Tuesday, January 1. 2013
Saturday, January 1. 2011
A simple enough concept - my favourite ten books out of 65 I've read this year (according to LibraryThing). They aren't necessarily published this year, but I will restrict myself to one book for each author.
10. The Blood of Others, Simone de Beauvoir
This book had been sitting on my shelf (or floor, or wardrobe depending on the particular room organisation at the time) for more than a decade since I did an Existentialism evening class at Edinburgh University in the late nineties. I admit I started reading it because I felt the need to read something 'worthy', and it's not exactly a pleasurable read, but I was drawn in by the central theme of the tension between personal freedom and responsibility to loved ones and society at large.
9. The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood
I also read Oryx and Crake this year too, of the two I preferred this one - better and more engaging characters, but I think if you're going to read either you should read both of them.
8. I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett
After Going Postal was on telly at Easter I re-read many of my favourite Discworld books, but this was the only new one I read. I really like the character Tiffany Aching and while I didn't think this was the best of the series, in particular I thought the ending was a bit of an anti-climax, this book was almost worth reading just for the return of Eskarina Smith. Also the whole 'witch-hunt' theme was quite topical.
7. Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
Got this in hardback for Xmas and I'm glad to say it was worth lugging the hardback around for the two weeks it took me to read it. I always find historical novels a bit more engaging than straight up history books, and this period, crucial as it is for religious freedom in England, is fascinating to me.
6. Makers, Cory Doctorow
Another Xmas present - 3D printing lets the hacker culture of the internet infiltrate the world of 'made things'. Somewhat unusual in that the 'evil Corporation' weren't actually completely evil, all in all a completely reasonable seeming extrapolation from current trends into a near future world.
5. Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier
Another excellent historical novel from Tracy Chevalier. The whole idea of Victorian women digging up dinosaurs offers plenty of themes for exploration - women fighting for respect in a man's world, evolution vs creationism, class war, and the nature of science itself, as well as the more personal interactions of the main characters.
4. New Model Army, Adam Roberts
Adam Roberts frequently writes books which make me think about things in a whole new way, the concept of crowd sourcing armies is not one I'll forget in a hurry either.
3. The Children's Book, A.S. Byatt
The liberal movement, the emancipation of women, authors, artists and the Victoria & Albert Museum, all in a beautifully described world - hard to see how I'd not love this book.
2. Surface Detail, Iain M. Banks
Do we need the concept of hell to frighten us into being good people? What if we didn't need to leave it to chance - technology evolves to the level where hells could be created as virtual worlds where people would get what they deserved after their physical bodies die? Fascinating stuff, and an excellent book for Culture addicts especially with the ending.
1. One Day, David Nicholls
I laughed out loud, I cried, I loved this book. Since both of the main characters went to Edinburgh University and later moved to London it wasn't going to be hard for me to identify with them, so many familiar places and moments, and a great story.
Monday, March 12. 2007
I came across this SciFi book meme at the weekend. At first I thought I was a month behind the crowd, which is nothing unusual, but then I discovered the source and find that was over a year ago, which is a bit more my usual speed
Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror?
SF, though increasingly I'm reading Fantasy these days - there seems to be so many more fantasy books and, on average, they're longer.
Hardback or Trade Paperback or Mass Market Paperback?
If I can't wait to read it and I can afford it then I'll get the hardback, otherwise paperbacks are much easier to deal with on the Tube.
Heinlein or Asimov?
Erm... neither. I did read a Heinlen book once, a long time ago, I wasn't inspired to read any more.
Amazon or Brick and Mortar?
Brick and mortar, the online savings aren't enough to make me deny myself the pleasure of wandering round a bookshop for half an hour. Plus, Amazon managed to really, really annoy me a few years ago...
Barnes & Noble or Borders?
Hitchhiker or Discworld?
Even though H2G2 is one of the main reasons I got into SciFi in the first place I'll have to side with the Discworld series.
Bookmark or Dogear?
Bookmark! Bookmark! You did not just fold a page my pristine book! (I have to look away when someone does it to a book that doesn't belong to me, if someone does it to one of my books they could well be in for a serious bout of passive-aggressiveness huffyness)
Magazine: Asimov's Science Fiction or Fantasy & Science Fiction?
Alphabetize by author Alphabetize by title or random?
I use the Unordered Pile Organisation Methodology (TM).
Keep, Throw Away or Sell?
Year's Best Science Fiction series (edited by Gardner Dozois) or Years Best SF series (edited by David G. Hartwell)?
Keep dustjacket or toss it?
Read with dustjacket or remove it?
Short story or novel?
Novels, they seem to be more compatible with train journeys. I used to read more short stories back when I had more free time.
Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
It has to be Potter, since I've not read Snicket.
Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
Either the chapter break, or a section break or wherever I am when I have to get off the train. Generally I won't start another chapter if I can see I won't hit a convenient break before the end of the journey, but sometimes I just get too wrapped up to stop and find myself squinting at pages under streetlights as I'm walking back from the station.
"It was a dark and stormy night" or "Once upon a time"?
It's quite possible that, should any book I pick up start with either of those two sentences, it would be put right back on the shelf in the bookshop.
Buy or Borrow?
Buy, buy, buy!
Buying choice: Book Reviews, Recommendation or Browse?
Browsing round a bookshop is a unique and special experience.
Lewis or Tolkien?
Hard SF or Space Opera?
Hard SF. If it isn't Hard SF then it's probably just fantasy in a futuristic setting.
Collection (short stories by the same author) or Anthology (short stories by different authors)?
Don't read many short stories these days, but the ones I buy are in collections.
Hugo or Nebula?
Don't really care.
Golden Age SF or New Wave SF?
New Wave SF.
Tidy ending or Cliffhanger?
Morning reading, Afternoon reading or Nighttime reading?
Morning and evening usually, as I read on my daily commute.
Standalone or Series?
Not too bothered.
Urban fantasy or high fantasy?
New or used?
Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
This is obviously a trick question, the moment I mention a book I'm sure the SciFi mafiosi are going to leap out and say "Everyone's read that, you noob!" So I'm going to stick to somewhat safe ground by choosing a SciFi book not by a SciFi author: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami.
Top X favorite genre books read last year? (Where X is 5 or less)
1. Singularity Sky by Charles Stross
2. The Algebraist by Iain M Banks
3. Learning the World by Ken MacLeod
4. The Snow by Adam Roberts
5. Natural Hisory by Justina Robson
Top X favorite genre books of all time? (Where X is 5 or less)
1. Neuromancer – William Gibson
2. The Cryptonomicon – Neil Stephenson
3. Diaspora – Greg Egan
4. The Player of Games - Iain M Banks
5. Elvissey – Jack Womack
X favorite genre series? (Where X is 5 or less)
1. Bridge Trilogy - William Gibson
2. Baroque Cycle - Neal Stephenson
3. Ambient Series - Jack Womack
4. Night's Dawn Trilogy - Hamilton
5. Otherland - Tad Williams
Top X favorite genre short stories? (Where X is 5 or less)
Haven't read many recently, but here are some short story collections I really liked.
1. Patterns by Pat Cadigan
2. Axiomatic by Greg Egan
3. Burning Chrome by William Gibson ("Red Star, Winter Orbit" I really liked)
Tuesday, September 5. 2006
Been meaning to post about these books for a while now. Having ripped through The Liveship Traders, followed by The Farseer Trilogy and then The Tawny Man Trilogy basically as fast as I could afford to buy the books, I was quite keen to read the new novels. Note to others who follow in my footsteps (ha!) - I read the three trilogies out of order, mainly because I had the first book in the Liveship trilogy sitting on my shelf for about five years after acquiring it 'on special offer' from a BCA membership.
I got Shaman's Crossing a few months ago and I finished the sequel, Forest Mage, last month. I was all set to write up a review and link it in to some insightful remarks about Hobb's rather aggressive attitude to fan fiction, but then she went and replaced the rant on her site with one about books to movies and that took the wind out of my sails somewhat.
OK, so I'm all ready now! First off, the fan fiction thing. I read the rant and, while I can empathise with her feelings that other people making her characters do things she never wanted them to is kind of disgusting, a sort of combination between masturbatory 'fiction porn' and being forced to do something very horrible indeed against your will, I wonder if her feelings on the subject are so strong because 'Robin Hobb' (real name Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden) is herself a fictional creation? Despite my (probably very unfounded) opinion of her underlying motivations I did find myself agreeing strongly with her sentiments that, as a fledgeling writer, you're much better off trying to write in your own world with your own characters then trying to steal someone else's. Whatever her opinions, it doesn't seem be stemming the tide much - the Robin Hobb Yahoo! Group has in the tagline 'Fan fiction always welcome'.
So, now the Soldier Son Trilogy. This has, it seems, excited a certain amount of controversy among diehard Hobb fans, some have claimed to hate it, others have claimed to really enjoy it, and still others have been a bit guarded saying, it'll get better when we have the whole trilogy to read. The comments on Amazon about the first book are really quite entertaining - ranging from one to five stars and with varying degrees of vitriol, here are some (negative) outtakes:
I suppose it just goes to show that the well of creativity for some writers definitley runs dry.(J. P. Nowlin)
Out of hundreds upon hundreds of books I have read I have only not finished a book twice, this one being number 2. Highly disappointed. (Jon Corbett)
I wonder if Robin Hobb is embarassed that she wrote this book. ( Shannon B Davis)
I think a lot of people are concerned about the nature of the competing factions in the story - basically the 'environmentalists' are the bad guys, which is fairly unusual in my experience of the F&SF genre. This is a typical quote:
It created quite a dilemma for me - although the main character survived and saved his friends, I found myself wishing that the "bad guys" had won, and been able to keep their land and forests free from logging, etc. ( Shannon B Davis)
I think this highlights the central issue here - people are obviously not reading to be challenged, to look at things from a different perspective, but to have their current views encouraged and endorsed. It also seems to be a very common opinion that the whole plotline is some sort of parallel to the way fledgling America dealt with the Indian tribes - personally I think this is a bit of a reach, the story of a nation cut off from it's own harbours turning inland to battle an indigenous people that they've lived with, basically peacefully, for centuries, in an attempt to rebuild their own natural resources is not really analogous to a bunch of foreigners turning up on the coast and then using a combination of military muscle, betrayal and disease to exterminate a race they'd never met before through the course of three hundred years (in fact, in the book, even the disease is backwards). If it seems the same in some people's heads I suggest that's more to do with what's in their heads than what's in the book.
The other common criticism is that the protagonist is, well, a bit dull. In this case the criticism is a little more fair, but I personally didn't have too much trouble seeing him as a product of his upbringing, and I'm sure I didn't find him nearly so tedious as many others have claimed. In fact, I'm inclined to agree with this reviewer:
Excellent first book, if a bit too subtle for some readers ... I think that some of the delight of this book (and I suspect this trilogy) is watching his perceptions change as he is thrown into the "real world." (A. Galaitsis)
Overall, I liked both books, certainly I had no trouble finishing them like some of the above critics, though I also didn't stay up late into the night to read 'just one more chapter' like I'd been doing for the previous nine Robin Hobb books I'd read.
PS. What's with Amazon and this 'Real Name™' mularky? I have a real name, it doesn't belong to Amazon, why would it be a trade mark?
Friday, July 28. 2006
Thursday, July 27. 2006
Top 50 Personal Sci-Fi Blogs Posted by robertc in Culcha, innit? at 22:12
These things seem to be popular at the moment: the top 50 personal sci-fi blogs from author John Scalzi. The definition of 'personal' seems to have incited most of the commentary, as some quite popular and/or famous blogs have been left off the list. I bookmarked a few I liked the look of from the list and the comments.
Saturday, July 1. 2006
There's a new Dashboard Confessional album available on emusic. I've listened to it a few times now and I can't say it's gripped me yet in the same way the older albums have, but it's pleasant enough to listen to.
Friday, June 30. 2006
Why are we alone in the universe? Posted by robertc in Culcha, innit? at 15:56
Thursday, June 29. 2006
I'm a big fan of Douglas Coupland, so I was delighted to discover he has a new book out, JPod. From what I'd read it seemed this novel was a reworking of his classic Microserfs, which is one of my favourite books of all time, but apart from the tech/nerd characters it's not really very similar. I initially found this a bit disappointing but I think that was my expectations rather than the quality of the book, and a few hundred pages later I was engrossed (and, at times, giggling on the tube). Not so much a reworking, more of a sequel I think. The book is brazenly self referential, from the opening line of part one:
"Oh god. I feel like a refugee from a Douglas Coupland novel."
Later in the book Coupland himself makes an appearance and promptly steals the protagonist's laptop so he can make his life into a book, it's easier to steal your life than to make stuff up he tells him! So leaning towards the ironically self referential, which is quite enjoyable in it's own right, but makes this not the ideal book to introduce yourself to Coupland if you've not read his books before.
Saturday, April 8. 2006
This is funny: The Postmodernism Generator. I got an essay entitled "The postcultural paradigm of narrative in the works of Gaiman", highlights included a long discussion on the works of Madonna:
In the works of Madonna, a predominant concept is the distinction between masculine and feminine. The subject is interpolated into a deconstructivist sublimation that includes reality as a paradox. Thus, the premise of the postcultural paradigm of narrative implies that the media is capable of intentionality, given that Sartre’s analysis of semiotic theory is invalid.
Unfortunately the 'permalink' feature doesn't appear to be working.
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