What SF book are you currently reading? (2015-16)

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by TomTB, Apr 24, 2015.

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  1. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Have you read any other of Stephenson's works?
    I'd be interested to know what you think of Dorsai!. Dickson's books were some of my favourites as a teenager. The Childe Cycle is often classed as military SF, but only some of the instalments are such. The scope is actually very, very wide. Too bad he was never able to bring his vision to its ultimate fruition before he passed on.
  2. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Halfway through the Hyperion Cantos tetralogy by Simmons. Thoroughly enjoying it! A very refreshing turn to SF after being immersed in B Cornwell's Warrior Chronicles. 28hours days would just help to keep my tbr list from growing scarily looooooong...
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  3. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    And you think it's not going to get any longer now lol?

    Fantastic books! The first two books together are absolutely epic, and the second two aren't far behind. From Hyperion, my favourite sections were "The Priest's Tale", "The Scholar's Tale" and "The Consul's Tale". The image of Father Duré at the end of seven long years is especially spine-chilling!
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  4. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Well, after browsing these posts, I feel a bit like drowning...
    Very compelling the tales you mentioned, I keep playing with them in my mind trying to advance what direction the story might take, but I must say Simmons knows how to keep you clueless...
    Along with Simmons, and as part of the 400 hundred Cervantes death commemoration, I'm going through the Quixote: Utter surreal and sheer humor... I always thought it could fit rather well into the space opera category.
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  5. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I can kind of see that. Even though it was the first example of a novel, though that distinction is usually given to Daniel Defoe as truly putting out the novel in it's modern form, Don Quixote was almost post-modern in its meta-fictional aspects. And as a romance, it fits in nicely with the SF&F genre.
    You're right...when I first read the Hyperion books, I was on the edge of my seat. I really had no idea how the plot was going to take shape and those twists and turns really made me dizzy.
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  6. luisaj

    luisaj Full Member

    Heck yes, I had read Snow Crash and Criptonomicon, but even though I liked them quite a bit Seveneves was a completely different ride. One, I must say that felt closer to what I usually enjoy - I'm not so much a cyberpunk type.
    As for Nemesis, Alex Lamb again didn't disappoint. I'd say it was even better than Roboteer, although the ending wasn't as closed as the previous installment.
    I am a sucker for space opera but Nemesis really blew me away, I simply couldn't put it down. It had everything I could ask for: Science speculation, xenobiology, ominous alien overlords and tons of action. Also the characters were very well developed. (I hope I'm not spoiling anything)

    @Elvira I resorted to this forum to solve the problem you seem to have - but in reverse. I just had way too many books on my to read list and knew there was no way I could get to them all. So far the strategy is working nicely haha. Regarding Hyperion I must agree with @Boreas in that they are phenomenal, I especially found the integration between the advanced technology and classic greek mythology riveting.
    I'll have you know I read the Quixote as well - the original in Spanish - and if you'd like some suggestions on classic, golden-age Spanish literature don't hesitate to ask :)
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  7. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    @luisaj, nice. I love Stephenson, faults and all. As for cyberpunk, it's a genre that I'm very unfamiliar with. I've only read a few such novels and none of the major ones (though Snowcrash qualifies as a major example that closes off the cyberpunk era). I've still not read any William Gibson! My favourite Stephenson novel is Anathem. I bloody love that book. Definitely read it if you haven't. It's more hard sf, and whilst it does get into technology later on in the novel, it's mostly philosophy, mathematics and principles in physics through the format of Socratic dialogues. Wonderful, wonderful work. This is the novel where you can call Stephenson the Umberto Eco of science fiction.

    I'm really looking forward to reading Alex Lamb now (also Al Robertson & Tom Toner)!

    With regards to Hyperion and the integration of Greek mythology, are you by any chance thinking of the Ilium/Olympos duology? That's where Simmons overtly utilises Greek myths and legends. For Hyperion, it's more the overall theme or motif of the new order supplanting the old - paralleling Zeus and his ilk supplanting the Titans. At least, that's how I remember it.

    Spanish (and also Italian) literature: yes please! I'm actually getting more interested in Mediterranean literature. I've just recently got myself Giovanni Verga's collection of short stories and his novel Mastro Don Gesualto. My reading has been predominantly Anglo-centric and there are so many great continental European classics that I want to read. Recommendations would be welcome. There's the subforum "Other Books" where you can always start new, non-SF topics of conversation.
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  8. luisaj

    luisaj Full Member

    @Boreas I recognize my mistake now, thanks for pointing that out. It so happens that I liked Ilium and Olympus so much more than the Hyperion cantos that my mind grouped them - oops.
    I'll keep Anathem in my radar but due to the extension I doubt I'll get to it anytime soon. The description was intriguing and it looks very promising indeed.

    I've been keeping to English authors as well, although there have been some superb Chinese translations lately (see Ken Liu, Liu Cixin) Classic Russian SF is a goldmine too.
    A little SF/Urban fantasy saga I'm following is The City Saga by Juan Cuadra which is definitely not classical and untranslated but fits more nicely here.
    As a bonus, Year Zero by Rob Reid is a hilarious, Douglas Adams-esque little goofy comedy SF I absolutely loved. Did you by chance read it?
    (veering off topic, I know, but the fantasy was like a more mature, grounded version of Walter Moers' work)
  9. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Definitely try to get to it if you can. Whilst Seveneves was undoubtedly audacious and I loved it, Anathem was one of those mind-blowing novels for me. I really suggest that you do not read any reviews for this book. Aside from the back book blurb, this is a novel worth going into tabula rasa. Caveat lector: the first 80 or so pages requires a high learning curve due to world-building and neologisms.
    Actually, I thought you initially meant non-SF, classic Spanish literature. In SF & F, I'm aware of Ken Liu and Cixin, though I haven't gotten to their works yet. I've only read a few short stories by the Strugatsky brothers in various anthologies, not their novels. But I'm a huge fan of Stanislaw Lem. Well, from what few novels I have read from his impressive backlog of books/stories. My only lament is that most of Lem's books have been translated into English from the German. I wish they would now translate directly from the Polish, instead. Lem is an extremely important modern author and we certainly deserve high calibre translations.
    No, I'll check it out.
  10. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Luisa, I thought my tbr list was already way too long. I only recently started reading sf as fantasy was "one of my few weaknesses" You can imagine the vertigo I'm beginning to feel after picking up so many different tips from this forum.
    Thanks for your reconmedantion offer but as a spaniard brought up in mad house of books lovers and Spanish literature teachers, I have had plenty of helpful tips ;)
  11. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Yeah, I had the same problem when I first joined a few forums and groups a couple of years ago. The problem hasn't gone, but I've slowly been becoming more strict about my reading choices. I've also tried making short, 3-5 t0-be-read book lists every once in a while that I try to finish before moving onto the next set. I've not always kept to it, but it has helped. If you're looking for specific recommendations (books in a particular subgenre of theme), best bet is to start a new thread with your criteria and people can try to think of examples that might match them.
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  12. R-Hat

    R-Hat Well-Known Member

    I'm reading the Attanasio's Radix Tetrad, starting the fourth volume. Here's what I think so far.

    First two volumes I was like -wow-, completely mindblown. And you have to understand, that I read a lot of books on occultism, which make a synthesis of science and ancient religions, but Attanasio can give me a full exercise, with all the dimensions and universes. I would compare him to Zelazny's Lord of Light, in terms of richness of fauna and scienfitic possibilities.

    As David Gerrold wrote, naming things is the most difficult thing on writing SF. Attanasio is good, very good at naming things and it is nearly impossible to trace down any obvious tropes, and if I do, then it's usually very appropriate, even believable. For example, in the first part, there is one "deva", which is an atmospheric plasma-based creature. I've read a lot about devas in occult literature and Attanasio manages to be faithful to the concept yet original in expression. Magnificent.

    One thing you notice on Attanasio is his bad case of poetical synaesthesia, where exotic nouns routinely become verbs and adjectives. I suppose it works powerfully to describe the indescribable, pushing the limits of verbally possible. I think he should get some prize and I also think it's a translator's worst nightmare not to make it awkward outside the eelness of English.

    One common theme of Attanasio's books is how a deeply troubled individual can evolve and purify beyond all the expectations. I can identify with that and I mostly approve, although there is some seriously disturbed shit going on there. I'm all for fighting our demons and not underestimating them one bit. Although someone with more self-knowledge could make the parts more instructive and therapeutic, I suppose.

    The content is great, the only thing not to like is some difficulty in putting it all together. I'd love to see some greater unifying obligation behind all that I just have listed, binding it all together, because I think the potential is there. But to be honest, I haven't yet seen a writer who could do that. They do typically cap the work by some philosopher king scenario, or love and survival, and Attanasio does both on times. Anything more than that would be a world-changing moral and metaphysical work, I suppose.
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  13. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Exactly how I felt with Radix. My mind was utterly blown! How many authors can take a despicable individual and take him on a transformative journey to ultimate transcendence? And this isn't any of that morally grey, almost caricature-level 'gritty' anti-heroism that so infects the SF&F genre at the moment, but something tangibly beyond those types of shallow depictions, religious even in its transformative power. Some truly mind-expanding stuff.
    Actually, I think that was partly what made it all so memorable though a little difficult. As you say, attempting to describe the indescribable is difficult and Attanasio definitely pushed the limits.

    I'm curious whether you think Last Legends of Earth will tie up some of the central themes and motifs that run through his books. It definitely amongst the most ambitious works of space opera I've read. I especially liked it because of his 'pseudo-scientific' explanations on the deeper meaning of karma which I thought he did an excellent job of presenting without explaining, though that's only one small aspect running through the entire novel. LLoE remains one of my favourite space operas. It really is operatic in the proper sense of the word, quite a dramatic and epic romance. Attanasio and Zindell are the only two genre novelists I've come across that are so adept at incorporating their understanding of Vedic and other Eastern world-views in a science fictional context. Herbert tried with his Bene Geserit and their prana-bindu techniques to pretty decent, albeit small effect, but the themes in their philosophical contexts weren't developed nearly as well as with Attanasio and especially Zindell.

    I also have high hopes for the Colin Wilson's Spider World books which have come so highly recommended. I wonder how they'll stack up against Attanasio and Zindell. Wilson being one of the premier modern experts of occultism makes me look forward to his works.
  14. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    @kenubrion and @TomTB and @jo zebedee and @btkong and anyone else...

    ...help me decide which science fiction book to read next. I'm on a book currently (not SF) and my next book isn't going to be SF either, but I want to get back into SF reading after that. And I'm stuck between choosing Reynolds' Blue Remembered Earth or Asher's The Skinner. Both are novels by two favourite authors that I've put on hold for far too long and I can't decide which one to start next. Even if you haven't read them yourself, just choose one for me by whichever criteria you want. I've got a couple of weeks before I'll have to get to them and I'll pick up the one that tallies the most votes!
  15. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    Blue Remembered Earth. Because I own it and it would be rather nice to get your opinion of it! :)
  16. jo zebedee

    jo zebedee Well-Known Member

    I'm not a huge Asher fan and couldn't get into The Skinner at all, so I'd pump for Reynolds. :)
  17. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    My reading plan has been dashed. I was planning on picking up another crime novel after Lee Child's Killing Floor, but after @luisaj's post on Gordon R. Dickson, the Childe Cycle has been on my mind and I had a very strong urge to get re-acquainted with Dorsai!. I picked it up last night and read a few chapters before bed. Thankfully, it's a short, quick read so I won't be too long on it.

    Two votes for Reynolds. I'm wondering if @kenubrion will suggest Asher since he's been on a Polity reading binge?
  18. luisaj

    luisaj Full Member

    That's funny because I just finished Tactics of mistake. I did find it very much similar to Dorsai!, plot-wise, and I can see now why you recommended both of them. The key difference was the goal of the protagonist, being more about freedom for the colonies than the containment of a specific evil. I still delighted in the psychological maneuvering and the way things seemed to fall in place. I think I liked this one even better because of the initial fallibility of Cletus which removed a little bit of the übermensch feeling I got with Donal, thus rendering the achievements much more heroic. or maybe it's because I appreciate much more the intellectual prowess than that of his more action-driven counterpart.
    So @Boreas thanks for the recommendation and I'm sorry I can't recommend Blue remembered earth of The skinner, since I haven't read either. From now on, I'm looking forward to the release of Claire North's The sudden appearance of Hope and also Anathem.
  19. ofer

    ofer Regular Member

    Wow it's probably something like a million years since I visited here...I'm currently on what can be described as a mid-life crisis trip around the world (some guys buy Ferraris, I bought a backpack). Currently in Mexico and absolutly loving the country. It's stunning.

    Anyway in between Robin Hobb's 4-book Rainwild chronicles, I'm reading (probably re-reading since I remember something vague from 25 years ago) Eon by Greg Bear. It's pretty good although there's a lot of hardcore math and science in it so far.
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  20. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Finished Dorsai!. Really, really enjoyed it, as much as I remember doing so the first time. I'm surprised I remembered the overall plot as well as I did including some details, but I'd also forgotten many impressive sections that were a pleasure to re-read and re-remember. I have a feeling I'm going to re-read the whole cycle pretty soon, now. But first, on to the next crime novel I've got lined up.
    Man, Mexico is a country I've wanted to visit for years. I've always thought about taking half a year to a full year off to travel through Mexico and then zip down to Chile, Brazil and Argentina (esp. Patagonia). It's a dream.
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