SF/F Reading in April, 2018

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Diziet Sma, Apr 2, 2018.

  1. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Finished The Macht#1 by Paul Kearney, a military novel in its own right but also a fantasy tale due to its setting and low level of magic.
    The Macht#1 is a story inspired by the march of the 1000 Greek warriors crossing the Persian empire. Kearney is a very talented author who knows how to bring the reader into a world of bravery, sacrifice, honour, and despair, avoiding cheap sentimentalism and annoying heroism (both can be recurrent in this military genre.) Kearny's narrative has pace and is brutally powerful. It is a smart, epic adventure recommended to all who enjoy this genre.
    I have already bought Corvus, The Macht#2.

    I'm also about to complete The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle, #2) by U. Le Guin.
    Well, it is Ursula after all, and I do not have much to add. I admire her talent in allowing the reader to glimpse into the characters souls; always hopeful no matter how imperfect and dark they might be.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018
  2. Safari Bob

    Safari Bob Well-Known Member

    I just ordered Bandwidth by Eliot Peper (Amazon First Reads). Here is the description:
    I hope to finish it in the next day or so.
  3. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I'm still on The Dragonbone Chair. Also intermittently re-reading (a couple of pages every few days) The Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster, the original sequel to Star Wars (1977).
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  4. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    I can't put down A Night Without Stars, the sequel to Peter Hamilton's The Abyss Beyond Dreams. This duology is set in the Void that he introduced in his mega-trilogy Void series, generally in the Commonwealth universe that ties all his big books together. Anyway this duology is like sci-fi-horror, very unique and scary and unlike anything in the original Void trilogy. Nigel Sheldon goes back to the Void to try to figure out the Void and gets wrapped up in a new story altogether. The sequel is much more of that and truly scary and Hamilton makes it seems eminently plausible. Big books like he writes all of his books.
  5. Safari Bob

    Safari Bob Well-Known Member

    Whoa! I read "Splinter" a long, long time ago. I may need to re-read that soon.
  6. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I finished it. I sort of skim-/fast-read it. It was wasted potential, but I'm not inclined to blame Foster too much. It feels hastily written, and it was based on early drafts of the script for Star Wars, so the major characters who appear (Luke, Leia and Darth Vader) are at a nascent stage of development. It also feels a little pubescent; Luke and Leia both act like teenagers (Leia, excruciatingly so) and this serves as a stupid plot-device. And Darth Vader is neither as powerful nor as overpowering with his sheer presence as he is in the film. In any case, the book was supposed to be a potential jumping off point for a small-budget sequel if the original film proved unsuccessful. And Lucas supposedly removed some action scenes because it would have been too costly to include them in the potential sequel film.

    Best to read Timothy Zahn's original Thrawn trilogy that kick-started the resurgence of the franchise in the late 80's to early 90's. Better writing compared to Foster's sequel book, better characters (Thrawn and Mara Jade), and better development, especially of Luke. Also, Zahn gets the banter between characters just right. Thrawn was a character that was much too good to have been killed off.

    My favourite SW characters: Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Grand Moff Tarkin, Emperor Palpatine, those black helmeted dudes who fire the Death Star...and then the rest. I like Han Solo, too, but I like him best during his introduction in that hive of scum and villainy.
  7. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    I finished The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle, #2). Le Guin likes to play with opposed concepts blurring their boundaries: Night/light, life/death, male/female. How can you have one without the other?
    The internal psychological landscape carried out by the characters is what, in my opinion, sets this series apart. I wish I had read these books when I was much younger.

    I went straight into Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. I'm loving it so far.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
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  8. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    Turns out I own all of the Long Earth series by Pratchett and Baxter (evidently bought over a few years when individual books have been on offer), so started on book numero 1 this morning. You know that feeling when you know you made the right decision starting a series? Got it with this one!
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  9. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    Saw your review of The Lather of Heaven on Goodreads. It's the one book I recommend to non-SF readers who are curious about the genre. Simple story, complex consequences. In 1980, PBS (in USA Public Broadcasting System) funded an on-the-cheap dramatization that was actually pretty good, but lost for years after it was shown. Sy Fy channel tried again several years ago and it was an epic fail -- the producers missed the point about "simple story". I think the PBS version is available through Amazon now. It's one of the genre's better adaptations.
  10. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Precisely. Le Guin's tremendous talent is disguised under the illusion of simplicity but never simplistic. Her command of the language is highly connotative (not sure whether in this context this adjective makes much sense in English) and prompts the reader into critical thinking.
    I rarely mark passages as I read, but with Le Guin, it has been very much the opposite case. As it happened when I read The Left Hand of Darkness, I have been highlighting and rereading sections in The Lathe of Heaven, while thinking "Ursula, you were so damn clever!"
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  11. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    A couple weeks ago, I was at a SFF writing workshop taught by Nancy Kress. LeGuin was often referred to, particularly for her ability to write scenes that seemed so realistic on the face of it, but conveyed a much denser meaning.
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  12. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    This past week I have been reading a historical novel but as this long weekend approaches (we are enjoying a bank holiday weekend over here:p) I'm looking what to read next.
    Both Babel-17 by S. R. Delany or The Madness Season by C. S. Friedman are very tempting as I haven't read anything by neither of them yet.
    I have Babel-17 recommended by Boreas and C.S Friedman is just an author I want to test and see whether I could enjoy her other books.

    What about you?
  13. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Actually, I didn't really recommend Babel-17, just said that one of the core themes it deals with is linguistics, and you have an interest there. I didn't particularly enjoy it when I read it many years ago. However, I would definitely recommend Celia S. Friedman! I love her space opera novel In Conquest Born, but her two other SF novels, This Alien Shore and The Madness Season are also great. I think ICB is her most old-fashioned but also her most fun, immersive and epic work. She's also written some fantasy (or science-fantasy?) trilogies after that, but I have no idea about those.
  14. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Oops, I'm getting so forgetful! This is worrying...
    However, you are right about my interest in linguistics. I will have a go.
    I believe The Season Madness is a stand-alone, so I will begin with this one.
  15. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Diziet Sma and I had a conversation regarding fantasy on the FB group we're in, and it's a shame that it wasn't in this forum, so I'm just going to copy/paste it here.

    Me: "I'm almost done with The Dragonbone Chair. It's been a long and slow read, but my enjoyment of it has been consistently increasing throughout. It feels strange to be reading old-school epic fantasy again. Haven't read stuff like that in years."

    Diziet: "Will you continue with 'Stone of Farewell' or have you had enough of old-school epic fantasy for the time being?"

    Me: "Pretty sure that I'll actually be continuing. I've decided I want to read the whole trilogy, but not sure yet if I'll read them back-to-back."

    Diziet: "Well, considering each book of the trilogy has on average over 600 pages (actually, 'To Green Angel Tower' over 1000 pages!!!) I don't blame you for breaking it up. I have taken note though of this series. I'm thinking summer holiday..."

    Me (with my verbosity): "I'd rather steer you towards Guy Gavriel Kay for excellently written fantasies set in alternate worlds that are historical analogues of Earth civilisations. Or David Gemmell's various works for great, action-packed heroic fantasy that read very easily and quickly.

    "Kay's novels are about 3/4 history and, say, 1/4 magic, but the magic is usually subtle and behind the scenes. Plus, his protagonists are not warriors and kings, but poets, acrobats, artists, musicians, etc. His writing is wonderfully evocative, and his books are a slow burn, but nevertheless gripping. Few fantasy novels have left me with that 'mind-blown' feeling, and some of Kay's works have done that.

    "Gemmell's writing, on the other hand, is brasher. He's succinct in describing emotions and states of mind but gets them across fully. The protagonists are generally warriors, and while some of them have the 'anti-hero' quality about them, are not nihilist and superficially dark like the current 'grimdark' trend, even though they struggle with the right path. The focus is more on fealty and taking the correct action despite personal consequences. This is sword-and-sorcery and heroic fantasy at its best. In my opinion.

    "While Gemmell's writing and thematic approach is very different from that of Kay's, I'd say it is as good. Kay's works are multi-faceted and you can sit down and slowly digest them and feel very full indeed. Gemmell's works you devour quickly and immediately want more. But his works are strangely hard to overdose from."

    Diziet: "Ah, Gemmel and Gavriel! You have indeed recommended me these two authors before. And I trust your recommendations. For the last couple of years, I have been hardly reading any fantasy, and when I do, is mostly to have a break from SF, which means I pick whatever catches my eye without much planning involved. Ok, I'll read one of the two within the next month."

    Me (now on overdrive, it's like a form of autism): "Gemmell is great for quick breaks between SF reads because they read fast and furious. Luckily, almost all of his books are stand-alones, even those listed under the same 'series' like the Drenai sequence. My absolute personal favourite book by Gemmell is actually the first part of a duology: The Lion of Macedon. It mostly reads like historical fiction and concerns a fantasy version of the Macedonian general Parmenion, who organises and develops Philip II's army. This is not an alternate world analogue, but a proper historical fantasy set just prior to the dawn of the Helenistic period.

    "My other favourite work of Gemmell's is actually a trilogy: the Jon Shannow books, which is a bit of a mix between fantasy, western and post-apocalyptic science fiction, and where Jon Shannow is another fantasy iteration of the Wandering Jew.

    "But, for better or worse, I usually recommend people start with his first novel, Legend. Really fun book. Two main characters, and one of them is a 60+ year old warrior, Druss the Legend. That's the other good thing about Gemmell's books - generally older protagonists. No teen or young adult angst here. If there is angst, it'll be the older, more bloody kind.

    "Kay's books are longer and more subtle. My personal favourites of the ones I've read are: the Sarantine Mosaic duology (Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors), which is set in a Byzantium analogue, and the main character is a mosaicist who's been commissioned to travel from Varena (analogue of the late Roman capital, Ravenna) to Sarantium (Constantinople) to decorate the ceiling of a new religious dome during the reign of someone who's a stand-in for Justinian I;

    "Tigana, which is set in a vaguely mediaeval or Renaissance-styled Italy analogue, where a troupe of gymnasts and acrobats do their thing whilst secretly organising resistance against a foreign wizard-king who has punitively punished their country by erasing the very name and memory of their land from the minds of other people in the peninsula - the struggle is essentially to recover their identity and the very memory of their home;

    "and Under Heaven, which is set in an analogue of China's Tang Dynasty era, where an educated mid-level noble-in-exile is awarded a massive number of pedigree-bred 'European' horses, and the very existence of these horses begins to change the political balance of the reigning dynasty and forces him back from the hinterlands of the empire.

    "All three of these works by Kay are brilliant and almost lyrical. Tigana was the one that metaphorically blew my mind when I was 18 (it's also the most tragic of the three works), but I think the Sarantine Mosaic duology is my personal favourite - it's the one most like a layer of onions, each new layer slowly pulling you deeper into its story and themes, and it reaches an emotional climax that is as intense as that in Tigana. Tigana, though, is rawer, whereas the Sarantine Mosaic is more...deliberate/controlled/sophisticated (?) in its development."
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018
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  16. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Was unsure what to read next with respect to SF. Was leaning towards a re-read of Asimov but I've suddenly decided on more Neal Asher. I need some epic adventure, hyper-kinetic action and amoral aliens. Prador Moon it is, with the first round of conflict between the Polity and the super-intelligent and dangerous Prador.
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  17. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    I'm reading The Madness Season by C. S. Friedman. A very entertaining story, well paced and with a smart plot. I'm enjoying myself.
  18. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    Just finished Night Without Stars by Peter Hamilton, book 2 of the Commonwealth/Faller War duology which begins with The Abyss Beyond Dreams. It's a sequel of sorts to the Void trilogy.
  19. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    Just finished Dust of Dreams, Volume 9 in my Malazan re-read and am 1/4 through The Crippled God. When I first read the series I went, "Phew! That was long and intense." Then Malazan fans said, "Ah, but the re-read is where the gold is." And it is. After this, I'm on to the collected works of Arthur Conan Doyle.
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