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Number 6
My birthday yesterday (I was also born on Good Friday, so I'm still accepting birthday greetings today before calling you late). Meh, too old to really get worked up about it.

So let's move on to Book Foo!

Finished: The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway

Most of the world is gone, the results of a war with a terrible weapon that effectively erases targets from existence... but there is fallout, monsters and nightmares and stranger things that form out of the stuff left behind. One man tells his memories leading up to and including the war, and an effort to save what's left from the forces that came after.

This is a rather strange book. It's a mix of memoir, speculative fiction adventure tale, and satire, at times deeply silly and campy and at others deep.Read more...Collapse )the book was a lot of fun, something I expect I may read again, and definitely put this author on my radar.

Finished: Murasaki (shared world anthology)

Around a nearby star, a pair of twin planets orbit a point in space, as though each are the moon of the other. And because both planets support life, it's only natural for Humanity to send expeditions. This is the case of the star christened Murasaki, and the planets Genji and Chujo, and Murasaki tells a series of stories about humanity's explorations of these planets and what they learn about the inhabitants, and themselves.

Take two classic SF authors known for hard science fiction. Tell them to design a planet, or in this case, two, following science as much as possible, and create alien races for that planet. Then, open the world up to other authors, specifically, authors who have won the Nebula award (given by other SF writers and editors). Read more...Collapse )In the end, it's an interesting experiment, and may well be worth reading for that alone, and as a textbook example of worldbuilding in action. But for sheer enjoyment? I'd put it between two and three stars, probably settling more towards the "okay" end rather than "I liked it." I liked it a little, and I'm glad I read it, but I wanted to like it much more than I did.

Finished: Trident's Forge by Patrick S. Tomlinson

Full disclosure: I was able to read an electronic advance reader's copy of this through Netgalley. I don't think it affected my review. Sequel to last year's "The Ark", so synopsis is behind cut. Read more...Collapse )readable, fun and yet still at it's core good science fiction.

Finished: The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The mixed-species crew of the Wayfarer, including their newest hire, Rosemary, take on a year-long job that involves building a wormhole tunnel to a distant planet controlled by a group who has decided to join the Galactic Commons... even though the rest of their species has not. Along the way, there's friendships, family, romance, secrets, adventure, food, and stops at various trading posts.

This book has been getting a lot of attention, and one of the reasons why is that it's a very different type of book from most space opera. It's quieter, more personal, and in many ways a series of short vignettes rather than a full-fledged story. Read more...Collapse )It's also not the kind of thing I want every story to be, but once in a while, this kind of thing can really hit the spot, especially when done well. Worth giving a look, if nothing else, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to pick up the sequel.

Finished: Crisis in Zefra by Karl Schroeder

In the near future, Canadian forces are on-hand in Zefra, a new and struggling African city-state, to peacekeep and prepare for their first democratic election, but when terrorists strike they must go into action to deal with the threat. The methods of warfare may have changed with new technology, but the dedication remains the same.

This isn't your usual story. It was specifically commissioned by the Canadian Armed Forces as a way to explore how emerging technologies may change the shape of war a couple decades down the line. Read more...Collapse )Even though I only rated it two stars, I remain quite impressed and proud that this exists at all, and that there's a sequel, Crisis in Urlia. Despite my somewhat lukewarm reaction, I do eventually plan to read it.

Finished: Nekropolis by Maureen F. McHugh

While the future may have brought many things, it hasn't brought to everyone equally. Poverty still exists and, in certain places, so do new kinds of slavery. Hariba is one such, a young woman who has undergone a procedure called "jessing" which makes her loyal to an employer, and unable to defy him without life-threatening consequences... in addition to legal ones. But at least it is a job, an opportunity, and her master treats her well. But then there is Akhmim, a harni, a created being who is owned outright, by the same master. At first Hariba despises Akhmim, but then starts to develop feelings for him that make her decide to take a huge risk for both of them.

I'm mixed on this book. It's not the type of thing I normally go in for, but it's interesting for the most part. Read more...Collapse )Hard to score this one. I think it might appeal a lot more to someone other than me... it might even wow certain people. I didn't dislike it, I just found my reaction somewhat subdued, so much that I'm not even sure I'd call it a "like." So I think two stars it is, while recognizing there was a lot of craft, it just didn't fully connect and engage me.

Finished: Faith by John Love

Hundreds of years ago, an advanced alien ship attacked the Sakhran Empire and then disappeared. Shortly after that, the Empire collapsed. Now, hundreds of years later, the ship, dubbed Faith, has been sighted again, and the ship sent after it is the Charles Manson, a ship crewed by psychopaths and criminals who are willing to do whatever's necessary, that must confront and destroy Faith.

I wanted to like his book so much. Read more...Collapse )It is, however, the author's first novel, so I won't give up on him entirely, but I have to give it a two because I was so disappointed with how it turned out.

Finished: Engineering Infinity (short story collection)
Engineering Infinity is a collection of modern day hard science fiction stories, of a number of different styles and authors. Read more...Collapse ) Worth a look particularly if you're interested in modern hard SF, although if you've already read a lot of short story collections from this century you'll probably also see a lot of overlap. That may be the reason I'm only rating it 3 stars instead of 4... if they were new to me, I'd have enjoyed it a lot more (although even so it's probably closer to 3.5).

Finished: Starfarers by Vonda McIntyre
Mankind is finally preparing a mission to a different star, one they believe holds intelligent life. It's an international effort full of scientists, and after years of preparation, they're months away from launch... but political winds are starting to shift, and the US is interested in converting the ship towards more military purposes back home, purposes that would put the entire mission at risk.

This is a bit of a weird book, firstly because it's clearly the first part of a series. And, while I suppose it might count as a spoiler,Read more...Collapse )I wouldn't call the book one of my favorites overall, but it was one of my favorites of the ebook bundle I got it in (a Women in SF bundle), and I liked it enough that I probably will try to track down at least the next book in the series.

In Progress (or finished and haven't yet written reviews): Against A Dark Background by Iain M. Banks (reread), The Diving Bundle by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter, Marooned In Realtime by Vernor Vinge (reread)

Oh, and for my birthday, I bought/ordered: The Edge of Dark by Brenda Cooper, Vicious by V.E. Schwab, A Darkling Sea by James Cambias, an anthology I can't remember the title of because it was in the bargain book list online, and, the day before I got at a used bookstore (so I'll count it as a B-Day purchase), The Harvest by Robert Charles Wilson and a new copy of Neal Stephensons The Diamond Age which I can't seem to find anywhere and feel like reading again since I don't think I've read it since the first time, around when it came out.
Number 6
23 February 2016 @ 05:23 pm
At least, if my dreams are prophetic. Which, judging by the lack of superheroes in Toronto, they most certainly are not. But, regardless, I had a dream last night that was pretty much just entirely a preview for some future season of Doctor Who. Cut for those who don't have any interest.

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Number 6
10 February 2016 @ 12:55 pm
Before we dip into the books, some TV stuff to talk about because I keep saying I might do it in another post and forgetting...
Superhero TV:
I'm enjoying Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl more or less. Not perfect, but solidly enjoyable. Legends of Tomorrow I'm more mixed on. I like the characters and their interactions but on a plot level it's just not working for me, time travel plots are hard to make work long term, and Vandal Savage is not enough of a "mission" especially when they keep making dumb mistakes (I remember recently reading someone say that it's a problem with chaining your ongoing TV show a movie-style single-mission plot... if you're not careful all your heroes have to fail every single week). And, fundamentally... I'd rather see certain characters like Captain Cold on the OTHER DC shows, even if only occasionally, rather than used here. Lucifer's not really a superhero show but it was based on a comic, but typically they ruined it by making it a procedural.

Upcoming:Daredevil season 2 starts soon.

Book-inspired TV:
The Expanse: Enjoyed it for the most part, although I'm a bit confused at where they stopped, cause I don't think there's enough story left in Book 1 to make a 13 ep second season, so are they going to wrap up book 1 in the first few episodes then jump to book 2? IDK. But I'm looking forward to it regardless.

The Magicians: Never read the books, but I tried the series on a whim, and am surprised at how much I'm enjoying it. For those who don't know, it's a bit of a cross between Harry Potter and Narnia for adults... college students learn they're magicians and go to a magical college (and one of them has a connection to another world). Not perfect and the characters are occasionally rather unlikable, but they're likably unlikable, if that makes sense. Mostly enjoying the story of Julia, who takes the entrance exam for the school and told that no, she's not magical enough.

The Man In The High Castle: Was actually quite impressed with this series overall, looking forward to next season.

The 100: Technically based on a book series but IIRC was created before the book even came out (which I've never read), but what the hell, I'll call it here. Still, for a show based on a YA series on the most "teen-centric" of the networks, it's remarkably deep and daring, and I look forward to it. Also, even though it took a while to make that clear, yay for having a bisexual lead protagonist.

Upcoming: 11/23/63, an adaptation of Stephen King's time travel "save Kennedy" story, starts on Hulu or something in a few days with James Franco as the lead. King's stories are usually ones where the journey is fun but the endings suck (although this novel wasn't TOO bad in that regard), so it works for a series. Probably a few others in the long term, but nothing particularly soon that I can remember.

Other Shows: Watching Colony, fairly basic "living under and occupation, only the occupiers are aliens!" type story, but I think it's well done so far. And I'm still annoyed that Doctor Who is taking a year off (except for the Christmas ep) for the stupid Olympics, but on the other hand pleased Moffat's going to be leaving after the next full season, but on the gripping hand, not all that impressed by Chris Chibnall so far. So, overall, meh on that.

Now, onto January (and early February) books!

Finished: Planetfall by Emma Newman

Renata maintains the 3D printers on a new colony on an alien world, one that was half-religious pilgrimage, lead by her ex-lover and settled at the edge of an alien city that is nearly incomprehensible. For decades the Pathfinder has been gone, and the colony believes she's communing with God inside the city, but there are dark secrets surrounding the Planetfall and when a newcomer arrives to the colony, they threaten to tear Renata apart.Read more...Collapse )

All in all, I was ready to give it four stars... up until the ending. Without spoiling, Read more...Collapse )Still, what came before that was done well enough that the author's on my radar for the future.

Finished: Stars: Stories Inspired by the Songs of Janis Ian (short story collection)

As the title indicates, this is a set of stories inspired by the songs of singer-songwriter Janis Ian. Read more...Collapse )The collection might do particularly well with somebody who's a bigger fan of her than I am, but otherwise, it's solid.

Finished: Aliens: Recent Encounters (short story collection)
Recently, I read an anthology, Alien Contact, and found myself somewhat disappointed... while there were a couple good stories, not only were a lot of the contacts not first contacts, but also, many of the aliens seemed to either go to extremes of "even if ridiculous things happen that's just because aliens are completely incomprehensible, so why bother trying" to "humans in funny suits with a few cultural differences". I found it hard to understand how an anthology pulling the best first contact stories from all of SF history could wind up so uninspiring.

But I still had that itch that needed to be scratched, stories of the alien, but with a sense that there was a real something behind them, something that may be hard for the the human mind to grasp, but not impossible to at least approach. So I tried again, with Aliens: Recent Encounters. The Recent is because these stories were all pulled from the year 2000 or later, which should make it less likely to get great stories, but somehow the opposite happened.Read more...Collapse )Most importantly, it successfully scratched that particular itch, for stories of the alien... for a while, at least.

Finished: City by Clifford D. Simak

Long after Mankind has left Earth behind, the planet has gone to the dogs... literally. They have risen to intelligence and created their own society, aided by robots, and been on their own so long that many have come to doubt the stories about Man were mere legends. But they study the stories anyway.

Sounds like Pixar's next great movie!

Of course, it's not quite so commercial. Read more...Collapse ) Note: All the cheap dog puns in this review are my own, not in the book itself.

Finished: Vast by Linda Nagata
Third book in a trilogy, so the synopsis is cut.
Read more...Collapse )I enjoyed the book, maybe on the low end of the scale because I think the ideas may have ran away with her, a little, at the expense of compelling story and characters this time around, but it really makes me crave her return to more farther future speculation. If she could somehow blend this talent for far out SF ideas with the more personal character work she displayed in her Red trilogy, I think she'd easily generate a book I don't just enjoy, but consider a favorite.

Finished: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

I recieved an electronic advance review copy from NetGalley. Since I technically said I'd only post my review on Goodreads until closer to the publication date, instead of copy/pasting it, I'll just link directly to that one for now. But in short, I quite liked it and would like to see more in that universe.

Finished: Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Charles Sheffield
Tomorrow and Tomorrow tells of Drake Merlin, a composer who discovers his wife, and love of his life, Ana, is dying of an incurable disease. Unwilling to lose her, he has her froze in the hopes that later there will be a cure... and then soon after, freezes himself, so that he can be around to take care of her and make sure she's brought back. But things may be more difficult than he anticipated, and he must go further and further into the future in the slim hope that he and Ana might be reunited.

This is my first experience with Sheffield, at least in novel form, but I don't think it'll be my last. Read more...Collapse )All in all, I think it's a three, but a very high three, and enough tickled my sense of wonder that I'm interested in checking out what else the author's done.

Still Reading (or finished but haven't put up reviews: The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway, Murasaki (early 90s shared world project by 6 Nebula-winning authors), Trident's Forge by Patrick S. Tomlinson (eARC from Netgalley, sequel to The Ark), Faith by John Love

Only 4 days from the day that shall not be named and the associated rubbing-the-face-in-unhappiness. :P At least it's on a Sunday so I have to go to sleep early that day anyway.
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Number 6
31 December 2015 @ 12:14 pm
Before I start, I would like to wish a Happy New Year to anyone reading this, and, in addition, a happy birthday to liabrown!

Since we've also got end-of-year-book-foo-wrapup to do, I won't waste time talking about TV/movies (maybe another post soon though) and just get right to the last of the reviews of the year:

Finished: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Kirby Mizrachi was attacked and left for dead by a vicious killer that had never been caught, a killer she thinks is may be a serial killer, and she gets an internship at a Chicago newspaper mostly so she can investigate on her own.

What she doesn't know is that she's right, the man who attacked her is a serial killer, responsible for murdering nearly a dozen other women... throughout the twentieth century, leaving strange and occasionally impossible artifacts on the bodies. For the killer, Harper Curtis, travels in time with the help of a house he stumbled upon in his ordinary life in the 1930s, a house that already has his victims listed. Read more...Collapse ) I liked it, and I think it's worth reading, but for my particular tastes, it doesn't land quite as well as I'd hoped.

Finished: The Phoenix Code by Catherine Asaro
Robotics expert Megan O'Flannery joins a project to produce artificial intelligence in an android body, and begins making quick strides in making the prototype more intelligent and emotive. Meanwhile, she also becomes close with another expert in the field, the strange but brilliant Raj. But then things start to go wrong as the android develops a fixation for Megan.

The book started okay, but my interested started to wane fast. Read more...Collapse )The book's not completely horrible. I did like that there was a romance plot with a person who didn't seem like a typical romantic lead, full of strange habits and insecurities, and there are a few genuine surprises that I liked, but, on the whole, the book misses it's mark.

Finished: Lock In by John Scalzi

Chris Shane suffers from Haden's Syndrome, a disease that struck in our near future and left millions around the world "Locked In" to their bodies, unable to move or do much to interact. The crisis did however, spur some technological development to help those suffering... while they can't cure the disease, there are brain implants that let people telecommute into robot bodies, or even bodies of specially trained humans, and experience something close to a normal life, and also creating a new minority. Where there are new minorities, there is discrimination, and where there is new technology, there are new crimes, and Shane has to deal with both while working for the FBI, as a murder suspect is a human Integrator, who rents his body out to Hadens, and a wave of terrorism is about to break out.

The premise might be a little bit out there, but Scalzi instantly gets to work selling it to the reader as a believable development in human society. Read more...Collapse )I'm torn between 3 and 4 stars... but in thanks for the good dreams, I'll put it at the low end of the 4 side

Finished: Other Worlds Than These (short story collection)
"Go then, there are other worlds than these," is one of my favorite quotes from Stephen King's Dark Tower series, subtly evoking the sense of wonder inherent in the idea of a multiverse. So it's appropriate to draw from it for the title of this collection, themed around other worlds and people from worlds like ours who travel to them. It contains both stories that are both sci-fi takes (usually called parallel universe stories, drawing mostly on quantum physics theories), and fantasy (generally called "portal fantasies" because they typically involve some kind of a portal that takes a person from our world to another)Read more...Collapse )I felt somewhat let down nonetheless, like I expected to be wowed more given the theme. So I'm giving it a two. That said, there are a few great stories in here, and if it's something that might interest you, certainly worth giving a try.

Finished: Touch by Claire North
There are ghosts in the world, but not like the ones most people think about. These people live in human bodies, swapping from one to the other with the touch of skin on skin, taking over another person's body completely and living in their life. When they leave, the former host remembers nothing since they were taken. The narrator of Touch is one of these ghosts, who has lived this way for 200 years, jumping from body to body, sometimes for seconds, sometimes for years. But when his most recent host is killed, he must use the killer to try and track down a group targeting his kind, and hopefully escape alive in the process.

One of my favorite books I read this year was North's The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, which was well-reviewed and lived up to it... and although descriptions of this story didn't have as much attraction to me as the other, I decided to give it a try on the strength of my previous enjoyment.Read more...Collapse )On the whole? This wasn't as good as North's debut (which wasn't even her debut, of course, as she's a prolific author and this is just a new pen name), but it was still solidly enjoyable. I do wonder, especially looking ahead to North's next upcoming novel, if this pseudonym is either intended to or accidentally working towards a formula: stories of a main character who is one of a small group of people in the world with the same "super power", one that is part curse but also allows for some wondrous opportunities. If so, at the very least, it's a formula that I find I really enjoy, and I do want to read her next book, The Sudden Appearance of Hope already. More so because in that case the "power" is one I used to play with myself long ago, with a character on a superhero MUSH.

Finished: Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey (Expanse #4)
Description cut because it's 4th book in a series and necessarily may be spoilery for previous books. The short version is, either my favorite of the series or second favorite, hard to say for sure.
Read more...Collapse )So yes, there's no reason to stop reading here, even if it may be a bit formulaic (it is, after all, a series that seems designed to be a good TV series), it's thoroughly enjoyable and rises far above where you'd expect.

Still Reading: Stars: Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian (short story collection)
Tentatively about to start: Planetfall by Emma Newman, Aliens: Recent Encounters (short story collection)

That means my official count this year is.... 71 books! Wow, that's a record for me! According to Goodreads, that's 27937 pages, which makes the average book size 411 pages, and means that for every hour I was alive this year, I read 3 pages. That's one page every 20 minutes of I was breathing, awake or not.

The complete list (very roughly in order):
1. The Martian, by Andy Weir
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71. Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey

Now, I had two additional goals for this year. One I made partway through the year when I realized I'd accidentally been holding to it. That was my "No Rereads" goal. And I accomplished it (not counting a few short stories I reread in a new collection)!

The other goal was just to try to read more women authors. My methodology was simple, to introduce a very small positive bias, a slight inkling towards "what the hell let's give it a try", whereas normally, (male or female) when I read a book's description, either the premise wows me and I have to get it immediately, or I think, "That sounds kind of interesting... well, let's see if it gets really well-reviewed maybe or I find it in a used bookstore for cheap". Or it's an author I already love. But those conditions can already be skewed against women, so a positive "what the hell let's try it" bias helps counter that. And look at the results. Leaving out the multiple-author short story books (but including single-author ones), I read 68 books, of those, I read 34 by female authors, which works out to exactly half. Just from one tiny bias. I wasn't even GOING for "half", I was going for more, it just happened to be a happy accident. I think that serves, for me, as a good concrete object lesson about something I'd already suspected... how tiny unintentional biases can magnify each other and add up to a dramatically big effect. Last year, only a handful of novels written by women were on my reading list. This year, one tiny bias, and it's almost even. That's just for me. When you get into society at large, well, it's easy to see how things can snowball even with people who genuinely and earnestly believe they're treating everyone equally.

Next year, I think I'll be keeping that goal, and that bias, but unfortunately I suspect I won't be near parity, because I won't be doing the "no rereads" rule, and a lot of my favorites, the regular rereads, are still stacked heavily on the male side. I found one that I suspect might make it into this category (The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August) and a few others that I might reread once or twice, but, well, that is the other problem with a "what the hell" bias, you read plenty of books that just a little less likely to be your thing. But I feel better for trying it nonetheless, and want to keep trying.

Other statistics of note, I got 5 physical books free, 5 from netgalley, and a handful from paying for membership in a group that gives out awards and gives free ebook copies of the nominees to voters, which really isn't free but really isn't buying. ANd a few that were in bundles of course. But still, free books rock, yo.
Number 6
05 December 2015 @ 01:46 pm
Probably the second last of the year.
But first, just a couple brief TV thoughts:

Doctor Who: Last week's episode (with the Veil) was one of the best in recent memory, marred only by tying it to the annoying Hybrid plot, which, well, it depends on how it turns out but I'm not optimistic about it being anything other than a clumsy and not very good retcon. But we'll see.

Jessica Jones: Really enjoyed it. I do have some thoughts on some things I might like to see in future seasons, but I don't really want to get into them right now. Maybe I'll do a separate TV post.

The Expanse: Haven't watched the first ep yet, even though it's been streaming all over, but I'm enjoying the books and looking forward to it.

The Man In The High Castle: Just started watching this one (Though I saw the pilot months ago), still not sure about it but on a production-values/acting/etc standpoint it looks really good.

Flash/Arrow: Still enjoy it, but the season so far have been hampered by how hard they're pushing towards the Legends of Tomorrow spinoff. So much doesn't feel natural but rather driven because they need to introduce/reintroduce characters and get them into position. Hopefully once it's gone they'll settle down a little. Flash is better off on that front because at least it has the Zoom plotline.

Walking Dead: I can't believe they ended the midseason on that point and not a point what would be, in the comic, a few pages later.

Anyway, now to books!

Finished: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Description cut because it"s third in a seriesCollapse )I recommend the series as whole and can't wait to see more from this author.

Finished: Forgotten Suns by Judith Tarr

On a distant planet, a young girl in a family of archaeologists accidentally releases a man who looks human, but is an alien king with psionic powers, left behind in stasis by his people because he was too much of a threat... but now, he may be the only one who can save them.

I did not care for this book at all. It was a slog to get through. Read more...Collapse )In the end, I just didn't give a damn about what happened. It felt more like a fantasy novel with a light papering over of sci-fi tropes, and worse, not even a particularly interesting fantasy novel, where characters make clever or difficult decisions in high-stakes situations, but rather one where characters are dragged along by destiny and prophecy.

Finished: Children of the Comet by Donald Moffitt (recieved for free)

Six billion years in the future, Earth is uninhabitable, beneath the surface of the red giant sun. But life persists, in the outer reaches of the solar system, huge trees grow from comets, and people live there too, keeping air in hand-made suits. But things threaten to change when a ship arrives, a ship full of humans returning to see what home is like after a long, time-dilated trip to another galaxy. Read more...Collapse )If it were a shorter story focused on the good parts, I might have given it a 3 or possibly even a 4. Everything else... well, it certainly could have been done well, but in this case, it wasn't, and the entire book suffered for it.

Finished: Crashing Heaven by Al Robertson
Jack Forster has returned to his home after a war. Home is a giant space station, run by the Pantheon, artificially intelligent corporations that, to the human population, fill the role of gods, in the Ancient Greek mold. Jack's not welcome at home, because during the war he surrendered to the other side, but the terms of the peace allow him home, and he wants to wrap up loose ends before his looming death... for Jack has an AI war machine named Hugo Fist, in his head, and once the license expires in a few more months, Hugo will overwrite him. He came to peace with that with the help of an old flame, and wants to see in her last days... only he discovers she's already dead, and it's connected to an old case that may involve the Pantheon.

For a first novel, this is quite impressive and right up my alley. Read more...Collapse )Still, it was only a minor disappointment, and I otherwise had a lot of fun with the book, and it would probably make my personal shortlist for the Hugo nominations of this year. I'm definitely going to have to look out for whatever Robertson does next.

Finished: Strong-Arm Tactics by Jody Lynn Nye
Lt. Wolfe has just taken command of the Cockroaches, a platoon full of some of the most highly skilled--yet least regarded--soldiers in the Galactic Defense Force. They don't always follow the rules, but in a pinch, they'll get things done, and they're a good squad to lead... if you can earn their respect.

This is a light comedic military SF story, first in a series, apparently, although there don't seem to be any sequels in the ten years since it was first published, so perhaps that plan fell through. In any event, it's something of a mix between traditional military SF, with pitched battles and (at least in the first books) various training sequences, but with a vibe something like McHale's Navy added on top of it.Read more...Collapse )It was an easy read, never a slog, and I don't regret the time I spent on it, but I don't think I'd go out of my way to read more if there were sequels available.

Finished: Hellspark by Janet Kagan

A multi-cultural science team is studying a newly-discovered planet teem with life... some of which, they think might be intelligent. But they're not sure, because they've been unable to establish any meaningful communication. After one of the survey team is killed, possibly by the natives, the team's leader is ready to declare them non-sentient and the planet ripe for exploration. But other members of the team disagree, and a human trader, a Hellspark, is called upon to investigate the issue and perhaps decide the fate of a whole world.

On the face of it, this feels like a fairly standard pulp SF novel of the era. But the author does wind up having some really interesting points on communication and how culturally-instilled concepts and taboos that we're not even aware of can affect relationships between people and cultures. Read more...Collapse )But on the whole, I enjoyed it.

Finished: The Ark by Patrick S. Tomlinson

When the people of Earth discovered a rogue black hole that would destroy the planet, they spent their last years trying to save some shred of humanity, building the Ark, a massive generation starship bound for a new world. That was two hundred years ago, and they're now nearing the other side of the journey. But when somebody goes missing, Detective Brian Benson must investigate. He soon finds it's murder, and it could mean very bad things for the human race. Read more...Collapse ) This is a first novel, and typically I give a little bit of a bump in scores, but this one didn't really need it... it probably would have scored near enough to a 4 star rating as it was. It's also the first book of a series, and I liked it enough that I'm pretty sure I'm going to try the second as well, so that also says something.

Finished: Going Dark by Linda Nagata

Description cut because it was the third book in the series... Read more...Collapse ) although I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it less than the others in the series.

If Nagata writes more in the universe... I'm not sure, really, it depends on what the plot looks like. I'm not sure if I'd have the enthusiasm for another tale of a soldier under the Red's guidance, especially if I thought that the greater plot would get no more resolution than this one. Still, I really enjoy Nagata's writing and if she tried another type of SF I'd be much more interested.

(If you noticed and were amused that those last three titles rhymed, congratulations and/or condolences, you're like me!)

Still Reading (or finished but haven't done my review): The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, Lock-In by John Scalzi, The Phoenix Code by Catherine Asaro, Other Worlds Than These (short story collection).

I probably will next post around the very end of the year, so, I hope everyone has a happy holiday season of whatever type they prefer to enjoy.
Number 6
21 November 2015 @ 10:39 am
Well, I suppose it was scheduled in some ways, but I only decided on it in the last 48 hours before, which pretty much counts as unscheduled to me!

Anyway, last Thursday there was an author reading at the library, featuring Saladin Ahmed (who wrote Hugo-nominated Throne of the Crescent Moon, which I haven't read) and Peter Watts (who wrote also Hugo-nominated Blindsight, among several others). Now I'm a big fan of Watts, Blindsight is one of my favorite books, and he's the only author I regularly follow their blog (though there are a few others that I check in on now and again) and comment there. So I'd wanted to meet him for a while, and get a signature (I wasn't sure at the time whether that was done at these readings, but I brought the book just in case), but there was also a special reason. And for that we need to go to Russia... or, actually, more pointedly, not.

Funny story, that Watts also related in the Q&A portion. The people who published Blindsight in Russia essentially did it on the word of the translator that it was a good book. They only read it after they'd bought the rights and he translated it (which was paid work, of course). After which, they promptly fired him, thinking that it was going to be a book nobody would want to read, dark and cynical with vampires and aliens and a lot of technical jargon. But of course, since most of the costs were already sunk in, they published it in the hopes of recouping some of it. Turns out, five months later they hired the translator back because it was doing very well. (It should be noted, and this may now say as much about Russians as it does about the author, my favorite quote about Watt's work: "When I feel my will to live becoming too strong, I read Peter Watts.") In any event, he's popular in Russia (and a few other countries as well he seems to be more popular than in English), enough that apparently they're releasing a special "commemorative edition" of Blindsight, that contains extra material... a short story that connects the book to the sequel/sidequel Echopraxia that was already published, and something new they commissioned which, at present, has no plans to be published in NA (he didn't actually say, and I didn't think to ask, but typically such deals have a window of exclusivity where only after say six months after it gets released in Russia he'd be allowed to sell it elsewhere)... that was what he was reading at the library, and it'd be the first time anyone other than his close family/friends had heard the entire story (although fragments of it were published on his blog). So, yeah, I wanted to check that out, and overcame my hermit tendencies.

Anyway, I showed up about an hour before they opened the section of the library where it was being held, and wandered around the library's normal circulating SF section just browsing, then when they opened the door, got a good seat. It was a fairly small gathering, maybe 40 people as an upper range, including a few other authors I recognize (Watts' S.O. is a dark fantasy author, and I believe A.M. Dellamonica was there as well). I actually think somebody I have on my LJ friends list was there but I wasn't confident enough to introduce myself just in case. And, one other weird maybe... a woman who looked an awful lot like the grad student who ran the "in-class discussion" segments of my Science Fiction humanities class a decade and a half ago (there were two parts, a weekly lecture with the professors with 300 people or so, and then another weekly or biweekly discussion group, divided into groups of 30 or so students, each led by a grad student, discussing the specific texts, so in a sense she was like my teacher in that). I wish I was bolder so I could have asked and settled it in my brain and said hello.

They begun at 7 (or a little after, there was a third guest scheduled but they got held up at the airport and they were waiting in case they were just caught in transit... turns out they were still at the airport when the other readings were done. I didn't really care though because it was a musical guest, a filk singer), Saladin Ahmed went first, reading a short fantasy story ("Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy"), about a man trapped in a poem (specifically, Spenser's The Faerie Queen) where he and his brothers are cast as the villain the saintly hero defeats. It was well told, and well read, just not my thing. Then came Watts SF tale investigating various types of group minds and what they may mean for the world which held me with the same power as his novels did. Then there was a short Q&A, which I won't try to sum up, except that I couldn't manage to ask any questions, but it was thoroughly entertaining and occasionally quite funny (and it, combined with the stories themselves, have no set any previous record I've had for "Most F-Bombs heard in a library"). Both speakers did a good job (and they bounced off each other quite well).

After that they did say that anyone who had books could come up and get them signed, and I waited in a short line, then introduced myself as one of the commenters from his blog (he seemed to recognize me, although largely because he initially thought, when I was commenting on the blog, I was somebody else he knew with the same first name and last name initial), and he signed my book and answered another brief question, but then I ducked out rather than eavesdropping in on the conversations of others getting signed.

Still, it was an excursion, and now I can briefly consider myself one of the, at most, 50 or so people who've read/heard the entire canon of that universe that's been released to date!
Number 6
Trying to do these more often so I don't have as huge a backlog as last time.

But before we start, Halloween! My schedule changed this year, and this year I actually worked on Halloween night. I was kind to looking forward to seeing Trick or Treaters on the walk to work, but I think I was maybe half an hour too early for that... I saw a few, but not many. A few more on the way home, although that was later so it was mostly older teens and adults. The highlight was a fairly well done Beetlejuice costume, striped suit, hair, face paint... couldn't tell his age because of the makeup, but he was at least with some people in their late teens/early twenties, which was impressive for a costume of a movie that old. Also a few zombies. I actually did dress up, but in my lazy post-apocalyptic drifter costume. I have a decades-old military gas mask (my parents were both in the military) and basically just put that over whatever I wear when I need a really quick costume and call myself a post-apocalyptic drifter. So I brought it with me to work and did manage to wear it for at least a little bit on the walk there and the walk home, although it got a bit awkward to wear it the whole time and my breath started fogging up the glasses after a while. Still, it was incredibly impressive... not the costume itself, but rather that I was able to wear it in public. For those who know me you'll know that dressing up really treads on my irrrational fears. Even wearing a geeky t-shirt in public gives me stupid amounts of anxiety, so wearing an attention-getting costume... well, honestly, when I brought it I gave it 50/50 chance that I'd have the nerve to put it on, even taking into account that it's Halloween and expected. But, maybe partly because it was a costume that hid my face, I did okay with it. Maybe just the fact that it was a costume at all helped too (I mean, not completely, I still felt the internal tremors, but it wasn't as bad)... maybe some kind of convention cosplay, if I can think of a good one, isn't 100% out of the question, because the "stepping outside of myself" aspect might be good for me.

Anyway, on to books!

Finished: Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold

The planet Artemis was designed by advanced science to be a perfect, primitive escape for the ultra rich and powerful. Included in that fantasy was the population, who were mostly human but engineered to fulfill a role and not expand outside of that role. So while the masters have been gone for centuries, and Artemis has been lost to the rest of the galaxy, their society still resembles a fantasy kingdom with quaint villages and hunters who share connections with beasts. One such huntress is Adara, and her genetically uplifted puma Sand Shadow, who rescue a man who's crashed from the sky, a scholar from the rest of the galaxy who has been searching for Artemis... and is now stranded there.

I don't really have a lot to say about this book, except that it's mostly in the category of "Not My Thing." Read more...Collapse )It's okay. There were some decent elements that kept me interested throughout, but even though the story isn't really complete in the one volume, I don't feel any pressing need to move onto the sequel. I'm sure there are a good number of people who will like it, but for me, meh.

Finished: The Trials by Linda Nagata (The Red #2)
Sequel, so description cut for minor spoilers of the first book inherent... Read more...Collapse )I still liked it slightly less than the first book, maybe putting it somewhere in the 3.5-4 star range, but since I'm feeling generous today, I'll round it up to a 4. I'm really looking forward to the third book in the series and I am really glad Nagata's writing science fiction novels again, she's proving once again to be a strong voice in the field.

Finished: My Real Children by Jo Walton
Patricia is in a nursing home, suffering from age-related dementia. She's lived a long life... the only problem is, she remembers two of them. In each, she had different loves, different challenges, different children, and the course of history went a different way. She looks back on both of them.

Let's get it out of the way. I guess it's something of a spoiler, but it's the kind of spoiler I wished somebody would have explained to me in advance, attached to the blurb with an asterisk. Read more...Collapse )I can see how somebody would enjoy this, and it is filled with believable, flawed characters, but for me, it's not why I read, so although I can recognize the skill, as far as my personal enjoyment goes... meh. It's just okay. I never felt like it was a chore to read, but I never felt particularly excited, either. Mostly, I felt like I was waiting for the good stuff, the stuff the synopsis sparked in my imagination, to kick in... I'm still waiting.

Finished: Rapture by Kameron Hurley (The Bel Dame Apocrypha #3)
(Last book in a trilogy, so entire description cut) Read more...Collapse )I still quite enjoyed the book and the series, and the characters, especially because they're not the type I usually go for. Somehow it worked here, and I look forward to Kameron Hurley's next foray into SF.

Finished: Alien Contact (themed short story collection)

A collection of stories centering on, surprisingly enough, Alien Contact. Read more...Collapse )I think my main problem is that I know there are many better alien contact stories out there, and so, as an anthology focused on that theme, it's a bit of a disappointment.

Finished: Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey
The third book in the Expanse series Read more...Collapse )It's good, but it's just not as exciting. After the last book, I rushed to order the third. After this one... I'm still absolutely going to read the next book, but I can wait a while.

Finished: The Peripheral by William Gibson
In the near future, Flynne is filling in for her brother, working for home at his job, which they both think is testing a new product from a video game company,. It seems like a boring game... she controls a drone pilot and is supposed to keep other drones away from a building in a futuristic city. But she does her job... until she witnesses what looks like a murder inside the building, and soon finds out that she wasn't playing a game, but rather that she's stumbled upon a much bigger game, where her old world could be merely a minor game-piece. Luckily, she does have allies of a sort... not only her own friends and family, but also her employers, who live in that futuristic world she saw in the game, and want her to identify the murderer.

This is one of those books that I'm probably going to have to read a few times just to grasp fully. When it started, I didn't really know what was going on in much of one of the two alternating plot threads. Read more...Collapse )It's not a high like, maybe just barely at three stars. Possibly on the reread I'll like it more. Or maybe the novelty will wear off some and I'll just think the book was okay. But for now, three stars.

Still Reading (or finished but haven't done my review): Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Raddch series #3), Forgotten Suns by Judith Tarr, Crashing Heaven by Al Robertson, Children of the Comet by Donald Moffitt (received for free from a giveaway)
Number 6
06 October 2015 @ 04:15 pm
I guess I'm going to have to start doing this more often so I don't have to make such huge megaposts of already read books.

Finished: Up Against It by M.J. Locke
On the edges of the solar system is a thriving asteroid colony... thriving, that is, until a disaster, which was possibly sabotage, threatens their regular ice shipment. After that, there's just barely enough resources to survive if everybody pulls together and they manage to make a deal for a new shipment... although, the only source close enough has ties to organized crime and might have been responsible for the initial disaster. Also, there may be a feral AI loose in the system which only adds to the chaos.Read more...Collapse )I still enjoyed the book, and I'll probably check out more by the author, I just thought that it was dancing on the edge of being really really good, but because of a few stumbles, it landed on the wrong side.

Finished: Linesman by S.K. Dunstall
I got an eARC of this free through Netgalley. I don't think it affected my review.

Spaceships travel through the galaxy using the Lines, mysterious things that some people have a psychic attunement to and ability to repair and influence. These are called Linesmen, ranked in ability from one (lowest) to ten (highest). Ean Lambert is level ten, the only level ten left who hasn't been sent to the Confluence, an alien collection of lines. Which has made him in demand, and particularly valuable, particularly to a new mission to try to seize an abandoned alien ship located in deep space. Of course, Ean's connection to the lines isn't quite the same as other Linesmen, and his unique point of view may lead to a new understanding of the lines.

Linesman has a certain amount of old-school feel to it, like a pulp adventure but brought to the modern age with a decent smattering of political intrigue. Read more...Collapse )I didn't love it. Allowing for a bit of a bump for a first time novel (it's a rare novelist who turns out something great their first time), I'll give it a three. I personally probably wouldn't read another book in the setting, just because the things that annoyed me are unlikely to change, but I might read something else by these authors, and I can see how others might like the universe enough to continue.

Finished: The Starry Rift by James Tiptree Jr.
After the extinction of humanity, aliens visiting a galactic library study three tales from humanity's history.

This is a fix-up novel, that is, short stories wrapped up by a framing device to turn it into a novel.Read more...Collapse )I didn't dislike it, I just thought it was okay. Despite the weak review, it's not turning me off Alice Sheldon's work in general, it just might not be the best place for someone to get a deeper exposure to her.

Finished: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
Harry August leads a relatively normal life in the 20th Century. And when it ends, he's reborn, as a child, in his own past, with full memory of all that's about to happen. After a few lifetimes, he learns that he's part of a small minority, throughout history, who exist like this, living life over again. But in one life, on his deathbed, he receives a visit from a little girl who gives him a warning to send back through time... the end of the world is coming... and in each cycle, it's happening earlier and earlier.

The concept of a person living their life over again, even several times, is not a terribly new one. But it's not yet been so used that a good example of it doesn't feel fresh and original. And this is a very good example of it. Read more...Collapse )I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it, even to people who aren't big SF readers, and I'm sure I'm going to read it again. If I'd read it in time, it probably would have made my list of Hugo nominees (not that it would have affected the final ballot any, but just to give you an idea of how much I enjoyed it).

Finished: Arslan by M.J. Engh
Warning, there are a few significant spoilers about the book behind the cut, I just couldn't talk about some of my problems without discussing parts of the ending. Also, there's a plot involving sexual abuse of children in the book that is discussed and some people might want to avoid it.

Somehow, a dictator from a small middle eastern country has taken over the world. And, while traveling through America, he decides to make a small town in Illinois his base of operations. There, he makes his first introduction with shocking, abhorrent acts, but over the course of the years and decades, many sides of Arslan are seen.Read more...Collapse )As I said, it's hard to rate. Three stars is usually "liked", but I can't say I liked it. Yet I think it's a little better than "okay." So I'll stick with three stars.

Finished: Harmony by Project Itoh
In the future, life is precious. Maybe too precious. Virtually everyone has medical nanotechnology that monitors their status, and anything that is potentially harmful is banned or at least heavily socially discouraged. Privacy is a word from the past, your medical records are open. The dominant philosophy is that your life does not belong to you, it belongs to society. Three teenage girls, still too young to get the nanotech, and social misfits, form a bond and as an act of rebellion, a suicide pact. Years later, Tuan Kirie, one of the survivors of that pact, has fit herself back with society, although somewhat uneasily, even working for the World Health Organization. But a shocking new crisis develops that she must investigate, and she believes that it may have some ties back to her own past, and her decisions may shape the future of humanity.

This is a novel written in Japanese and translated into English. I've read a number of these put out by the Haikasoru imprint of Viz Media, and while this isn't my favorite, it's right up there at the top of them.Read more...Collapse )Still, the book kept me both entertained and thinking all the way through, which is what I want out of books like this.

Finished: Near + Far by Cat Rambo
This is a collection of short fiction by Cat Rambo. The stories are divided into two categories, the "Near" ones are set, as you might expect, in the Near Future, on Earth. The "Far" ones are set either in the more distant future or on other planets. In paperback, from what I understand, this is done in a novel way, where the book has a front cover on each side, and you turn the book over and turn it upside down to read the other story's collection, and either one could legitimately be considered the "first" batch. Unfortunately, I read it in ebook form, where it's merely one collection followed by another. Read more...Collapse )Rating-wise... I'll give it 4, which I might have given it anyway if I had liked the second batch as much as the first, but it would be a much higher four. This is a four just on the edge, but still worth the score. A very good collection, worth a look.

Finished: Moxyland by Lauren Beukes
In near future Cape Town, South Africa, smartphones are more in our lives than ever. They're used to pay for everything, they work as keys, and they can even be used as a police to remotely administer an electrical shock if you're getting out of hand. Moreover, disconnection is a legal punishment to be feared, for it often means you can't get work or participate in many other parts of life. Meanwhile, corporations continue to do what they can to control the lives of their employees and customers. But for most people, life is just life, some people trying to rebel, some trying to get ahead, and some just trying to get by. We follow the stories of several people as their lives and stories intertwine and sometimes they end up in situations they never planned on. Read more...Collapse )as a first outing, it's quite well done, and as my first experience with this author, it's a very good one. I'd put it at a high three, it was very close to a four, and I think if it had just hung together a little better, it would have gotten it easily. But I was impressed in the quality of the writing enough that I'm going to make it a point to try another of the author's work.
Finished: Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee
Disclaimer: I received this book for free through a giveaway on Twitter. I don't think it affected my review.

Zeroboxer tells the tale of Carr Luka, an eager young athlete in the new sport of Zeroboxing... a kind of mixed martial arts match in the zero-gravity environment of a space station. He works his way up the ranks and becomes a rising star, but it's not just his opponents he has to worry about. He's got secrets, some that happened years ago and he didn't even know about, but which might threaten his career... or even his life.Read more...Collapse )I enjoyed it, wasn't ever bored even in the action-heavy parts, but I doubt I'd read it again or follow on to a potential sequel, though I might give the author a try on another work.

Finished: Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey (Expanse #2)
(Since it's the second book in a series, synopsis behind the cut to avoid potentially spoiling anyone who hasn't read the first)Read more...Collapse )When I read the first book, it took me months to get around to buying the second. When I finished this one, I ordered the third immediately. That alone should say something.
Finished: Crossfire by Nancy Kress

A privately held spaceship leaves Earth, full of thousands of rich eccentrics, scientists, members of religious and ethnic groups and others who have all paid for a chance to start again on another planet. But just as they're setting up, they find a complication... there are aliens already on the planet. And soon they discover they've stumbled upon a war between two races and forced to make moral choices that no one should be forced to make.

This book left me with mixed feelings, because there were some things that I really liked, some that left me somewhat cold, and some that I thought were below par.Read more...Collapse )All in all, the book was okay. But it could have been much better.

Still Reading (or finished but haven't done my review): Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold, The Trials, by Linda Nagata (The Red #2), Alien Contact (themed short story collection), My Real Children, by Jo Walton, Rapture, by Kameron Hurley (The Bel Dame Apocrypha #3)
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Number 6
06 October 2015 @ 04:13 pm
So, let's see, what else is new?
Let's start with TV.

Fear The Walking Dead's over for the year and.. well, it's not great, there were plenty of stupid things, plotwise, and stupid people, but on the whole I'm still enjoying it, I just question some of the decisions. It's not as good as the Walking Dead, but if it comes back, I'll still watch it. And I'll say something that's probably controversial, at least among reactions I've read elsewhere on the net: I actually like most of the main cast, even the teens. Well, the youngest one's kind of an annoying snot at times, and they all have their stupid moments, but I think the family has good chemistry.

Doctor Who's back. So far it's... well, it's Doctor Who. I still would like to see Moffat go and be replaced with somebody who know how to craft a compelling coherent story rather than stringing together good moments that don't make any sense when you think about it (and often relying on the same old tropes over and over again). But it's enjoyable enough that I'll keep watching, and there's the sense of wonder that'll never completely go away.

Heroes Reborn? Meh. I watched the premiere. I have the third ep (1st ep after the 2 hours), but I haven't watched it yet. That says something, doesn't it? I was kind of hoping they'd go all out reboot with an explicit alternate universe. Instead, they seem to have just continued, and worse, they've not learned the lessons from last time, throwing too much stuff in it and not really considering how it all fits together or how consequences of what you include might mean down the road. And the video game nonsense just makes me want to shut it off.

That's alot of mixed reactions. Is there anything good?

Well, it's not quite TV, but I've gotten quite fond of Critical Role over the last several weeks, on Geek & Sundry. It might be the closest thing to a new TV-ish obsession. It's a bunch of somewhat famous voice actors from cartoons and video games playing a tabletop campaign of Dungeons and Dragons. It's actually a continuation of a campaign they did privately for fun for something like 2 years before, and they just decided to put it online, so if you start on the first ep you're actually starting in the middle of the adventure (which also means that you can pretty much start anywhere). It's turned out to be a big hit and is probably the biggest thing on G&S's twitch channel, live every Thursday night for something like 3 hours (occasionally more). It's just fun seeing a bunch of friends enjoying the game and, since they're all actors, they use voices and such for their characters (and the DM has a big assortment of voices himself), making me nostalgic for my own days of gaming and almost wanting to try and pick it up again, and sometimes they have fun guest stars (Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day have both guested for two weeks, but not at the same time... also, although it wasn't officially Critical Role, Vin Diesel just played a game with the DM and some of the members and really enjoyed it and supposedly there's talk of him playing a guest role too). I don't know how well it would translate to people unfamiliar with D&D tabletop, but it's a bit like a radio play with a lot of dice rolls determining things. So I'll recommend it anyway.

As for other new or returning shows, nothing's really started yet that I've gotten into. I checked out Blindspot because one of the secondary-character regulars is actually one of the players on Critical Role (she had to leave as a regular when she started working on the series, but she's open to returning for guest spots or hiatuses), but really, it doesn't do much for me. Castle, meh, the relationship tension/conspiracy of this year's just not working for me... the only thing that is, is Castle and his daughter's kind of doing a Veronica Mars vibe - but they need to at least acknowledge that with some kind of reference! Flash and Arrow restart this week, as does iZombie and Agents of SHIELD returned last week, which is solid but not exciting.

Speaking of Marvel, I finally watched Avengers: Age of Ultron. It wasn't as good as the first movie, but it was fun. I do have some complaints, which are a bit spoilery if I'm not the only one who hadn't seen it until recently. Read more...Collapse )So I guess you could say all the new Avengers were poorly handled.

Anyway, on to the Book Foo. Blah blah blah copied from my Goodreads blah blah blah mostly non-spoilery beyond back-of-the-book type stuff unless I warn.

Finished: The Red/First Light by Linda Nagata
In "The Red: First Light" (variously called solely by the part either before or after the colon, depending on edition and publisher... mine is simply The Red) tells of Lieutenant James Shelly, who leads a squadron of soldiers on a near future mission that he cynically believes is more about making money for defense contractors than it is about any actual purpose. But while he scoffs at the leadership decisions, he believes in the people and the brotherhood, even while knowing that some of that is manipulated by hi-tech equipment. Still, he does his best to keep his people alive using his skills and wits... and one thing extra. Somebody has been giving him warning when things aren't quite right, warnings that have saved the lives of his squad several times, warnings his leadership can't seem to stop. And it may be that an emergent, globe-spanning artificial intelligence exists, and has taken an interest in Shelly... but probably just as a tool to its own ends, to be discarded at its whim.

This may be my favorite Earthbound military SF ever.Read more...Collapse )Overall, I really enjoyed this and will definitely be picking up the sequels. One final note that has nothing to do with the story, but I loved nonetheless. The publisher is releasing these books simultaneously, not just in hardcover and ebook form, but also in paperback (and not even the oversized trade paperback format, but the mass market kind that can fit into a large pocket). I love paperbacks, and having this choice right from the publication date, instead of having to wait six months to a year, makes me so happy that I just had to mention it. I've always wanted books to go this way, only to be told by those I trust to be more knowledgeable, that this wasn't feasible or profitable. I don't know if the people telling me these things were wrong, or things changed, or this publisher's making a crazy gamble that will lead them to ruin, but I love them for it all the same and it's making me more eager to get the second and third book.

Finished: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
A SF take on Cinderella, in which Linh Cinder is a cyborg living in New Beijing, and because cyborgs have limited rights, is technically the property of her stepmother. But she's also an extremely skilled mechanic, and in this capacity she meets the prince, who doesn't realize she's a cyborg and takes a liking to her. Read more...Collapse )It's not the kind of book that I'd make a regular habit of reading, but for once-in-a-while it does hit the spot, and it was skilled enough with its particular approach that I was impressed enough that I'm probably going to check out the rest of the series (where the author recasts other fairy tales in the same SF universe). I'd say it's almost certainly worth checking out if this is the kind of thing that already interests you, and if you're iffy on it... it still might be worth a try.

Finished: Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Erasmus lives a simple existence, owning few possessions by vow, and living in a monastic environment which only opens its doors to the outside world every ten years (other orders only open on longer periods). Inside, in addition to the usual interpersonal dramas with the rest of his order, he gets involved in logical debates and philosophical discussions. But there are things going on in the outside world, and member of his order are getting called by the government outside, a government his order is separate from but beholden too. For this is not a religious order (although individual members may believe in God), this is how scientists live, on a world that is not Earth. Read more...Collapse )I was almost always engaged and excited about what would happen next, despite the fact that not a lot was happening at any given part. Truly this is one of those books where the journey is more important than the destination, and, as stated before, a master class in building an alternate world.

Finished: The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu
(synopsis behind cut because it's the second book in a series)Read more...Collapse )The last one I scored a three, and despite liking it less, numerically, this one I think I'd give the same... but it's a much lower three, possibly rounded up from a very high two. It does gets a bonus point for an obscure Alpha Flight reference, which would bring would theoretically bring it up to a four (see disclaimer).

Disclaimer: Said bonus point normally exists in a idyllic seeming alternate dimension and will only appear when the normal review is threatened... at all other times, the rating will be a plain unassuming-looking three.

Continued next post because apparently the post is too large for LJ.
Number 6
11 August 2015 @ 08:48 pm
TV's been pretty slow lately, however, there have been a few things of interest:

Wayward Pines: Surprisingly watchable, and surprisingly SF. I mean, a bit silly at times, but I enjoyed it and I appreciated them not dangling out the mystery, they actually solved it about halfway in and the rest was dealing with other issues. THAT is how you do it. I kind of want to see a season 2.

Dark Matter: One of two new space opera shows on the channel formerly known as the Sci-Fi channel. At least it's getting back to its roots a little, I just wish they'd go back to their old name. As for their new show... it's watchable, mildly enjoyable, but... it doesn't really reach very far. It's done a few cool things, but pretty soon the gimmick that started it (mercenaries with really bad pasts who get a chance to reform when their memories are all wiped) will not just lose it's novelty, but also it's relevance, and it's going to have to keep audience excitement up or it's going to turn into a bog-standard space opera with nothing particular to recommend it. But, as I said, I am enjoying it, especially the overly earnest and endearing android character who I just want to tell that she's doing a great job. David Hewlett (aka Rodney McKay) has appeared a few times as the mercenary's agent/fixer and hopefully will appear again.

Killjoys: The other space opera show on the channel formerly known as the Sci-Fi channel. Now, this is more like it. It's got energy, there's a sense that some serious worldbuilding time went into the setting (I don't know if it has, but the feeling that it has is enough), the interactions between the characters (including minor ones) often sparkle, and there's overall a feel that the people involved, actors, writers, even set designers, love what they're doing (the soldier guy is maybe a little flatter than the others, but that's okay). It's not quite up to the level of Firefly, but it's possibly the space opera show that's gotten me most excited since then. It doesn't hurt that the studios they filmed at is right near my work, so I theoretically might have the chance to run into the actors (but probably not). If it gets renewed, and I hope it does.

Under the Dome: Almost hilariously awful. I've seen some sites suggesting it's improvement, people are lying. It's gone from being awful at doing a plot that's at least novel, to being awful at doing the oldest, hoariest plots in SF TV. And I say almost hilariously awful because it's at least in previous years the awfulness was somehow funny, this time, it's more often just dumb and badly acted. Why do I still watch? Masochism, obviously.

What's coming? I still need to finish watching Sense8... I saw the first ep and liked it but I keep putting off watching the rest.

Pretty soon the Walking Dead spinoff (set in LA and at the start of the outbreak) will be starting, and I look forward to that. And then the fall season begins not long after that, which includes Doctor Who.

So, books! As usual, these reviews are mostly copied from my Goodreads feed.

Finished: Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, by Judd Trichter

At some unspecified point in the future, human-looking androids live side-by-side with humans, albeit with virtually no rights, and there are strict laws against robot/human affairs. Eliot Lazar is a businessman working in robot sales, but he's in love with a free-roaming robot girl and plans to run away with her. But when she's taken and her parts sold off, he has to go on a quest to recover her... all of her.

This one's a tough one for me. I wanted to like it much more than I did. Read more...Collapse )

Finished: The Blondes, by Emily Schultz

Disclaimer: I received this book free through a giveaway (although not through Goodreads). I don't think it affected my review.

Hazel Hayes is pregnant, from an affair with her professor... and although the news rocks her world, the world in general is being rocked by something else... a disease that turns ordinary people into vicious killers... but which only seems to affect blonde women.

The premise sounds a lot more dramatically cool than the book actually is. Which isn't to say it's a bad book. Read more...Collapse )This was the kind of book I probably never would have bought except for the fact that I got it free, but I did wind up enjoying it. I could also see it making a cool movie.

Finished: The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu

In the Three Body Problem, China is experiencing a problem with it's scientists... some are being murdered, others are experiencing strange phenomenon or giving up, or entering into secretive organizations. It's all connected to an online game called The Three-Body Problem, and a scientist during the Cultural Revolution who has made contact with an alien race. Read more...Collapse )As it stands now, even with all my problems with it, this is my #2 vote of those novels nominated for the Hugo, which just goes to show how weak a slate it is this year. Overall, I still feel that the best novels were kept off the list entirely.

Finished: Shelter, by Susan Palwick

Shelter tells the near future story set in San Francisco, during a major storm that costs many lives, and two old acquaintances, one who has inadvertently harmed the other, meet and explain how their lives lead them to that point. One, Roberta, is poor and on probation, diagnosed with a mental illness of "excessive altruism" because of a series of events the other woman, Meredith, put into motion in an attempt to protect her son. Meredith is rich, privileged, and has some mental illness issues of her own, and a complicated family life that includes her father as the first ever human consciousness translated into a digital form.

The book is not the usual type of thing I read... one decent way to describe it is as a near future family drama, but wow, it really does turn out to be pretty impressive. Read more...Collapse )Highly recommended.

Finished: River of Gods, by Ian McDonald
In 2047 India, while internal tensions and possible civil war looms, a cop hunts down illegal artificial intelligence while his marriage is in danger, a stand-up comic is called home to take over his father's business, a reporter gets the scoop of a lifetime, a high level politician pursues a taboo relationship that could ruin his career, and an American scholar seeks another regarding an impossible artifact in space. These stories, and others, all contribute to a change that will ring out throughout history.

I really enjoyed this book, although it had a bit of a slow start. Read more...Collapse )Highly recommended... my first experience with McDonald, but I don't think it'll be my last.

Finished: Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos
A hundred years from now, Andrew Grayson signs up to join the armed forces. It's not patriotism or duty that drives him, he simply views it as his only chance to escape the life he was born into, a crime-ridden and economically broken city in which most of the population lives in government assisted housing with a small food ration. Moreover, it's his only real shot at getting off Earth and to live in a colony, which is about the closest thing he has to a dream. We follow him through his training and his first few assignments, where he learns that the universe is more dangerous than he first thought.

This is unapologetic military SF. It doesn't really do anything daring or especially novel, but then, it doesn't have to... Read more...Collapse ) The events in the second half bumped up my interest, although, if half-stars were allowable, it might not have made the full three. It's somewhere on the edge. But since I can't mark the edge itself, and I usually give a bit more leeway to first novels anyway, I'll give it a three.

Finished: The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
Maia, the half-goblin son of an elven emperor is suddenly thrust into a position he never expected or wanted. His father had other heirs and seemed to regret having him in the first place, but, when his father and everyone else in line before him all died in the same accident, Maia was the only choice. He learns to deal with his new role, those who don't feel he belongs there, those who try to manipulate him, and those who are actively plotting against him, while trying to his best to be a good leader and improve his empire.

I should state right up front that I'm largely not a fantasy reader. I'm reading this because it made the short list of nominees for the Hugo award, and probably would entirely skip it otherwise. Read more...Collapse )As it stands, I rate it a two. I can see why others liked it more, but my personal rating was just a two. It was okay. I don't feel like I totally wasted my time, but I don't feel I would have missed anything important if I had never read it at all. If there's a sequel, I probably won't read it (unless it, too, gets nominated and I get it for free). Currently on my Hugo vote ranking it stands at #3, just barely above No Award. And, when they eventually showed up in the book, I never got over my urge to root for the group who wanted to tear down the monarchy. I don't think that was intended, but, it is what it is.

Finished: Fluency, by Jennifer Foehner Wells
The government has known about an alien space ship in the solar system for decades, and they're finally ready to launch a mission. They believe the ship is abandoned, but, just in case, they include Dr. Jane Holloway, an expert linguist, on the mission. But the ship isn't abandoned, and what they find there may force Dr. Holloway to choose whether to trust an unknown alien, or her own crew.

I've heard some good things about this book, and there is a lot to like, but I have some mixed feelings that prevented me from giving it a higher score.Read more...Collapse ) But, it is a first novel, and I suspect this is easily the kind of thing that can be improved on.

Finished: Afterparty, by Daryl Gregory
There's a new drug on the street... those who take it not only start to believe in God, but often believe God is right there, talking to them... at least until it's out of their system, and then it's like being abandoned. Lyda has experienced a drug like this before... she was on a team that invented it, before they were dosed with a massive quantity of it that left one person dead and the rest with permanent side-effects. Lyda's is a persistent hallucination of an angel. She knows it's not real, but it guides her nonethelss. She also knows that this new drug is probably the one she helped to invent, and she breaks her parole and goes on a quest to find the source and put it out of business.

Wow. This book impressed me so much than I thought it would.Read more...Collapse )

Finished: Infidel, by Kameron Hurley

Since this is book two, I'm cutting the summary which spoils elements of God's War

Read more...Collapse )I really want to see how Nyx's story ends, and I'm absolutely going to read the third part of the trilogy.

Oh, and since this is my personal journal, a little side story. I do most of my reading while walking to or from work, and of course, this was the case here. While I was reading this, I heard somebody walking behind me, maybe 5-6 sidewalk slabs behind me, speaking loudly, apparently to himself, saying, "If you kill one Infidel, it's like killing all Infidels, I'm going to kill all Infidels!" or something like that. Possibly mentally ill person with a hate-on for Infidels, however he might define them... normally, as long as it's just talk, well, I'm not going to pay it much attention. Except, of course, that I happened to be reading a book called Infidel, and I was worried that if he passed me and happend to spot it, he'd either attack me or want to start a conversation, and neither seemed particularly appealing. So I tried to non-obviously pick up my pace and get as much distance between us as I could. Luckily, though, at the next intersection I kept walking straight, and he turned down the other street.

Finished: Bless Your Mechanical Heart (short story collection)
This book is one of those themed anthologies of short stories. In this case, the theme is robots/AI/cyborgs, and more specifically, the application of the phrase "Bless Your Heart"/"Bless His/Her Heart" to them, implying that perhaps they're a little naive or don't quite get it... but there's a lot of variation within, in some cases the robot's not naive, but the humans are by thinking it is, for example, in other the robot's got some wonky programming or incomplete emotions, and in others it just lacks some important piece of knowledge but reasons as well as any of us. There are robots in love, robot murderers, robot guardians, robots all alone, and even a few who are arguably not even robots. It's a good mix, if you like AI themes. Read more...Collapse )I actually received this book for free as part of the Hugo voters packet (the editor was up for an award and this was provided as a sample of her work). I don't think it affected my review, but I'm glad I got it because I likely wouldn't have encountered it otherwise, although I do think it's worth buying if you like SF short stories and the theme appeals to you.

Finished: Dark Orbit, by Carolyn Ives Gilman
Dark Orbit tells the story of two women who arrive on a strange crystalline world... one, on her last assignment, is believed to have suffered some psychotic break and took on the role of a goddess. The other is a wanderer with little respect for authority, but who has been assigned to keep an eye on the first. But their discoveries on this new world challenge much what both of them thought they knew about the universe. Read more...Collapse )I enjoyed the book for what it was, over all, and though I think it was close to being much much better, it's so deliberately crafted that it's quite possible that almost any element changed to bring it towards that much better novel would make the whole thing fall apart.

Currently Reading (or finished but haven't written reviews for): The Red by Linda Nagata, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Anathem by Neil Stephenson, The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu, Up Against It by M.J. Locke, Linesman by S.K. Dunstall, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

You may have noticed a pattern in these... or maybe not. But 11 of the 19 books listed above were written by women (and one was a short story collection). Some of this is circumstance (I've gotten several free, either from giveaways or as part of the Hugo voters packet), but also, I've been trying to make a conscious effort to read more female SF authors. It is still a field that is dominated by men, and my philosophy has always been that if there's an obvious disparity in something like this, there are only a few explanations: either one group just isn't as good, they, by some natural tendency, just don't have the interest, or there is some systemic bias that skews the numbers (which can occur by pushing them away from trying or lack of promotion), and that can be combated by adding a bit of bias in the other direction. I believe the last one and am trying to take steps to correct it. The positive bias I'm applying isn't dramatic, I'm just trying to be aware of what's happening, and be more open to trying things... books that I might have been on the fence on, where I'd think "Maybe I'll get it if I hear good reviews", I've been just getting, and keeping an eye out for recommendations of others in this area. It also dovetails nicely with another goal I've had for 2015, that started several months in when I realized I'd accidentally been holding to it: no rereads. I love rereading my old favorites, but since I'm more than halfway through the year and haven't yet read anything I've read before, why not make it a goal? And it means I need to be exposed to more books anyway, so why not try more female SF authors?

In any event, I'm still not at parity for the year, but with just that small level of bias I've gotten closer than I expected. And I've got plenty of more on the queue or in my sights for later. In fact, I just bought the Women in SF ebook bundle (pay what you want for 5 works, or get 10 for $15 or more)... since one of my three books I read at any given time is on my phone. If you read ebooks, it might be worth checking out the bundle, which runs for about another two weeks.

Also I mentioned last time that I was thinking of converting my own personal domain, which had, for a time, run as a comic review site, into a written-SF news-and-review site, and I'm leaning towards making that happen when I stop being so lazy.

Speaking of leaning towards, right now I'm leaning towards skipping Fan Expo Canada this year. The guests are cool but none are the kind I can't miss, and also my Mom's coming into town that weekend. But I'll keep an eye on the guest list for any last minute changes.
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Number 6
01 August 2015 @ 02:25 pm
Last night I had a dream where I was travelling all over the world trying to organize a XET reunion. I don't know why I couldn't use the Internet to do it, which would make a lot more sense. Anyway at one point some gun-toting revolutionaries started chasing me (it was unconnected to the XET thing they were doing something in the house NEXT to where I was visiting somebody and they decided that I was a witness and had to be eliminated), and I discovered I had gravity powers and used them to help me get away.
Number 6
28 June 2015 @ 01:54 pm
Thanks to those who expressed their sympathies about the passing of one of my cats.

I meant to post this earlier, but things kept getting in the way. Well, not really, but more time kept getting away from me. I've been in a bit of a funk lately, and I don't think it was JUST my cat's passing, but it certainly didn't help.

But I wanted to say something, because he was something of a member of my family. I don't expect anyone else to read this. Read more...Collapse )
Number 6
15 June 2015 @ 07:29 pm
One of my cats just died. I knew it was coming but it still happened too fast.

Crying for the first time I can remember in years.
Number 6
So, I guess life continues. Not much has changed for me personally, except for one piece that has gone firmly in the negative column: My job. Oh, it still exists, and objectively I can't complain compared to other people, but, they changed all the times around. So now instead of, on work days, waking up and going in early, then coming home and having the rest of the day (and not to mention hitting the grocery stores on the way home), I have one in the middle of the afternoon and the others are at night, which means having to go to work hangs over me the whole day, I usually can't do much grocery shopping on the way home, and, sometimes, I feel messed up the next day (whereas before sometimes I feel a bit messed up the day I work, but it's gone by the next day). And of course, it means any family events I have to schedule around, instead of being pretty much available any time anyone else is. Bleh. Unfortunately, it's unlikely to change much, due to everything from cost-cutting at the head office, our new mayor's parking laws, and some stupid sports games all colliding into a perfect storm.

I guess there is one other piece of mild news, I went to Wonderland for the first time in years (Canada's, not Alice's). My brother got me a season's pass for my birthday, and one for himself as well, so we went down to ride some of the roller coasters, and probably will go one or two times more during the summer (and possibly on some other trip with my dad, who separately got a pass with his wife, so he can take the step-grandkids). It was fun, especially the Leviathan, which had a huge drop.

Adventures in Food... still doing most of the cooking, and have gotten a bit more adventurous. I've done some baking experiments that have mostly turned out well... I've made peanut butter cookies a few times, and oatmeal peanut butter cookies once, and last week I did a cheesecake for the first time, including home-made graham cracker peanut butter crust (and topped with sliced fresh strawberries which were on sale the day I made it). The cheesecake wasn't as dense as I was hoping, I think I need more cheese in the mix, but I think the flavors were good. And I cooked ribs for the first time, which turned out awesome, fall off the bone tender (and, since I have a bag full of oatmeal from when I made the cookies, I tried something I read online and made a savory oatmeal side dish with onions and mushrooms that turned out really well and I'll probably be making again tonight). Not sure what I'll try next (that I haven't already done, I mean, tonight I'm making meatloaf).

TV stuffs:

I'm not going to try to recap most of TV. I will say that the new shows for the networks are dull dull dull. A few looked like they might be kind of interesting, SF concepts, except they tagged on "And helps the police solve crimes!" at the end and I lost all my interest. I'll probably watch Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl, and, perhaps surprisingly, I'm more excited about the latter (LoT has a lot of cast members I like, but I'm not sure how they're going to make it work and I think it's going to mess up some stuff I liked about Arrow and Flash).

I did watch a couple Binge-Watch shows. There's Netflix's Daredevil, which turned out to be pretty good. I mean, yeah, there were a few issues, but overall I liked it and the cast was well done (especially Foggy, who was perfect).

And I checked out Sony's Playstation-network-exclusive series Powers, based on the Bendis comic. There are... good parts and bad parts.
Read more...Collapse )

There are a couple SF Netflix or Cable Channel series starting soon (or already started) that I plan on checking out, though: Sense8, Dark Matters, Killjoys, and The Expanse (though that's probably not for a few months).

And since the last one is based on a book series, that segues us nicely into Book Foo.

First, a word about the Hugo awards: Bleh.

Bleh's a word, right? Yeah, many words have been written about it already, but I am not happy, the Puppies campaigns were, in my mind, cheating, even if they were technically allowed by the rules (last year, they were a little closer to the line of "I think the choices are despicable but they went about it fairly"). I almost feel like I wasted the money to get a Worldcon membership so I could nominate and vote because of this stupid campaign. *I* played fairly, reading and choosing stories that made ME passionate, but most of the categories get dominated by people gaming the system. I will mostly be voting No Award against the slate-nominated works, because it's the only way to discourage such tactics (although I'll try to give the nominees a fair chance to impress me as "independently worthy of winning one").

But on to the books I HAVE read since my last post. As usual, reviews taken from my goodreads account, and spoilers should be generally minor and limited to back-of-the-book type descriptions (or I'll try to warn if anything greater), but I can't promise.

Finished: Recursion, by Tony Ballantyne
Recursion interweaves three stories set at different time periods in the future. Read more...Collapse )I'm willing to write off the problems as either a personal experience (I was reading them during the winter blues!) or the traditional first novel problems where authors hopefully improve, and I'm still interested in trying the second book in the series.

Finished: Behemoth, by Peter Watts (Rifters, #3)

Read more...Collapse )

Finished: Light, by M. John Harrison
Light tells three stories... a serial killer in the modern day and, in the far future, a woman bonded to a starship and a man who's addicted to virtual reality scenarios. They wander about doing a variety of things more or less on whims but there are connections between them that supposedly makes it all something more than a pointless exercise.

I'm being a little harsh on this book, and it's unfair, especially because I only have myself to blame. I have a rule of thumb... if a book is described as being "literary," either in the synopsis, the blurbs they put there, or even recommendations from people I know, I usually take this as a big black and red sign saying "This Book Is Not For You!" But once in a while I choose to ignore that sign. Occasionally, it works out. But mostly, it's like this case. Read more...Collapse )I'm sure there will be plenty of fans of the sort of thing he does, but I am not one of them.

Finished: The Hydrogen Sonata, by Iain M. Banks
The Gzilt, a galactic civilization that was very nearly one of the founding members of the utopian Culture, is about to move on, to Sublime, to ascend, as an entire civilization, to another plane of existence, along with most of its population. But, as the days wind down before the big event, an ancient secret is discovered, and, fearing that it might cause some percentage of the population to have second thoughts about subliming, there's an attempt to cover it up, and other attempts to learn of it. One citizen is caught up in events because she once knew somebody who was alive when the events were unfolding, thousands of years earlier, a man who is still alive but in hiding. Meanwhile, members of the Culture learn about the secret and decide they should find out the truth, even if they're not sure whether it's a good idea to reveal that truth once they learn it. Wackiness ensues.

This is (sadly) the final book set in the Culture, the author himself having passed on. Read more...Collapse )And perhaps that is a good legacy for Banks... he wrote stories that shouldn't have worked, and he made them work. It's almost like he's been performing a Hydrogen Sonata of his own, with one key difference... even thought it have might be clunky at times, it's been a pleasure to experience it.

And I'm sad as hell that the last note has been played.

Finished: Collected Stories, by Hannu Rajaniemi (short story collection, received for free)

I received an ebook of this book for free through NetGalley. I don't think it affected my review.

This collects short stories by Hannu Rajaniemi, perhaps best known for the hard SF post-singularity series that starts with The Quantum Thief. Read more...Collapse ) I actually would buy this collection with my own money... at least if it gets released in paperback. The original print run is a hardcover and apparently limited only to 2000 copies... and, aside from preferring the paperback format in general, I'd rather somebody else get to enjoy the stories than get a separate copy for my own later rereading.

Finished: Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
Perdido Street Station tells of a city of humans, insect-headed women, cactus people, toad people, and more. One of them is Isaac, a scientist, involved in a secret cross-species relationship, and hired to restore flight to a bird-man who was punished by his people with the removal of his wings. In the course of this assignment, something is accidentally unleashed that threatens the entire city.

Obviously, this is a fantasy novel, with elements of steampunk (although I personally wouldn't consider it pure steampunk). And I should probably start out by saying that I'm not a big fan of either genre, in terms of novel-reading (movies or TV, fine, and I like the steampunk aesthetic, I just typically don't enjoy reading either genre). However, Mieville has impressed me with some of his other work that I've read, so I decided I'd stretch outside of my comfort zone and give it a try, since it is, perhaps, his most famous work.

I'm glad I did, because this really is something interesting.Read more...Collapse )Definitely worth a try, at least, even if you're like me, a science fiction reader who doesn't generally enjoy fantasy.

Finished: Apex, by Ramez Naam (Nexus #3, received for free)
I received an advanced review ebook of this for free through NetGalley. I don't think it affected my review. What may have affected the review was my enjoyment for the previous books, which is why I signed up to get the early look... I just couldn't wait until it came out in stores. Read more...Collapse )I still have the ebook, but I enjoyed it so much that I'm going to buy a physical copy, so the series will look nice together on my shelves, and, if our technological civilization ever totally collapses, I can read by candlelight and imagine a world that might have been.

Finished: A Song Called Youth, by John Shirley
War is gripping the world, but that's not the real danger. The real danger is that it's being used by secretive powers to promote a new wave of racist fascism, where 'undesirables' can be accused of being enemy agents, terrorist sympathizers, or security risk, and systematically eliminated from power... and, eventually, just eliminated. However, there are forces working for freedom, the New Resistance, often struggling just to stay alive and to expose the villains for who they are. But it's harder than ever, especially in a world where, if you fall into enemy hands, their machines can extract every secret and even turn them to their side.

A Song Called Youth is actually a collection of three late-80s, early-90s cyberpunk novels: Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona, collected in an omnibus under a new title for the 21st century. Read more...Collapse )I'm rating it three stars, which means "I liked it", while the truth is I'd probably describe it as "ok"... it gets the extra star because it's one of those rare books that I'm glad I read despite it being a slog, despite not enjoying it on a pure pleasure, because I think it has some important ideas that'll stick with me.

Finished: The Lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu
An alien race has been with humanity, guiding us, since the beginning. They can only survive inside bodies and provide advice and insight to the people they're bonded to, until that person dies and they must quickly find a new body. They've guided some of the most well-known people in history. And they're at war with each other, two factions, one who want to provoke humanity into war and conflict, and another who want to guide them to being better. Tao is on the latter side, but when his last partner dies on a mission, he's forced to find another quickly or die, and the only choice available is Roen Tan, an out-of-shape computer geek going nowhere in life. Not agent material, but Tao has to make the best of it and train him for the conflicts ahead.

I don't really have a lot to say about this book. I enjoyed it, but it felt a little on the lightweight side. Read more...Collapse )it's the kind of middle-of-the-road SF book that is good enough that I can enjoy it, but not so good that I despair in my own ambitions because I'd never be able to write anything even close to as good... and that's an important niche in my reading life too. It's the kind of book where I'll probably decide to try the author again with another book if it had a good premise. And in this case, this is only the first book in a series (although you can read it as a stand-alone without problems), and I liked the world and premise and characters enough that I'm willing to commit to reading the next book in it, The Deaths of Tao, at least eventually... I'm not rushing out to buy it, but if I spot it on a book run and have some spare cash and space in my bookbag/order, I'll probably grab it.

Finished: Capacity, by Tony Ballantyne

In the future, humanity is watched over, arguably controlled by AIs, and only a small fraction of people live in what we think of as the "real" world... many citizens are digital copies, living in simulations of reality, albeit with a human lifespan. An agent of the government rescues one of these digital copies from an illegal simulation used for torture fantasies, and the two go on a quest to find the creator of the sim and bring him to justice. And in deep space, a human is sent to investigate a planet where super-intelligent AIs seem to be effectively killing themselves by reducing themselves to below human intelligence.

This is set in the same world as Recursion, although it's hard to call it a sequel, as really the only character in common seems to be the Watcher, an AI that guides humanity. I liked Recursion, although it had flaws. This one... I'm a lot more mixed on. Read more...Collapse )I rated it a three, but it's on the edge between two and three. I was hoping to like it more. There is a third book in the series/universe, and, right now, I'm not sure I'll follow through to it. Maybe if I'm browsing a used bookstore and see it I might try it, but I don't have a drive to seek it out.

Finished: Untaken, by J.E. Anckorn (ebook received for free)
Aliens ships appear in the sky, and, at first do nothing but wait, leading people to wonder what their goal is. But suddenly, they strike, and soon most of the population is gone, killed or taken up in one of their ships, which might amount to the same thing. Two teenagers are among those left behind, though, and they must struggle to survive and take care of a young child who was also left behind.

I was able to read this book free through NetGalley. It had a premise just intriguing enough to request it... it is, of course, a YA book, and while I enjoy these kinds of books when they've got a good plot, I've not yet read a YA alien invasion story, which is a staple of SF in general. (short version: enjoyed it a lot until a certain thing happened, tiny bit spoilery)Read more...Collapse )As it is, I think I have to stick with my overall rating of a two, and maybe guess that, were I a YA, I'd have bumped it up to a three at least.

Finished: City of Savages, by Lee Kelly
In the future, all of New York City is a POW camp, although most of the survivors cluster near Central Park. Two sisters, Skye and Phee, are among the minority who spend only the cold months there, because their mother doesn't like to be under the rule of the camp leader, Rolladin any more than she has to. As the time comes to move back, the sisters share a special bond as they discover their mother's hidden journal, which dates back to the start of the war, a time she never talks about it, and secretly begin to read it. But also, forces from outside the city make a startling appearance that threatens Rolladin's power. Both of these events will cause the sisters to question everything they thought they knew about the city, their family, and world.

City of Savages is a YA book, but the premise really drew me. I mean, look at the first few words of my summary... all of New York City as a POW camp. It's immediately interesting. And the author does a good job of bringing you into that world right away. Read more...Collapse )I'll stick with 3 stars as my official rating. I'd still recommend it to teenagers who like adventure stories along the lines of the Hunger Games (but different).

Finished: Galactic North, by Alastair Reynolds
Galactic North is a series of short stories all set in the author's Revelation Space universe, spanning a time period from less than two hundred years in the future, to thousands and thousands of years beyond (and arranged in roughly chronological order). Read more...Collapse )To somebody who isn't familiar at all with the universe, I don't know how well these will land, but I think they're pretty accessible (to somebody who enjoys space opera with a lot of hard SF elements). If you're a fan of the novels, though (regardless of your thoughts on the ending) it's absolutely worth picking up.

Currently Reading (or finished but haven't put up reviews): Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, by Judd Trichter, The Blondes by Emily Schultz (received for free), The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, Shelter by Susan Palwick, River of Gods by Ian McDonald.

I'm considering reviving my Unreachable Star site, that I used to do comic reviews on, and remaking it as a general SF review site, since I'm doing these book reviews anyway. Even if they're just mirroring my Goodreads reviews, at the very least, it might get me more free review copies of upcoming SF novels. Anyway, not today, I'm lazy.

Hope everything's been good with y'all.
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Number 6
13 May 2015 @ 07:58 am
Happy Birthday locker_monster!

(I've kind of slacked off on birthday messages in general for people on my flist, so if I missed yours, my sincere apologies, and I hope you had a great one...)
Number 6
Darn Livejournal, cutting off the full title:

Panic Groom, or, How An International Feminist Conspiracy in an Alternate Dimension Saved Me From Being Late To Work

How's that for a title? I think my whole reason for writing this post is so I could use that title.

Anyway, I use my computer as an alarm clock... put it in sleep mode and set a timer so that at a specific time (two times, actually, I like a staged wakeup because if I sleep 100% through the night without interruptions, my body feels like no time has passed and I feel more tired), a video file plays (different one each time so that I can tell whether it's the early or late) and wakes me up until I turn it off. Now, normally, there's no problem. But occasionally, a script will be running in the background of my websurfing or something that causes the whole computer to slow to a crawl until I stop it. In this case, the first wakeup went off fine, but the second one, well, it went off an hour late.

I woke up to the second one, noted the time, and though, "Huh. Good thing that didn't happen on Friday, or I might be late for work. I think I'm going to get a bit more sleep though." So, I went to bed and started to drift off, but not quite, something was on my mind. And it was on my mind long enough that eventually, I realized, "Hey, wait a minute... it IS Friday." And so I had just enough time to get up, shower, brush teeth/comb hair, and get out the door on schedule.

What was on my mind? A dream I had before waking up, in which there was a TV show or comic in which various female comic/TV-comic characters from DC or Marvel, including (but not limited to) Agent Carter, Mystique, Lois Lane, Felicity from Arrow (sometimes it was Barbara-Gordon-Oracle) and Wonder Woman were all recast as operating a top secret group in the 40s-60s (the exact period was unclear and may have changed from moment-to-moment in the dream) that was, in addition to doing normal heroic operations of fighting bad guys (pretty much working like an SSR but with Agent Carter in charge) trying to promote social equality through means that occasionally bordered on questionable-ethics-but-ends-justify-the-means-for-the-greater-good type actions (e.g., framing a sexual harasser for financial misconduct so that they'd be fired and a more progressive person would be hired in their place... there was also something involving a guy with writing all over his face but I don't know what that was about), all of which somehow led up to an alternate now (which we would also see in flashforwards now and then) where not only was the vast majority of people openly accepting of differences, there was also improved biotechnology such that you could go through a sex change, complete enough to reproduce if you so desired, with just a few hormone treatments, or have unusual body parts like horns grafted on your head just for kicks). And in my half-asleep state (before it had the wherewithal to wonder, "Wait, how would that even work?") my mind thought that this was an awesome idea for a comic and should totally be done and I was rolling around in my head other options to expand it and how to tell the world about this awesome concept.

I don't think trying to read too much into the meaning of this dream would be too fruitful (but if you do, please note that I was entirely positive, emotionally-speaking, about the international feminist conspiracy, and not conjuring it up in a paranoid-ranting-about-black-helicopters way), but it stuck with me long enough for me to realize that it was in fact Friday and I did in fact have to go to work.
Number 6
10 March 2015 @ 06:31 pm
Yeah, I've fallen behind, but, in my defense, my life is pretty much just blah blah work read sleep eat over and over again, and although my crossposting my Goodreads book reviews could be done more often, it just doesn't seem like enough on its own to write about.

What's new with me? Still, not much. My birthday in about 2 weeks.

Oh, and I had my first major cooking mishap. This past Sunday, I was cooking a pork roast, and as I normally do, I was searing the sides first. Except, this time, not like usually) and largely because I was trying dredging the roast in flour first), I had oil in the pan, rather than just dropping it in fat-side-down and letting that serve as the oil-like substance. Hot oil. Can you guess where this is going? I dropped the roast in the pan, and there was splashage. Got both of my hands (the sides), and some on my chest (more of me was splattered than got burnt here, but the shirt I was wearing protected me). Yeah, it was pretty painful, but it was just a light burn, could have been a lot worse. Today, I have one big blister on a finger, and a couple tiny ones on my chest. Oddly, the parts I THOUGHT got the worst of it are fine, not even sore at all anymore (unless I'm directly pressing it).

Anyway, I consider it a victory, as not only did I finish cooking the meal, I didn't cry out or let anyone in my family know (including my brother, who ate the meal) I'd been injured. Yes, that's a strange victory condition, but I am a strange person. And I went to work today (the blister is on a part of the finger that's not directly endangered so with a little care I could still lift heavy loads). So, that's something. Hopefully this will be a lesson to me. But I've had to put off gaming a little... got the new Tomb Raider reboot free from XBox 'games with gold' but I've postponed getting into it.

TV, honestly, there's not a lot to report. A lot of things in reruns, and that which has been new is good, but not really all that memorable. Watching Walking Dead, which I enjoy, but, right now they're kind of following the comics fairly close, so it's not as exciting. Game of Thrones soon, at least.

So, let's get onto Book Foo, I have a big backlog to get through... reviews come from my Goodreads account:

Finished: The Martian, by Andy Weir

Astronaut Mark Watney is part of a team visiting Mars. He's not the first person to set foot on the red planet, but he may be the first one to die there. Only a few days into his mission, a dust storm causes his team to evacuate... and as they make the trek from their habitation module to the ascent vehicle, Mark is wounded, lost, and presumed dead. By the time he wakes up, everybody else is bound for Earth. But he's alive, unable to contact Earth, and has to stretch his limited resources until the next mission... which isn't expected for years. And there's plenty that can go wrong for one person on a hostile planet for that long.

The Martian has been receiving high praise, and is already in the process of a movie adaptation, presumably to appeal to those who liked the movie Gravity (or Matt Damon, who stars). And, after reading it myself, I can see why. Read more...Collapse )Still, these issues are, in the end, minor, for what is really a good book overall, and mostly they bothered me in reflection, because while reading it, I was having too much fun to worry.

Finished: Burning Paradise, by Robert Charles Wilson
It's 2014, but not our 2014. This is a world celebrating approximately a hundred years without war. But there's a dark secret underlying the seeming peace... the world is the way it is because Earth has been secretly guided away from conflict by an alien presence, a life form that's intelligent but not conscious, and only has its own interests at heart. Seven years ago they murdered nearly every member of a small group of scientists who had been putting the pieces together. Cassie is the daughter of two of these murdered scientists, and has lived in fear that the aliens will come back and finish the job, eliminating anyone left who knows the secret. And so, when she spots one of the alien's human "sims", she does what she's been trained to do... she takes her little brother and runs. But there are bigger things going on, and Cassie's got a big role to play in the future of the world. And there may even be a chance to defeat the aliens... but everything has a cost. Read more...Collapse ) it's probably not as memorable as some of his other major works, but I enjoyed reading it all the way through.

Finished: Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville
Warning: I do sort of spoil one of the twists... it's sort of a twist that's part of the premise, so it's hard to talk about without it. Still, I'll leave the spoilery part of the premise behind the cut, just in case.

UnLondon is a magical city that exists somewhat parallel to London, a world where magic is commonplace, where inanimate objects have lives of their own, ghosts and half-ghosts live, and the greatest threat to everyone is an intelligent cloud of smog. Read more...Collapse )It's still a kid's book, so, as an adult, I only rate it a three... I liked it. But it's a high three, and I think that if I was in the target age range, I'd give it a four or five.

Finished: Ragamuffin, by Tobias Buckell
Humans are second-class citizens in the galaxy, technically free but realistically under the control of the aliens of the Satrapcy, who control the wormhole network and also have ways of controlling minds. But Nashara is an agent from a sealed-off human world who carries a weapon.... one that might be humanity's only shot, as the Satraps may be switching from a policy of repression of humanity to one of extermination.

Ragamuffin is part of Tobias Buckell's Xenowealth universe. It's technically the second book, and they're supposedly stand-alones except that there are some recurring characters. This is the first book I've read of his, so I have the rare (for me) experience of not just guessing how someone might react to coming in on the second book, but to give my own impressions. (Short, non-spoilery version: Liked the first half, but the 'part of a series' part sort of ruined it) Read more...Collapse )There were some cool ideas here, and a few nifty set-pieces, so despite my problems with the book, I'd be willing to give the author another look somewhere down the line.

Finished: The Mount, by Carol Emshwiller

Hundreds of years ago, diminutive aliens, the Hoots, conquered Earth. Some humans are free, but most are slaves. Those treated the best are the ones chosen as mounts, constantly feeling a Hoot's weight on their shoulders, trained for races or exhibition, treated like pets and friends... but slaves nonetheless. Young Charley is one of these mounts, serving the Hoots' future leader, and when Charley's father, a leader of the human rebellion, frees him, he's not all that happy about it. Who, after all, would want to live in the woods and struggle to survive, when you can be taken care of and treated well and complimented. Read more...Collapse )It's probably not going to be one of my favorites, but I'm glad I read it and sure I'll recommend it in certain contexts to other people.

Finished: Some of the Best from Tor.com, 2014 (short fiction collection)

This is an ebook collection of what the editor thinks were some of the best stories published on Tor.com in 2014.

Any short story book is a mixed bag. But in this one, it generally felt unsuited to my tastes. Read more...Collapse )Of them, I think perhaps Liu, Dellamonica, and Emrys wrote the standouts. If the book was just these, I'd probably raise it to 4, if it was these and a few of the ones I don't like, a safe 3, but because, on balance, I felt outweighed by stories where the reading was something of a chore, so I'll leave it at 2.

Finished: The Mirrored Heavens, by David J. Williams

It's the early 22nd century, and terrorists have just destroyed the space elevator, which threatens the peace between world powers. Several operatives of various groups pursue various interests.

The Mirrored Heavens is a high-octane action cyberpunk book, full of cynicism and interesting ideas about the future of warfare and mental conditioning. It might have been a great book, if only he remembered to include anything human.Read more...Collapse )It wasn't offensive, it just never became compelling to me. All I got was a vague sense that this could have been better if I cared about anyone.

Finished: God's War, by Kameron Hurley

God's War follows Nyx, a mercenary, former royal assassin, and occasional bounty hunter, living on a war-torn planet in a society where (due to a draft on males only and the high casualty rate) women vastly outnumber men. She and her team take on a mission that, they're told, may lead to the end of the centuries-long war.

This is the debut novel by Kameron Hurley, who's been getting a fair amount of attention lately, and, judging by this, it's well-deserved.Read more...Collapse ) I have to admit, I'd seen this book in stores before, looked briefly at it, and passed over it... for reasons mentioned already, it felt like "not really my thing." But I decided I'd give it a try, in part from positive recommendations about the author and book, and in part because I'm trying to make a deliberate effort to read more diverse SF authors and characters. And in this case, I'm really glad I did.

Finished: Wool Omnibus, by Hugh Howey

Wool is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where the surface of the Earth is uninhabitable. What may be all that is left in humanity lives in the Silo, and has for hundreds of years, a closed, self-sufficient community about a hundred and fifty levels deep. Whole generations have grown up never seeing the outside except on the feed from the cameras on the surface... but almost nobody would have it any other way. For there is a rule, that expressing any desire to go outside gets you assigned to go out and clean the cameras... a task that nobody survives. Read more...Collapse ) I might go on to read the other books in the series, but I'm not inspired to rush out and do so right now.

Finished: Yesterday's Kin, by Nancy Kress (novella, received for free)

I was able to read Yesterday's Kin free through NetGalley. It doesn't impact my review.

A genetic researcher has discovered something about humanity's family tree, something that interests the aliens who have just recently made contact with Earth, a discovery that causes them to reveal the truth about why they've come... and a threat that concerns both of them.

Yesterday's Kin is a novella, in that awkward stage that's too long for a short story and not nearly long enough as a novel. Although it's listed as 192 pages, it's an extremely brisk read. In fact, I think it reads more like a very long short, and yet it's sold more or less like a novel, and that's potentially a problem. Read more...Collapse )

Currently in progress or finished-but-I-haven't-written-my-reviews: Light, by M. John Harrison, Behemoth, by Peter Watts (Rifters, Book 3) (put it on hold a bit to read shorter fiction), Recursion, by Tony Ballantyne, The Hydrogen Sonata, by Iain M. Banks, Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

And speaking of books, you might have this spoiled if you read behind the cut of the last review, but, since I've been reading more, and more new books, I've decided for the first time to buy a Worldcon membership, so I can nominate and vote for the Hugo awards. Nominations close today, so here's my list, unless I make a last minute addition or two (if anyone's interested, I can provide links to most of the shorter fiction for legal reading online, but I'm too lazy to do it right now):

Read more...Collapse )
Number 6
End of the year post! As some of you know, I don't really celebrate New Years, both due to being a social hermit and just not liking it. But, why not put up a post to finish off my book review posts as an easy-to-find bookend, and also update on other things.

First, other things. I probably should have posted this earlier, but I hope everyone's had a nice holiday season, regardless of any holidays you celebrate (and if you don't celebrate any, well, I hope you enjoyed the lights and colors of other people celebrating?). I had a fairly quiet Xmas, just my Dad, Grandmother, Stepmother, and Brother having a dinner. It was good, though.

And it goes without saying (except that I'm doing so anyway) that I wish you all a Happy New Year for 2015, even if I don't expect one for myself.

Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, on to the actual update.

Not much has been going on in the TV front other than Legend of Korra finale (Which I discussed in a separate post) and The Doctor Who XMas special (which I don't feel like discussing it at length... suffice it to say it was an episode that was constantly annoying me while it was going on because of things that didn't make sense, but then they explained all of it more or less satisfactory so... I guess I kind of half-liked it? Though it's a weird kind of like. Maybe it'll rewatch better. Also, didn't especially like the ending.

What else... well, I should probably update on the cooking front.

Since I started learning to cook, I've actually cooked, in some limited sense of the word, almost every night for the last three months. A couple "grab fast food" nights and a few family occasions (and inevitable days of leftovers), and a handful of days where my brother cooked (he's busy and stressed with work and school most of the time so I don't want to ask him to do extra... so I like helping him out).

Now, mostly, it's fairly simple stuff... packaged side-dishes where you just have to pour in a pot and follow directions, frozen vegetables, and a couple times were it's something super simple "just pop it in an oven and wait" meals like frozen pizza (though I usually add mushrooms), but a fair number of meats where I actually cook... burgers and sausages being the most common, or ground beef for hamburger helper/tacos. I've also now cooked pork chops (including seasoning, searing, and then finishing in the oven), pork roast (rubbing a seasoning on it and slicing it from a larger roast) with carrots (prepared from fresh, peeled and chopped and) cooked in the juices, bacon and eggs a few different ways, and made what (if I do say so myself) was a pretty excellent meatloaf (in addition to dicing mushrooms for the loaf mix along with other ingredients, I also left three whole mushrooms in the middle as a little surprise which seemed to give it an awesome extra moistness). So I'm glad to be learning new things. And I haven't poisoned anyone yet.

But now let's go to Book Foo. As usual, reviews are usually grabbed from my Goodreads account, and unless otherwise noted don't have what I feel are significant spoilers but may include some minor information outside of the cut (and a 'back-of-the-book' summary before the cut, so if you don't like those you should probably stop reading the entry entirely right now).

Finished: Exo, by Steven Gould (Jumper, Book 4)

Millicent ('Cent') Rice is a teenager who has inherited the otherwise unique ability to teleport from her parents. She can go anywhere she's been, or anywhere she can see clearly, in the blink of an eye, and bring anything she can carry with her. So what does a girl like that do when she wants to make her mark on the world (and also needs a project to distract her from dwelling on a recent breakup)? Why, she starts her own space program, of course.

This book continues the Jumper series, which started out focusing on her father but as of the last book, Impulse changed to Cent, but despite that, and other changes, the series remains a fun and compulsively readable adventure. Read more...Collapse )

I do think the above problems (or near-problems) make it possibly the weakest book in the SERIES, it's only by degrees. Ideally, I'd like a bit more of an emotional punch other than the sensawunda (which, granted, is here in spades), and a more directed plot with complications, but I still thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and am totally on board for more. And there's plenty of room for more Read more...Collapse ) Whatever happens, I'll be there.

Finished: Pushing Ice, by Alastair Reynolds
When one of Saturn's moons suddenly leaves orbit and takes off for a distant star, revealing itself to be an unfathomably ancient alien starship, a nuclear-powered ice-mining ship is the only one near enough to have a chance at getting some detailed observations before it leaves the system. As they struggle to learn all they can, they soon discover that returning home may not be as simple as they thought, and begin a journey that will take them to the depths of space and time and force them to struggle just to survive. Read more...Collapse ) If it wasn't for the characters, this would be one of my favorites of Reynolds' books, as it probably has the most appealing (to me) central premise. As it is, it lands somewhere squarely in the middle.

Finished: Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie (Imperial Radch, Book 2)
(summary cut because it's slightly spoilery for the ending of the first book)

Read more...Collapse ) The quieter, lower-stakes nature of the plot is the biggest flaw, but... it's not really all that big. If that's the worst you can say about it, it's almost like you're reaching for something to say. I liked the book, I enjoyed the characters, and even the pace was pretty good. If you liked the first book, you'll probably like this one as well, but if not, there's not a lot to change your mind, either. When the third book comes out, I'll certainly be reading that as well.

Finished: Maelstrom, by Peter Watts (Rifters, Book 2)

(again cutting summary because description is slightly spoilery for book 1) Read more...Collapse )Still, on the whole it's a worthy sequel, may even be better than the first (it's a hard call, since they focus on different things and either might appeal to me more when I'm in a certain mood).

Finished: Infoquake, by Daniel Louis Edelmen
Infoquake tells the story of a ruthless businessman in the far future and his attempt to do a product launch for a new technology that's going to change the world. That about describes everything that matters, which doesn't matter a lot to me. Read more...Collapse ) This might be somebody's ideal book, but it's not mine. There ARE some cool ideas, but I have to wade through too much stuff I'm not interested in to get to them, and the things that do interest me, they don't really get paid off in a satisfying degree.

Finished: Terminal World, by Alastair Reynolds
Terminal World is the story of Quillon, who lives in a world divided by zones, where the laws of physics are slightly different and different levels of technology work in each zone. Some zones allow only steam and clockwork contraptions, others allow circuitry and computer networks, and still others allow far beyond what Earth has today. A few zones don't even allow life, but even those that do, are optimized for those already born to it... crossing a zone boundary is hazardous, sometimes even fatal, without medication. Spearpoint is a city built on an impossibly tall spire, which contains several zones... but Quillon has to leave. For though he comes from one of the highest-technology zones, he's been in hiding in Neon Heights for years, and the people he's hiding from want him. But that's just the start of his journey, because the zones are unstable, and the whole world is at risk.

Ever since I heard about the book, I was both interested and wary. Interested, because I love the idea of different technology zones and crossing between them. This sounded a little like Vernor Vinge's Zones of Thought universe, except all mashed onto one planet. And yet, two things worried me. Read more...Collapse )I would love to see Reynolds come back to this world, maybe not as a sequel (the story could continue, but it doesn't need to, my frustrations with the ending notwithstanding), but merely a different adventure using this world, for I can see plenty of stories left to tell in it.

Finished: This Alien Shore, by C.S. Friedman
The first age of spaceflight ended abruptly when it was discovered that the faster-than-light drive had side effects, altering the genetics of those who used it, which already included millions of colonists bound for different worlds. Earth shut down all travel and left the colonies isolated to survive or fall on their own, and their variants on the human form to develop into their own standards of normal. Centuries later, one of those colonies discovered a new way to travel faster-than-light, and brought together all the human worlds once more... but held a strict and complete monopoly on such travel, forcing everyone else to follow the rules of their Guild or risk being cut off from the rest of the universe. But there's a computer virus spreading which seems to be created to try and learn their secrets, infesting people's brainware and causing more than a few deaths, and the Guild must investigate it. But that's not the only thing that's going on... a teenage girl named Jamiska is on the run and doesn't know why. The subject of an experiment at a young age, she may be another key to toppling the Guild monopoly, and that makes her very valuable to all sorts of people who might not have her personal best interests at heart. But she's on her own... except for the voices in her head.

It's a complicated premise to sum up quickly (I didn't even get into significant spoiler territory), but when reading it, it's fairly easy to grasp, and the author's created a setup for her world and characters that draw you in. Read more...Collapse )I rated this a three, but it's a high three, nearly a four. I'd happily read something else in this universe. It doesn't absolutely need a sequel, but there's plenty of room in this setting to explore other stories.

Finished: The Human Division, by John Scalzi (Old Man's War universe)
The Human Division takes place in the universe of Old Man's War, after the events of that trilogy, but not focusing on the main characters. Instead, it focuses on Harry Wilson, friend of John Perry from the first books, and his adventures as science adviser on a series of missions, many of which are diplomatic in nature, while meanwhile somebody, possibly somebody in the Colonial Union, seeks to sabotage diplomatic measures.

Generally speaking, this is one of those "optional safe bet" books, at least for fans. If you liked the other books in the series, you'll probably like this... but at the same time, it's not required reading by any means. Read more...Collapse ) Because the book seems to suffer from this lack of depth (and the series in general is not typically deep SF), the whole thing winds up feeling a little disposable... fun, mind you, but disposable fun. Like watching one of those milestone episodes of a TV series, where instead of going for big events they let the actors just have fun doing wacky stuff, and you could skip the ep if you had to... you might miss a few plot points, but nothing major. I enjoyed it. But not as much as I did the other books in the series.

Finished: Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey (Expanse, Book 1 )
Leviathan Wakes tells the story of a spaceship crew who respond to a distress call and get way over their heads, and a cop on an asteroid colony trying to find a missing girl, who may have been on the ship giving the distress call.

This is a rollicking space adventure that combines SF, noir, action, and horror, and the first book of a series that has not only become very popular, but is also being made into a TV series. And I can see why... there's a lot of neat stuff here. And yet... I also was left, just a little, underwhelmed. Read more...Collapse )I did like it, and I almost gave it four stars, there was just that niggling TV-vibe that made it feel a little shallower. But I'm almost certainly going to be checking out the sequels, at least the first two or three. I'm not yet sure it's worth committing to all nine.

Started: The Martian, by Andy Weir
Started: Behemoth, by Peter Watts (Rifters, Book 3)
Started: Burning Paradise, by Robert Charles Wilson

That makes my total list for the year:

1. Briarpatch, by Tim Pratt
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60. Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey (Expanse, #1)

Some stats on what I read:
This year I read 60 books.
According to Goodreads, they totalled 26676 pages, which means I read about 3 pages every hour of the year (though of course, not read that way or I'd go insane).

(Though of course, this is slightly inaccurate as I read something like a 3000 page book of short stories slowly, some in 2013, some in 2014, but since I finished in 2014, they count it there... but, whatever, close enough)
I reread 12 books (vs 48 new to me)
Number of books recieved for free (through giveaways, contests, etc, rather than just given or available free by the author): 5
Favorite Books: Echopraxia by Peter Watts, The Causal Angel but both are parts of series I really enjoyed. For completely new finds, The Newsflesh series by Mira Grant and The Last Policeman series by Ben H. Winters were nice surprises that gripped me.
Number 6
31 December 2014 @ 10:35 am
Happy Birthday liabrown!!!!!
Number 6
19 December 2014 @ 09:08 pm
It's a shame to be ending right when it was mostly hitting it's stride.

LOK was a bit of a mixed bag... it wasn't as good as ATLA... there were times where it COULD have been far better, if they'd done a few things differently, or had a few more episodes so they could better handle their pacing. Still, on the whole, it turned out pretty good, and by the end I think they largely learned from their mistakes.

The last two episodes were fairly enjoyable, if a bit predictable for the most part. (some spoilers)Read more...Collapse )

But that's largely nitpicking.

What we really need to talk about is that ending, as in the last scene. I can't believe they did it. And yet, I wish they had gone that one step further.

Read more...Collapse )
Number 6
19 November 2014 @ 12:11 pm
I wasn't going to post this, but it's been playing on my mind regularly since, and maybe narrativizing it will help get it out of there (or maybe that it's all written down somewhere my memory won't feel the need to hold onto it so hard).

So, I go to work very early in the morning, at this time of year well before dawn for the hour or so it takes to walk. Usually it's pretty quiet, especially on Sunday mornings. Last Sunday, not so much.

I was on a section of my walk where it's a very long street, but not particularly well travelled... there's a bus on weekdays, but not on Sundays (at least, not that early), very little traffic or people, and it's residential so although there are streetlight, it's fairly dark overall. I was walking down one side of the street, and heard a couple of people coming up the other side of the street in the other direction. As I got closer, I put it together fairly quickly that they were a young man and woman, and they sounded drunk, and they were arguing... that's not enough that I'd take much notice, but as I got closer, I started to see and hear stuff that worried me, enough that even a coward and confrontation-phobe like me had to step in. Read more...Collapse )

So I think this displaces the homeless woman who wanted me to hold the door to a building for her while she stole her stuff back from another homeless person who was sleeping in the stairwell inside, as the most memorable (but not quite most bizarre) encounter on the street on the way to work (I'm pretty sure I wrote about that other incident, but I can't find the link to it).
Number 6
01 November 2014 @ 02:18 pm
This time, though, my life's actually changed some in the intervening months (aside from the slow pull of entropy), though really it's spillover from my brother's life. Read more...Collapse )

The big effect in my own life (aside from worrying over my brother and the additional cat chores) is in food. See, she was always the cook of the group (she didn't work or even bring in any money through social services or anything, which I guess also means we now are spending less money to maintain the same standard of living), which meant I never really had to do much of anything beyond occasionally putting something in the microwave or oven and coming back when it was done, and could allow my lack of any skills in the area continue to exist (or is it not-exist if it's a lack?). Although my brother does cook some, and did when she didn't feel up to it, he's working a lot with school and actual work, and I didn't want to add to his burden by asking him to cook for me, and in fact the reverse, that at least I could help out by making sure he had a decent hot meal without having to do much work when he comes home (though he often cooks on the weekends so it's not totally one-sided). So I've taken it upon myself to finally learn to cook. Read more...Collapse )

But let's move on from that. Other than that, my life's pretty much the same. Didn't do anything for Halloween (though it was cold and rainy so kids probably didn't enjoy it either... since we never get any Trick or Treaters at our apartment, I might have considered just going out for a walk to see what costumes were on display if not for that). Time does seem to be moving at a rapid pace, except for me, though. I almost feel like I'm in one of those SF stories about time dilation.

Anyway, TV... mildly enjoying stuff this year. Of new shows, Flash is okay fun, and Gotham I'm still not sure it works but it's mostly been holding my attention. It is, if nothing else, pretty well cast, I can believe Catwoman-girl becomes Catwoman and Penguin-Guy becomes Penguin. As for old stuff, Walking Dead's been pretty good, SHIELD's been somewhat better than this time last year, and most of the rest of the stuff is okay but unremarkable.

I should single out DW for special attention, because New Doctor. So far, I like the Doctor, but the writing is mixed. My favorites were probably Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline, both of which were written by the same guy, so I hope he does more next year. Though I have to say I really disliked the Forest one, also by a new writer. Just shoddy all around, maybe one good moment in it ruined by being such an awful episode. But in general, some new writers would be nice (especially a few women), and I think Moffat needs to step away. He's been at it a while, and he's reusing a lot of the same old ideas in new dresses... he's had the 50th anniversary, invented a new doctor and fudged the regeneration count so that he could tell the story of his final-of-12 regenerations, and introduced the first of a new set... that's enough, it's time to let somebody else put their mark on it. (And I hope whoever does it next ditches the "standalone episodes that dangle an ongoing mystery that gets unsatisfyingly resolved in some big finale" pattern and just gives us great episodes and a great finale that comes out of NOWHERE.

Also, I miss the old live-in companion style, rather than what it's been for Clara and about half of Amy/Rory, where they have a normal life that the Doctor just pops in on now and then. I want the Doctor to be that strange man who takes you off on a wild set of adventures that lasts as long as you can stand to stay, a roller coaster ride for as long as you can hold on, and changes your life forever, not to be Cosmic Kramer who keeps popping into your place to try and drag you into his latest crazy scheme (it occurs to me that Seinfeld is probably a dated reference by now). I guess tonight (probably just before the To Be Continued) we learn who Missy is, but so far I'm kind of meh on that too.

Anyway, let's finish with my book list since last time. As usual, the reviews are pulled from my Goodreads account.

Finished: Blindsight by Peter Watts (reread)

Reread this in preparation for Echopraxia, already reviewed it several times here.

Finished: Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross

Five thousand years in the future, humanoid artificial life form Krina investigates the disappearance of her sister that may be connected to an ancient financial scam.

This is set in the same universe as Saturn's Children, but aside from sharing the same setting of a hard SF, no-FTL universe where humanity has died out and robots have replaced them, there's very little in common... the plots don't connect and the characters are all unrelated. (Short version: more interesting than entertaining, and on the whole not as fun as SC)Read more...Collapse ) Your mileage may vary, and it might thrill you.

Finished: Zero Echo Schadow Prime by Peter Samet (received for free)
Full disclosure: I received this book for free as part of a Goodreads giveaway, but I'll do my best to give it a fair and honest review.

Zero Echo Shadow Prime tells the story of Charlie Nobunga, a young genius who just programmed a new sort of AI assistant that actually feels like a real person. In the midst of her fame, she's diagnosed with cancer, the same kind that killed her twin sister, but the head of a cutting edge technology company proposes a solution... to scan her brain and copy her personality into a stronger, artificial body. Charlie's unsure about the whole thing, but the procedure goes ahead... and many different Charlies awaken, each unaware of the others, sometimes unaware of a lot more. First, there's Prime, the planned superior body, a form that could be a cyborg supersolider. There's also Echo, a four-armed warrior with no memories, in a digital world full of other, slightly different Echos. There's Shadow, who's been converted into an AI assistant in somebody's head. And finally, there's Charlie's original body, which wasn't destroyed during the scan but never intended to be reawoken unless there was a problem... except it's been kidnapped by Luddites, who want her help to take down the company that scanned her.

This book's not only a first novel, but a self-published one. This normally makes me very leery of potential poor quality works (I've been burned before), although I'm certainly willing to give a first novel a little more leeway, and the book's concept was impressive and ambitious. So does it live up to it, and is it a successful novel that you could expect to get published on its own? Read more...Collapse ) I guess the best thing to do is split the difference and call it a four, because I did really enjoy it, just with some reservations.

Finished: The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke tells the tale of the last human city, Diaspar, a billion years in the future, and eternally stable thanks to a population engineered to their environment. But one man lacks the fear of the outside world that grips everybody else, and driven by a curiosity about what lies outside the gates.

This is, I'm told, a rework of another work, Against the Fall of Night, but I haven't read it to compare, and I'm unlikely to. Suffice it to say, it's an ambitious book that, while it has some typical failings of SF books of its era, is full of sense of wonder and ably conveys a sense of awe.Read more...Collapse )

Finished: The Year's Best SF 17 (short story collection)
A collection of short stories published in 2011, chosen as the best by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer. As usual, it's a mixed bag. Read more...Collapse )

Finished: Crux by Ramez Naam

Crux continues the story begun in Nexus, in which a technology-based drug installs an operating system and wireless interface in people's brains. Nexus is growing in popularity, more and more kids are being born with Nexus in their systems or growing up learning how to be mentally connected, and groups wanting to stop the technology's spread are growing more desperate. And those who are finding ways to abuse it growing more crafty. Kaden Lane, one of the inventors of the latest version of Nexus, is doing what he can against both groups, using his secret back-door code to shut down those who use Nexus to hack into people's brains and control them for profit, perverted kicks, or political motives, but he has to question whether even he has the right to control others in that way. Read more...Collapse )How entertaining? As soon as I finished, I was ready to go online and, as part of my next bundle of online purchases, I was going to include the next book in the series, Apex... only to find out that I was mistaken and it's actually not released yet. And I was very disappointed in that, because I really want to see where it goes.

Finished: Echopraxia by Peter Watts
In Echopraxia, posthumans rule the world, but there's still a place for ordinary baseline humans... just barely, as a failsafe, a measure of comparison, a pawn in the schemes of hive minds, alien intelligences and more. Daniel Bruks is one such baseline, manipulated into joining a scientific religious order out on a search for the source of signals from space, which may be an alien intelligence, but the hive mind thinks might be God.

This is a follow-up to Blindsight one of my favorite SF books ever, and as such, has a pretty high bar right off the bat. (Short version: Not as good, but still on my shortlist for best SF novel of the year)Read more...Collapse )

Finished: Homeland by Cory Doctorow

Homeland continues the story of Marcus Yallow, who appeared in Doctorow's excellent Little Brother, fighting against those who use the threat of terrorism to undermine the rights of the law-abiding. It's been some years since he told his story of imprisonment and fighting back, and the fame's ended, and just surviving is getting tough with the recession. But when an old associate comes to him and hands him a batch of leaked documents with the instructions to release them if anything happens... and then later witnesses her being abducted by the same forces behind his own imprisonment, he has to decide whether to get involved again. (Short version: Liked it up until the end dropped the ball) Read more...Collapse )I still enjoyed it on the whole, but it wasn't as good.

Finished: The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson (received for free)

Two private detectives who are working for the government's spy agency uncover some kind of conspiracy after a terrorist attack on a distant planet kills millions of people. (short version: didn't like it) Read more...Collapse )

Finished: Last Plane To Heaven: The Final Collection by Jay lake (short story collection, received for free)

The final collection of short stories from Jay Lake, a SF/Fantasy writer who recently died of cancer. Read more...Collapse ) If a novel had the same proportion of "stuff I like" and "stuff I didn't care for" it would probably get a two, but that rating's unfair and even misleading for a short story collection, where you're often skimming through stuff that's not your tastes. So I'll give it a three.

Finished: iD: The Second Machine Dynasty by Madeline Ashby

iD picks up where vN leaves off, except it focuses on vN Javier, who's found love with Amy but still has his failsafe that makes doing harm to humans unthinkable. And that fact is used against him, to force him into betraying his love. Once that's done, he must go on a quest for redemption, falling on his old techniques of charm and seduction to find someone who might have a backup copy of Amy's personality. Read more...Collapse )I certainly enjoyed it. I'll probably read book three, if there's a sequel. I'm just not as excited over it as I was the first.

Finished: Starfire by Peter Watts (semi-reread)
A geothermal power facility on the bottom of the ocean floor isn't the most inviting place to work. Overwhelming pressure, constant danger, near-complete darkness, monsters of the deep, not to mention them having to cut into your body to let you survive the necessary excursions outside the station. Under such conditions, normal people might bend, or break, in unpredictable ways. So if you're a big corporation that just wants to get the job done, it might occur to you to send down people who were already broken... people who've grown up with constant pressure and fear, who had monsters in their own family or have become monsters themselves... people who've grown addicted to being used and abused. These are people who your studies indicate might break, but do so in more predictable ways, ways that don't compromise the mission. Of course, you've forgotten that extreme environments can serve as crucibles, that sometimes broken things put themselves back together stronger, stranger than before. And there are other things at the bottom of the ocean, things that have evolved in those extreme environments, stranger and more dangerous than dysfunctional workers, and together they might change everything. Read more...Collapse )If I were going to recommend any book of this author, it'd still be Blindsight... but Starfish is pretty good too, and well worth checking out.

Finished: Grass by Sheri S. Tepper
The aristocratic class of Grass go hunting for creatures they call "foxen", on things they call "mounts", led by beasts they call "hounds", but it's a much darker game on the planet Grass, where these alien creatures are much more dangerous, and stranger, than the earthly ones they're named after. It's more than a cultural institution, it's practically an obsession among the nobles of this one insular world. The nobles would be happy if nobody from the outside world set foot on Grass ever again, but the rest of the galaxy is secretly facing a plague... and there's some evidence that Grass is the only place that plague doesn't exist. So Grass is pressured in to accepting a family of ambassadors, who's mission it is to find out if there is a cure there, all while hopefully keeping the plague secret. But to do that, they must uncover the dark secrets of Grass.

It took a while for me to get into the book, I have to admit. Read more...Collapse ) On the whole, I liked it, am glad I read it, but it wasn't mind-blowing and I don't think it's a book I'm going to read again anytime soon.

Started: Exo by Steven Gould (Jumper, Book 4)
Started: Maelstrom, by Peter Watts (Rifters, Book 2)
Started: Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds
Number 6
01 September 2014 @ 07:00 pm
The con flu arrives right on schedule!
Number 6
31 August 2014 @ 09:20 pm
Yes, I survived Fan Expo 2014. Did I have fun? Honestly, no, there were a couple minor bright spots, but on the whole, it was depressing exhausting affair. I didn't even wind up taking many pictures.

I'll give a bit more detail behind the cut (feel free to ignore the whining and skip right to the pictures).

The Narrative:Read more...Collapse )

Picture time! Not very many!Read more...Collapse )

Oh, and the sketch I got from Adrian Alphona (Runaways artist): Read more...Collapse )

I think, in the future, unless there is a specific person I want to see and get an autograph from (or I ever figure out somebody I want to cosplay), I'm going to skip cons from now on. I always wind up depressed after, and it was even worse this time around. And I'm still feeling run-down and drained.
Number 6
20 August 2014 @ 01:21 pm
I'll start with TV so you can more easily skip the book reviews. I've been falling a bit behind on TV watching. Doctor Who is in a few days though, won't be falling behind on that. But of the shows I've been watching, bearing in mind that I'm probably only halfway through the aired episodes:

Falling Skies: Got pretty bad real fast. The show was never GREAT, but it was decent fun with a sense of progression in the storylines... until this year when they decided to just abandon a bunch of plots so they could do riffs on prison camps, Hitler Youth, hippies, and the old Guerilla war plot they started with and did to death. I can barely care anymore. But it's not nearly as bad as what happened to...

Under the Dome:
One of the initial executive producers of UtD, season 1, was Brian K. Vaughan, author of Runaways, and a number of excellent comics. He left for season 2. If how season 1 turned out was disappointing (and it was), it is at least somewhat of a relief to know that the moment he left, it turned to complete and utter crap instantly. I mean, it's pretty much laughably bad.

The Last Ship: Watching this mainly because Adam Baldwin's in it playing the first officer. It's okay.

Defiance: Something of a surprise, they actually seem to be taking some risks here, and it has the sense of a show that somebody actually cares about. Sure, there's still a lot of problematic stuff, and it's still more than a little cheesy, but on the whole I'm enjoying what I'm seeing more than the first year.

Orphan Black: Only seen the S2 premiere, watching it as it airs on TV here. Enjoying it, though.

Continuum: Haven't even dipped into the third season yet.

Penny Dreadful: Watched and liked the first episode, but I haven't gone beyond that yet.

I think that's all of it. There are some other TV shows I've heard that might appeal to my interests (The Strain comes to mind), but I haven't dipped into yet.

So, now, onto books. Before I move onto reviews, I thought I'd mention two things. First, the Hugo Awards were this past weekend, and the Best Novel winner was Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, which also won the Nebula, Locus, and Clarke award. It is also a book that I received free through a Goodreads giveaway before publication. So I have a signed ARC of a Hugo and Nebula award winning novel, so, yay me. :). And I think it's quite worthy of the honors. If you're interested, my review is here.

Second, I went to the used bookstore yesterday and picked up 6 books, including the final Culture book, The Hydrogen Sonata (sniff... RIP Iain M. Banks), Un Lun Dun by China Mieville (sort of a similar premise as Neverwhere which I always enjoyed), and Grass by Sheri S. Teper, which I've heard some good things about.

Anyway, onto reviews. As usual, usually snipped from my Goodreads reviews.

Finished: The Apex Book of World SF (short story collection)
A collection of short stories from authors from or in different parts of the world than the traditional sources of western SF. Some are science fiction, some fantasy, some horror. Read more...Collapse )

Although I was left a little disappointed, I still would read future volumes of this if I stumble upon them... although I would really like an all science-fiction collection of foreign SF.

Finished: The Fenris Device, by Brian Stableford (Hooded Swan #5, reread)
Read more...Collapse )

Finished: Swan Song, by Brian Stableford (Hooded Swan #6, reread)
The last of Stableford's Hooded Swan novels, about an abrasive pilot and expert in alien environments and the occasionally unwelcome mind-symbiot that shares his brain, starts with him free, at least as somebody in his position can be. Read more...Collapse )Still, revisiting the universe provided me with a lot of enjoyment, and I'm sure I'll come back to it somewhere down the line once again.

Finished: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
Detective Hank Palace is investigating a man found hanging in a restroom, that he thinks may be a murder. Nobody believes him, and many think he's crazy or stupid, he should just let it go, mark it down as a suicide, and move on. It's not a grand conspiracy of silence, it's simply a matter of fact: everybody in the world knows that there's a civilization-ending asteroid on it's way to Earth, hitting with one-hundred percent probability, and impact's only months away. Suicides are way up. Of course that also means that if you wanted to get away with murder, the easiest thing to do would be to make it look like just another suicide. Read more...Collapse ) Quite recommended, probably even for non-science fiction fans.

Finished: Countdown City by Ben H. Winters

Book Two of the Last Policeman series so I'll cut the whole description. Short version: Better than the first.

Read more...Collapse )

Finished: Ventus, by Karl Schroeder (reread)

On the planet Ventus, where humans are prohibited from all but the most limited pieces of technology, Jordan Mason lives what he believes is an ordinary life, expecting to eventually inherit his father's stoneworking business. But that all changes when he begins having visions of a distant warrior named Armiger whose army is destroyed for defying the powerful Winds that control and moderate the planet's ground, seas, and atmosphere. Soon, Jordan learns he's also key to finding Armiger, who is the agent of a malevolent and nearly godlike entity known as 3340, recently defeated in a centuries-long war against the galaxy-spanning human civilization Jordan has never heard of. Worse Armiger may not simply be an agent, he may be a means for 3340 to recreate itself from scratch and take over all of Ventus and the rest of the galaxy. Read more...Collapse )I think this is my third or fourth reread, and, although it's not my favorite of Schroeder's books (that honor belongs to Lady of Mazes, which is set in the same universe but centuries earlier and far from the planet of Ventus), but I'm sure I'll be rereading it many times over the years.

Finished: World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters
Conclusion of the Last Policeman series, so I'll cut completely. Short version: Weakest of the three, but worth reading. Read more...Collapse )I still highly recommend the series as a whole.

Finished: Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow (reread)
Marcus Yallow is skipping school with his friends to play a game on the streets of his hometown, San Francisco... when terrorists blow up a nearby bridge. In the ensuing chaos, all four are detained by the government, interrogate, and threatened... and only three make it out. They have no idea what happened to their friend Darryl, but they've been warned against talking about what happened, and the country is growing even more paranoid, mass surveillance and monitoring of everyday citizens and civil rights are being quashed in the name of fighting terror, and Marcus realizes that he has to do something. Read more...Collapse )I rate it 4 stars for me personally, it's really enjoyable even to me as an adult, but I think as a YA book, it rates 5.

Finished: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder
Toby McGonigal has been lost in space, hibernating for 14,000 years, and then is found, to find his younger siblings rule an empire. For them, only 40 years have passed, thanks to an innovative society they started on worlds between the stars and far from home. These societies are built on the Lockstep method, which involves whole societies freezing themselves on a schedule, living for very short periods in inhospitable worlds, then hibernating for years while their bots gather resources. This allows not only survival on these marginal worlds, but trade, for the light speed limit might be insurmountable, but if you time your journeys correctly, travel to other worlds can happen in one night's sleep from the perspective of not only you, but both worlds. However, Toby's return threatens his own family's rule, and they want him out of the picture. Short version: disappointing, the mix between hard SF and YA doesn't work too well, but stunning ideas.Read more...Collapse )Despite all this, I did enjoy it, and I absolutely loved the basic ideas and the universe he set up. I'd love to read more stories in this setting, particularly ones where it's just "business as usual" for the universe (albeit with big stakes for the characters) rather than a character who's quest threatens the upheaval of the system entirely.

Finished: The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi

The conclusion of the series that started in The Quantum Thief, The Causal Angel deals with posthuman gentleman thief Jean le Flambeur Read more...Collapse )Highly recommend this series for fans of post-singularity fiction.

Started: Blindsight by Peter Watts (reread)
Started: Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross
Started: Zero Echo Schadow Prime by Peter Samet (received for free)
Tags: , ,
Number 6
13 August 2014 @ 01:01 pm
So, it's about 2.5-3 weeks until the annual Fan Expo con.

Some of the guests are cool (Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill, the core three of the Eleventh Doctor's run on Doctor Who... some Walking Dead people, some Arrow people, a few Trek captains), but none that I'm immediately willing to go shell out a huge amount of cash for autographs for. Normally I go for autographs from Firefly-related guests, but this year for some reason they got Nathan Fillion, who also came last year. He's certainly a great guest, but two years in a row? At least throw in a second guest. :)

But, as of this moment at least, I'm tentatively planning to go. The decision might still change. It has before, but it's remained fairly consistent the last week or two. One of the reasons is that they're celebrating the 25th anniversary of Prisoners of Gravity an old show that discussed comics, SF, and fantasy books, which exposed me to a lot of authors and such (at one time I used it to generate reading lists), and I'd like a chance to thank the cast and crew. And I suspect even if they don't have a separate autograph section and just do a panel, it's a panel that a) won't be too overcrowded, compared to others, and b) will be filled with people who are also readers, so a little more chance at common ground. So I'll try to attend that panel, however, it has to not only be on Saturday, but at a reasonable time on Saturday, and the con schedule hasn't been finalized yet so I don't know if that'll happen. That aside, I'm going mostly for the experience, see the cosplays, force myself out of my shell a little, and in general break up the monotony that is my life just a tiny little bit.

Also I kinda like the idea of playing ticket fairy... going early as I always do and grabbing a ticket for a place in the autograph line for some of the stars I'm considering spending money for (Smith, for example), and then randomly bestowing it on some latecomer and possible first-time congoer who is despondent that they're probably going to have to wait forever (because it's 3pm and they're now serving tickets up to 100 and are giving away tickets numbered 600). I won't just grab line tickets willy-nilly for giving out later, that's not fair play, I think, but I think it's fair if I'm genuinely considering getting an autograph and then decide maybe to give it up to somebody who wants it more but had bad luck (and of course, no charge or anything, just make somebody's day and disappear into the crowd).
Number 6
09 August 2014 @ 06:30 pm
So, Weird Al's got his new album out and I was inspired:

(To the tune of "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons):

Paperback Addict

Whoa, oh, oh
Whoa, oh, oh
Whoa, oh, oh

I just picked up a brand new book
Starts out okay but doubt I'll get hooked
Wait, oh my god, a shocking twist (gasp, sounds of pages turning)

Should pack it in, getting late,
Just wanna see how this part turns out...
I just hit a suspenseful bit,

Can't put it down, the story's just too great,
and the hero's tempting fate...
I'll stop right after this page... after this page...
Maybe just one more page.. just one more page...
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I'm a
Paperback addict, paperback addict
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I'm a
Paperback addict, paperback addict

I'll go to bed, but I won't sleep
My brain's already in it too deep,
And there's a light, in easy reach...

Should pack it in, getting late,
Just wanna see how this part turns out...
I just hit a suspenseful bit,

Can't put it down, the story's just too great,
and the hero's tempting fate...
I'll stop right after this page... after this page...
Maybe just one more page.. just one more page...
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I'm a
Paperback addict, paperback addict
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I'm a
Paperback addict, paperback addict

Fine I'll head out... I can read while I walk
Don't bug me at lunch, I've no time to talk...

Can't put it down, the story's just too great,
and the hero's tempting fate...
I'll stop right after this page... after this page...
Maybe just one more page.. just one more page...
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I'm a
Paperback addict, paperback addict
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I'm a
Paperback addict, paperback addict
Tags: ,
Number 6
25 June 2014 @ 09:11 pm
Well, I'm always somewhat out of touch, of course. I don't even know what's going on with my life anymore. Not that anything actually is, but, I just feel adrift disconnected from time and space.

Which also means lately I've completely fallen down on wishing people on my flist happy birthdays. If I missed yours, my apologies. And today, happy birthday redlantern2051!

But if I don't have a world of my own, at least I have worlds of fiction, at least somewhat. Legend of Korra season 3 starts Friday... apparently some of the epsiodes were leaked and I guess they rushed it to air to minimize the damage. But I won't complain, I like the show (even if it's still nowhere as good as Avatar).

Game of Thrones is over for the year, and it was pretty good, although now there's kind of a gap until Doctor Who, which is in August, which might as well be the new fall season. I guess there's Defiance, which is okay (some of the old Farscape feel there)... Falling Skies, which was never great, so disappointed me with the S4 premiere that I'm almost done with the show. And I still haven't tried The Last Ship or Penny Dreadful, but I want to, eventually, just for curiosity's sake. And S2 of Orphan Black I also need to get to (along with S3 of Continuum... Canada's really kind of doing well with SFTV, let's keep that up).

I don't have anything to say about movies, because I haven't really watched any. I've been playing the Batman Arkham Games over the last few weeks... Asylum and City, not Origins, I don't have that one, but I got the Game of the Year version of the other two off a Humble Bundle some time back and I'm finally getting around to them. They're fun... Asylum had a story that made more sense, but City has better gameplay options (especially when you have the options to play Catwoman, Robin, and Nightwing, as I do... if only they included Cassandra Cain). I actually got 100% completion on Arkham Asylum, every achievement, and completed the main game on City and... well, I'm still having fun on some of the associated challenges... I doubt I'll go 100% for it, but I'm ejoying it. And it's been eating my brain a little.

Fan Expo's been adding to its guest list, and apparently we're getting Matt Smith (the Eleventh Doctor), and Nathan Fillion, who was here last year... a few Walking Dead people, Arrow from Arrow, Patrick Stewart, Stan Lee, Shatner... but right now, although I'm a little tempted with Matt Smith, there's really nobody that will draw me out from my hermit tendencies and make me make the trek to a con and the inevitable tiredness and depression that follow. So, right now, I may be skipping this year. We'll see. Maybe they'll add somebody extra cool, or maybe I'll just be in a mood to go.

And books. Speaking of, although I've largely avoided reddit, I have been drawn a little to one community that discusses print SF (it's r/printSF), which at least satisfies some small amount of my yearnings for social interaction. Anyway, book foo! As usual, most of my thoughts are cut and pasted from Goodreads. Since last time, I've...

Finished: Voice of the Whirlwind, by Walter Jon Williams
Steward's memories are fifteen years out of date, because, even though he had clone insurance when he died, he hadn't updated the memory backup ever since he got out of training as a mercenary soldier. In those intervening years, the brutal corporate wars in space that he was recruited for ended after long years of conflict when an alien race made contact with Earth. Steward himself, aside from making difficult decisions in those wars, also got divorced twice... oh, and was murdered on a distant planet. His clone is somewhat adrift, driven by a desire to get back into space and find answers, but there are bigger games going on.

Voice of the Whirlwind is in the cyberpunk subgenre, a world of hi-tech implants and gritty street-level characters, film noir mixed with SF, often dealing with themes of government breakdown and corporate domination that are surprisingly relevant today. But it is a book of it's time... granted, a very good book. Read more...Collapse ) If you like Cyberpunk, this is a book to try, if you haven't already. If not... well, it still might be worth a look.

Finished: Only Superhuman, by Christopher L. Bennett
Mankind has spread out through the solar system, living in habitats in the asteroid belt, among other exotic places. And such exotic places have lead to exotic people... while highly restricted on Earth, elsewhere, mods that alter the human form and potential are common. Some of them have banded together and deliberately taken on the trappings of superheroes, to defend others and help foster acceptance of their differences. One of these is Emerald Blaze, a new Troubleshooter with a checkered past... but after her mentor dies and the team decides to get more proactive, she's drawn in the middle of a conflict between multiple factions and must decide where her loyalties lie.

This book was described as a "hard SF superhero story", which seemed like an intriguing idea, particularly for one like me who likes both SF and comics. I picked the book up on a whim seeing it on sale in a bookstore that was closing, so how could I lose?

Unfortunately, the book doesn't really live up to the promise, or it does too well, depending on your point of view. The hard SF aspect is pretty good, actually. And the basics of the superhero plot, while not especially novel, is solid. Combining the two should be a natural fit.

The problem is, I think, he also threw in a bunch of the worst parts of superhero comics... the kind of things that, by fusing it with hard SF, I was hoping to avoid. Read more...Collapse )

Finished: The Living Dead 2 (short story collection)
Another collection of zombie tales, from a variety of authors.

I think I liked this one a little more than its immediate predecessor, The Living Dead, Read more...Collapse ) So, on the whole, this volume satisfied me more, and similarly might satisfy those who are fans more of The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later than horror fans in general.

Finished: The Year's Best Sf 16 (short story collection)
A collection of some of the best stories of the year 2010, in the opinions of the editors, at least. As usual, sometimes they really hit on my tastes, and sometimes are wide off the mark. Read more...Collapse )But overall, as these things usually go, it's a fairly pleasant anthology.

Finished: The Halcyon Drift, by Brian Stableford (reread)
I've reviewed this several times in this journal over the years, so I'll just cut the whole thing. Read more...Collapse )

Finished: Redshirts, by John Scalzi
Redshirts tells the story of a young ensign and his friends assigned to the flagship ship of a Star Trek-like galactic civilization. At first he's excited, but then comes to realize how often people die on away missions. Everybody except the Captain, Science Officer, Chief Engineer, and one particular lieutenant are at risk for sudden gory inexplicable death. And the rest of the ship's crew seems to know it, too, always contriving to be somewhere else when somebody's needed for a mission. And that's not the only weird thing going on, there's plenty that just doesn't make sense.

It's hard to talk much about the book without 'spoiling' it, if it's even a spoiler, because I knew it in advance and think even if I didn't, I would have figured it out in the first few pages. The book's about what happens when Star Trek-style redshirts Read more...Collapse )I honestly can't see this as being worthy of the Hugo award or the praise it received. It's not awful. It's an okay book that might particularly resonate with SF fans in a pleasant way (although partly due to it pandering to them). It does some mildly clever things from time to time. It's not a particularly GOOD book. And if it really was the best SF novel of the year it came out, then it must have been a very poor year.

Finished: Rhapsody in Black, by Brian Stableford (reread)
Again, part of one of my favorite series, reviewed here several times, so, cut. Read more...Collapse )

Finished: The Risen Empire, by Scott Westerfield
The Rix, a cult of machine-augmented humans who want to propagate planet-scale AIs throughout the galaxy, have just launched a major operation on the planet Legis XV, a world part of the Risen Empire, and the current location of the Emperor's little sister. If Captain Laurent Zai doesn't get her back, not only is a major war likely, but he'll be expected to sacrifice his life for his failure. This is how it is in the Empire, a society long on traditions established by the immortal leader, who discovered the secret to granting eternal life, though death, to himself and others, and using that knowledge to establish a perpetual rule over eighty worlds.

This is an ambitious space opera with loads of imaginative ideas, both in terms of technology and the social policy consequences of it. It has the seeds of being one of the great space operas that the genre remembers for decades, if not forever. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite live up to them.Read more...Collapse )I'd give it three stars. It's a high three stars, though, and I will be reading the sequel, The Killing of Worlds, when I find it. Hopefully that one will improve on it.

Finished: Promised Land, by Brian Stableford (reread)
Read more...Collapse )

Finished: The Stories: Five Years of Original Fiction on Tor.com (short story collection, ebook)
This is a huge collection of about 150 stories that have appeared over the last five years on Tor's website, that I've been reading in dribs and drabs on my phone over the past year or so.Read more...Collapse )But because of the high proportion of stories that did not interest me, I can only give the collection two stars... it was okay.

Finished: Memory, by Linda Nagata
On Jubilee's world, there is the silver, that rises on some nights over the land, covering everything not specially protected. For structures and tools, the silver sometimes leaves them alone, sometimes wipes them away, and sometimes returns buildings or items from the distant past. For living things, though, being swallowed by the silver is a death sentence. Jubilee's brother Jolly was taken by the silver as a youth, in front of her eyes. Years later, she meets somebody who can survive the silver... someone who claims her brother is still alive.

This is one of those books that are a curious blend between SF and Fantasy. Read more...Collapse )A decent outing, with some really imaginative ideas but ultimately not what I was hoping for, although others might like it more.

Finished: The Paradise Game, by Brian Stableford (reread)
Read more...Collapse )

Finished: The Killing of Worlds, by Scott Westerfield
This is the sequel to The Risen Empire, but really it's the second half of a longer work that was split in two to meet retailer demands. (as such, much of the review itself is spoilery for the first book, and I'll cut it entirely: short version... disappointing on a plot level)Read more...Collapse )

Started: The Apex Book of World SF (short story collection, ebook)
Started: The Fenris Device, by Brian Stableford
Started: The Last Policeman, by Ben H. Winters

That's it, I guess, probably all I have to say for another few months. But despite my relative silence, I have been reading every post on my friends list (though sometimes up to a week or so late), so if you're like me sometimes wondering, yes, people are out there reading!

PS: Seriously, LJ? You still haven't fixed the bug where if you hit the "post" button on the My-LJ page, it takes you to the more options page, and if you hit the "More options" it just posts what you've got? Anyway, fixed the half-completed post.
Number 6
15 May 2014 @ 05:11 am
Happy Birthday to hayzil today, if you're still out there, and, a belated (edit: Happy) birthday to st_aurafina who had one yesterday that I missed.
Number 6
13 May 2014 @ 11:09 am
Happy Birthday locker_monster!!!!!!