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Number 6
31 December 2017 @ 02:53 pm
Happy birthday liabrown!!
Number 6
31 December 2017 @ 02:52 pm
Okay, I really need to start doing these more often. Then again not many people read these.

Normally, I'd basically copy and paste my Goodreads reviews here, maybe with a couple additional comments, but... you know what, I'm exhausted today. I blame 2017. Anyway, instead, I'm just going to link directly to the Goodreads reviews of the books since last time, in case you're interested in checking them out, along with maybe a couple words.

Glass Houses by Laura J. Mixon - Okay
Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky - better in description than reality.
Borrowed Tides by Paul Levinson - Awful, complete garbage, more fun writing the review complaining about how stupid it was than reading it.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman - Really good concept, decent execution
Waking Hell by Al Robertson - Good sequel-not-really-but-set-in-the-same-world
Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald - Interesting set of short stories
Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata (reread)
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire - Really great concept, but really needed to be longer so there was time to breathe.
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan (reread)
The Trader's War by Charles Stross
Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan (reread)
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders - very much Not My Thing
When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger (reread)
A Fire in the Sun by George Alec Effinger (reread)
Afterparty by Daryl Gregory (reread) - Liked it as much or more the second time
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
The Exile Kiss by George Alec Effinger (reread)
Impulse by Steven Gould (reread)
Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan (reread)
Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts (short stories) - Like the concept of SF stories centered around mental illness, a few seemed to miss the point.
Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson - Not Wilson's best, but I always enjoy his work.
Uglies by Scott Westerfield - Good start to a YA series.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - Pretty good.
Camouflage by Joe Haldeman (reread) - Much iffier than I remember.
The Revolution Trade by Charles Stross
Spin State by Chris Moriarty (reread)
The Weave by Nancy Jane Moore - Has some elements I don't particularly like in my SF so was only okay.
Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory - Pretty cool idea and well told story.
Spin Control by Chris Moriarty (reread) - not especially exciting but relentlessly interesting
Tech-Heaven by Linda Nagata - really disappointing book from an author I normally really enjoy.
Children of the Divide by Patrick S. Tomlinson
Ghost Spin by Chris Moriarty
Exo by Steven Gould (reread)
The Uploaded by Ferrett Steinmetz
Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology (short stories) - Pretty good set of stories.
The Waking Engine by David Edison - Disappointing but the author's got potential.
Island in the Sea of Time by S.M. Stirling (reread)
Provenance by Ann Leckie - Loved the first 2/3, last 1/3 felt a bit disconnected. Still cool stuff.
Dawn by Octavia E. Butler - Classic SF for a reason, great alien-human interaction story.
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey - Watched the movie first, book's very similar, still enjoyed it
Firestarter by Stephen King (reread)
Expendable by James Alan Gardner - liked the high concept behind the universe but the humor aspect wore thin as it went on.
Artemis by Andy Weir - Decent, but doesn't hold a candle to The Martian. And you shouldn't be lighting a candle anyway on the Moon or Mars unless you're very careful and have clearance.
Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns - Lesbian pirates of color vs a murderous AI? Some really good stuff but something about the writing style made it difficult for me.
Babylon's Ashes by James S.A Corey - Enjoyed it but the ending felt a bit too abrupt.
A Woman of the Iron People by Eleanor Arnason - Good anthropological SF, but dragged a bit.
The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt - Disappointing, loads of stuff I normally love in SF but just couldn't take it seriously for the most part, felt like TV SF in book form.
Against the Tide of Years by S.M. Stirling (reread)
On the Oceans of Eternity by S.M. Stirling (reread)
Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling - Okay, but not nearly as good as the short story that made me want to read all the stuff in the universe.
The Big Time by Fritz Leiber (reread) - Old fashioned, a bit awkward, but some mindblowing ideas about time-travel.

Now for my YEAR IN REVIEW!
So, in 2017, I read 75 books! Same as last year, that may be my limit. Goodreads counts that as 29,726 pages, or 3.393 pages every hour I was alive, or one page every 17.7 minutes. Again, mostly read while at work, walking to/from work, or doing laundry.

I do think I'm going to consciously try to read less next year. Just because I got the sense that I was rushing some of the books just to keep on track, rather than savoring them at their own pace, and having time where I'm not reading but just thinking of my own ideas can't hurt. Okay, that could hurt, but I don't expect it to hurt much. Don't have a number per se, but just to keep it in mind. But it's not a New Year's resolution because I don't make those.

01. ...?
02. The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds
Read more...Collapse )
75. The Big Time by Fritz Leiber (reread)

... Okay, making this list (I did it from the bottom up), I just realized, that Goodreads counted Altered Carbon twice for some reason. But you know what, several of those Charles Stross books were actually two books combined into one. So I'm calling it 75 anyway, just pretending I split up one, because if I knew I was one behind, I'd have chosen a couple shorter books to make it up. So there, Goodreads. :P The total page read count is probably about 300-400 pages less, too. Oh well.

Anyway, trends: 23 rereads, which is almost 1/3. The rest were new books. 4 Multi-author short fiction collections, which means 71/70 single-author books. 19 books by women based on a quick count, so still want to get things more even there.

My favorite non-reread was probably Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson. The most-popular book I read was The Time Traveler's Wife.
Number 6
06 September 2017 @ 09:25 am
My cat died yesterday. Read more...Collapse )
Number 6
06 May 2017 @ 01:48 pm
Wow, it's been a while. Nothing's really new, the world is still generally awful lately and my life's about the same but with a recent blast of extra blah. But let's do the book foo I've fallen way behind on, maybe if I don't preamble too much I can get it all to fit in one post.

Finished: The Prefect, by Alastair Reynolds
In The Prefect, cops who monitor the thousands of independent habitats around a distant planet investigate a pair of seemingly unrelated crimes... but they may be part of a larger pattern that would lead to the takeover of the entire Glitter Band. Read more...Collapse )Still, I was quite fond of it on the whole, and as I understand it one of Reynolds' upcoming projects is a sequel to this... I think I'd be looking forward to that.

Finished: Jumper, by Steven Gould

Multiple time reread and wrote about it multiple times here.

Finished: The John Varley Reader, by John Varley
As you might have gathered from the title, this is a collection of stories from author John Varley.Read more...Collapse )I'm giving it four stars although I think it's rounded up from the high three-and-a-half-to-four-star range. May not be for everyone though, particularly for those who have trouble separating fiction in which certain acts are not portrayed negatively from active endorsement of those acts.

Finished: Fire With Fire, by Charles E. Gannon
A super-competent writer is put on ice for decades by a secret government agency, and, when he's revived, sent on a mission to investigate rumors of extraterrestrial contact on an alien world, an then a bunch of other stuff happens. Read more...Collapse )Two stars is, under Goodreads system "it was okay," and so that's the score it gets. I do not expect to read any more in the series, unless I happen to also get them free (this book was offered as part of Baen's Free Library of ebooks).

Finished: Crisis in Urlia, by Karl Schroeder
In the near future, a Canadian humanitarian response team, part of our military, deals first with a drought-and-famine situation in a new African city-state called Urlia, then with a new, possibly bioengineered sickness, and an attempt by extremist groups to use that chaos to seize power.

This is a follow-up to Crisis in Zefra. Both were projects commissioned by the Canadian military as exercises in attempting to forsee the possible changing tools, strategies, and role of the military in the future (and are available free online). Read more...Collapse )Because the ideas were more interesting and explored well, I think I like it more than Zefra, slightly. It's still not the kind of book I'd recommend to people as fiction, unless they have a particular interest in this type of strategic foresight.

Finished: The Courier, by Gerald Brandt
Kris is a young courier delivering packages between corporations in San Angeles, a megacity that in addition to combining several present-day cities, is also several cities on top of each other, with lower levels never seeing a real sun. One of her deliveries soon has her running for her life. Read more...Collapse )I will be reading the sequel, but only because I won it in a giveaway (I thought the giveaway was for the first book, but when I won the second I figured I'd buy the first and read it to prepare). Otherwise I don't expect I'd bother.

Finished: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
In the near future, the world largely sucks, and that's why so many people play OASIS, an immersive virtual world that connects everyone. The creator of OASIS died ten years ago, without heirs, so he encoded a massive scavenger hunt into the system, based on the creator's love of pop culture (largely centered around the 1980s of his childhood), with the ultimate winner inheriting billions and control of the company. Even though there's been virtually no progress in a decade, many people still hunt for the clues, seeing it as their only escape... and so does an evil corporation that wants to control the system. But suddenly, one low-level hunter stumbles upon the first key and reignites a new phase of the game.

This is basically the book I've been hearing about for years, the one that virtually everyone I know who's a geek and reads SF has read and raved about. It's even being made into a movie by Spielberg.

And I liked it. Read more...Collapse )On the whole, though, these concerns were minor, and I had a lot of fun with the book. I think it just barely ranks into the 4 star range.

Finished: Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
An attempt at terraforming a distant planet goes awry in the wake of a sudden collapse of human civilization. Instead of a set of monkeys, as planned, spiders grow quickly to sentience and start to develop an intricate society. Meanwhile, survivors of that collapse flee an Earth that can no longer sustain them, following old legends to a green, terraformed world. Their stories are due to collide, and based on humanity's history with disparate cultures interacting, it's a dangerous situation for both parties.Read more...Collapse )Still, taken overall, the book is quite impressive, and the merits more than make up for the flaws, and had an ending I didn't see coming but appreciated nonetheless as something different. I'll probably read the sequel if there is one, and certainly will keep an eye on this author's other SF works. I'm torn between a three and a four, but I think it's closer to a four.

Finished: Constellation Games, by Leonard Richardson
An alliance of alien worlds contact Earth, promising much benefits for humanity, but also a danger of culture shock. When the general public is allowed to ask questions of them, one man dares to ask the most important questions everybody else has been ignoring: Hey, what are your retro video games like? And can I review some for my retro video game blog? What follows is an entertaining romp exploring alien cultures, human institutions, what video games say about us, and many more things. Read more...Collapse )I'm still giving it four stars, but with the feeling that it could have been five if he'd just managed a trick I can't see how he'd do, and there's enough to love in this universe that I want more even if I knew it would suffer exactly the same flaws. Definitely want to see more of this author in general, and I'll probably be reading this again.

Finished: The Operative, by Gerald Brandt
Sequel to The Courier so I'll cut everything.Read more...Collapse )Where the book wasn't pulling connections out of nowhere, it was largely predictable.

I guess if you're looking for fun action this series is decent enough, but it just strained plausibility too far without offering enough in return for me.

Finished: The Stars Are Legion, by Kameron Hurley
Around a distant (and possibly artificially) star, world-sized biological ships contain millions of women, some who know the nature of their universe, others who know only the small section of their world they live on. But the worlds are dying, and constantly at war with rival factions, and one world may hold the key to escape or salvation. Zan wakes without memory of who she is and is sent on a mission to capture this world, a mission she's supposedly failed at many times before. But there are deeper games afoot. Read more...Collapse )It's not my favorite of Hurley's works so far, but I liked it. Which makes it hard to score, because for me it's firmly in the cursed Goodreads half-star zone... I want to give it almost exactly 3.5 stars, but I have to give it 3 or 4. I think I'll go with 4 just because I found some of the visuals really cool and the ideas played with are ones I'd like to see more of.

Finished: The Bloodline Feud, by Charles Stross (Merchant Princes 1 and 2)
A professional journalist recieves some belongings that supposedly belonged to her long-dead birth mother, and one of them includes a locket... that when she stares at it, it sends her to another Earth. She soon learns that she's a lost heir to a family of interdimensional traders with a decidedly medieval mindset and vicious internal politics. If she wants to survive, and better yet, survive with any sort of independence, she needs to think fast, make alliances, and use some 21st century knowledge.

I'm a big fan of Stross, but I've always been hesitant about trying this series, because it seemed like it might edge too much on the fantasy end of things.Read more...Collapse )On the whole, I liked it, mildly. Enough that I might seek out the later books in the series, because I do want to see how things develop, but it's not enough that I'm rushing out to find them.
Finished: Nexus, by Ramez Naam (reread)

Finished: A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge (reread)

Both these rereads I've already talked about before so no need to repeat.

Finished: Hanzai Japan (short story collection)

This is another short story collection of science fiction and fantasy tales either written by Japanese authors or inspired by Japan and Japanese culture. Unlike the previous two collections, The Future is Japanese: Science Fiction Futures and Brand New Fantasies from and about Japan. and Phantasm Japan: Fantasies Light and Dark, From and About Japan, this one has a special subtheme, in that all of the stories are connected to crime in some way.

Unfortunately, it's the weakest of the three. Read more...Collapse ) they slipped over my consciousness without getting very far into my memory at all.

Finished: Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty
A generation ship is on a voyage to another star. The crew, clones, living serial lives with their memories downloaded to a new body every time they die. At least, that's how it's supposed to work. The six crew members awaken to discover their previous selves have been murdered, the ship isn't working, and they've been restored from a backup made decades earlier with no memory of what happened in-between. The group must try to figure out what went wrong and how to move forward.

So, yeah, it's a murder mystery involving clones on a starship. Quite a nifty premise, at least in my mind.

For the most part, I was enjoying the book until the end. Read more...Collapse ) "I had fun along the way" still applies, which is why I give it three stars (I'd actually put it in the 2.5-3 range, but rounding brings us closer to three since half-stars aren't allowed), but I wanted to like it more than I did.

I might still read more SF from this author though.

Finished: The Wind Through The Keyhole, by Stephen King (Dark Tower "book 4.5")
During a huge sudden storm, Roland and his companions take shelter, and Roland tells a story from his youth, which contains another story his mother taught him.

This is listed as Dark Tower 4.5, supposedly taking place between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla, but it's something of an forced fit. If you were to read it in that sequence, I imagine it would feel even worse, because the story before that was also Roland telling of his youth, so you'd basically be getting two books in a row that are mostly made up of Roland telling stories about himself. It also commits the minor sin of trying to foreshadow elements in the next book, which doesn't work (why does nobody remember somebody the ferry master describes, when they finally meet him, for example?). It doesn't feel essential in any way, it just feels like King wanted to write (or to be less charitable, thought he could cash in by writing) one more story in the Dark Tower universe.

I have zero problem with that, either motivation. Read more...Collapse )Still, I enjoyed the book, mostly due to the central story, although the second layer had its charms and the outer shell appealed to my fannish desire to see these characters again. I still would read a book of random tales from Roland's life, or even tales of Gilead that had nothing to do with him, tales of other Gunslingers before him. Or tales of Roland's ka-tet, without any attempt to fit them into continuity, like how a comic series based on a movie or TV show will tell stories that can't really work their way in if you think about it too hard, so they don't try too hard. The structure of the Dark Tower world itself in fact makes it particularly easy to do these stories without worrying about continuity.

Finished: A Deepness in the Sky, by Vernor Vinge (reread)
Another well-loved reread.

Finished: Lightless, by C.A. Higgins
Two criminals board a secret military vessel and are caught by the crew. One escapes, while the other is interrogated because he may have ties to a terrorist group and also have tampered with the ship's computer in a way that could be dangerous.

I had somewhat mixed reactions to this book.Read more...Collapse )I'm not ruling out reading that next book at this point, but right now I'm not feeling it enough to rush out and seek it out. I think I'll give it 2 stars because while there were times it rose to the level of a definitive "I liked it", for the most part it never did and "It was okay" feels more accurate overall.

Finished: Toast, and other stories, by Charles Stross
A collection of short stories by Charles Stross, mostly his early work.

This was a fun discovery for me... I vaguely knew the book existed, and that the author made it available to download free on his website, but somehow I had convinced myself I'd already read most of his short stories in another short story collection of his (or spread out among other multi-author anthologies)... but recently somebody mentioned reading a story I'd never heard of, and got me to take a second look. To my pleasant surprise, most were unfamiliar to me, so I downloaded it and started reading immediately.Read more...Collapse )I don't know how these would read to people not already fans of Stross... it's just as likely to blow their minds (in a good way) as it is to turn them off him forever (which would be a shame because he writes in many different styles, not entirely showcased in this collection, albeit often with a similar voice). But to fans like me who happened to skip out on this... don't keep making that mistake.

Finished: The Last One, by Alexandra Oliva
It was supposed to be a survival reality show in the Alaskan wilderness, contestants were warned that they might be left alone for long periods with only hidden cameras watching them, that clues might be cryptic... and, of course, every reality show has its twists. So when Zoo, one of the contestants, finds herself alone, wandering, and seeing nothing but signs of a devastating calamity, she assumes that all of it, the abandoned homes, the dead bodies, are just particularly gruesome props. And she's determined not to quit.

I'm not a huge fan of reality shows, nor am I conspicuously against them... I've wasted more time with them than I feel entirely comfortable admitting, but I also haven't really followed any in the last couple years, either. Yet, this premise instantly intrigued me, and I decided to give it a shot.

The book dragged me in right away and held my attention throughout.Read more...Collapse )It's not normally the type of book I go for, so considering how much I enjoyed it despite that (even factoring in my half-complaints above), I think I'm going to give it a four stars. Worth checking out.
Finished: The Year's Best SF 9, (short stories, reread)
It's a reread but I didn't write a Goodreads review for it, so I'll post my thoughts anyway:
As a collection of short stories, it's always a mixed bag, Read more...Collapse )worth a look.

Started (or done but not fully reviewed): Roadside Picnic, by Boris and Arkady Stugatsky, Bird Box by Josh Malerman, Waking Hell by Al Robertson, Glass Houses by Laura J. Mixon, Borrowed Tides by Paul Levinson, Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald

Oh and I may at somepoint ditch LJ for dreamwidth fully due to the new rules, but I'm lazy and slow-moving so it'd probably take me a while to get everything done.
Number 6
31 December 2016 @ 01:22 pm
So yes, it's the end of another year. One widely considered to be one of the worst in recent memory at least, and I can't say I disagree. I can, however, offer advice. If, after midnight, you happen to come across a discarded calendar of 2016... don't get complacent. Stab, stomp, or burn the thing immediately. We all know how it works in the movies, the monster always SEEMS dead but then it somehow lurches back for one final attack when people leave the body behind.

In other news, one last book foo of the year!

Finished: Red Rising, by Pierce Brown

Darrow is a Red, the lowest of the low in a rigid (and color-coded) hierarchy of society working on Mars. He believes he's laboring to make it habitable, but it's already habitable... the Golds at the top just keep the Reds in utter subjugation for convenience. But after Darrow loses everything he cares about, he's given a chance to strike back, to turn into a Gold and work to infiltrate their society and, perhaps, one day, strike back at them.

Typical YA scenario. Dystopia run on pure evil. Teen hero with improbably impressive abilities fighting against it. Competition, a little romance. There's nothing exceptionally novel about it, and it's even gimmicky in a few ways... but at the same time it has a pretty good fun factor. Read more...Collapse ) I've heard the series does improve greatly after the first book (and some say it even grows to be more proper science fiction), and despite my reservations with Red Rising, I did like this one enough that I'm willing to follow along and see if that's true.

Finished: The Noise Within, by Ian Whates

A pirate ship's been prowling the spacelanes, and special forces troops are trying to track it down. So is a businessman, who believes the ship is actually a lost prototype his company put out.. and designed to be the first ship piloted by an AI. Read more...Collapse )In a generally better book, I might have looked past these groaners, but here, they're about the only thing that stuck with me.

Finished: Phantasm Japan (short stories)

This is a collection of fantasy stories, about half written by Japanese authors and translated, and about half written in English that just happen to involve some aspect of Japanese culture or mythology. Read more...Collapse )I still think I'd give it only 3 stars, like the other anthology, but it's a much higher 3 stars.

Finished: Worlds That Weren't (short stories) (reread)

This is a collection of alternate history tales, and as there's only four of them, they're of novella length. In one, Socrates goes to war with an old friend and ends up changing his mind. In another, over a century after a major meteor shower in 1878 radically realigns the world and puts the brakes on progress, an aristocrat from India (now the center of what was once the British Empire) goes hunting in the wilds of Texas. In another, a group of mercenaries get into conflict with a religious order over their demand to bury a woman fighting with them. And in the last, German Philosopher Frederich Nietzsche moves to the U.S. for his health and eventually winds up in the middle of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

I love alternate history. In theory. Read more...Collapse )Two stars.

Finished: A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers
Because even reading the simple summary spoils some aspects of the ending of "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet," hiding behind a cut.
Read more...Collapse )I liked the first book, a lot, but I thought I might like it as an exception, as a novelty. This one is less a novelty, but I liked it even more, which means the author is definitely one to keep watching.

Finished: Golden Son, by Pierce Brown

(description behind cut for possible Red Rising spoilers) Read more...Collapse )It looks like I'm hating on the book a lot more than I am, but I think more than anything I'm just disappointed by the hype. It's fine. I don't think I wasted my time on it. I'll probably read the third book (my level of enjoyment and curiosity about how they'll move on from where they did are just enough to make that decision) but I'll set my expectations a lot more realistically. Dumb fun is still fun.

Finished: Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson (reread)
Normally I don't review rereads, but since I had to write a Goodreads review for it the first time I might not have my official one posted here, so, here goes:

One night, three kids are outside as the stars disappear. Soon, they, and the rest of the world, come to learn the shocking truth... the entire Earth has been wrapped in some kind of bubble, and for every year that passes on Earth, millions upon millions of years pass in the rest of the universe. If it keeps up, within decades, the sun will die. But life goes on, or at least it tries to, and people deal with the upcoming apocalypse in their own ways. Read more...Collapse )Overall it's just a fantastic book that I'd recommend to everyone, even if you're not a hard-core SF fan.

Finished: The End of All Things, by John Scalzi

Part of a long-running series, so plot description might be spoilery.
Read more...Collapse )I like the author, but I want to read stories that I feel excite him, and I don't get that feel from this book, by and large. I'm not entirely ready to give up on the universe, but I think he needs to find a new focus to build stories around, and let the political shenanigans and authoritarian dirty tricks move more into the background, rather than center stage.

Finished: The City and the City, by China Mieville (reread)

Finished: The Last Policeman, by Ben H. Winters (reread)

Finished: Countdown City, by Ben H. Winters (reread)

Finished: Infomocracy, by Malka Ann Older

In the future, the world's political systems have changed dramatically, now (aside from a few holdout countries) everyone is divided into groups of their 100,000 nearest neighbors, and vote every ten years on which government will rule them. Within their 'centenals', the laws of their governments hold, even if another government is just across the street. It's election time again, and everybody's scrambling for control of more and more areas, and a few might be scheming to tamper with the vote. Read more...Collapse )Overall, I'd say I like it more than many of the actual elections that were going on this year that I was aware of. Which is a low bar to beat, admittedly, but still the novel's in a mild 'like' category, so, three stars. I'm not sure I'd read a sequel, but only because I think as a series this may be geared more to the type of people who really are into this stuff. But I might be willing to give it a try, if a sequel expanded on the world more and got more deeply into the character's other traits than being electoral geeks, or try other works by the author.

Finished: World of Trouble, by Ben H. Winters (reread)

I'm not sure what it says that I closed out the year with a reread of a trilogy set in the months before a civilization-ending asteroid hits the Earth. Maybe that it's preferable to how the rest of 2016's gone.

Anyway, my end of the year wrapup!

My complete 2016 reading list was:

1. Planetfall, by Emma Newman
Read more...Collapse )
75. World of Trouble, by Ben H. Winters (reread)

75 is a new record for me, for yearly books read. Average length was 376 pages, 27,061 pages overall. That's 3.08 pages every hour of the year. Or one page every 19.5 minutes of my life.

10 multi-author short story collections this year (1 was a reread... technically one was a collection of essays, but we'll count it here)

That leaves us with 65. Breaking it down by gender, I did not do so well as last year, 19 books by women. (In addition, one trans male who is counted on the male side, and one author who I understand identified as androgynous, so I haven't counted in either category)

Now, last year I had accidental gender equality, but one key factor was in play last year... last year I had a secondary goal of no rereads. This year, I've been rereading some books. I had 17 rereads, one of which was a short story collection, one was by a female author, and 15 by males. Obviously, there's a historical imbalance, since before I was consciously trying to 'read more women authors', a large majority of my reading was by males, and so a large majority of my favorites have been as well (and that's likely to persist for quite a while).

If we remove rereads from the equation and focus on new books, there'd be 49 single-author books in total. 48 by people who identify either as male or female. Of that, 18 by women authors is still lower than I'd like, but a bit more respectable at least. Still, clearly there are unintentional biases that push my reading taste more towards male writers.

I'll continue trying in the future, to try and read more diverse voices in general.

I got 5 physical books for free as part of promotional 'contest' style giveaways, as well as 4 others that were pre-release electronic book giveaways for review purposes for a total of 9 (these are the ones with asterisks beside them). Another 6 I got for free either because that's how the publishers or authors generally offer them, or as special post-release promotions where they offered them free to everyone for a limited time.

Going into 2017, I'm reading:
The John Varley Reader, by John Varley (short stories), The Prefect, by Alastair Reynolds and Fire with Fire, by Charles Gannon
Number 6
11 November 2016 @ 05:01 pm
As pretty much everyone in the world knows, apparently our neighbors to the self voted to %$@! themselves up for the next few years. To be fair, not all of them did, not even most of them (unfortunately electoral college rules makes the actual votes not matter), but a horrifying amount of people chose to vote for racism, sexism, and homophobia. This is not to say that all of them are themselves racist, sexist, and homophobic... but apparently they're comfortable enough with it that they'd vote somebody who spent the last few months fanning those flames if it came along with the promise of changes they also wanted, and that does not speak well of them. If this is you, sorry, but you should own it, you chose to make a deal that included such obvious bigotry, to embolden the people that are even now harassing minorities more openly. And you almost certainly won't get the changes you wanted either.

I'm in Canada, and beyond that, I'm sadly in the demographic of people who voted most overwhelmingly for this, so chances are I'm not going to suffer much from this directly (except in the event of a random 3am nuclear strike because somebody felt Trudeau insulted him). To those I know who *will* directly suffer from this, well, I don't know that there's anything I can say that will help. But I believe in you, and I'm hoping for the best for you, and for your country to see sense the next time it comes time to vote.
Number 6
05 November 2016 @ 04:41 pm
Finished: Slum Online by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
A college student has a secret double life, playing in a multiplayer fighting game online. He wants to become the very best, and sometimes that quest means that school, his new girlfriend, and other concerns must fall by the wayside. Also catching his interest is the growing legend of a mysterious character challenging, and winning against, the best players in the game, in the unranked matches outside of the arena.

I'm not sure I'd consider this a science fiction novel. Yes, it deals with technology and how it impacts the world and people in it, but none of the technology is noticeably beyond anything we have now... or, for that matter, anything we've had for the past fifteen years, before the book was published. Read more...Collapse )The story's didn't blow me away or anything, and I'm not sure I'll even remember much about it in a year's time, but it was fun enough reading and better than I was expecting.

Finished: Necrotech by K.C. Alexander

A cybernetics-enhanced mercenary wakes up with no memory of the past few months, in an unknown facility, and as a dangerous situation is about to erupt that costs the
life of her girlfriend. While trying to piece things together, she finds that her own reputation is in the toilet and has to do her best to uncover what happened.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free through a giveaway on Goodreads. I don't think it affected my review.

Okay, this is a book in the subgenre of cyberpunk. And I should probably state up front that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Cyberpunk. I love the technological milieu, the general idea of it, but a few of the tropes I really don't care for at all. Some merely need to be done well, others I outright dislike.

It's also a genre that's well past its prime. But that actually gives me hope, because, my reasoning goes, a new book might avoid some of the pitfalls and overdone aspects of the genre. So, when I first heard about this book, I was excited to try it.

Unfortunately, it still hit a few too many of my cyberpunk "hates." Read more...Collapse )I'd almost give it a one star, but I think everything else is just good enough that I'd push it up to two. I won't hold it against the author for future books, but I probably won't read any more in this series either (which is a bit of a shame because it did leave in a place that I kinda wanted to see where it would go from there).

Finished: Dawn (Legends of the Galactic Heroes #1) by Yoshiki Tanaka

Mankind has spread out through space, but there's still war, conflicts involving thousands of ships and millions of lives. On one side is the Galactic Empire, an oppressive
regime that is milding in its old age. On the other, is the Free Planets Alliance, which has good intentions but often hampered by bureaucracy and the political machinations of those elected to power. Each side has one genius general, but they must work with what they're given.

This is apparently a rather famous Japanese SF military SF series, in no small part due to the fact that there's an anime adaptation. However, I should point out that I've never seen that adaptation, and it plays no role in my own perceptions.Read more...Collapse )All in all, I didn't hate it, I didn't particularly like it, it was just okay. It doesn't end with much of a conclusion, because it's only volume 1 in a long series, but I doubt I'll continue with any more of it unless I happened to get it in a bundle of ebooks, like I got this one.

Finished: The Promise of the Child by Tom Toner

It's the 147th century and mankind has divided, or prismed, into many different subspecies, with radically different looks and cultures and, in many cases, in conflict with one another. At the top of the heap are the Aramanthine, near-immortals with almost unimaginable levels of technology that they use to rule over many of the others, although when a new challenger to their throne appears, they're thrown into conflict. Meanwhile an average citizen living his life gets into a situation where he may need to leave it behind and live as a fugitive. There's also a mysterious device that may change everything. Other stuff also happens.

This is an incredibly ambitious book, particularly for an author's first novel. And I really, really wanted to like it.Read more...Collapse )it doesn't really measure up to any more than two stars. I doubt I'll be reading the sequel. But what the author did well impressed me enough that I am willing to try him again if he writes something unrelated. There's a lot of talent here, I think it just needs to be channeled a little better.

Finished: The Scar by China Mieville

Fleeing from political dangers in her home of New Crobuzon, Bellis Coldwine embarks on an ocean voyage... and her ship is soon taken by pirates, the passengers forced to join a floating pirate city with a daring agenda. For some of those aboard, it means freedom, for others it means exploring the frontiers of magic and science, but Bellis wants to go home, eventually, and that's the one thing denied to her.

This isn't quite a sequel to Perdido Street Station, although it takes place a few months after and the events in the book are mentioned briefly. The main character, Bellis, doesn't even rightly appear in the first book (although she is mentioned once as some backstory of one of the main characters is explored, and that connection is part of the reason for her journey). It's merely another book in the world.

And what a world. Read more...Collapse )I think that's a big part of why I'll give it four stars, even though there are some significant things I enjoyed more in the first book. I think Bas-Lag may actually be my favorite fantasy world (at least, leaving out things like superhero universes and sci-fi-where-the-science-is-pretty-unbelieveable-but-it's-fun-anyway).

Finished: Feedback by Mira Grant

Decades after zombies began rising from the dead and changing everything, there's a Presidential election, and one of the candidates hires a blog team to follow them, only they uncover a conspiracy involving zombies. No, not the Masons, that's Feed. This is another team, following another candidate, at the same time.

Sometimes when an author realizes they've got a world people enjoy, they'll do this thing, where they don't quite have it in them to do a sequel (which might involve answering questions about the fates of characters they don't want to commit to), but instead decide that some minor character or group in the first book (or occasionally just similar to the first book) has had their own amazing adventure, parallel to the original one.

It rarely works out, in my opinion. Read more...Collapse )So, yeah, enjoyed, just not super impressed. But my issues with the book are not nearly big enough to make me less interested in more stories set in this world (unless of course, the next book is called "Deadline Crunch!" and followed by "Blackout Drunk" each cynically following unnecessary side-stories that took place during the other novels in the original Newsflesh trilogy that we never heard about).

Finished: On Basilisk Station by David Weber

Honor Harrington is a competent new commanding officer... but sometimes that can work against you. When her performance in a training exercise embarrasses the brass, she's sent to Basilisk Station, the dumping ground for the officers the Navy wants to punish or needs out of sight. Worse, her commanding officer there leaves the entire system in her care. Understaffed for a job nobody else seems to care about, and with a crew that resents her for getting into this situation, not to mention plots by a neighboring civilization she's not even aware of, the odds are stacked against her, but Honor still must do her duty to the best of her ability.

This is fairly standard military SF, with a world tuned to make space battles more like naval battles were in the old days.Read more...Collapse )Wasn't blown away, but I had some fun with it. The fact that I read it from the Baen Free Library (where Baen offers free ebook versions of many of the first installments of its titles, to try to attract new readers) made that even easier. I'm not rushing out to grab the next book in the series, but I might it check out at some point (especially since it, like this one, is also free on Baen's website).

Finished: Warchild by Karin Lowachee

After his parents are killed and he's taken by pirates, a young boy eventually manages to escape... right into the hands of sympathizers to the aliens at war with his people, who take him to the alien homeworld, where he grows up learning their culture. But once he's a teenager, he's sent on a spy mission to infiltrate a military ship from Earth, and finds that neither side might have the monopoly on truth and decency.

I've heard this novel described as being a bit in the mold of Ender's Game, and that's certainly accurate to a point, although the child in question is less super-genius and more average but put in situations he shouldn't be in. It's arguably YA, but it goes surprisingly dark at times Read more...Collapse )The book was a first novel, and for that it is quite impressive. I'd put this in the high 3-stars category already, but I do tend to be a bit more generous to first novels so I'll bump it up to a four. I'd read more of Lowachee's work.

Currently reading (or finished and haven't quite done a review yet): Red Rising by Pierce Brown, The Noise Within by Ian Whates, and Phantasm Japan (short stories). And, it's in transit but when it shows up, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers.
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Number 6
05 November 2016 @ 04:40 pm
Bit in a rush, so no other comments, still alive, that's about all that matters.

On to Book Foo... had to divide it into two posts, sorry, blame LJ:

Finished: Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis C. Chen

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

A secret agent, code-named Kangaroo, has the apparently unique ability to open a portal to an empty universe and store stuff there. This makes him extremely valuable and makes up for the other areas where he may lack some of the qualities ideal in a secret agent. But when he's on vacation, none of that should matter. Except on his vacation cruise between Earth and Mars he stumbles upon a plot that could lead to interplanetary war.

I find I don't really have a lot to say about this book. It's fun, but it doesn't blow me away. Read more...Collapse )

Finished: The Future is Japanese (short stories)

What I thought this book was: A book of science fiction stories mostly by Japanese authors, many of which translated into English for the first time.
What this book actually was: A book of mostly science fiction stories, about half written by Japanese authors (and may well have been translated for the first time), the other half written by Western authors (many of whom have a particular connection to Japan) in English but set in Japan or using Japanese characters.

The difference between what I thought this book was and what it actually was, was a big disappointment.Read more...Collapse )

Finished: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

After the ship her father is traveling on is lost at sea, twelve-year-old Alice goes to lie with an uncle she never knew she had, who has a mysterious and impossible Library. There she soon comes to discover that she is a Reader, with abilities that include traveling through magic books and controlling creatures imprisoned within. And there may be much more to her father's disappearance that she needs to uncover.

Disclaimer: I won the first three books in this series through a giveaway. I don't think it affected my review.

Obviously, this is a book intended for an audience much younger than me... the back of the book reads ages ten and up.Read more...Collapse )Rating-wise, I'll put it at three stars, while acknowledging I'd probably have given it four were I the proper age. Since I won all three currently-published books of the series, and I did enjoy it, I'll be continuing on with the others before probably passing the books on to someone who could appreciate them more.

Finished: The Mad Apprentice by Django Wexler

(description cut due to possible spoilers)
Read more...Collapse )I'll give it a star beyond what I gave the first.

Finished: The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

For some mysterious reason, nobody can remember Hope Arden. After you stop interacting with her for more than about a minute, you completely and permanently forget she'd ever existed. Naturally, this makes a few things difficult. She lives as a thief, at first for survival and then for the thrill, but when somebody she's interacted with commits suicide, and it seems to be connected with a phone app that is becoming ubiquitous, she gets involve for personal reasons, and is caught up in events that might change the world... even if no one will remember her part in it.

First, a little personal info. Long ago, on an online text-based roleplaying game themed around the X-Men, I played a character with a power/curse very much like this Read more...Collapse )So far Claire North's books under this pseudonym have been extremely enjoyable and I look forward to what comes next.

Finished: The Palace of Glass by Django Wexler
(plot synopsis behind cut because of potential spoilers for previous books)Read more...Collapse )I don't think I'm going to be one of those people that buy the snap up the next book when it comes out... my reading list is already much too big. But, I might like to see what happens, and so if one day I happen to see the next book in a discount bin or something, I might grab it. Or a few years down the line if I'm gripped by nostalgia and a burning curiosity, maybe I'll try to find the series. Or, maybe I'll just look up summaries on Wikipedia. Too soon to say. But I was more into the series than I expected to be, which says something, at least.

Finished: The Just City by Jo Walton

The goddess Athena gathers people from all over time for a bold experiment... to recreate the "ideal society" proposed in Plato's Republic. In addition to admirers of Plato from across time, she also helps them recruit slave children to be the free citizens of the Republic, and robots to do the work. While the society is very different from ours, it seems im many ways to be working... at least until Socrates shows up and starts asking questions.Read more...Collapse )Personally, I think it's my favorite of her works (which, admittedly, I've only read two of).

Finished: Metrophage by Richard Kadrey

A young punk tries to stay alive in a near future torn between gangs and corporate-controlled governments with sinister agendas. There's also a plague.

Okay, so it's cyberpunk, that classic 80s subgenre of SF filled with street level characters, cyber-enhancement and drugs, morally grey protagonists and cynical plotlines.Read more...Collapse )I'll probably forget it almost entirely within a few years, as there's very little sticking in my memory right now. Maybe someone less familiar with the tropes of the subgenre would get more out of it, and maybe in historical context it was published right at the perfect time to stick in the minds of the readers, but for me, it was only okay.

Finished: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (reread)

Finished: City of Pearl by Karen Traviss

A long mission has been sent to a colony on a distant planet that had been thought gone. Leading it is an environmental protection officer who isn't even entirely aware of her mission, just that it's locked away in some corner of her mind. On the planet, she finds that the colony is safe and under the protection of another alien race, seemingly far more advanced than humanity, and must strike a balance between keeping good relations and discovering all she can... a task which gets complicated with many different competing interests.

I can't really find a lot to say about this book. I liked it, but it didn't blow me away. Read more...Collapse )I enjoyed it well enough, though, and found one of the central sci-fi-y concepts interesting enough, that I might move on to the rest of the series in time.

Finished: Blindsight by Peter Watts (reread, as I always tend to do when going to cons)

Finished: A Hidden Place by Robert Charles Wilson

During the Depression, a young man goes to live with his aunt and uncle. A mysterious girl lives upstairs that isn't quite normal. And meanwhile, a lonely drifter wanders the roads, drawn by some impulse towards another part of the country.

Robert Charles Wilson is one of my favorite authors. But it took him a while to get there. Some of his earlier work I've read, I liked, but not as much as his more recent offerings. This book is his first novel.... so I approached it with both curiosity and a little trepidation. First novels are often a little rough. Read more...Collapse )So two stars, only okay. But if this is your first experience with the author, check out some of his later work.
Number 6
04 September 2016 @ 01:01 pm
Okay, so I did wind up going to Fan Expo, but, to my surprise, I went on Friday rather than Saturday. Right up until the day before I wasn't sure which way I'd go, but ultimately I think I made the right decision. No photos, today, I actually didn't take many (or at least, my camera didn't, I thought I took at least a few more than it turns out I did). Maybe I'll add some in on a second post.

But I did accomplish my major mission. But, before I go into detail, I need to do a brief pre-con report. Read more...Collapse )

So, onto Fan Expo itself! Read more...Collapse )

Anyway, on balance I guess I'm glad I went, even though it was exhausting and I'm going through various "what I should have said/done" scenarios in my head now that it's far too late. And now I only have to meet two more members of the cast of Firefly in order to complete my signature collection (Adam Baldwin and Ron Glass... three if you count Joss Whedon for creating the series, which I would).
Number 6
20 August 2016 @ 11:31 am
So I had this weird dream that was kinda a What If/Elseworlds Batman and I kinda want to get it down.

I guess the premise is sort of "What if, instead of being a respectable psychologist who got unhealthily attached to the Joker and turned into a supervillain, Harley Quinn was a street kid who was made Robin instead of Dick Grayson"

Most of this came directly from the dream itself, a few details were come up with after the fact.

Basically as I remember it starting out, this girl, who was Harley Quinn as a teenager, was leaving for school (I think she was a HS senior) and was worried because it was supposed to rain later and walking from the bus stop to home would be a long walk, which normally wasn't a problem, unless it rained. Then it got revealed that she took the bus because she didn't want people to know she lived in Bruce Wayne's mansion and treat her differently. She also had a really little sister (who I think was actually her daughter, and Batman took her in when she was a pregnant girl on the street, while trying to track down (and arrest) the father, who was an adult Biker who would eventually turn into the Joker, but he hadn't yet... it's an alternate universe, and a dream, I didn't say anything it made sense... but anyway, they called her the sister just so people at school wouldn't know). Because it was probably raining and nobody would be around to pick them up, she wanted the right to use the spaceship parked in orbit which could remotely beam them from school to home (I don't know where that came from, but the ship did have a lifesigns detector that could ensure they weren't spotted beaming in or out, so Batman's objection was more 'you shouldn't be using it for such trivial things'!).

Anyway, in this world she was just called Quinn for short instead of Harley. There was also Freida who was a genderswapped version of Alfred (I don't know why, dream!).

For some reason (dream!) Batman had access to classified reports from the Stargate program that Quinn liked to hear but it was like a reward for good behavior, particularly Rodney McKay's reports from Atlantis.

Unfortunately although I knew in a dream sense that she was also Batman's sidekick, I never got to see her as Robin (if indeed she did take that as a name, since in this scenario she was the first, it could easily be that she didn't like the name and there was no precedent for a Robin).

I'm just writing this down because there's a part of me that kinda wants to see an Elseworlds like this.
Number 6
02 August 2016 @ 10:29 am
Let's see, what of note is there to say? Fan Expo's in about a month, and I'm tentatively planning on going right now (to get Jewel Staite's autograph for my Firefly collection). I might even bring baked goods for in-line snacking and (if I work up the nerve) offering to others. I've got a plan to make "Fruity Oaty Bars" from Firefly/Serenity (well, I think they were only in Serenity), and since Blue Sun is the corporation behind the bars, I may try to do a blueberry-starfruity filling (Blue-Star is as close as I can get to Blue Sun). Yay, for obscure geekiness that only I will get. But, it depends on it being in season and in a store that I can get it (in previous years I've seen starfruits in my grocery store but I don't know when they start showing up). Also, I still haven't done a test batch and time's running out. So we'll see.

TV? It's been a long time since I've talked about TV that almost everything I have to say is old news. But let's see... Stranger Things is on Netflix (or you could get it magically another way)... and I quite liked it, it's like 80s Stephen King and 80s Steven Spielberg teamed up to make a movie set in the 80s but using today's effects. Not perfect, and I had an unreasonable amount of nerd rage at them getting D&D wrong (ask me in comments if you're curious), but overall quite well done, even if it is a bit nostalgia-baity.

Killing Joke cartoon came out and, just, ugh. I mean, the original story was iffy enough, but I sort of forgive it because Oracle came out of it (even if it was indirectly). But they added a 30 minute prologue focusing on Batgirl and... I WANTED a prologue focusing on Batgirl, but what they actually gave me was just awful, stupid ideas that if possible made the iffier elements of Killing Joke even WORSE. Why, DC, why?

I've been kind of on a rewatch binge lately, rewatched all of Stargate SG1 and Atlantis, and now moving on to Sliders. The Stargates were more or less as good as I remember it, Sliders... well, I knew it turned to suck eventually, but I'd forgotten how much wasn't that great even in the "good" seasons. Not all-around awful, and I'm still enjoying watching it, but just full of random cringey moments where I viscerally notice bad writing or acting (or the results of executive tampering). It was always a show that I loved more for potential than for what they did with it, and I still want to see a reboot done well. Oh, and it's fun spotting people in it. I was watching an episode and I thought, "Wait, is that Jeffrey Dean Morgan?" (the brother's father in Supernatural, Negan in The Walking Dead, Comedian in Watchmen), and... yup, it was! It took to the opening credits to be sure because he looked so young. He played a tough guy from a "civilization-has-collapsed" world who, chasing after his girlfriend, follows the Sliders to a world where SanFran is a penal colony.

I think that's all I remember for TV, so we'll move onto the bimonthly book roundup. As usual, Goodreads reviews copy-pasted here.

Finished: A World Out of Time by Larry Niven

A man with a terminal illness in the modern day has himself frozen as a last-ditch attempt to survive. He awakens hundreds of years in the future, in a completely new body and told that he must be in service to the State... or else. Soon, though, he gets a chance to escape and flee into Earth's far far future where many things have changed and survival is even more complicated.Read more...Collapse )All in all, I've seen much better "trips into the far far future" tales than this.

About the only thing I took away from this book was the description of a far distant genetically altered version of a cat that looked pretty much just a head and tail with no limbs, which proved to me that I would still "awww" at a kitty even if you made it into something like a snake.

Finished: Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey (Expanse #5)

Read more...Collapse )In a series like this, you're not really advising people who aren't already invested in the books, so really reviews tend to boil down to "How does this compare to the rest of the series? Is it getting better? Is it getting worse? Is it still worth reading?" And so really all I probably needed to say is that this is one of the better books in the series and I'll absolutely be reading the next.

Finished: Packing Fraction and Other Stories of Science and Imagination (short stories)

A short book of even shorter short stories. This one I believe is targetted towards teens, with the goal of getting them into science fiction. The stories are interesting enough and deal with a few real issues alongside cool SF ideas, but both are made somewhat milder... not so much to match the sensibilities of teens, but so that parents might not complain. Read more...Collapse )I got this for about a buck at an online store. I'm not sure it'd be worth paying much more than that (more because of the short page count than quality reasons). But at that price, I'm not disappointed at least.

Finished: Echopraxia by Peter Watts (reread)

Reread, so I'll just say I think I liked it more the second time around, not as much effort needed to understand what's happening so the subtler charms are easier to enjoy.

Finished: Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer

Mycroft is a convicted criminal, sentenced to be a Servicer... forbidden to own property, and in exchange for food and shelter must work for whoever requires his services. Because he has a particular set of skills, this often means working for the upper echelon of 25th century society. And in the course of his work, Mycroft has encountered what seems like a miracle, a young boy who can bring art to life... literally.

This is a particularly hard book for me to review. There's so much going on here, and while much of it is good, and some I'd call very good, some of it rubs me the wrong way in terms of personal tastes. Read more...Collapse )So although I can certainly see talent here, and understand why this book is being highly praised in many circles, it's proving not so much tuned to my personal tastes. I'd probably rate it a 2, albeit a high one, but since it's a first novel where I'm traditionally more forgiving, and because it was on the high end of 2 anyway, I'll make it a three. I might still like to explore more of Ada Palmer's work in the future... but, at this point, I'm not sure I want to continue reading the rest of this story. I might, but it may be the sort of thing where, a few years down the line I may spontaneously decide that I wonder how it turned out, rather than buying it when it comes out. Or, perhaps, if I hear a lot of reviews where they talk about having addressed some of my personal difficulties with the book.

Finished: Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder (reread)

I've already read this several times and talked about it here even before I started doing Goodreads reviews.

Finished: The Passage by Justin Cronin

The US government, after obtaining samples of a virus that resembles classical vampirism, begins an ultra-secret project to refine and weaponize this discovery, by injecting variations on the virus into test subjects recruited from Death Row, and also a little girl who's not in the system. Naturally, everything goes according to plan and nothing goes wrong at all with this totally reasonable idea, but you might want to avoid the planet Earth for the next few centuries as it may be overrun with monsters.

This book's gotten a lot of hype... the author got apparently a huge advance for it, it was on the NYT bestseller list for a while, and there's talk of a movie adaptation, it's one of those books I've heard about for years since it came out.

And I wanted to like it so much. But I really didn't, at least not in total. (Warning, I will be a little bit more spoilery than usual...)Read more...Collapse )So yeah, I ranted a lot about the book, and probably made it seem like I enjoyed it less than I did. I gave it two stars. I enjoyed it mildly, but... too much annoyed me, and I wanted it to be so much better, to even a little bit live up to the hype. Instead, it disappointed me. There are two other books in the series for those who don't have my issues with it... maybe they get better, maybe they even specifically address some of my problems in ways that would make me retract my position on the first book. But I don't think I'm ever going to find out.

Finished: Queen of Candesce by Karl Schroeder (reread)

Another multiple-time reread, nothing more to say.

Finished: Scratch Monkey by Charles Stross

Oshi Adjani works for an inconceivably advanced artificial intelligence, doing various jobs like taking out planetary dictatorships and mass-murderers. She believes what she's doing, even though it may require some despicable actions of her own, is for the good of humanity as a whole. And it may well be, but when Oshi discovers a secret about her boss, she can't let it lie. In punishment for questioning, she's given one last dangerous assignment, one that, if she completes it, she can go free. But it's an assignment so dangerous that the odds of surviving it are slim. The boss needs a scratch monkey, an agent that is fundamentally disposable. And that agent is Oshi.

Charles Stross has written some of my favorite books, books that spew novelty from every page and leave readers reeling with the feeling that they've really seen a potential future, past the Singularity where it's impossible to predict or even understand... and maybe you still don't entirely understand it, but you feel as close as someone's liable to come. Unfortunately, a lot of his recent output has been decidedly more grounded, as he's simply not interested in some of the same themes that he used to be. There's nothing wrong with this, but I am still interested, and I was craving something more like the old Stross. Then I discovered Scratch Monkey, an unpublished (but nearly published) novel that he posted for free on his website.Read more...Collapse )Still, if you're like me and hoping for something to scratch a similar itch as Accelerando, and have read all his published work, this might be the thing for you. If Goodreads allowed finer-grain ratings, I'd probably put it somewhere in the high three stars, but since it doesn't, I'll round it up to four.

Finished: Company Town by Madeline Ashby
Hwa is a bodyguard working for a town built around an oil rig, off the coast of Newfoundland. Unlike virtually everyone else in town, she has no cybernetic attachments. She's hired to be the bodyguard to the son of the billionaire who just bought the whole town, who has been receiving very specific unusual death threats. Meanwhile, Hwa's old clients and friends are being targetted by a serial killer.

There's a lot of good in this book, and a few off-notes that don't entirely dampen my enthusiasm for it, but just keep it from being that much better.Read more...Collapse )I think part of the problem was that it was a fairly short novel, it could have been filled out in ways where some of these swings didn't seem so dramatic. I liked it though, and I'd read more with these characters if the author chose to write more in this universe. I think it's another book that I might only give a 3.5 if I could give half stars, but if I have to choose, I think I'd round upward in this case.

Finished: Battle Royale Slam Book (Essays on the Cult Classic) (essay collection

That's right, I read a book of essays.

The Battle Royale Slam Book is a book of essays on the book, movie, and manga versions of Battle Royale.

Honestly, I'm not really sure why it needs a special book of essays. I mean, I love the book, but it's not the deepest work in the world. I wouldn't have read this at all, except that it happened to be part of a bundle of ebooks I bought, and I happened to already be rereading Battle Royale. So, I figured I'd keep an ereader open on my computer and read an essay now and then when I had some free time, maybe learn some additional context that I'd missed in the original. Read more...Collapse )I'm glad I got it for free (or rather as part of a bundle which already contained other books that were worth the full price I paid for said bundle), since I wouldn't have bought it alone, but I didn't hate it, I just mostly found it unnecessary. I guess two stars seems appropriate.

Finished: Battle Royale Remastered by Koushun Takami

42 students (average age roughly 15) are gassed on a school field trip and awaken on an island, where they're told they've been chosen for this year's Program. Everyone knows what that means... one class is chosen every year, and they will have to kill each other until only one survives. Some will team up, some will try to escape, and some are willing to kill people they've grown up with.

Battle Royale Remastered is a new translation of Koushun Takami's cult classic Battle Royale. I've already read the previous translation, and even reviewed it. The fact that I'm reading a retranslation should tell you already that I like the story a lot. So, although my rating is going to be the same (because I'm rating the book itself), in this review I will be talking specifically about the translation.Read more...Collapse )

Started (or finished but haven't yet reviewed): Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis C. Chen (received for free from a giveaway), The Future Is Japanese (short story collection), The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North, The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler (received for free from a giveaway)
Number 6
01 June 2016 @ 04:14 pm
Don't really have time for a TV wrapup this time, maybe I'll do a separate one later.

But here are the last batch of books read:

Finished: Against A Dark Background by Iain M. Banks (reread)

As the year 10000 approaches, the Lady Sharrow is marked for assassination by religious extremists, who believe her death, for the actions of her ancestors, will allow a religious prophecy to be fulfilled. Only two things, besides her death, will alter things. If she can stay alive until the decamillenia, or if she can return the priceless artifact that sparked the feud... an impossible weapon that has long been lost. Sharrow assembles her old team from when she was a soldier, and sets out to find the last Lazy Gun, a weapon that kills with a sense of humor, even though the clues to its location are tied to other, also lost, artifacts. Unfortunately, others want the gun. Read more...Collapse )But on the whole, I really liked that book, even the second time around.

Finished: Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired By Microsoft (short story collection)
As the title suggests, this is a set of stories that were inspired by Microsoft... as I understand it, several authors were invited to tour the facilities and see stuff the company was developing, and write stories if they were inspired. Read more...Collapse )Worth a look, at least.

Finished: Marooned in Realtime by Vernor Vinge (reread)
Wil Brierson is a detective, maybe the last one. Sometime in the twenty-second century, every human on Earth disappeared. The only ones left are those who were, at the time, encased in "bobbles", spheres of absolute stasis that many used to jump ahead through the years... and there are only a few hundred people left, trying to build what society they can by jumping further and further ahead to collect more stragglers. Nobody knows what happened to the rest. But that's not Wil's case. Nor is it his case to find the person who bobbled him for over a hundred years without his consent and separated him from his family forever... although he'd really like to do that, too. No, his case is to solve a murder of one of the few survivors left, who was murdered by being left outside of the bobbles, marooned in realtime, when everyone else jumped a century into the future. Murder by old age. But since the victim is one of the key people trying to keep the human race viable, it's a crime that everyone's got a stake in. Read more...Collapse )This was my first reread of the book, and I already know I want to reread it again somewhere down the line.

Finished: The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter

A reporter in a Russian of the future does more than tell a tale... she sees it, feels it, and the audience is wired into her brain to feel it through her, almost live, ideally with some of the personal or embarrassing bits edited out by a screener. Maya is one such reporter, and she's doing a story about the anniversary of a set of atrocities in a prior war, and working with a new, untested screener. But as she follows the story, she uncovers a lot more than she expected about both the world, and herself.

Wow. This is one of those books I'd only heard of through the occasional, but usually high, recommendation. But it wasn't in print, and I couldn't find a copy in any of the used bookstores I frequent. Eventually, I had to order a copy online from a used bookseller. And I'm glad I did. Read more...Collapse )This is Raphael Carter's first and only novel, which is a huge shame. They seem to have disappeared from the SF scene, but after reading this, I hope they're still out there and may one day make a return, I think they'd fit in well with some of my favorites of today. Also a huge shame is how this book seems to be one of those ones that made a small splash but then disappeared. It really should be remembered.

Finished: The Harvest by Robert Charles Wilson

Aliens visit the Earth, but at first they're silent, visible in the sky but not engaging. Until finally, in mass dream, they speak to everybody at once with an incredible offer. They will give functional immortality to everyone who wants it. As well as other benefits. The only catch is... once death is no longer a concern to you, or anyone else, you can't help but change your outlook, your priorities... you, in essence. And maybe that means you're no longer going to be what you presently consider human. Still, most people accept the offer. The novel follows a few of the small minority that refuse it, who are left unaffected, except that they're in a world full of people who said "yes." Could this all be a sinister ploy by the aliens and those who accepted the offer are enslaved and need rescuing? And, even if it's not... is it that much better?

This type of book is pretty much Robert Charles Wilson's specialty. A big event that can't help but change the world, and yet the focus is on the personal, how individual, rather normal people react to it, often helpless to change the course of events.Read more...Collapse )Still, on the whole, I enjoyed the book. Wilson may not have shown himself as capable as he has in other works, but it was still interesting and worth a read. And he avoided several pitfalls that I think others might have fallen into and created a story that was far more conventional and much less interesting. The biggest sin is that I think that if he wrote from the same premise today, I think it might be a great book instead of merely good.

Finished: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

A giant metal hand is found under the ground, one that defies known science and anthropology. At first dismissed, years later it becomes the focus of intense investigation and top-secret efforts to find more of these artifacts and perhaps lay claim to the power behind them.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book free through a Goodreads giveaway. I don't think it affected my review. Read more...Collapse )The book's part of a series, but I'm not interested in continuing and seeing how it wraps up, I think I'd rather be reading other books. This one, it's just not my thing.

Finished: A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias

The distant planet Ilmatar is a single ocean with a roof of ice, and almost all of that ocean is without light. But it is the home to intelligent life, and humans have been secretly studying the crab-like beings, following the rules of the Sholen, another alien race, who dictate that there be no contact. When poor judgement causes the death of one of the science team, at the hands of an Ilmatarian, the Sholen come to assess the situation and decide whether the human expedition needs to be shut down... but they might not be willing to go along with the Sholen's rules if it means shutting down research rather than merely inconveniencing it.

This book is a lot of fun and will stick with me for a while, and I'm sure I'll reread it, because while it does have its flaws, it succeeds very well at one of of my favorite things in the genre. Read more...Collapse )But hey, it's a first novel and a really good one at that. I can't wait to see more.

Finished: Edge of Dark by Brenda Cooper
Long ago, an offshoot of humanity that had embraced technological advancement, transplanting themselves into robot bodies or computer systems, was expelled from the rest of the system. Since then, they've lurked in the dark fringes, occasionally raiding or trading with the stations. But suddenly they launch an attack to show their power and make their demands... they want to be let back in, on their own terms.

This book explores a number of themes that I really like, but it didn't work for me quite as much as I'd hoped.Read more...Collapse )Still, I might read the sequel, see how it all turns out.

Finished: The Diving Bundle: Six Diving Universe Novellas by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Space is really big, and really dangerous. That means there are a lot of wrecks, damaged ships, abandoned stations, and more. Some people, for money, knowledge, or glory, like to explore these wrecks, much like people in bygone eras would put on a diving suit to explore a sunken ship. But in space, it's a lot more dangerous, as the wrecks mght contain technologies that are lost or poorly understood, and still active, or worse, malfunctioning. And sometimes, even weirder things can be found...

This is a set of novellas, loosely connected, set in the same universe. Many of them are also parts of longer novels.Read more...Collapse )I'll merely mark it down as a universe and writer I'm interested in checking out again somewhere down the line.

Finished: The Diamond Age: or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson (reread)

In the future, most basic needs are taken care of, with nanotechnology producing food, clothing, and furniture... but that doesn't mean there aren't the rich and the poor, or conflicts. One rich man commissions an intelligent book for his daughter, to educate her and give her the mindset needed to challenge ideas and become a leader. However, an illegal copy of the book also falls into the hands of Nell, a poor girl in an unstable family situation, and her stories may also change the world.

I read this once, long long ago, probably around the time it first came out (about twenty years ago). Read more...Collapse )Still the book is awash with cool ideas, many of which are still mind-blowing and relevant (maybe even more relevant) today, and an appealing tale of both the power and risks of technology, without losing sight of the human element. Even in the storylines I wasn't quite feeling as much, I found myself stopping and thinking, "Wow, that's so neat," many times.

And I wish I had a Primer of my own.

Finished: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Two college students discover how to give people super powers, and try it on themselves. Ten years later, one finally breaks out of prison, bent on revenge against the other. Each finds allies with unique powers of their own. But in this story, the heroes and villains aren't as easy to pick out as they are in the comics.Read more...Collapse )I'd recommend the book to people who like superhero comics or shows or movies, even if they're not huge novel readers in general. The book's enough of a page-turner that if you think you might enjoy a novel but are just not sure where to start, and are afraid of being bogged down in something huge and dense, and the subject matter seems to your liking, this is a pretty good choice, maybe better than any other superhero novel that immediately comes to mind (with the possible exception of the Jumper books).

Finished: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Disclaimer: I recieved an electronic ARC from Netgalley for free. I don't think it affected my review.

In the far future, as part of a ploy to retake control of a space station that has fallen to heresy, a brilliant but disgraced, mass-murdering and long-dead general is bonded to a loyal soldier with a mathematical gift and given command of a group of ships.

I've had a somewhat of a mixed relationship with Yoon Ha Lee's short fiction. A few I've really enjoyed, while some of what he's written has done nothing for me. Still, the ones I liked I liked enough that I was really interested to see what he'd write at novel length.

Unfortunately, the results are also somewhat mixed, for me, at least, although some of that is because of personal distaste for some of the approach and worldbuilding. In fact, for the first third or so, I was convinced I was going to give it two stars at best.Read more...Collapse )And even though my rating is only three stars, I can see certain types of SF readers really liking this first book as it is, craving the complete dislocation that was a bit much for me.

Finished: Glasshouse by Charles Stross (reread)
It's the far future. Earth is a distant memory... most people don't even live on planets anymore, but rather small habitats linked by wormhole gates. And death's difficult to come by, because you can back yourself up as easily as taking a shower. If you want, you can change your body-plan or gender while you're at it. But there are still wars, and in the wake of one, many people have chosen to wipe their memories and start fresh. Some of these people, including Robin, an ex-spy who may have a mission so secret even he isn't aware of it, are recruited into what seems like an innocent three-year experiment, to examine how the society of the 20th century worked, by establishing a community following similar rules as they had to live under. No choosing your body. No instant repair. No ability to leave early if you don't like it. And a lot of expectations for how you behave. And Robin's worried the experiment may be run by war criminals with a nefarious agenda.

I've read this book at least four times now. That alone should tell you that I really enjoy it.Read more...Collapse )

Finished: Permanence by Karl Schroeder (reread)

Rue Cassels steals her inheritance, which includes part-ownership of a ship, in order to escape her older half-brother and forge a new life for herself outside of his control. While in transit, she stumbles upon on unregistered comet, and stakes a claim, making her wealthy... but things only get more complicated when the comet turns out to be a cycler, a starship that runs on a cycle around the dim, chilly worlds that have been colonized between stars, like Rue's. Cyclers haven't been coming by as often as they used to, since the development of FTL that only works near stars, and Rue's society is slowly withering. A single cycler would help, but she soon learns that there's a lot more going on, and the stakes are a lot bigger than one person, one world, or even one species.

I read this book once before, and although it wasn't my favorite of Schroeder's, by far, I still quite enjoyed it.Read more...Collapse )Despite this, I had a lot of fun revisiting the story and ideas, and thinking about some of the issues it brought up. Schroeder remains one of my favorite authors, this simply isn't one of his best works.

Currently reading: Nemesis Games, by James S.A Corey (Expanse #5), Echopraxia by Peter Watts (reread), and A World Out of Time by Larry Niven (honestly I don't even know if it's a reread or not, I found it on my shelf but it inspires no memory in me, not even of when I acquired it).
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.

Read more...Collapse )
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
Read more...Collapse )
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.
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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)

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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.