SF/F Reading in February 2017

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Boreas, Feb 1, 2017.

  1. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Still on Asher's The Voyage of Sable Keech. It's really picked up with a couple of unforeseen events that have me rubbing my metaphorical hands together. And I'm also doing a re-read of Scalzi's Old Man's War. This second read is making his clumsy writing even more obvious than the first time, but he does have those occasional and brief moments of poignancy that rise above the otherwise mediocre exposition, the first of which I've just gotten through. I hope his next instalment in the series will have more fluid prose and less clunky, info-dump laden dialogue.
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  2. Royce Sears

    Royce Sears Well-Known Member

    Currently reading Dark Eden, thanks to some recommendations here, and really enjoying it!
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  3. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    I think this'll be my next SF read thanks to Jo's recommendations, and now yours! :)
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  4. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    Started Age of Iron by Angus Watson this morning. Absolutely loving it so far, it's right up my street. It's set in iron age Britain during the failed Roman invasion of 55bc. It has an Abercrombie vibe to it which is great, and I just know at 10% in that I'm going to really like this series.
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  5. Royce Sears

    Royce Sears Well-Known Member

    I'd really like to thank Jo for the Dark Eden Recommendation! LOVED the book and highly recommend it! Full Review Here.
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  6. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    Really enjoying The Lives of Tao. I think it's sci-fi.

    Oh, in case you missed it, The Mechanical is on sale again for $2.99 today as a US Daily Deal. This book/series is great.
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  7. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Finished the reread of Scalzi's Old Man's War and am halfway done with Asher's The voyage of Sable Keech. My opinion of OMW stands: a so-so book for the first two thirds, but coming more into its own during the final third where it begins to reach some actual thematic and emotional resonance.
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  8. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    After finishing my last SF book, I have been reading some Noir novels for the last couple of weeks. Yesterday, I begun to read The Blade Itself (The First Law) by Abercrombie.
    Following recommendations, I was close to choosing The Wheel of Time instead, but given I don’t have much spare time to read, and considering the huge scope of this long series as well as the more demanding nature of it, I decided to pick Abercrombie instead. So far so good! A very easy, catchy, enjoyable read. I haven’t read Epic Fantasy (or is it Grimdark?, who cares!) for a long time. So it feels refreshing the change in structure, pace, theme and plot.
    The Blade Itself also has very likeable villains/antiheroes, not the baddest so far for my liking, but nevertheless very enjoyable.

    Now, my plan is to weave in The Expanse books with The First Law series. I shall see whether I stick to it or not...
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2017
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  9. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    I'm very nearly finished with Uprooted, and it's a disappointing trope ridden boring pile of garbage. How this comes so highly recommended is beyond me. It started off nicely, with an almost fairy tale kind of feeling, but it's turned into a combination of countless other fantasy books, with the focus turning from what made the beginning part of the book quite charming, to your stereotypical battle of good against bad (with swords and battles and magic).
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  10. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    I love JA's style of writing, and really liked most of the First Law books (the standalones Best Served Cold and Red Country in particular). I think you've chosen two really good series to flit between .. they're two of my fave's :)
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  11. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I feel better now. From the moment I heard of this book, it sounded boring and cliché ridden to me. I was wondering how it won the 2015 Nebula. I've usually had a little more respect for Nebula nominees over the Hugo ones in years past...
  12. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Better The First Law than The Wheel of Time (which, frankly, you should stay away from...they are absolute slogs to get through after the third or so instalment, and have some seriously, seriously annoyingly infantile characters). I think they're fairly popular over at BFB and I know @TomTB loves them, to which I just shake my head and tsk tsk. But then he loves The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, too, and I also think they're excellent. This is a paradox that makes my head hurt. Shai Halud, it's hurting right now. *Reaches for spice*
  13. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    I love these moments! @Boreas , you know I really trust your literary taste but you just confused the hell out of me.
    All I have been hearing over and over BFF, including as you said our @TomTB, is The Wheel of Time is tantamount to a fantastic classic one must eventually read, despite the slog sections/books somewhere in the series.
    Now, what should I do…? Does it make any sense reading the first 3/4 books and drop it once the long slog begins...?
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  14. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Personally, I think you should stay clear of the entire series. The thing is, if you were a teenager and a newbie in fantasy and picked up The Wheel of Time, I could understand the nostalgic warmth you could feel for it. But if you're not, and you've have read quality fantasy like Tolkien and especially Holdstock, then there just doesn't seem any point. Jordan was just another in a long line of Tolkien clones, one who was successful commercially, but that's pretty much the only metric I can think of where his books are actually successful. Sort of like Paolini's Inheritence Cycle - they were commercially very successful, but they offer the lowest common denominator in fantasy fiction you can find. Now, Jordan is better than Paolini, but remember Sturgeon's Revelation: 90% of anything is crap. I don't mean to insult anyone who loves The Wheel of Time, but even that remaining 10% still means that there's a huge amount of quality fantasy fiction available, and you'll probably never be able to read it all.

    You're reading The First Law trilogy, which is enjoyable, and it falls in that fuzzy border where the 90% and 10% overlap, and closer to the 10% side. So, why bother with a generic, Tolkien clone which is inferior in its prose and character depictions. The one area where The Wheel of Time excels is in its world-building, but that isn't enough to make a worthwhile narrative. Plus, these books are massive! And 14 of them, the last few written by another writer who supposedly brought the series to a good and satisfying conclusion. But are 11 or 12 doorstopper sized books, of which at least 5 are absolute crap filler material where nothing happens, worth it for that distant payoff at the end? In my opinion, no. I can find much better things to read. And I read The Wheel of Time books when I was 18 and I read up to the last released instalment at the time, number 7. Books 5-7 were excruciatingly bad. 5 was below average, but still readable. 6 & 7 I would throw in the trash.

    If you want a near perfect Tolkien clone in terms of epic format and themes, yet still very much its own and with great psychological depth, then it would have to be Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant trilogy. I like reading light stuff purely for fun, too, where I don't have to think much and can just get immersed in the adventure. But I can think of better examples than The Wheel of Time, of which The First Law is one.

    Well, that's my spiel against wasting your time with a generic series like Wheel of Time. I'm sure others can offer counter-arguments.
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  15. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks @Boreas for the clarification. LotR introduced me to Fantasy but that was a long while ago. I wasn’t aware TWOT was a replica of Tolkien. If I had lots of spare time, I would love to reread LotR but this will not be the case in the immediate future.
    I’m not even sure I would like to read Thomas Covenant trilogy, as I’m far more interested in exploring different themes within Fantasy than reading a Tolkien inspired story.
    I guess by now, you have a pretty good idea of what I enjoy reading and where my interests are, so I will take your advice. Anyhow, The First Law and The Expanse will keep me busy for a while. Besides, I’m also interested in exploring:
    • Iron Age by A Watson (@TomTB is currently reading it and I believe he is very happy with it)
    • The Drenai Saga by D Gemmell
    • Immortal Treachery by A Batchelder
    Plus many SF I already have lined up, more Noir new and old I wish to read et al.
    What about The Malazan Book of the Fallen? I believe you said you read the first one but didn’t recall much of it. Would consider this series?
  16. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    By clone, I don't mean an exact replica. But these 'clones' do essentially copy the same format and tropes of 'epic fantasy' Tolkien devised. Most of category fantasy fiction (of the epic variety) has been a reaction to Tolkien, either by following the same exact path as with Brooks or Jordan or Goodkind, or by attempting to subvert those tropes as with Abercrombie and the rest of the 'grimdark' fad that's been popular the last decade.

    David Gemmell is great. He writes heroic sword-and-sorcery fantasy with a perfect mix of character development and plot/action. There is a very slightly 'dark' aspect to it, but it's still tinged with hope. I guess I should say more 'melancholic' than 'dark'. Just about all his protagonists struggle with values of duty, fealty and right action - there are some exceptions, of course. Best of all, the majority of his novels are stand-alones. Start with his first, the classic Legend. All of Gemmell's novels are great adventures, and you can read his novels quickly and get great satisfaction out of them. These would be perfect snacks, the kind you can keep having for a long time.

    I would like to read Malazan, but I don't know when I'll start.

    If you want classics, then Robert E. Howard's various stories are seriously worth it. He was possibly the best hack writer the fantasy genre has ever had with his Conan and Solomon Kane stories (and most successful of his contemporaries, even though Clarke Ashton Smith was a superior prose stylist). I know most people link Arnold with Conan, but the stories are levels beyond that superficial association. I guess the other great hack fantasy writer was Moorcock with his Eternal Champion stories (of which the Elric stories make up a major portion). And Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea cycle is excellent. Light and deep at the same time. She specifically wrote Earthsea for children, but she brought her anthropological expertise into these tales as much as in her more 'serious' science fiction.

    You should read Guy Gavriel Kay. You prefer characterisation and Kay's character development is some of the best. Pick up either of Tigana, the Sarantine Mosaic duology or Lions of Al-Rassan.
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  17. ofer

    ofer Regular Member

    As far as fun reads go, you don't get much better than Abercrombie. @Elvira , you picked a really good series, and his standalone books in the same world are even better.

    I'm also reading a very fun series at the moment - the Ketty Jay series by Chris Wooding. What can I say? I already finished 2 and a half books in a week, and every time I stop reading I'm looking forward to pick up the books again. Books kind of reminds me of Farscape or Firefly, only in fantasy rather than SF.

    Second both Gemmell and Guy Gavriel Kay recs. As far as Wheel of Time, I'll always be conflicted. Loved the early books, but the middle books of the series were a chore. I'll still recommend them, but only to someone who's really into extremely long epic fantasy with lots of details. Malazan was great and is a far better series if you're after something long with lots of worldbuilding.
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  18. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    David Gemmel is definitely on my list. I already have a copy of Legend. I do like mixing things up a bit and The Drenai Saga will allow me to do this.

    This is another one I have been meaning to read. Also own a copy of Conan The Complete Collection.

    Le Guin is an author I have been reluctant to read for my belief that her Earthsea Cycle was rather YA-ish. I have been told otherwise by BFF members and also repeatedly by my younger sister who adores her books. Finally I have “shelved” Le Guin on my TBR list.

    Tigana, yes and yes.I have heard many good things about Guy Gavriel Kay.

    I kind of get stressed out looking at all my unread Kindle books and thinking how am I going to get through all these...? Don't you?
    Besides, I have also realised that with Noir/Crime novels after 3/4 years of finishing a book, I could easy reread it without remembering the key points.
    It is often the case that the plot is too complex and detailed and therefore hard to retain after a few years have passed.

    Malazan intrigues me, and if this a series more tinted with grimdark than pure epic tones, then I definitely feel more inclined to read it. When...? Ditto.
  19. Royce Sears

    Royce Sears Well-Known Member

    I finished Old Man's War by John Scalzi and all I can say is WOW! Wonderfully original and captivating story. I loved the characters and the tech was amazing.My Full Review
    Currently reading Abaddons Gate by James S.A. Corey
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  20. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Well, following your review @Royce Sears and @kenubrion's offer post (thanks Ken!) on Scalzi, I have bought myself the Old Man’s War Series. I have no idea when I will be tackling this, but couldn’t let it go. My addiction to shoe shopping has been replaced by kindle books offers...
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