The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in Science Fiction 2017.

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Diziet Sma, Dec 16, 2017.

  1. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Tell us about the best SF books you have read this year. What were your reading disappointments?

    In my case:

    The Best:
    • O. Butler's Patternmaster Tetralogy.
    • The Last Legends of Earth by A. A. Attanasio
    • The Player of Games by I. Banks
    • The Left Hand of Darkness U. K. Le Guin
    • Anvil of Stars by G Bear.
    • Silos Trilogy by H. Howey
    • The Blade Itself by J. Abercrombie (well, this one is fantasy)
    I shouldn't have bothered:
    • Scalzi's Old Man's War
    • Endymion and The Rise of Endymion by D. Simmons
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2017
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  2. ofer

    ofer Regular Member

    Wasn't that great a year for me in terms of SF books. Most were average or disappointing.

    The good:
    Old Man's War series by John Scalzi - nothing groundbreaking but good entertainment (with the exception of book 4 which was the worst I read this year)
    Blood Music by Greg Bear.

    The bad:
    Worlds by Joe Haldemann
    Pinion by Elizabeth Bear
    Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee.

    The Ugly
    Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi. While the rest of the series was good fun, this one was downright horrible. Needless, too, as it basically re-tells the previous book from a different POV.
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  3. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I have read very little this year, both overall and especially SF.

    The one novel that has surprised and affected me most strongly is Jane Austen's Persuasion. It is such a good illustration of wisdom through suffering, even if the tribulations might seem outwardly mundane. The acquiring of true wisdom is always a bittersweet process, since one must necessarily tread through the landscape of hardship to reach that elevated state of mind. I found it to be Austen's most intimate novel, and with her most perfect heroine. And I especially loved it for its second chance at happiness at a late stage in life when one is almost accustomed to the idea of settling for one's far from happy lot after the folly of squandered chances. Yet, what made this second chance more acutely glorious was the lessons learned through eight years of silent, melancholy self-reflection and regret, and the clarity of mind that heightened appreciation for this new chance to an apogee, where even that underlying tinge of melancholy transformed into a source of comfort and support.

    In SF, I'll pick Greg Bear's Strength of Stones. It's by no means a perfect novel, and is flawed to some extent, especially its rushed denouement. But there was so much in the work that was quite striking: in imagery, in the re-casting of dilemmas the three desert traditions present in a science-fictional context (esp. its themes of salvation after self-perpetuated expulsion from Paradise), and the the revelation of the truly epic scope at the end. I still found it a little jumbled, but it was a striking thought experiment with an earnest treatment of religion in SF.

    And I'll also choose Neal Asher's Orbus, the final instalment in his Spatterjay trilogy. This was by far the most high-octane, crazy, hyperventilation inducing action-packed extravaganza I've read of his books. Love Asher's high-tech scenarios, the consideration he puts into mycelial nano-tech, and the fairly thorough ecological and evolutionary scenario he builds up in the first two instalments that suddenly crystalises into having a specific purpose in this final volume. This book is all about inhuman monsters, immortal humans, and super-advanced AI duking it out. One of the most action-packed and satisfying conclusions to a trilogy.
  4. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    What was so bad about this? I bought the book after having it recommended it to me, but I haven't read it yet.
  5. ofer

    ofer Regular Member

    It's a case of a good idea being poorly executed, In the book, future society is based on Chinese philosophy (great idea) but also, all combat is based on Chinese mysticism (read somewhere that it's Feng Shui) so in practice, all space battles in the book (or ground ones) were pretty much like that:

    One side assumes calendrical rott!
    Oponents adopt a raven 5th posture! Flawless victory!

    Battle ended.

    After the initial interest, reading a whole book like that (and the military battles and ethos are big part of the book) became really tiresome.
  6. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Such a popular series and I just don't get it. I'm obviously in the minority here.:(
  7. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

  8. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    No Intrst. Redshirts was fun in a pop-culture way, but I don't get Scalzi. Am reading his advice on writing, Don't Live for Your Obituary and it's pretty scattered. I think he tries to do too much with too little. YMMV.

    Biggest surprise in 2017 was Station Eleven.

    Biggest disappointment was Seveneves.
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  9. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Noooo! I knew you didn't like it but to hear you state it outright makes me feel sad. Strangely, I have greater and greater appreciation for it as more time passes than when I first read it some 2+ years ago. I still consider it audaciously speculative story-telling, if not quite at the level of Anathem.
  10. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Boreas, and I won't say Seveneves is not without merit because Stephenson is such a marvelous writer. It was just disappointing after reading KSR's Aurora, which is similar and while not as hard science of the Stephenson book, was much more interesting because of the characters and the pacy-er plot line. My GF's engineering dad and brother are unrepentant deeply-hard SF fans and while neither could stomach even KSR's Mars Trilogy and they shat on Anathem (which I adore), they are old-school Asimov and Heinlein devotees and they both loved Seveneves because of the scientific rigor. Again, not a knock on the book, just not my cup of meat. Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. was, to me, more satisfying. If you haven't read Station Eleven, DO IT!

    Happy New Year and may you find it graced with fabulous reads! So much material, so little time!
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  11. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    Hello, Diziet Sma --

    Gratified you found LLoE on your 2017 best list. Earlier this week, I had cause to contact A. A. Attanasio to ask if it was OK that my material appropriated some minor terms and constructs from that lovely book, and he replied with such an open heart and graciousness, I feel humbled. LLoE remains in my top 3 books of all times.

    Player of Games your first Culture novel? Work your way up eventually to Look to Windward and be freaking amazed. Also very glad you enjoyed The Left Hand of Darkness, one of the books that set me on a serious SFF path when I read it longer ago than I care to admit! LeGuin's easy but deceptively complex prose is something I greatly admire, even if it doesn't find itself directly effected in my own material.

    I already commented on Scalzi. 'nuff said.

    Have a wonderful new year filled with marvelous and unexpected reads!
  12. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    I follow Attanasio and read his blog. He has an open heart, and he seems to enjoy sharing beautiful and wondrous reflections. Never a condescending word and always with humility. He is one of these people one could definitely benefit from meeting in real life. Shame Hawaii is so faaar away. I also adore his hair-style.

    Regarding The Player of Games, I have also read Excesion and Use of Weapons; I'm planning to continue with Banks' bibliography.

    Le Guin has been a delightful discovery. It is almost embarrassing to admit how long it has taken me to start enjoying her work. I will also remedy this during 2018. That's the plan, anyway.

    Happy New Year to you too, Dtyler, and all the best for 2018!
    Boreas likes this.
  13. Logan

    Logan New Member

    I very much enjoyed the Bobiverse series by Dennis E Taylor.
    The Old Man's War series by John Scalzi was enjoyable.
    I prefer audio books to reading now & both are in audio.
    Boreas likes this.
  14. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

  15. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Welcome, @Logan! I also have the first Bobiverse book on stand-by. Have generally heard good things about it.
  16. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    Hey Dtyler, what was surprising, and in a good or bad way? I have it from a sale and still unread.
  17. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    Surprisingly good and moving. It deserves all the accolades it has received.

    Even though it's near future post-apocalyptic, it has a present-day secondary story line and it's not at all primarily meant to be a SFF book, more like crossover. As with the best works of LeGuin, the author uses SFnal elements in service to a very human story . The prose is lyrical and outstanding. I was emotionally bowled over several times during the book--in a good way. It's really one of a kind.

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