What are YOU readin'?

The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu — As with Murakami, I feel the translation introduces some cruft into the language, but it's got interesting concepts at its heart and so turned out to be well worth the read. Basically, there is a discovery that a lot of scientists are either killing themselves or sabotaging the projects their working on. Told from many points of view, working back and forth across time. I won't spoil it by discussing specifics, but like I said, interesting enough concepts to carry the weight of the language and the numerous footnotes that try and help bridge the cultural gap its operating in. One note: the first 50 pages or so through the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution are a complete slog (and somewhat unnecessary, IMHO). Bear with it though, definitely gets better!

i'm curious to see the buzz around Cixin Liu, apparently one of the big names in chinese science fiction. there was a decent interview with ken liu, the translator, discussing the book and the chinese science fiction scene in general. sounds like it is a pretty serious market, huge by comparison to others. some of it appears to be old fashioned, but there is a surge of new and interesting stuff. clarkesworld, the online magazine, have started doing a monthly translated piece, in association with the likes of liu.

 

i read glow by ned beauman, young british writer, who bill was raving about recently. i liked it a lot. a young bloke with sleep issues muddles through life, working with pirate radio station on his odd hours. he falls for a mystery woman at a makeshift rave, dreams of finding some really good drugs, is weirded out by the behaviour of foxes in london. with all those things melding together into coincidence and conspiracy, to form a weird kind of stoner adventure.

 

now reading something coming through by paul mcauley. he has written a series of short stories set in his jackaroo universe, but this is his first novel. after we've fucked the planet and shit is about to collapse the jackaroo appear - through avatars - a mysterious alien race, who offer a new start, with the use of 15 suitable planets to colonize, each littered with the archaeological technology of past jackaroo clients. split between london and the potential outbreak of alien technology, and one of the gift worlds that technology seems to relate to.

Originally Posted by heavyboots:

Constellation Games - I'm only halfway through it, but can already tell I'll be buying this one. Hilarious and fascinating take on "when the aliens come" from the blog of game developer who manages to contact them shortly after arrival and ask if they have any old games he can review.

Just found this e- for ~$5 and it was very fun.

Editing was porous (maybe just the e-version?). There were many instances of repeated or missing words in sentences, "then he then he" kind of thing, which was irritating but not enough to ruin the book. Tasted light but it stuck to my ribs.

 

Read The Peripheral about a month ago, the first Gibson novel I bought digital which I'm waiting to regret, damn technology. It wasn't quite the mindgasm of Neuromancer (you'll never get that high again kid) but it felt oldschool good and deeply satisfying. Thank you sir. May I have another?

 

B&N and Amazon should pay this thread a percentage.

alif the unseen - g willow wilson - wilson is probably better known for her comic work. she did series called "air" for vertigo, which i enjoyed, strange unseen lands and weirdness. she is now writing the mulsim teen reboot of marvel's "ms. marvel", which is a lot of fun. this is her 1st novel, a few years old now, and one i've been meaning to read for ages. alif is the hacker name of a mixed race young man, part arab part indian, living in an arab country. against a background of arab springs and government censorships he works to support the websites of his clients. which is fine until he becomes the target, encounters djinn and comes into possession of "1001 nights" rare opposite, the "1001 days".

Just wondered, are there any good examples of *pre*-apocalyptic fiction out there?  I'm thinking `The Sheep Look Up' might qualify...


Anyway, finally got around to `The Peripheral'.  I'm only a few chapters in, but so far I'm into it.  :-)

IIRC, I'd held off on buying it for a while, was going to buy a copy when The Man's book tour came to town [having heard on his `Zero History' tour [?] that the publisher pays attention to how many copies are sold at which locations along the way, and those figures, among others, figure into plotting out the next tour -- and I wanted to encourage him to come back to Victoria].  Turned out he wouldn't be coming here, so I tried Amazon.

Later, I'm not sure why I didn't get around to it.  It was right here the whole time.

At this rate, I could have waited for the paperback, saved myself a few bucks, and ended up with something more comfortable to read...  Hey, maybe that's it.  At this point I'm so used to paperbacks, hardcovers are a little awkward to deal with [and take up extra space in my backpack].

That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.  More about the actual story later...


Cheers,
Patrick.
So, on Pg.328 of `The Peripheral', and I could have done with a little less reading, and a lot more sleep in the past 24 hrs.  My own damned fault, although The Man's writing certainly helped.

Come to think of it, *this* is pretty much the character-driven pre-apocalyptic piece I'd asked about.  Although the shit has not quite hit the fan in this near future, you can see which way it's going, easily gauge velocity, trajectory, wind-speed and direction -- warning signs of dwindling natural resources, impending social, ecological and economic collapse, the US becoming more of a Third World country than some parts of it already are.

And yet, it's *not* a stock-up-on-mace-and-canned-goods-and-dig-yourself-a-bunker type story.  Sure, you could wait out the radioactive hot end of a Cold War down there, but in the face of this kind of long, slow, systemic decline, you're fucked.  In some ways, this sort of apocalypse is even more threatening -- so much more like cancer than a heart attack.  Also more convincing, believable, and infinitely less simple to avoid.

Not to mention the sheer fuck-headedness of nanotech that can generate a slowly changing camo pattern on some guy's baseball cap, 3D-printed gadgets like cellphones and VR monocles, waterproof fabrics and whatever, meanwhile Connor the young war vet is still stuck with less than half his limbs, and prosthetics that are usable, but just barely so -- pretty much left to rot.

All of the above are established pretty early in the story.  Spoilers follow; select text to read.

I kind of wonder if the art deco futuroids [far-futuroids] will end up `fixing' things in this parallel past -- or actually make it worse, accelerate the process.  I also wonder if the far-futuroids emerged from a past which had *already* been fucked with, by someone else...  Not that people seem to need much help, screwing things up for themselves.  :-\

Also, the net.romance angle of being able to communicate with a future you can never go to, a past you can never return to, reminds me...  I haven't called Mz.Sask for quite a while now.  Really should, and soon.


Cheers,
Patrick.
Your timing might be perfect, if you'd prefer a paperback.

...Oh, never mind.  Paperback comes out on the 23rd, but only in the UK.  :-\


Come to think of it, this one *could* become a movie -- as long as they don't make the same casting mistakes I did.  ;-)  Anyway, of this things he's written so far, this one seems the least incompatible with film.

Any thoughts on that?


Cheers,
Patrick.

I'm in the midst of some life turmoil and, as always is the case, I'm seeking out the familiar to help get me through it. As such, I have started the Wheel of Time over at the beginning. I know, the payoff is not what I hoped, with Robert Jordan dying before the end. I have no problem with Brian Sanderson, but there is simply no way it could be the same with him at the helm. 

 

Anyway, I read the prequel book already and am 3/4ths of the way through the first book. It's taking me back. I read that in high school I think. Wow. Boggles my mind how long I've been involved with this world. 

Y'know. I really gotta keep up with this thread. I always have such a hard time finding new books that I want to read beyond my tried and true favorite authors (not to mention they keep dying off).

 

I recently joined the Evanston Public Library Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Discussion Group (Book Club) - https://eplscififantasy.wordpress.com/

There's a group on Goodreads too - https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/157988

We read Among Others by Jo Walton this month.

 

(I'm trying so hard to be social and get out there and meet people. This is one of my attempts. I don't want to talk about Western Swing dance lessons.)

 

So if you live in the area, please join us the first Wednesday of the month.

get in trouble - kelly link - working my way through the hardback of this, kelly link is by far one of the best short story writers out there, contemporary fantasy, odd tales. here there are ghost stories set on space ships, an illicit rendezvous against a back ground of a super hero convention, and other odd little moments of wonder. i love her work.


blue remembered earth - alastair reynolds - i've been reading his short stories for years and enjoyed. but i only read one of his novels previously - the highly acclaimed revelation space, which i was disappointed by. this i bought cheap on kindle, and never quite got round to reading till recently. interesting to take it post-peripheral, there are definitely some serious thematic connections. set in a future post-climate downfall, the earth has recovered, we've spun off into space. the action is guided by events from 50years previous, and characters can communicate across great distances either by projecting, or occupying a local body (a peripheral). more african based than most science fiction, which i liked, and more about exploration and wonder than gothic gunmen and mad spaceships, or whatever.

 

the rabbit back literature society -Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen - finnish novel. a woman has her life fall apart and by coincidence her job as a substitute teacher brings her back to her home town - rabbit back. laura winters is the famous children's author, who brings tourists from all around the world to rabbit back. years ago she founded a group that she would train to be authors, the literature society. there are nine members, but there was always supposed to be 10. our heroine is interested, an aspiring writer herself, she investigates the mysteries surrounding the group. it is an odd, kind of magic realism novel. on one level it reminds of a.l. kennedy's "everything you need" - the acts of a dysfunctional writing group and how they motivate themselves. with the elements of elves and gnomes, from the children's books to the suggestions of local culture, there is something supernatural lurking. and it lurks very effectively, suggested, hinted, loitering in the background, so that it is secondary to the character stuff, but undeniable at the same time. i enjoyed it a lot.

 

justice calling (20 sided sorcereress) - annie bellet - seems to be a series of novellas, about 150pages long. typical urban fantasy, a woman with a past has run away to a small town. a small town overflowing with shape shifters, their magic concealing her own. but she is forced to play her hand when something threatens her friends. magic, swooning over ridiculously handsome men. quick, easy, average.

Started into "Debt: The First 5000 Years" by Graeber, but got distracted by MSFT.

 

Presently working my way on:

 

"The C Programming Language" by Kernighan and Ritchie

"Structure and Interpretation of Computer Languages" by Sussman and Abelson.

"Godel, Escher, Bach" by Hofstadter

"The Pragmatic Programmer" by Hunt and Thompson

 

Trying to work in even more CS stuff into my reading/studying, in prep for this whole thing. E.g., I actually know very little about MSFT stuff, so, umm, maybe I *should* learn more before I try to work for them (lulz).

 

So, yeah, pretty much binging (but not Bingging, lulz) on comp sci stuff at the moment.

The Water Knife — Full-on Bacigalupi at his bleak and environmentally prescient-feeling best. Details a future (somewhat based on his Tamarisk Hunter short story in Pump Six) in which the western states have been reduced to armed and legal squabbling over what remains of the Colorado River. Phoenix is a hell hole because AZ is losing out badly on water rights, but maybe things could change if the right legal document were unearthed… 

spirits abroad - zen cho - picked this up at random at the worldcon in london, a collection of short stories by malaysian writer living in london. by coincidence one of the next things i did was go to a panel to see ian mcdonald talk about cities, where it turned out zen was also on the panel. so managed to get it signed. i started it at the time and enjoyed enough that i knew that i had to get a copy to a friend with malaysian family. that sorted, we both read it at same time. this is a lot of fun, a mix of stories set in malaysia and UK and others. a kind of contemporary fantasy - a woman goes back to malaysia from america after the death of her grandmother, and family drama set against a background of suggested magic and haunting. other stories range from a teenage vampire to a faerie attack. they are all well written and a lot of fun, nicely not run of the mill, with the elements of the culture all the way through, particularly in the way the voices/dialogue are captured.

 

stand on zanzibar - john brunner - had this sitting on my shelves for years, but never got round to it. i picked a few of his books up after various discussions of classic SF here way back in the day. finally got round to picking it up, about half way through it. it is very interesting to see how dangerous and edgy this feels compared to much of the other SF i've read recently, which somehow feels safer or more run of the mill. data dumping, jump cuts, big ideas, human stories - essentially about population and eugenics, about the tensions created as people are increasingly not allowed to have children for increasingly arbitrary reasons. and it is fascinating to put in those terms - this is a book about the right to have children.

Originally Posted by xen0phile:

:

 

"The C Programming Language" by Kernighan and Ritchie

I loved that book - I've still got it. C is so compact, so clever. I find C++ a pain, really. If I ever have to write a C++ proram, it usually turns out to be written in a subset of C++, closely resembling C.

I think it was Justy who a long time ago recommended the Temeraire books by Naomi Novik after I'd read a bunch of bad dragon books by Anne McCaffrey (or her son or something similar). I finally got around to them, and I really find them great fun - the historic setting is a perfect frame for dragons. So a belated thanks!

Re-reading The Swamp by Mike Grunwald, a beautiful hiatory of the Everglades.

Also got a free copy of Courier by a former DC reporter the Girl met. It is about a mototcycle courier and vietnam vet in DC in 1972. A story of intrique, it is fascinating more for its description of DC mid-Watergate and the old technologies of TV news, ARPANet, and payphones.

The Cobweb, Neal Bury aka Stephenson — Reminds me a lot of REAMDE, except without any of the scifi elements. A deputy sheriff in a small town in Idaho stumbles into the middle of some spies & skullduggery during the run up to the Kuwait invasion. Typical Stephenson stuff. A lot of fascinating descriptions of how things work, some low key humor about families & marriages. All in all, enjoyed it a lot. Had no idea it existed until this weekend! Might try and read The Interface next.

likely because it was originally printed under a different name. i think it was suggested it was stephenson and his uncle? interface was definitely the better of the two novels they did, cobweb was decent enough. was years later before they were reprinted with stephenson's name clearly displayed.

 

meantime. re-reading peripheral. reading warren ellis talks in his ebooklet "cunning plans". and still making progress with stand on zanzibar.

Yeah, I had no freaking clue, lol! Definitely looking forward to *Interface* now, but a library reserve just came through so gotta read that first.

 

Meanwhile, in vaguely related news, I took some black fabric tape and wrapped my Kindle in it, so the thing doesn't feel like quite so much like a wretched piece of cheap plastic and a fair bit more like the cloth binding on a hardback.

Just finished Yoko Ogawa's The Housekeeper and the Professor, which in a way reminded me a lot of Hiromi Kawakami's Strange Weather in Tokyo, as somehow Japanese novels fit very well with my current main reading environment: planes.

 

Both  present strange attractions between a woman and an older man, but in one case with drinks and dreams and the other with mathematics and a kid. Very recommendable, both. And easy two-three hours reads.

 

Between books and for longer periods I am reading War and Peace. One of those things that vindicate tablet reading.

“Three Body Problem” is an interesting read.  Not the best read, but it gives a window into how science fiction is being written by a different culture.

 

First, I was struck by how ‘old fashioned’ the story was.  It reminded me of the work by ‘Golden Age’ authors like Asimov or Clarke.  This is not the say the science in the story wasn’t very modern, it’s that the narrative technique was very 50’s.  I also felt the author was doing a homage to Raymond Chandler or Dashell Hammett in trying to work a bit of cross-over into the story.

 

Having written that, I found the cultural background to as interesting as the science fiction story.  I’ve recently read “Death of a Red Heroine” by Qui Xiaolong.  The backstory of living and working in modern China by itself has a bit of a science fiction in it, similar to the ‘New Wave’ science fiction stories written in the 70’s.

 

This story is worth reading, but it is not the best of modern science fiction, it’s different.  It places the story is a bit ‘clunky’ and the description of the science can be pedantic.  I’m not sure how much of that is the translation, or just cultural.  No matter, this story is worth reading, if only for the historical aspect of it being recognized as ‘the best of modern Chinese science fiction’.   

The Annihilation Score — My favorite Laundry novel by Stross in a quite a while and a pleasant surprise because of that! Really fun read, highly recommended. I also like the fact that he got into the head of a different character than Bob the IT guy, who we've been following around oh these many years.

I finished The Peripheral and it was good, but certainly not my favorite of Mr. G's work. Just too much effort to get into. Still, his prose always finds this great high notes.

 

I am now working through the Harry Potter books again. I need something soothing, with my work life causing problems. 

Nemesis Games, James S A Corey — One of the better recent Expanse books IMHO. Concentrates more on a few characters and not on huge overarching schemes and heavy, heavy galaxy-spanning events. Not to say that there aren't some pretty massive events in it, but you can tell it's just a breather between the mega-blockbusters though (I think). At any rate, I enjoyed this one a lot. Reminded more of one of the first ones in the series.

J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of `Beowulf', recommended by Metro.  I'd pre-ordered the paperback when only the hardcover was available, so that took a while.

So far, I've only gotten through the introduction written by his son Christopher, and the short `reconstruction' of a simpler folktale which the written `Beowulf' might be based on.  I'll probably read the book in bits and chunks, not sure how much I'll go into the commentaries and clarifications, but it is pretty cool.  :-)


Thanks,
Patrick.
Originally Posted by Evilpenguin9000:

I finished The Peripheral and it was good, but certainly not my favorite of Mr. G's work. Just too much effort to get into. Still, his prose always finds this great high notes.

 

I am now working through the Harry Potter books again. I need something soothing, with my work life causing problems. 

It took me a summer holiday to read The Peripheral, too. Bought it in London in the beginning of December and was really looking forward to digging into it. After three false starts I realised that it probably needed more than I could give it five minutes before shuteye, so I saved it, brought it to Malta and was pleasantly surprised by the ease with which I read it, once I'd passed page seventy-something. I really love the idea in this story ...

 

Besides finishing my Temeraire spree, I re-read 'To Kill a Mockingbird', which I bought for my eldest daughter ('Go Set a Watchman' is currently waiting for me at our local library), and I read a novel by Umberto Eco (something with the flame of Queen Loana). Even though I read it in Danish, I found that this winter's Italian lessons really improved my understanding of the book - so there's another reason for acquiring new language skills.

Armada, Ernest Cline — Just as just as horrible as the reviews would have you believe. (I basically read it because I was already on the list in one of the first available slots for a library copy.)

 

There are moments that shine through as cool and fun but his overall sensibility is so very bad. Cline appears to be writing YA fiction for 40 year olds as near as I can tell. The 18 year old 2015 character is living this weird, happy Last Starfighter existence, learning YA lessons about life and having completely unbelievable adventures with unbelievable characters—all while reminiscing non-stop about 80's songs, games, and pop culture.

 

The best that can be said about it is it's a fast read so you don't waste too much of your life on it.

 

Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson — This, on the other hand, is an excellent and somewhat bleak look at the everyday realities of a generation ship sent to colonize another star system. KSR seems somewhat conflicted. On the one hand, he desperately wants it to work, but on the other he recognizes the incredible toll it will exact on the humans left to live on board in a (relatively) tiny closed-loop environment for hundreds of years and multiple generations.

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