Author Topic: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding  (Read 4439 times)

Zetetic

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #30 on: September 10, 2020, 08:02:05 PM »
This is a series of novellas (and one novel) about a security ‘constuct’ (a robot with organic components). It hacked its governor and is essentially rogue, but continues taking orders to hide in plain sight. It doesn’t want to have much to do with humans which it feels uncomfortable with, much preferring to watch pilfered escapist dramas on its own.

,,,

There’s also the small problem of the central character coming across as too human, though I suppose that’s difficult to avoid.

Perhaps I skipped over some stuff too quickly, but I always got the impression that murderbots were fundamentally (artificially bred) humans with a ton of stuff jammed into them.



Read N. K. Jemisin's Broken Earth series, and enjoyed it quite a lot.

I didn't get on with its personal identity stuff as much as I would have liked, perhaps.

earl_sleek

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #31 on: September 10, 2020, 09:31:09 PM »
I just finished Banks' The Algebraist. I enjoyed it but it would have been improved by being half as long. There are some interesting ideas behind the setting and the plot is ok, but none of the characters are terribly compelling (and there is a whole alien civilisation who are all actively annoying), and there are some boring stretches where nothing happens. It feels like either it should've been cut down into a snappier novel, or it should've been a trilogy or series telling several stories. It's not actually bad though, and I liked it - it's just a bit underwhelming and disappointing from someone as talented as Banks.

MojoJojo

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #32 on: September 11, 2020, 02:46:56 PM »
The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

This is a series of novellas (and one novel) about a security ‘constuct’ (a robot with organic components). It hacked its governor and is essentially rogue, but continues taking orders to hide in plain sight. It doesn’t want to have much to do with humans which it feels uncomfortable with, much preferring to watch pilfered escapist dramas on its own.

Inevitably, it’s drawn into protecting different groups of humans as it eventually goes properly rogue and runs. I’m into the third novella now and it’s getting a little samey now. There’s also the small problem of the central character coming across as too human, though I suppose that’s difficult to avoid. Up next is the first proper novel so I’ll see how it goes. As a light entertaining quick read it’s good enough.

One big issue that has caused some comment is the price. Each novella (except the first, usually) is priced as a novel and that has understandably generated complaints.

I've been meaning to comment of this since I read the first two at the end of last year, but I've been struggling because I can barely remember anything about it. I definitely remember the price being a sticking point because it is very light fluff. There's lots of similarly quick, enjoyable fluff available on kindle unlimited.

Baffled to see it got a Hugo and other awards. Did it have any particularly new or novel ideas in it? I might have to read it again to see if I missed something.

Alberon

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #33 on: September 11, 2020, 05:50:39 PM »
I've read the first three and no, there's nothing new in it. It does what it does fairly well, but it certainly isn't worth the over £9 that its listed on Amazon for each novella.

There does seem to be a spate of first novels getting rave reviews which they don't seem to really deserve. The awards all seem to be far more interested in new writers rather existing authors. That's not bad in itself, but the balance is completely wrong at the moment.

MojoJojo

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #34 on: September 13, 2020, 10:37:41 AM »
There does seem to be a spate of first novels getting rave reviews which they don't seem to really deserve. The awards all seem to be far more interested in new writers rather existing authors. That's not bad in itself, but the balance is completely wrong at the moment.

Hmmm, the exposure an award brings going to new authors is probably exactly what publishers want.

In the context of me implying that book awards are corrupt, I think it's important for me to point out that Martha Wells has been published for over 20 years.

Alberon

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #35 on: October 30, 2020, 06:18:31 PM »
So I've been trying to find something new and interesting to read and for a while I didn't really find anything.

Stormblood by Jeremy Szal

From the book description-

Quote
Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper: a bio-enhanced soldier fighting for the Harmony, against a brutal invading empire. He's still fighting now, on a different battlefield: taking on stormtech. To make him a perfect soldier, Harmony injected him with the DNA of an extinct alien race, altering his body chemistry and leaving him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. But although they meant to create soldiers, at the same time Harmony created a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.

Zzzzzzz... binned after several chapters.

Velocity Weapon by Megan O'Keefe

Sort of stalled on this one. It seems to be standard Space Opera/Military type thing, but I just couldn't get into it. Might come back to it later, but probably won't.

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

At last something interesting! This is a first novel and features various characters and their stories of life and lost loves. The opening chapter starts with a secondary character who spends his whole life waiting for a starship captain who comes back every fifteen years as he experiences it, but every few months as she does thanks to temporal effects of faster than light travel. Later chapters shift to the captain herself and a woman who escaped a dying Earth and lives into the future through extended bouts of cryosleep.

It's different and not everyone's cup of tea, but it is well worth trying.

And finally I'm onto The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky which seems an entertaining and generally lighter romp through parallel universes, but since the whole of the mulitverse is collapsing that might change.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #36 on: November 16, 2020, 04:00:17 PM »
Decided to crack on with the Red Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson. I only read the first chapter so far, but it's already hooked me.


Alberon

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #37 on: November 18, 2020, 11:31:47 PM »
Never read his stuff, I might have to give him a go.

The Doors of Eden was fine. It suffers from somehow being too slight and without a proper central character out of the ensemble to build the novel around. Tchaikovsky studied zoology at uni and it’s shown time and again in his work as he builds truly alien societies. The best part of this book is the short sections between chapters where alternate evolutions of life on Earth is shown.

After that I read Dead Lies Dreaming by Charles Stross, the latest in the long-running Laundry series. Though this is more accurately a spin-off set after the main series is finished (though there is still a couple of books in that to come).

This was apparently written without first being sold to his publishers due to burnout caused by his parents illnesses and deaths sapped his will to carry on his current projects for the time being so deciding to turn to something new.

The early Laundry novels riffed on different spy book styles with each novel and he’s returned to that idea though this is based on Peter Pan, not the Disney version, but the original. Like the other books in this series it seems to suffer whenever it is away from the original protagonist’s first-person storytelling. Also, the storyline is fairly simple and none of the characters, bar, possibly, one, have any real arc through the book.

The final action sequence is done well, but there isn’t a whole lot leading up to it. The characters aren’t really fleshed out well, plenty of gender and sexual diversity among the good guys, but the bad guys are all white, homophobic and, at least in one case, racist. There’s nothing wrong with greater diversity in novel characters, I’m all for it, but when you can see the boxes being ticked so obviously in front of you (though I’ve no doubt Stross really believes in diversity and equality) it gets depressing. It also doesn’t help that a bunch of East-European hitmen are stereotypical almost to the point of racism.

For all the moaning above, it’s not that bad, but feels a few drafts short of being ready. This is, inevitably, the first of a trilogy, so hopefully it will pick up as the story continues.

MojoJojo

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #38 on: November 19, 2020, 11:24:41 AM »
For all the moaning above, it’s not that bad, but feels a few drafts short of being ready.

I've generally felt that way about most of the laundry books. There are lots of interesting ideas but they've always been slightly lacking in practice. I think there is something missing in the world building, and the mundane, real, bureaucratic stuff clashing with the supernatural stuff in a way that is just a bit confusing and leaves lots of unanswered questions rather contrasting in a funny way.

Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #39 on: November 20, 2020, 01:40:31 PM »
I read a somewhat negative review of one of Stross's book a while back that said he was an author who would really benefit from a slower pace of production, and a lot of what I was feeling about his work clicked into place for me after that. He seems to constantly be writing at a breakneck pace - it's a slow period for him at a novel a year, and two in eighteen months seems about average for him - and while I really don't know if his books would be better if he took longer over them, many of them definitely do read like they're half done.

(there was one recently which opened with a flash-forward to dragons fighting fighter aircraft, but from what I remember by the time the story proper got up to that point he'd misremembered either the number of fighter jets or dragons)

Famous Mortimer

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #40 on: November 20, 2020, 09:32:33 PM »
I read a somewhat negative review of one of Stross's book a while back that said he was an author who would really benefit from a slower pace of production, and a lot of what I was feeling about his work clicked into place for me after that. He seems to constantly be writing at a breakneck pace - it's a slow period for him at a novel a year, and two in eighteen months seems about average for him - and while I really don't know if his books would be better if he took longer over them, many of them definitely do read like they're half done.

(there was one recently which opened with a flash-forward to dragons fighting fighter aircraft, but from what I remember by the time the story proper got up to that point he'd misremembered either the number of fighter jets or dragons)
It's possible he has to work at that pace to put food on the table. I completely agree with the assessment, though.

Mister Six

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #41 on: November 20, 2020, 10:41:49 PM »
I just finished Banks' The Algebraist. I enjoyed it but it would have been improved by being half as long. There are some interesting ideas behind the setting and the plot is ok, but none of the characters are terribly compelling (and there is a whole alien civilisation who are all actively annoying), and there are some boring stretches where nothing happens. It feels like either it should've been cut down into a snappier novel, or it should've been a trilogy or series telling several stories. It's not actually bad though, and I liked it - it's just a bit underwhelming and disappointing from someone as talented as Banks.

I felt the same - felt like he had at least four separate ideas (the revenge subplot, the quest to find the fast travel, the rebellion against the Mercatoria and the battleship led by Luciferus... maybe also the AI prejudice), none of which really connected with the other. Certainly the rebellion and the revenge felt extremely peripheral.[1] As usual, tons of really great ideas (is this the one with the genetically modified species that turned its colony-ships into giant mausoleums?) but possibly a victim of Banks' incredible work ethic - feel like he should have just put this one aside for a couple of years, until he had a better handle on what story he actually wanted to tell and which bits were essential to telling it.

Anyway, the first Dune book is all right isn't it? Fantastic bit of worldbuilding and I love the central tension that emerges between what Paul knows he must do to stop the jihad, and what he cannot bring himself to do because of his own empathy and upbringing. Shame about the homophobia, humourlessness and rather stilted prose.[2]

Also all the characters, while well written, are boring as fuck except for the baddies, so it'll be interesting to see where the sequels go. Sadly, I've only managed to scrounge up all of the Frank Herbert books EXCEPT the second one on my second-hand-book delves, so it might be a while before I get back into the series again.
 1. I suspect he former was there either as seeds for a possible sequel, or just because Banks found the Mercatoria too grim a creation to leave without some cracks in its foundations.
 2. The only time it really came alive for me was during the bit where that fella is deliriously wandering around the desert, imagining his dad haranguing him.

Alberon

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #42 on: November 20, 2020, 11:00:24 PM »
I read a somewhat negative review of one of Stross's book a while back that said he was an author who would really benefit from a slower pace of production, and a lot of what I was feeling about his work clicked into place for me after that. He seems to constantly be writing at a breakneck pace - it's a slow period for him at a novel a year, and two in eighteen months seems about average for him - and while I really don't know if his books would be better if he took longer over them, many of them definitely do read like they're half done.

(there was one recently which opened with a flash-forward to dragons fighting fighter aircraft, but from what I remember by the time the story proper got up to that point he'd misremembered either the number of fighter jets or dragons)

Stross has been talking on his blog about slowing down his production rate. Whether that means he'll take longer with each book or time off between works I don't know.

I didn't think it was much of a problem with his earlier works, but maybe he's just suffering fatigue switching between two long running series[1], or just growing older. I really rate Saturn's Children, its sequel and Glasshouse. He was working on a space opera novel which he lost all feeling for because one of his parents died while he was working on it, but hopefully he can get back to that at some point.
 1. I haven't read the Merchant Princes, but I do feel the Laundry series is being overly stretched out now and really needs Stross and his publishers committing to a definitive end to it.

Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #43 on: November 21, 2020, 04:01:21 AM »
I've found Stross's career really interesting, even when I haven't been that into what he's been producing - I discovered him from the second or third installment of what became Accelerando in Asimov's SF, and it's often seemed like while he really wants to write hard-ish SF (and I agree that stuff like Saturn's Children is where he shines) he needs to put out a *lot* of material to cover his costs and it's been his attempts in other directions that have proven the easiest to turn into ongoing series. Though he also said Accelerando burnt out his desire to ever write anything like it ever again, which I think is both understandable and a shame.

That said, it was interesting to read him admit ages back that his aborted near future crime series (Halting State and Rule 34 I think?) was a big step up for him in terms of readership but that he couldn't keep the series going because he didn't know what the state of near-future Scottish law would be post-Brexit / Scottish Independence. To which I would have thought the answer was "make something up", but from reading his blog it's very clear that there are certain technical elements in his stories that are extremely important to him and if he can't solve those problems the story's dead.

It's possible he has to work at that pace to put food on the table. I completely agree with the assessment, though.

I do wonder if he's a writer that needs to go at a rapid pace to create - it could simply be that if he tries to slow down and take his time (especially with his ongoing series which are more about plot and driving the story forward than ideas) inspiration dries up

samadriel

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #44 on: November 21, 2020, 04:54:27 AM »
Though he also said Accelerando burnt out his desire to ever write anything like it ever again, which I think is both understandable and a shame.

Damn, that is a shame, i loved Accelerando.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #45 on: November 21, 2020, 05:28:58 AM »
Anyway, the first Dune book is all right isn't it? Fantastic bit of worldbuilding and I love the central tension that emerges between what Paul knows he must do to stop the jihad, and what he cannot bring himself to do because of his own empathy and upbringing. Shame about the homophobia, humourlessness and rather stilted prose.[1]

Also all the characters, while well written, are boring as fuck except for the baddies, so it'll be interesting to see where the sequels go. Sadly, I've only managed to scrounge up all of the Frank Herbert books EXCEPT the second one on my second-hand-book delves, so it might be a while before I get back into the series again.
 1. The only time it really came alive for me was during the bit where that fella is deliriously wandering around the desert, imagining his dad haranguing him.
The first one is great, the second one is okay and everything past that is absolutely pitiful. YMMV, and they do have lots of defenders.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #46 on: November 26, 2020, 04:58:45 PM »
I'm reading "Red Mars" at the moment, and am about halfway through it.

I don't know if the years have been unkind to it, or it's too long, or I'm not feeling Kim Stanley Robinson's writing style? It feels like a soap opera with a bit of wish fulfilment thrown in, like the author had a better idea for how to organise society, so decided to write a trilogy about how you'd get there. Although it allegedly pre-dates the starting of "A Song Of Ice And Fire", I wouldn't be at all surprised if its success made GRRM realise you could kill off main characters and still have a success.

All three novels in the series won awards, and are clearly still liked, but they're not for me. Perhaps the idea, in our current security obsessed times, that you could smuggle a whole extra human on board a spaceship to Mars, then keep him hidden from everyone for over a decade, seems faintly ludicrous. I've read the summaries of the three novels on Wikipedia and, honestly, it doesn't sound that worth sticking with. I was getting a bit worried about maybe me not being into sci-fi any more, but I read the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer a while back and they were all great, so I think I'm safe.

Sorry, this post wasn't very coherent. Bit of a thumbs down to the Mars trilogy, though.

Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #47 on: November 27, 2020, 05:57:02 AM »
Every time Kim Stanley Robinson has a new novel out I make sure to pick it up - especially lately, as his last three our four have been exactly the kind of thing I love - and then end up putting it down again after a few pages, never to open again.

I don't know exactly what it is about his writing style that puts me completely off, but I suspect it's just that, at a basic prose level, he might not be very good? I don't even mind the way his books are just massive slabs of information with badly drawn characters bobbing around in a sea of text, as I've enjoyed other books like that before. His sentences seem to make sense, but they just kind of pile up on top of each other awkwardly and by the time he's lumped them together into a paragraph I'm out.

surreal

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #48 on: November 27, 2020, 11:43:19 AM »
After that I read Dead Lies Dreaming by Charles Stross, the latest in the long-running Laundry series. Though this is more accurately a spin-off set after the main series is finished (though there is still a couple of books in that to come).

Thanks for the review of this - I like all the Laundry stuff but this seems to back up my decision to hold off buying it until the price drops a bit.  I still have 3.5 Expanse books to get through anyway, I want to read at least one of the Culture books and have promised myself I will finally get round to reading The Shining too.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #49 on: November 27, 2020, 06:39:15 PM »
Every time Kim Stanley Robinson has a new novel out I make sure to pick it up - especially lately, as his last three our four have been exactly the kind of thing I love - and then end up putting it down again after a few pages, never to open again.

I don't know exactly what it is about his writing style that puts me completely off, but I suspect it's just that, at a basic prose level, he might not be very good? I don't even mind the way his books are just massive slabs of information with badly drawn characters bobbing around in a sea of text, as I've enjoyed other books like that before. His sentences seem to make sense, but they just kind of pile up on top of each other awkwardly and by the time he's lumped them together into a paragraph I'm out.
Well put.

Mister Six

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #50 on: November 27, 2020, 06:40:26 PM »
Thanks for the review of this - I like all the Laundry stuff but this seems to back up my decision to hold off buying it until the price drops a bit.  I still have 3.5 Expanse books to get through anyway, I want to read at least one of the Culture books and have promised myself I will finally get round to reading The Shining too.

Culture thread over this way.

Inspector Norse

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Re: SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding
« Reply #51 on: November 27, 2020, 10:05:33 PM »
Every time Kim Stanley Robinson has a new novel out I make sure to pick it up - especially lately, as his last three our four have been exactly the kind of thing I love - and then end up putting it down again after a few pages, never to open again.

I don't know exactly what it is about his writing style that puts me completely off, but I suspect it's just that, at a basic prose level, he might not be very good? I don't even mind the way his books are just massive slabs of information with badly drawn characters bobbing around in a sea of text, as I've enjoyed other books like that before. His sentences seem to make sense, but they just kind of pile up on top of each other awkwardly and by the time he's lumped them together into a paragraph I'm out.

I read one of his books once and yeah.

I mean sure the science and the future worldbuilding are convincing and detailed but all the generalisations people make about sci-fi? That’s Kim Stanley Robinson.

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