I got kind of busy this weekend and never had a chance to link my most recent book review, which was actually posted last week at the Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations blog, one of my favorite SF blogs. This review is part of a series of guest posts to promote the work of Michael Bishop, an SF author who has attracted critical acclaim throughout his career, but is not as well known as other SF authors. It’s an admirable effort by Joachim Boaz, the guy behind SF&OSR (who does not actually live in a city under the sea), and a reasonable pursuit considering that Bishop’s novel is one of the best I’ve read so far this year, and one of the best SF novels I’ve read from the (*cough* dreadful *cough*) eighties.
I reviewed Bishop’s 1982 Nebula Award winning novel, No Enemy But Time, which also appears on David Pringle’s Top 100 Best Science Fiction Novels. If you have a taste for time travel, prehistory, and trope trampling, you should give this a whirl. I will definitely be adding more Bishop to my TBR list.
And the 2014 noms are… [with my initial thoughts in brackets.]
Best Novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit) [surprise, surprise. Here’s a link to my review.] Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross (Ace/Orbit UK) [Maybe he gets better, I tell myself.] Parasite by Mira Grant (Orbit) [Will her fans back off if she finally wins one?] Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia (Baen Books) [No.] The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor) [No. I read the first threeand you can’t make me read more.]
[Overall opinion: Very disappointed. Was hoping to have an excuse to read Christopher Priest’s The Adjacent and Gareth L. Powell’s Ack Ack Macaque.]Continue reading →
When I opened Virtual Light and, within the first five pages, read references to no less than five types of guns and two non-fatal weapons, I groaned. Will this be another Neuromancer? Heavy on weaponry and jargon, light on character development, circuitous on plot, but brimming with a striking narrative style that leaves me conflicted and incapable of rendering an articulate opinion?
Fortunately, Gibson improved in the decade after his seminal piece.
In Virtual Light, Gibson keeps his flair for flowy prose, but adds depth to his characters, reigns in the plot, and tones down the jargony pretense I remember from Neuromancer.Virtual Light is an apt name, as there is little of anything “virtual” or “cyber” going on here. It’s a straightforward tale of two underdogs whose paths cross in near-future California during a crime investigation. The near-future is near enough to be recognizable, so Gibson’s trademarked style of withholding information until it’s absolutely necessary does not hinder the reader’s ability to imagine the setting. Continue reading →
This 2003 nuclear-steampunk space opera is crammed full of SF tropes and wink-and-nudge political satire. And in case you aren’t intelligent enough to sniff out the satire, Stross will bruise your ribs from his incessant elbowing of belabored musings and contrived character debates.
In the future, a mysterious force called the Eschaton has punished Earth for violating time-travel causality laws and relocates most of humanity to colonies throughout the galaxy. By the 23rd century, most of humanity has been rediscovered and efforts are made to reestablish relations. On neo-Victorian Rochard’s World, ruled by a technophobic regime, another mysterious presence called the Festival rains cell phones down from space, promising anything in exchange for entertainment. The reactionary government of Rochard’s World pursues war with the Festival, while the disenfranchised citizens demand revolution. At the same time, the mysterious employer of Martin Springfield, an engineer from Old Earth, plants him as a mole within the New Republic navy, and UN diplomat Rachel Mansour is sent to spy on the New Republic war tactics in order to prevent causality violations that might further upset the Eschaton. Martin and Rachel spend their time on the ship playing double-agent on board, playing doctor with each other, and then agonizing about getting caught. Continue reading →
Clement’s acclaimed 1953 novel Mission of Gravity reminds me of a song we used to sing in my Girl Scouts Brownie troupe: Goin on a squeegie hunt… Oh, no, it’s a tall tree! Can’t go over it… can’t go under it… have to go through it… (Repeat the verse with a new obstacle… and it goes on and on and on. I dropped out soon after. The song may or may not have had something to do with it.) And thus it’s the same for our missioneers, human and alien alike, who encounter new obstacles in each chapter, but overcome those obstacles with sensible, pragmatic solutions, talking out every detail in a calm, relaxed manner that may be just a wee bit boring to witness. Reading this book is like eavesdropping on a housing development planning committee, with the engineer and the architect doing most of the talking. I would totally go on an adventure with these people because I know I would be safe, but I don’t think anyone would want to read about it afterward. Continue reading →
We choose our friends, not our family… but what of our neighbors? Those non-blood non-friends with whom we share geography and often nothing more, who force awkward small talk at the mailbox, whose kids’ bike tires streak the driveway, who happen to be there when the ambulance arrives. We hold them in an arms-length intimacy– ‘I hate cleaning after your messy pine tree, but I might need you if I sprain my ankle on my jog.’ (But how many ugly pickups do you really need?)
The Dervish House is a story about neighbors: a small, diverse Istanbul community, which populates an aging, neglected plaza that once housed an order of dervishes. Its inhabitants are as varied and complex as the city itself, where a cataclysm of worlds, cultures, and ideas collide and spill over the Bosphorus strait. At Adem Dede, the dervish house, rival tea houses stare each other down, old Greek immigrants gossip and argue, an art dealer prowls for religious artifacts, a pothead hides from his family, and a precocious nine-year-old with a heart condition explores the world through his bitbots (the coolest toy ever!). Continue reading →
The man best known for giving us tribble troubles also gave us this fun but disquieting 1973 Hugo-nominated story about the technicalities and repercussions of time travel. In the space of 100 pages, The Man Who Folded Himself explores every nuance and angle of time travel, both amusing and troubling at times. I imagine Gerrold had to sit on the cover just to get the pages to close from all that he stuffed in, but the moment it’s unlatched– WHOOSH! Springy snakes everywhere.
It’s like no other time travel novel you’ve read– the ultimate Pandora’s box of time travel fiction. And it just may make you reevaluate that childhood wish for a time machine. Continue reading →
Nexus by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot) God’s War by Kameron Hurley (Del Rey) The Machine by James Smythe (Blue Door) Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie (Orbit) The Disestablishment of Paradise by Phillip Mann (Gollancz) The Adjacent by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)
To my continued bafflement, it seems like every SF recommendation list and message board suggests Arthur Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama as a highly enjoyable and critical must read. My experience with that novel was less than satisfactory, so I thought I might have hit an overall author dud in terms of taste. But its twenty-year predecessor, Childhood’s End, has always looked like something I would like to read, and the experience was far more entertaining than I expected. I’m surprised Rama gets more online discussion.
Thirty years after the end of WWII, alien ships fill the skies of the world’s biggest cities. The aliens will not reveal themselves, but lead Overlord Karellen communicates his expectations through one perplexed bureaucrat, Rikki Stormgren. Over the next eighty years, the world changes due to the Overlords’ indirect peaceful, yet intrusive rule, but their interest in Earth’s affairs remains a mystery. Continue reading →