Footfall (1985) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Footfall1I originally had all these great ideas for making fun of reviewing my latest Niven-Pournelle Hugo-nominated disaster read, the main one being that I was going to list every single character intro in this 100-and-some-odd number cast, a la Ross Putman @femscriptintros, just to demonstrate how ridiculous and sexist these guys are at character descriptions.

Example:

She was about Jeanette’s age, and she would have been pretty if she’d washed her face and put on some lipstick. She was frowning heavily as she drank coffee. (loc. 415).

It would’ve made for a long post, as some of those character descriptions get, er, lingering, but I was up for it.

But then, BUT THEN, I discovered this: Continue reading

Looking for a good book to read? Here are my next reads for October

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Since taking on this blog, I’ve managed to complete about one book per week, so I thought it would be a good idea to plot out my books for the month, in case someone wants to read along. Besides that, I thought it would be considerably easier to have them all ready to go on my Kindle, rather than finish a book and think, “Oh, crap, what am I going to read next?” and then shuffle through the Hugo list and curse the lack of availability of vintage sci-fi downloads.

So, these are the books I plan to read this month, and the order in which I expect to read them:

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin- Vintage sci-fi, Hugo Award winner (1975). Already reading it and I am in love with Le Guin’s prose. Jo Walton’s Among Others inspired me to give Le Guin a shot because she was the favorite author of the lead character. Her writing is beautiful and philosophical. It’s about an alien physicist who visits the planet from which his people emigrated thousands of years prior. His world is anarchical, whereas the world he visits is much like Earth, with a variety of social and economic systems. His reaction to these money- and law-based systems is enlightening.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemison- I’m excited to read this 2011 Hugo nominee that lost to Connie Willis’ Blackout/All ClearI know little about it, but it seems to be about gods that walk around on earth, and are used and manipulated by the people. It seems like it might be a combination of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (read but not reviewed) and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest- This 2010 Hugo nominee lost to both China Mieville’s The City & The City and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. While I enjoyed The City, but strongly disliked The Windup Girl, I have been curious to try this novel, which appears to be a steampunk Civil War novel with zombies.

Neuromancer by William Gibson- It’s been a while since I’ve read some real hard sci-fi, and this 1985 Hugo winner seems perfect. It popularized the cyberpunk craze that drove a lot of nineties sci-fi.

Rendevous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke- In the past few months, I’ve read Asimov and Heinlein, so I better round out my vintage sci-fi reads by adding the final author of “The Big Three.” This space exploration novel won the 1974 Hugo Award and is considered one of his finest works.

I’m excited! New month, new season, and a new “stack” of books to explore.

 

The Ocean at the End of Lane by Neil Gaiman

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane is cute and quirky, like most recent Gaiman stories. At first, I thought it was going to be similar to John Crowley’s Little, Big because it has that “eccentric people who are probably fairies” vibe, but it has its own personality and introduced me to a new Gaiman mythology that includes rotted fabric monsters and magical water. It is a good, enjoyable story, although I would hardly call it a novel. It’s quite short.

Synopsis

Written from first-person perspective, the narrator visits his childhood home and shares a suddenly lucid memory of a neighborhood girl, Lettie, her eccentric family, and an adventure in her backyard that results in his parents hiring an evil nanny who threatens to ruin the narrator’s life. Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother teach the narrator how to overcome the evil nanny and correct the problems she has caused.

Like most of Gaiman’s recent work, The Ocean at the End of the Lane has a very childlike feel.  With the exception of a slightly racy scene and adult point-of-view, it might have been a children’s novel. I was disappointed that it was another departure from his earlier, darker works like The Sandman series and American Gods.  In fact, cute and childlike are becoming the norm for him. I would certainly like another gritty, peculiar novel like Anansi Boys or Neverwhere to sink my teeth into.  He blends dark and innocent so well, it’s no wonder his children’s books are successful– but I don’t want to read kids books.

But the beauty of this story is the way Gaiman explores a childhood memory through the mind of an adult, who has long since grown up and forgotten most of his childhood. Only a familiar place (the ocean at the end of the lane) has the magic to restore his memory of a particularly fantastic and frightening event. It’s lovely the way Gaiman can tap into the worldview of a little boy.  It feels like it’s a story about him; as if we are reminiscing with Gaiman about something that actually happened to him. (And if it did actually happen, I want to see this ocean-pond.) It’s a worthwhile read, but it did not satisfy my craving for a real, meaty Gaiman novel. The realist in me suspects that we will not see another American Gods-type novel from him as long as he is happy and in love. Ain’t that the way it goes?

Anyway, because I spent all summer reading contemporary sci-fi, I’m going vintage for my next read. The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, the first in his Robot series. I’m in the mood for galactic colonization and robots with positronic brains.