Month in Review: April 2016


Book Award News

I doubt it means anything that the sky suddenly opened up and hailed for five minutes right after I saw the Hugo shortlists, but that’s what happened. 4000 votes seems less like redoubled dog efforts and more like a galvanized voting community with little ballot overlap and little interest in the anything but the novel category. I just like to see my own nominees on the voting stats list in August… at the very bottom of the list probably… but still.

I haven’t had much time to read up on reactions, etc., so I may need someone to explain to me the gay porn guy on the ballot. Which is all I’m really interested in anyway. Is this is a good thing or a dog thing?

On a more interesting note, the 2016 Clarke Award shortlist was also announced. Critical expectations always seem greater than what the Clarkes end up delivering, so again, I find myself glancing back at The Kitschies and BSFA lists with more fondness. Still, I was already curious about some of these Clarke shortlisted novels, so it seems a good enough excuse to read the list.


Books Blogged

My blogging is finally catching up to my reading, meaning I’m back to posting one review per week, with the exception of a few upcoming and occasional mad scrambles. One weekly review is fun; any more than that is a total drag.

…which explains my PKD BINGO posts. In April, I blogged and BINGOed about VALIS (1981), the most self-aware novel I’ve read by PKD so far. Dick’s signature lack of self-awareness is his greatest weakness in his writing– all those unexamined character behaviors (arrogance, self-heroism, sexism, blue-collar fallacies) undermine his underdog approach. I never buy his “poor, oppressed rebel-man schtick.” VALIS was a refreshing change because he pokes fun at himself and the therapy scenes go deeper than I expected.

I followed VALIS with a review of The Thing Itself (2015) by Adam Roberts, which is daunting and gorgeous and progressive, while true to the spirit of classic SF. Yes, it is ridiculous it didn’t make the Clarke shortlist.

Then I did a compilation post about my first forays into Military SF, and I got a little flack from outside sources for covering the same big names. As a perpetual blog-skimmer, I’m the last to criticize folks for not reading every single word, however, I thought my introduction sufficiently explained the purpose of the post, which was definitely not intended as a “Best of” promotional list. One of the purposes of this blog (as it has evolved) is to examine and take down the SF canon, particularly the shitty Hugos. I should probably post that somewhere, but no one would read it anyway.

Anyway, The Forever War can stay.

I ended the month on a high note with Walk to the End of the World (1974) by Suzy McKee Charnas. It’s easy to get bogged down in the tedium of intricate character relations of science-fantasy novels, but Charnas pulls a big narrative twist toward the end that reframes the entire novel as something more powerful than it first seems. Also, the atmosphere-building is incredibly dense, yet surprising in its simplicity.


Books Read

This month was busy and my mind was elsewhere. My audio selections Just. Did. Not. Work., which meant most of my reading was relegated to my limited sit-down-and-focus time. This resulted in much book rotation, just to break up some really dull reads. That said, I read exactly what I said I would read, although I didn’t actually complete the entire list until May 1st. I’m counting it this time.


Books completed:

The Stochastic Man (1975) by Robert Silverberg
Loved, as expected.

Doorways in the Sand (1975) by Roger Zelazny
LOVED, even better than …And Call Me Conrad.

Ender’s Game (1985) by Orson Scott Card
Eh, you know, begrudgingly good read.

Blood Music (1985) by Greg Bear
SF Masterwork, my ass.               

The Heritage of Hastur (1975) by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Points for complex LGBTQ themes. That’s about it, but that’s a pretty big deal for 1975.

The Divine Invasion (1981) by Philip K. Dick
And I thought I was the one drifting…


Books To Be Read

Learning the World (2005) by Ken McLeod
A new author to me. Also, I’m failing at the “Guess the plot/theme/metaphor from the title” Game. 

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982) by Philip K. Dick
VALIS #3. Save me from Dick trying to save himself.

Footfall (1985) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
This will be the one that finally wins me over to Niven and Pournelle. I’m sure of it.

The Computer Connection (1975) by Alfred Bester

The Exile Waiting (1975) by Vonda N. McIntyre
Kate’s review is intriguing.

Plus, I’m still eyeing that tantalizing Kitchies Golden Tentacle list from earlier this year, and that freshly-minted Clarke list is begging for a perusal. Maybe this will be the month I find time for some newer releases.

April 2016 Book Tallies

Books blogged: 7

Books read: 6
Books about aliens: 3
Books about AI: 2
Books about telepathy: 2
Books about post-apocalypse: 0
Books about pre-apocalypse, sort of: 2
Books about artificially-intelligent superbugs that will infect us all and then transform us, thereby saving the planet from humanity: 1
Books that have me this close to saying, “fuck it, I need to read The Bible first”: 1
Books that kind of make it difficult to not see signals of then-future, now-past sexual abuse controversies, but maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I’m not: 1

Best prose: Doorways in the Sand
Best doze: Heritage of Hastur

19 thoughts on “Month in Review: April 2016

  1. Rabindranauth says:

    Blog skimmers always sell themselves out. Like asking your opinion on something when over the course of said blog they’re commenting on you did exactly that. That happens more often than I’d like to think, over on my blog at least.

    Incidentally, will be interesting to see what you think about MacLeod – I picked Learning the World up like 2 or 3 months ago and haven’t even glanced back at it since.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Warstub says:

    I loved The Divine Invasion – Timothy Archer is the one I haven’t got around to reading, I think. I may have, but I can’t remember, whereas Divine Invasion was a book that really fascinated me, but then Christianity itself I find quite fascinating and having Dick introduce me to Gnosticsm really turned that interest right up.

    “A begrudgingly good read” HAHA! I’d be really interested in having you read the sequel Speaker for the Dead to see how you compare them, as they are very different tales. I really felt like Card was very much in touch with his characters and stories back then rather than just proselytizing his beliefs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just feel like I need more biblical perspective to better appreciate this novel. I’m sure it’s still a mess, even if I had biblical understanding, but at least I would get his allusions and naming choices, etc. There are parts a really did appreciate though.

      On to Timothy Archer!


  3. Jesse says:

    How the hell did Ken Macleod’s Learning the World end up on your list? It’s one of his ‘let’s see what I can do with this common sf trope.’ In this case, first contact. It’s not an actively bad novel, but neither will it knock your socks off. It’s just comfort material. But perhaps you will find layers I missed?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was wondering the same thing when Learning the World ended up on your blog recently! I didn’t read your review yet, just to avoid prejudgment. Was hoping for a pleasant surprise… never would’ve guessed it’s about first contact. This isn’t another Spin, is it?


      • Jesse says:

        No, it’s not another Spin, or Contact, with narrative impetus depending on the unraveling of the mystery of the aliens. Macleod takes a different tack, which you can discover for yourself. Still, Macleod’s Intrusion (with its Nineteen Eighty-four meets birth control rights) may be something you enjoy more…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. thebookgator says:

    I can’t figure out the porn nom either. Scalzi did a post about it, which usually thoroughly explains these things, but I didn’t want to be a blog-skimmer (and honestly–the Rad Scuppies are boring me) so I didn’t read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve read a few posts about the porn guy and I still don’t get it! Like I’m missing out on some inside joke!

      I don’t blame you for not reading the Scalzi post– he always makes it seem overblown and all about him. And yes, the whole controversy is boring. I’m over it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thebookgator says:

        Right? Honestly, as I’ve seen from your classic reads, for me Hugos aren’t a mark of quality, just popularity among options that year. The current debacle confirms it.


  5. I am a bit angry with the Hugos right now. I thought that because of the numbers of ballots, we wouldn’t have a repeat of last year but it looked like people (that aren’t SP or RP) just voted for the Best Novel category… I do think that the novel shortlist is pretty solid (except for Uprooted which is for me an extremely overated cheesy YA fantasy..). I have not read Butcher’s book or Ancillary Mercy though so I don’t know for those ones.
    The short stories and the related works categories were just, ugh. They were so many great short stories published last year and *this* is what is nominated?

    The Arthur C. Clarke shortlist is really interesting, I only read Hutchinson’s book but I was interested in Arcadia, Children of Time, The Long way to a Small Angry Planet and The Book of Phoenyx for a long time now. I never heard of the last one, Way Down Dark but since Hodderscape did a nice offer for their nominated works this weekend on Kindle. I bought all three and I hope to read the entire shortlist!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Hugos are disappointing, but I’ve learned to not expect much from them, even if the dogs aren’t involved. This year’s list is big-time UGLY, though.

      I just discovered Way Down Dark isn’t released in the US yet, so I had to order from The Book Depository. I somehow found myself committed to reading the Clarke list, too, so it’ll be interesting to compare notes.


  6. If you could just reduce your posts to three or four main bullet points, I wouldn’t have to skim, k thx.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I thought that “Valis” was too self concious.The examination of the self was too clinical it seemed.I preferred his stuff that was more spontaneous and arbitary.You’ll find far less of this serious treatment in “The Divine Invasion”,not to mention “The Transmigration of Timothy Archer”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will say Divine Invasion had more positive moments that I’ll talk up in my BINGO review. I feel like I’m missing a lot because of my lack of biblical knowledge, though.


      • DV was supposed to be a subjective sequel to “Valis”,which was based on his personal experiences,not biblical learning.He was more interested in the Gnostic concept of duality,and both his 1960s and 70s visions and the books they inspired,seem to be projections of this.

        Are you really sure it’s biblical knowledge you’re lacking?The trouble is,although DV can be said to be more fun than “Valis”it is laden with obvious theological thought that is probably tempting to take seriously.


  8. Karin says:

    I’ve found the Kitchies to be an intriguing award as well (that and the PKD award always piques my interest). Since this whole problem with the puppies, I’ve looked more to awards that are decided by a panel. After all, I don’t care what anyone on the internet votes about in regards to any other topic (I take that back, I just voted for Miss Congeniality for this season’s Drag Race and I mildly care that my pick wins), why should I care what the internet votes on for “best book”, etc?

    Also lol@Blood Music. That book took a hard left turn and then a hard zorth turn and I was left underwhelmed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Drag Race vs. Hugos/Locus: I know which one sounds more interesting to me.

      I definitely want to read the Kitschies Golden list before the end of the year. Lots of neat and unusual stuff on there.

      I just don’t have patience for stuff like Blood Music. It’s just A to B to C storytelling, with some bioscience jargon to pretend authority.


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