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SF and Fantasy wot I ave been reeding

Started by Alberon, April 19, 2020, 12:05:14 AM

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Alberon

Eversion by Alastair Reynolds

Silas Coade is a doctor as part of a private mission on a sailing ship to explore a strange edifice in a fissure on the coast of a remote part of Norway until he's killed in a freak accident.

Then Coade is a doctor on a steamship exploring the same edifice in South America. Then on a dirigable in Antartica which finds a hole down into a hollow Earth.

Each time the vessel is called the Demeter and the crew stay the same but with alterations for each new setting.

Despite some repetition the story progresses with each setting until you reach the end and you discover what is really happening and why. I'd enjoyed the story up to that point but the finale ends up feeling a bit of a letdown and not really worth the setup. It's not bad, but it could be better.

Famous Mortimer

Finally got cracking with "The Fifth Season" by NK Jemisin, and of course it's fucking brilliant, because she's a brilliant author. If anything, there are a lot of characters introduced at the beginning in a way that felt slightly overwhelming, but once I was over that hump I got right into it.

Brilliant worldbuilding, lovely turn of phrase, I've had this trilogy sat on my shelf for about a year, no idea why I didn't start it til now.

dannyfc


Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

Can't believe I haven't heard of this before, completely everything I love about Science Fiction. Bleak, Lovecraftian horror with well defined characters and plausibly realistic science.

Dragged a bit in the final chapters, but probably one of my all-time favs now. More like this please.

Alberon

Oh yeah, that's a good one.

Doesn't seem to have written anything since though.

dannyfc

Quote from: Alberon on July 01, 2022, 08:00:47 PMOh yeah, that's a good one.

Doesn't seem to have written anything since though.

Yeah I was disappointed when I reached the end as was hoping it would be part of a wider series in that universe. Looks like he's written an earlier dystopian novel called Tomorrow Tomorrow which i'll check out.

Do you know anything in a similar vein? Sort of bleak, cosmic horror vibes with existential dread.

I struggle with Sci-Fi as it's so hit and miss for me depending on the tone. Reddit seems to love the likes of Andy Weir which is the complete opposite of what I enjoy. Quirky Mary Sue type characters that save the day through science and twee quips.

These are some of my favs; 14 by Peter Clines, The Ruins by Scott Smith, The Deep by Nick Cutter, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

I'm about to start The Library at Mount Char.

Famous Mortimer

Quote from: Famous Mortimer on July 01, 2022, 02:24:30 PMFinally got cracking with "The Fifth Season" by NK Jemisin, and of course it's fucking brilliant, because she's a brilliant author. If anything, there are a lot of characters introduced at the beginning in a way that felt slightly overwhelming, but once I was over that hump I got right into it.

Brilliant worldbuilding, lovely turn of phrase, I've had this trilogy sat on my shelf for about a year, no idea why I didn't start it til now.
The central conceit of the novel didn't become apparent to me for a slightly embarrassing amount of time, but it was really really good. I can sort of see why those stupid far-right sci-fi enthusiasts were so upset by her, though, what with the gender ignoring and all the non-hetero shenanigans.

I'm straight onto the second volume now. Then maybe some more Jonathan Lethem. Does he count for this thread, do you reckon?

Mister Six

Plugging my way through God Emperor of Dune. It's the most interesting (read: least tedious) since the original Dune as it has a few mad ideas at its centre, but so far (about a third of the way in) it looks set to follow the same pattern as the previous two books: opens on a quite well-written action scene, then descends into Very Clever People expositing at one another in rooms for about 350 pages, then a brief action scene and it's done.

I think I'd rather just read Frank Herbert's thoughts on civilisation and the follies of humanity written down as a single brief essay rather than being crammed into awkward, pompous dialogue for hundreds of pages, but I guess this is the hand I've been dealt. I'd give up, but Mrs Six bought the whole series for me. :(

Oh, and he's apparently trades in the male homophobia for some weird lesbophobia, with a group of Amazons called the Fish Speakers. Because lesbians do cunnilingus, and ladies' fannies smell like fish!!!!!!!111

Nice one, Frank.

willbo

Quote from: Mister Six on July 06, 2022, 03:26:58 AMPlugging my way through God Emperor of Dune. It's the most interesting (read: least tedious) since the original Dune as it has a few mad ideas at its centre, but so far (about a third of the way in) it looks set to follow the same pattern as the previous two books: opens on a quite well-written action scene, then descends into Very Clever People expositing at one another in rooms for about 350 pages, then a brief action scene and it's done.

I think I'd rather just read Frank Herbert's thoughts on civilisation and the follies of humanity written down as a single brief essay rather than being crammed into awkward, pompous dialogue for hundreds of pages, but I guess this is the hand I've been dealt. I'd give up, but Mrs Six bought the whole series for me. :(

Oh, and he's apparently trades in the male homophobia for some weird lesbophobia, with a group of Amazons called the Fish Speakers. Because lesbians do cunnilingus, and ladies' fannies smell like fish!!!!!!!111

Nice one, Frank.

I really enjoyed the first 4 but then found the 5th too hard to get into. In theory the 5th should have been a breath of fresh air, as it was about a new young character, with less Zen dialogue and stuff, but I'd just lost enthusiasm for the series somehow. I always meant to try it again someday though. Never made the fish=fanny connection

wrec

Bought the 5th one recently but haven't started it yet. I thought the homophobia in God Emperor was more to do with the (lol) Duncan Idaho being a dated relic / macho bro than a character presenting the author's position. Not that there aren't dodgy bits in the Dune series and other Herbert novels.

earl_sleek

Duncs gets pretty upset when he sees two Fish Speakers (not convinced their name is anything to do with fannies btw) snogging, but Leto then gives a very odd speech about how all militaries are homosexual or some shit like that, which comes across like it's Herbert's own views (and we know he was a pretty nasty homophobe).

Alberon

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

This is the second book of short stories. He doesn't, as far as I know, do novel length stuff. One of his stories from the previous book was adapted as the film 'Arrival' a couple of years back.

This book has fine examples of the old SF idea of taking a new invention and then imagining the social implications. In 'Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom' a device is developed where when it is activated it stays in contact with another universe that splits off at that second. It only has a finite amount of data that can be transfered between universes (though in the story ones with larger and larger storage are being designed). So students can split an essay between themselves or (if a device is unused long enough) alternate versions of songs and films can be downloaded. The story focuses on a woman attending a sort of Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for people hooked on these devices, people who are often convinced their other selves are leading better lives. But it turns out that, while she is a reformed drug addict she is there for other reasons.

In 'Exhalation' a being living in a very different universe discovers the fate that lies in their future. In 'The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate' time travel is dealt with in the framework of a traditional muslim fairy tale.

There is a longer story in here about software pets that doesn't quite work for me, but in general this a fantastic set of short stories.

13 schoolyards

One of the (many) things I enjoy about Chiang's stories is that he'll sometimes take a fairly straightforward concept and then logically work through it to a very different ending.

There's one story about a future where everyone has perfectly accurate digital memories where the conflict between father and daughter he sets up skillfully wrong-foots the reader to underline the way that our current views on technology not only aren't the only possible ones, but may not even be the *right* ones.

Mister Six

Gave up on God Emperor of Dune. It's just fucking wank. With the exception of a couple of small action sequences, every scene is just people talking at each other - most typically Leto, the titular God Emperor, repeating at tedious length every dumb theory that ever passed through Frank Herbert's stupid thick skull while other characters marvel at his wisdom and/or are DESTROYED WITH LOGIC.

It's so thin on incident that I dropped the thin something like three fifths of the way in, went to Wikipedia to find out what happened, and discovered that the events of those first 400ish pages were summarised in one paragraph.

Unbelievably poor stuff, and while I accept that saying this marks me out as a prize cunt, I struggle to believe that all the five star ratings on Goodreads are genuinely heartfelt and not either faux-intellectual posturing or literary Stockholm Syndrome. Mrs Six bought me Heretics, but I'm hoping she's forgotten about that now, or I can just read the Wikipedia entry and bluff it if she asks.

Glebe

Got about 50 pages into Dune but I'm in one of those moods lately where I'm finding it hard to relax and read at times.

Pranet

When I read (and loved) Dune a few years ago and read up on the sequels opinion seemed to be split between people who said books 2 and 3 are good but don't go any further and those who said best off sticking with the first one. If I see the second book going cheap in a  charity shop or similar I'll probably pick it up but I won't go looking for it.

Famous Mortimer

I'm a "best off sticking with the first one" person - 2 and 3 are okay, but that's about it, and 4 onwards are absolute dogshit.

Mister Six

#286
Quote from: Glebe on July 18, 2022, 01:13:57 PMGot about 50 pages into Dune but I'm in one of those moods lately where I'm finding it hard to relax and read at times.

As much as I rag on the sequels, I think the first book is decent enough. The structure is a bit wonky, but things actually happen in it and there are lots of characters with agency, rather than one or two "hyper-intelligent" characters surrounded by gawping plebs whose faces are forever breaking into surprised awe as Herbert Mouthpiece #3 drops some truth bombs on them. And the baddies are entertaining, as cartoonishly awful as they are.

Quote from: Pranet on July 18, 2022, 06:01:22 PMWhen I read (and loved) Dune a few years ago and read up on the sequels opinion seemed to be split between people who said books 2 and 3 are good but don't go any further and those who said best off sticking with the first one. If I see the second book going cheap in a  charity shop or similar I'll probably pick it up but I won't go looking for it.

The second one is at least short (by Dune standards) and does wrap up Paul's story to a degree. The third one is a chore, though, having pretty much the same problems as God Emperor re: being about smug protagonists who are clever in a way that's neither believable or interesting, and who do very little other than have long and boring conversations for 400 pages before finally getting around to doing something that makes the book end.

Famous Mortimer

I just finished the Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemisin, and I liked it a lot. With the majority of the first book being
Spoiler alert
about the same woman, at different times of her life, going under different names
[close]
the same pattern was a little easier to spot in the third one...but perhaps it was never intended to be that big reveal but it's just me not being quite sharp enough to get it.

Anyway, very well written, I think I preferred the other trilogy she did but they're both great. If I see her duology in a bookshop, I'll get it too.

Alberon

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. There was a copy of this going free at work so I picked it up and a couple of years later got around to reading it. Well, about the first fifth of the book anyway.

It's won all sorts of praise and awards, and was adapted into a big budget BBC series a few years back which not many people watched. I personally struggled with the conceit of it as written by someone who was there at the time in the style of victorian novel. I found myself grinding to a halt before Jonathan Strange had even properly appeared in the novel. Not for me.

Restoree by Anne McCaffrey I bought this book the best part of forty years ago and never got around to actually reading it. The cover was quite interesting. The book itself, though...

Well, let's just say this was McCaffrey's first from the late sixties and it really shows. Poorly written with uninteresting characters and feels dated even for it's age. Wish I'd never got around to reading it now.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett It is, all together now, the first of a trilogy, this one called the Divine Cities, but it's written so it can stand alone by itself.

Godlike beings arose on the Continent and reached out to control the world, colonising Saypuri in the process. One Saypuri rose up and devised weapons that could kill these beings. Four of these five being are now dead and the other is gone. When these beings died all the miracles they created failed as well. In what was called the 'Blink' many buildings and instruments simply stopped working or vanished altogether causing the deaths of many. The Saypuris now control the Continent and brutally repress any mention or ritual connected to the godlike beings. One Saypuri arrives to investigate a murder and discovers that far more is going on.

Though a fantasy book the setting bypasses steampunk and is pretty close to the very early 20th Century with cars and telephones. One character reminded me of one from Joe Abercrombie's First Law books, but taciturn, one-eyed, dangerous northern men isn't too original a concept I suppose. An entertaining book and I've just started the sequel.

earl_sleek

Divine Cities is on my to-read list, having enjoyed the first two books in RJB's Founder's Trilogy, Foundryside and Shorefall. The setting for those books is also more 'modern' than a lot of fantasy, somewhat analogous to European colonial times, except with magic that resembles computer programming in a lot of ways.

I've got the final installment, Locklands sitting on my shelf but I'm halfway though Robert Jordan's Lord Of Chaos at the moment. I've read it's the last WoT that's much cop, at least until Sanderson's entries in the series, but I'm enjoying it so far.

JesusAndYourBush

I just read a Robert Sheckley short story called "The Prize of Peril" written in 1958 depicting a guy appearing on what we now now as a 'reality tv' show.  Basically the show is like Hunted, if Hunted wasn't fake and if the hunters had guns.

Famous Mortimer

Quote from: JesusAndYourBush on Yesterday at 02:53:02 PMI just read a Robert Sheckley short story called "The Prize of Peril" written in 1958 depicting a guy appearing on what we now now as a 'reality tv' show.  Basically the show is like Hunted, if Hunted wasn't fake and if the hunters had guns.
I loved Sheckley when I was first getting into sci-fi, but as was briefly mentioned on page 1 of this thread, I struggled a little when I read "Immortality Inc." a couple of years ago. His ideas are still fantastic, and there are some brilliant passages in his books, but they reflect the standards of their time a little too much.

Talking of earlier stuff in this thread, I notice that the 2nd Sarah J Maas horny-magic-creatures book "House Of Sky And Breath" has been out for months (so not a great job of noticing, all told). I'll give it a bash and see if the characters have calmed down a bit since part 1.

JesusAndYourBush

Quote from: Famous Mortimer on Yesterday at 03:44:35 PMI struggled a little when I read "Immortality Inc." a couple of years ago. His ideas are still fantastic, and there are some brilliant passages in his books, but they reflect the standards of their time a little too much.

I read that a few weeks ago.  It's in "The Robert Sheckley Omnibus", that and 12 short stories, 50p from a charity shop.