SF/F Reading in May 2017

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Boreas, May 2, 2017.

  1. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I finished reading Greg Bear's Strength of Stones. So far, I've read three of his early novels, and while they seemed either a tad incomplete or rushed with their endings, or not exactly as straightforward as they could have been, I still found them compelling. You could consider these early works to be a trilogy, since they all deal with similar, overarching themes, i.e. the search for knowledge and truth, and psychological emancipation.

    Strength of Stones has been the most overtly ambitious of these early novels. It's the one I liked most, but also the one where certain aspects of the the dénouement left me slightly puzzled. Bear brings the various plot threads to a proper close, but I'm not sure if I really grokked what he was aiming for at the very end. I mean, I kinda know, and am also still kinda confused. Will have to think on it a little longer. It was still a powerful little novel on man's expulsion from paradise - ironically, self-perpetuated through the misapplication of their own belief systems - and the desire to reclaim that state of being, the resentment and anger that stems from being denied, and the arrogance that comes from believing that it's even possible. Essentially, the core theme the desert traditions grapple with couched in some [what I thought were quite inventive] SFnal conceits.

    I can see myself re-reading this novel, because I find Bear's experiment with the consequences of dogma here bloody compelling. It might be one of the more unique books of this kind I've read, and it had some remarkable imagery. And best of all, I can read its three sections independently, as they're all novella length and fairly self-contained. The second section was, for me, the most affecting. And like in his Hegira and, to a slightly lesser extent, in Beyond Heaven's River, the revelations at the end are suitably vast in scope.

    My next SF outing will be the final instalment of Neal Asher's Spatterjay trilogy, Orbus. I expect it to be as action-packed and fun as the previous two.
     
    Diziet Sma likes this.
  2. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Sigh...Orbus seems to be written in present tense. Didn't expect that. Still, the set-up in the first chapter already has me grinning with its little dashes of casual humour and the mayhem I know is to follow. And the scope has widened to beyond Spatterjay, by which I'm very pleased.
     
  3. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Well-Known Member

    Ouch! Present tense is hard to pull off. Keep going, I guess you might get used to it and enjoy the book...

    Last evening I started reading The Mote in God's Eye by L Niven. Although mentioning O Butler, has reminded me of her still unread Pattermaster tetralogy.
     
    Royce Sears likes this.
  4. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    War Factory by Neal Asher. Second book in his recent Transformations trilogy. Great.

    I loved the Mote series, Elvira. Hope you enjoy it.

    Yeah Boreas, you're done with Spatterjay. It's a big universe out there and that's where the books go now.
     
    Diziet Sma likes this.
  5. R-Hat

    R-Hat Regular Member

    I think these series are completely in a different league, I don't think comparison is possible. TFST is an epic work of a dying out race's survival after defeat of its mercenaries in someone else's war (against humans). So right off the start, there is a very grim, pessimistic setting. I've read just a little bit of the beginning. I've seen it compared to Frank Herbert's Dune series. However, I had read that there is supposed to be a deeper character development - a closer alien vs human encounter than just at the gunpoint or gunshippoint, that's why I've got the books in the first place.

    The Foreigner series is much less grim, I think. A very non-epic, slow-paced drama or thriller of court, corporate and diplomatic intrigue and assassination, interspersed with linguistic and psychological elements. Most of all it reminds me of the Italian culture in the age of Machiavelli, with Japanese or other Asian culture and a little bit of contemporary technological and sci-fi elements thrown in. A big theme is a peaceful resolution of conflicts and differences and reason vs. idiocy. In this series of books CJ Cjherryh takes care to put traditional and modern cultures next to each other - this makes the Foreigner series similar in some aspect to Marion Zimmer Bradley in her Darkover series, which I really liked too. I've almost finished the new book - it is good and genuine - but the pacing is really slow. It's like month or two of the real time. It sunk in without making a big splash in the timeline. I think it's CJ Cherryh's retirement insurance.
     
  6. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Well-Known Member

    You are right. It is an epic novel and, as any good epic story, deals with subjects such as legends, history, and philosophical or moral theories.
    As you have noted, there is a strong sense of loss and fatalism and this is consistent throughout the trilogy.
    The characterisation is wonderful. The aliens are superb in particular how the loyalties between the different species are drawn. Cherryh chooses to tell the story from different characters’ point of view, and although I think this can be sometimes risky, she does it very well and provides the reader with a great view on the different ways of looking at the world.
    I have read some criticism regarding how little action there is; well yes, TSFT is a very introspective story, in which the old theme of survival takes root. However, if you enjoy this type of thoughtfully abstracted stories, then it is for you. I thoroughly enjoyed it, I hope you too.

    Does Foreigner make a good beginning or is one of these series which takes a few books to find its footing?
     
  7. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    How's the Mote in God's Eye going, @Diziet Sma? Loved the book when I was younger. Never read the sequel, though. I've also wanted to read more from the co-author of the book, Jerry Pournelle. This book is actually set in Pournelle's universe as opposed to a creation by Niven.

    Okay, I got over the present tense writing very quickly. This book is freaking awesome. Should have expected it, though. Asher upped the game with every subsequent instalment in the Ian Cormac series. I thought that because the Spatterjay books were much smaller in scope, that there wouldn't be the same level of intensity. And I was wrong. This book started off with a home run. Vrell is a brilliant creation, and the Prador are now upwards of becoming some of my favourite aliens together with those deliciously perverse and sadistic Affront in Excession.
     
    Diziet Sma likes this.
  8. irrlicht

    irrlicht Full Member

    I've recently begun to read Greg Egan's Incandescence after reading his short story Riding The Crocodile a week ago. Can't really say much about the novel yet, but that short story was just immediately fascinating. What's not to love about trying to contact mysterious alien species? I was totally unaware of Egan before, so this was a very nice surprise.

    I read The Mote in God's Eye a couple years ago. Never read the sequel either, but talking about it makes me want to dig it up again. I really liked the first one.
     
    Boreas likes this.
  9. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Well-Known Member

    Firstly, thank you for my new name. Love it!

    I’m about 60% into TMiGE and so far it's being a greatly entertaining story. The narrative is dynamic and engrossing. I particularly like when the voice changes over to the Moties, although it doesn’t happen as often as I would like to.
    The social conventions of TMiGE are very representative of its 70s decade, in which it was written. In a way, the authors have extrapolated these values to the Empire of Man in the year 3017: this means, as far as the human characters are concerned, a very 20th century, very familiar and foreseeable mindset but in space.
    It doesn’t bother me at all that the only female role is playing this prudish, damsel character. The reader has to accept that the social timeframe of the authors’ own principles has seeped through or simply they decided to create it that way. Because of this, characters’ behaviour is very much set and familiar to me. This means I have been able, so far, to anticipate many aspects of the plot quite well. Other than that, I’m looking forward to finishing it.

    Riding the Crocodile has been a great way to taste Egan. Thanks, @Boreas for sharing it! I loved its sense of humongous enormity. It made me feel really tiny. The science was hard and it made me cross-eyed several times but there is also beauty in that language, foreign as it often sounded.
    Loved Egan’s talent to introduce wondrous alien concepts and also admitting our own limitations in hoping to decipher the secrets of the universe.

    @irrlicht . I’m very new to Bank’s Culture books (well, admittedly I’m very new to SF literature in general) but Boreas introduced me to his books and have read so far Use of Weapons and The Player of Games, loved both for different reasons, and I think I’ll be reading Consider Phlebas next. That is if I don’t get distracted with some other recommendation, which seems to happen rather often...
     
    Boreas likes this.
  10. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Well-Known Member

    I have been receiving price drop alerts for many of her books in Amazon.com in case you are interested.
    They are not digital copies though, so I haven't bothered.
    Besides, I found in my mom's personal library the Theseus trilogy. Although they are not in English, I'm trusting it will be a very decent translation as she bought them over 25 years ago.
     
  11. irrlicht

    irrlicht Full Member

    For me, one problem Banks has is that his books often have great ideas, but get a little bogged down in the execution. To me, his pacing is sometimes a little off and I found that very noticable in Consider Phlebas. At some point, it just dragged on a bit too long. My all-time-favourite of his is Excession, that book is just a riot. The Player of Games is probably my second-favourite book of his. Good choice!
     
  12. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    Then you will enjoy the Transformations trilogy. I'm at 50% of the last book.
     
    Boreas likes this.
  13. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    It's a great story. Was actually thinking of sharing a different Egan short (another really great one), but changed it at the last second.
    Afraid I don't use Amazon US, and most of the price drops rarely translate over to my outlet.
    Great! I'm never sure if many actually read those 'story spotlights'.
    I think CP is the only novel where the pacing drags a bit in some portions. Didn't really notice that in his other books. But I've had a new-found appreciation for CP after 're-reading' it by listening to the audiobook. The "Temple of Light" chapter was the one that aggravated my nerves the most, even with re-reads, but listening to it made it so much better!
     
  14. irrlicht

    irrlicht Full Member

    I remember I thought "let's take a quick look at this before I do some work". Didn't quite pan out, but I got a good story out of it!
    For me, CP is where it's most noticable. Some other books, notably Inversions, were not quite my cup of tea. His non-culture books like The Algebraist and Feersum Enjinn gave me some trouble as well, though the latter was more a problem of linguistics.
    Still had a credit on my audible, so I got the audiobook version. I'm curious now. I've been getting into audiobooks more and more myself, recently, going through the Dune series.
     
  15. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    I'm about 20% into Daughter of Eden (last book in the Dark Eden series) and literally nothing has happened yet.

    This better be building up to something spectacular ...

    :mad:
     
  16. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Well-Known Member

    You loved the Dark Eden, didn't you? This series has been losing air after book one. Shame! I had it bookmarked.
     
  17. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Well-Known Member

    Finished The Mote in God’s Eye. I have really enjoyed the final section and how it concluded the story, although leaving the door open for a sequel. A very well balanced story with its politics, fighting tension and clever alien interaction. I do admire authors who can come up with original, alien concepts.
    I found the dialogs and many of the humans’ behaviour in the Empire of Man rather anachronical. I understand where it came from or even the projection the authors tried to achieve with it; however, it felt dated, stiff and very reminiscent of SXX past generations. It felt awkward, wrong every time I remembered the story was taking place 1000 years into the future.

    I have been browsing my TBR list of books. I always love this process of choosing my next read. However, there are two series I would like to conclude before long:
    One is Dust. I feel lazy about concluding it but I don’t like leaving unread books I have already purchased. Dust is the final book in the Silo trilogy by H Howey. I loved Wool and Shift was a big disappointment. However, @TomTB confirmed to me that Dust follows the style of Wool, therefore I’m mildly excited about this one.
    Then I have The Rise of Endymion (Hyperion Cantos#4) by D Simmons. This is a beauty of 800 pages and I’m very much looking forward to completing this tetralogy. I’m really curious about The Others, can anyone tell me (without spoilers) whether they will be taking part in the story? If not, I’d rather get my head around this and focus on the others characters.
    Therefore, Dust next followed by The Rise of Hyperion.

    Actually, I have just remembered I bought the whole Scalzi Old Man's War series and have only read the first one...
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2017
    Royce Sears likes this.
  18. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I think all too often it's quite difficult to be really meticulous and truly forward thinking even when you're imagining far future scenarios. There was a science fiction story by Edgar Allen Poe where he imagined flight many centuries in the future, but in his imagination man couldn't get past hot air balloons (or was is it blimps?). Your imagination, to quite a large extent, is always constrained by what you see around you. That's why so many writers excel at being inventive with some things, yet in other arenas they can't get past their mindset or other ingrained assumptions of their time to really create a unique, futuristic society where all facets - technological, sociological, language, attitudes, etc. - seamlessly meld. Once in a while someone does do it really well, but that's very rare I think.

    Plus, you have to be careful...project something too outrageous, and your readers won't believe you. Project something a little more conservative so that the readers can suspend their disbelief enough to believe what you create, then your future scenario is probably nothing like what will probably happen. It's a conundrum. That's why a lot of SF writers prefer to do stories set fairly far in the future...anywhere from 2-3 centuries to thousands or millions of years away. Much easier than writing stories that take place within a century, because then you really have to be meticulous and do due diligence to be taken seriously. With far future stories, you're writing fantasy for the most part.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2017
    Diziet Sma likes this.
  19. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I think Inversions has some passages that are top-notch writing by Banks. It's really the odd one out, though. And it's the only work where, even on a first reading, you can't really appreciate the nuances and full effect unless you're already familiar with the Culture by having read any of two or three other works in the sequence first. Because it's the only work
    without any reference to the Culture or the larger setting and reads ostensibly like a mediaeval fantasy.
    I agree that The Algebraist had one section that I found a bit of a drag to get through, but once I got past it, it was brilliant. Feersum Endjinn is an absolute favourite of mine! And those phonetic sections are the best bits of the novel. Love Bascule and Ergates the ant!
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2017
  20. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    Indeed I did. Each sequel (so far) has been progressively worse, which is a shame. I'll definitely carry on to the end as I'm dying to find out if one element of the story gets resolved, but beyond that, zzzzzzzz
     

Share This Page