Author Topic: What are you reading lately?  (Read 137112 times)

random axe

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1545 on: September 17, 2018, 10:12:26 AM »
:hmm:  :thumbsup:

random axe

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1546 on: September 19, 2019, 05:50:58 PM »
I recently re-read Roger Zelazny's This Immortal, which I hadn't read in at least twenty years.  Always a crapshoot, but in this case the book was much more impressive than I remembered.  I don't think I could match the restraint he shows here in doing a lot of worldbuilding and then keeping the exposition to a minimum.  The story's told by the main character, and he's definitely a trifle stylized and dramatic sometimes, but he has his reasons, and it works here, I think.

This Immortal was originally written in the mid-60s and was part of Zelazny's re-imagination and re-invigoration of Golden Age SF, where he wrote dramatic, characterization-heavy stories set on Barsoom-styled Mars or a swampy Venus.  In this case, blue-skinned humanoid aliens bought the Earth after it was largely devastated by a nuclear war; some of the surviving human population moved to other planets, and some remained behind as refugees or rebels or just working in alien resorts.

Here, the main character is in charge of maintaining Earth's remaining antiquities for alien tourists, basically, and he may or may not be immortal (or even the god Pan), but undeniably he used to be the leader of the anti-alien revolution.  Then a member of the alien family that owns Earth arrives and demands to be taken on a tour of the Pyramids and ancient Greece and so on, and intrigue develops.

You either like Zelazny's style or you don't.  I don't always think he gets it right, but it works for me here.  Like Vance, he was consciously using an archaic style for effect.  I don't know if that context matters.

random axe

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1547 on: September 19, 2019, 05:52:19 PM »
I also recently finally read John Wyndham's Out of the Deeps (The Kraken Wakes), a 1953 disaster novel in which Earth is invaded by aliens who prefer high pressures and thus colonize the depths of the oceans.  They attack ships, unpredictably, and then coastal areas, and then melt polar ice to raise the sea levels. 

The true nature of the aliens is not revealed, and the end is realistically but anticlimactically deus ex machina.  The writing is bizarrely condensed and evaporated, by modern standards, like overly sweetened canned milk.  Fifty thousand words was a good length for a novel at that time, and so often a paragraph of matter-of-fact exposition replaces what would now be four chapters.

Much of the book thus comes across as a sort of summary of an actual novel.  There are oddly sketched-in moments -- the narrator at one point, in one sentence, mentions that he and his wife had a baby, who then died, and it never comes up again.  You'll get six pages of gripping aliens-stealing-hapless-humans, with the tentacles and the dragging into the ocean and drama.  And then it'll revert to terse, bloodless descriptions of going to work or heading out to a vacation cottage for six weeks.

Similarly, a lot of the story consists of characters simply speculating.  Maybe the aliens don't understand surface life any better than we understand them; maybe they think all humans live right on the coastlines and can simply be drowned by raising the waterline a bit.  Maybe their technology is based on biology and chemistry without physics.  Hey, maybe!  But we'll never know.

Years ago, I wrote a book that has a sufficiently similar premise so that I was kind of fascinated any time things lined up.  Fortunately, for me, the stories are vastly different.  :lol:  But I think if anyone had read my book and was aware of Wyndham's, they probably wouldn't have believed I hadn't read it, which is kind of funny.

Wyndham is better remembered for his oddly overpacked Day of the Triffids, a disaster novel in which (A) a comet blinds almost everyone on Earth, and then (B) large slow-moving carnivorous plants proliferate and start eating everyone.  I always liked that plotting chutzpah.  I mean, the plants wouldn't be so effective without most people being blind, but they could've just caused the blindness themselves by releasing massively allergenic pollen. 

It's like if Godzilla attacked the city right after a massive earthquake, or if martians invaded during the zombie apocalypse.

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1548 on: September 27, 2019, 04:21:10 PM »
I finally finished Fall by Neal Stephenson.  It's an interesting experiment.  Thought was provoked.  Questions asked.  Enoch Root makes several appearances.  Baroque Cycle is still probably my favorite but that was 3000 pages.  The 880 or so in this left too much unfinished.  Curiously Elmo was a short lived nickname of mine back in the 80s.

Just started Prepared by Diane Tavenner and I'm three chapters in and have already cried several times.  Anyway she is the CEO of the charter school group and Ian goes to one of the 11 campuses.  I couldn't be happier with his school so if you want a roadmap and want to change the world for the better, this may help.
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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1549 on: September 28, 2019, 12:14:06 PM »
:hmm:


I just finished the very condensed and somewhat diffuse The Dream Millennium, by James "Sector General" White.  There's a briefly sketched future in which overpopulation has led to the legalization of violence, from dueling to terrorism.  The main characters agree that the Earth is either doomed or in big trouble, and so they let a religious order put them on a sleeper ship to hopefully colonize some other planet.

However, while in cryogenic sleep, they experience strange and painfully vivid dreams in which they remember past lives, more or less -- very including lives as dinosaurs and so on.  The dreams usually end with death, and the whole thing is pretty traumatic.  Naturally, they're kind of obsessed with figuring out what the hell's going on . . . during the short periods in which they're awake.

Meanwhile, the ship travels for centuries, hunting for a suitable planet, and they tangle with hostile aliens.  There are many flashbacks to life on Earth, plus all the dreams, and in the end it . . . sort of makes sense.  It's not very climactic.  It's not White's best work, but it made me think of some of Spider Robinson's stuff.

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1550 on: September 30, 2019, 04:41:45 PM »
I read the "Imperial Radch" trilogy by Ann Leckie: Ancillary {Justice, Sword, Mercy}.

Liked it a lot. Lots of thought provoking stuff about what it means to be human and what gender is all about and the historical legacy of slavery and atrocity without all of that being the focus of the story - the story is about revenge and rebuilding your life after trauma, but it's exciting and suspenseful and set in a well developed universe.

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random axe

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1551 on: October 01, 2019, 12:23:20 PM »
I've heard a lot of good buzz about the Ancillary series.  I'm hoping to get to it eventually.


I just finally started reading a 1983 collaboration between Fred Pohl and Jack Williamson, Wall Around a Star, and I was like . . . well, first, too much Pohl and not enough Williamson (which sounds like a dirty joke), but, second, jesus the exposition is la-di-da.

Then I was like Waitaminnit . . . and . . . yes,  it's the sequel to Farthest Star, from about ten years earlier.  Which I have somewhere but haven't read.

So I gotta find and read that one first.

I dug up a few semi-obscure Jack Vance books I haven't read yet, so maybe I'll read one of those in the meantime. 

Oh, I also recently read Matheson's Shock III, a short story anthology from 1966 that's very Twilight Zone (go figure -- it includes Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, but most of the stories do have a Not His Strongest Work flavor that may explain why they weren't in earlier anthologies.

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1552 on: October 02, 2019, 01:16:08 PM »
MK Gibson's Shadow Master trilogy; Villians {Rule, Pride, Deception}

Fourth wall? What fourth wall? The audiobooks have different content than the print versions, because of course the main character is going to insult the voice actor. It's campy in its own unique way, sarcastic, offensive, and quite a ride. Not sure I could take it internally or in large doses, but it was fun.
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