: February 2016

  1. antyphayes says:

    i’m assuming the thing itself is the kant quoting dissector. i really need to read some adam roberts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • S. C. Flynn says:

      Yes, that’s the one

      Liked by 1 person

    • Adam Roberts is one of my favorite authors, but nothing compares to Bête. That book is really special. TTI lacks the plenitude and depth of character of Bête, but he’s mimicking a lot of SF and avant garde styles in TTI, so he has no room to achieve the kind of intimacy and (un)realism I loved in Bête. I suspect a lot of his work is a bit hammy- TTI feels that way– but Bête avoids that. Jack Glass is also very cool, but has that performance element, too.


  2. thebookgator says:

    Well, ambitious is good, but 15 books with blogging, a lot 🙂 Glad you were willing to postpone Zelazny. And you sound like you are on to something with Audible and cooking–I may have to give that a try. Although I’ll probably cut myself due to divided attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I won’t be blogging them all. I never do. I cam barely make two posts per week. And I’ll be combining quite a few into themed posts.

      Oddly enough, I think I have fewer knife accidents with a book in my ears. It puts me in ‘the zone’ but I can still hear boiling water and sizzling oil.

      Looking forward to Zelazny!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tomcat says:

    Bah, I read a measly 7 books in February. But my excuse is that Feb is shorter than other months…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • And February is also one of my busiest months–less days to fit in everything– but my reading tends to go up when life gets hectic. It’s strange.


      • Tomcat says:

        Ah, I’m the opposite; my reading grinds to a halt when I’m busy (I guess the fact that I read so much, then, speaks to how uneventful my life is). My sister visited for a few days last week, and I didn’t read anyfink.

        Also, 2 of the 7 books I read in Feb were tiiiiny 130page things, so really I can probably only claim to have read, like, 5.5 books or something?

        (one of them was the new Mieville ‘This Census-Taker’ which is really good)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Anton says:

    I use my library quite a bit for audiobooks, mostly nonfiction for some reason.
    Good month, mine was kind of lackluster for various work and personal reasons. I’m so behind on the Exegesis thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nonfiction hasn’t really worked for me in audio format, unless it’s someone polemical, like Ta-Nehisi Coates.

      I’m glad you mentioned the library, because mine is pretty slow at acquiring new tech (that’s not for kids) but I do check their website every once in a while, just to see if they’ve gotten anything I’m interested in. Looks like they finally got a digital audio subscription service. I’ll have to try it. (Although I’m disgusted with them right now because they held an ivory exhibit last month… wtf.)


  5. vivjm says:

    Audible and cooking is a perfect combination for me too, though I sometimes have to pause if I’m reading the instructions to a particularly complex recipe. I’ve not had any knife related accidents with it yet anyhow 🙂
    I’ve just read “Walk to the End of the World” and actually found that more terrifying that “A Handmaids Tale” though I’m not sure why. I’d say the quiet violence becomes less quiet…

    Liked by 1 person

    • What I’m finding between the two books is how they both depict such rapid, yet believable social change. I’m still in the early stages of Handmaid’s Tale, but Walk to the End of the World has set a tone in my mind that still haunts me. You’re right: that quiet violence is not so quiet. It’s perpetual.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. S. C. Flynn says:

    Handmaid got five stars from me – go for it


  7. Reading “A Handmaid’s Tale” is going where the most maverick readers fear to tread!It’s like sailing through shingle!

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Sailing through shingle” Lol, now you are going to have to translate that for me. What on earth do you mean?


      • Well,imagine trying to row your boat immersed deep in a shingly beach!That’s a strange metaphor,but I was trying to express how turgid I thought it was.Really,I’d say it was like a post medieval,unexciting version of “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.

        I’m just warning you before you plunge in.I don’t know,maybe you’ll like it though.There’s varying opinions about several books,but if you want some non-generic novels of speculative fiction by female authors,I’d recommend “Ice” by Anna Kavan,and “Heroes and Villains” and “The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr Hoofman” by Angela Carter,if you haven’t read them already.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ah, I live in the desert, so I guess that’s why I’ve never heard ‘shingle’ used that way before. I’m not getting that feeling from reading Atwood. It just feels like a mainstream way of making an argument. Very clear and handholdy, but it’s an argument I like, so I’m happy to see it presented in any firm. But I’m not done yet.

          I know all about Kavan from Joachim, so I will be reading her, and Angela Carter is writer I’ve read a bunch of literary criticism about and none of her stories. That will change soon!


          • Yes well,it seemed rather dull and under visualized.It’s rather forgettable.Still,we seem to like different books.

            I tried to get hold of “Ice” in the early nineties,so when Joachim mentioned it in a post about books not published in Gollancz classics series,I had to read it.I’ve read Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber”,but don’t like it as much as the two novels I mentioned.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. The Red: First Light is incredible. I don’t know how far you’ve gotten, but if you find it hard to put down now, wait til you get to the climax and ending. Loved it.


  9. marzaat says:

    I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award – one of those blogging publicity awards as per


  10. Best one line dismissal of Cormac McCarthy ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh yes. You must read this parody of McCarthy’s writing, done as a review of Taco Bell:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol-dying! Love it. “Of regret. For the taco.”

      I really did enjoy it, but I am bothered by the postapoc other-people-are-evil trend. I get TR is all allegory, but still.

      Just reading those Taco Bell reviews reminded me how much I enjoyed his cadence, though. And I did have tears streaming down my face at the end, stupid book.

      But you love Cormac McCarthy, so I’m surprised you appreciated that dismissal. Blood Meridian has been recommended for my next McCarthy.

      Oh! And I’m reading Dark Eden right now since Mother of Eden was nomd for a BSFA. Will be revisiting your review soon.


      • I love Cormac McCarthy, but I’m aware of his…let’s call it “excesses.” And you and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, but I usually appreciate your perspective. (Besides, I find the quality flagging in his more recent work.) Blood Meridian is peak-McCarthy. So expect some truly twisty sentences.
        I enjoyed Dark Eden, but I thought the conceit might wear thin in subsequent books. Perhaps not. Looking forward to hearing what you thought of it.

        Liked by 1 person

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