silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
Somehow I have internet. The technicians aren't even scheduled to be in till Friday, I wonder if it's something to do with having just disconnected only two weeks ago. Anyway, download speed is 1/3 of what it should be but I HAVE INTERNET. Of course it's the weekend so I don't even have time-sensitive email to answer, but hey.

Before the internet reconnected I finished three books in one day (it was a slow day and some of them were half-finished).

I finally took the plunge and started reading A Princess of Mars from the beginning instead of confusedly stumbling about because I'd only read it in very disjointed chunks. See, sometimes having books on your phone for when you have five minutes to spare is a good thing, and sometimes it's a I-don't-know-what-happened thing.

Thoughts )

I'm not sure if I want to read the next book; it was a fairly fun romp, but I don't really feel any attachment to any of the characters. Though, I do love books that take place on our solar system's planets where they're habitable, current astronomy be damned (or unknown at the time)--even things like Bradbury's Venus and rain story for all that it's horrifying (are there any Bradbury stories where children are nice/good?), I think it's so cool. I just wish I liked the characters more--felt for them more.
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
(well, I composed this entry back in October, so I might as well post it before it becomes December, good grief. November is a month that is exhaustingly busy. Hello, flist, my old friends! I've come to talk to you again.)

I've been looking at yuletide letters and it makes me laugh/cry that both letters for Shades of Grey both start with "I don't think hiatus will ever end" and that's why they're requesting fic. If I'd known Fforde was a serial WIP author, I'd have...well, I'd probably have still read the book, because concepts like colour hierarchy are catnip, but I would have known going in!

JASPER FFORDE, PLEASE.

--

In other news I read Peter Watts' Blindsight which I've had a copy of forever and had actually assumed was a self-pubbed book, which is possibly why I left it for so long (it was available free, the cover is, well) but it was really good.

It's a first encounter with aliens book, with a crew of five sent out to investigate. Narrated by Siri Keaton, who is there to record and interpret events, the crew is led by a vampire with faster-than-human reflexes and thought, and who can solve problems intuitively that humans can't. There is the Gang, a multiple personality/disassociative identity, all of whom are linguists; Isaac Szpindel, a biologist; and Amanda Bates, a military commander. All of them, including Siri, have been extensively modified. In his youth Siri had brain surgery to remove seizures, Szpindel barely has fine motor skills because he's almost more machine than human.

It was a really packed book with a lot going on, told out of sequence. There's Earth, which apparently is a post-scarcity world, and where people have chosen to be uploaded into Heaven, which appears to be a virtual reality, which says something about how far into the future it's set. Then one day "Fireflies" happens, which is like a massive meteor-shower canvassing every square inch of the earth, and Earth concludes it's some alien intelligence that has just taken a photograph of the planet. They send out Theseus, crewed by vampire Sarasti, to investigate.

Review! Spoilers. )

I am going to cut the review short here because I'll never finish if I go on, because I could talk about the post-scarcity economy (I admit I am having so much trouble trying to imagine a post-scarcity world), the idea of Heaven (download brain into virtual world), the various professions onboard the Theseus, the Theseus controlling reveal, the vampires angle, Keaton's terrible difficulty with relating to humans, how human society has changed, the biology parts (this was the coolest part and I definitely need to read more of Watts), the game theory (that was fun to encounter! I wonder if you can apply our human-centric payoffs to model alien behaviour? IS our model with its assumptions robust enough to deal with this? Does the preceding mean I have spent too much time studying game theory?), AND MANY OTHER THINGS, but basically I recommend this book, a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot. Especially if you like SF. Then again, if you like SF and you are not completely out of the loop like me you've probably a) read it or b) heard about it and decided not to. But in case you do want to, it is up for download legally on his website under a non-commercial license. In epub, pdf, HTML directly on the site. 10/10
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
I'm apparently on a re-read kick, and I have too many to review in the same way I did Mistborn (words! words everywhere!) so here's a quick thing:

The Sky is Falling, Looking at the Moon and The Lights Go On Again by Kit Pearson

The novels are about Norah and Gavin, two siblings who are sent to Canada as war guests as the Blitz ramps up in England. I'm struggling to think of a good descriptor of the books that involve plot, but the core of the books is really the emotional journeys that Norah and Gavin go through. They move into the house of Florence Ogilvie and Norah immediately has personality conflicts with Aunt Florence.

One thing I think Pearson did really well was portray unusual grief/emotions. Norah is young but she's twelve or so, and she doesn't want to leave England. She's angry with her parents for sending them away, afraid for them, ashamed of running away, angry she's being put in charge of her younger brother, resentful that he can't help being afraid and distressed himself. She's not happy with being put with the Ogilvies and she's not fitting into her new school. It's an ugly combination of emotions that nevertheless feels really honest.

There's also Gavin in The Lights Go On Again Major spoilers )It gets resolved and I love their grandfather, but I thought that his anger mixed with guilt towards him and Norah, too, was really honest.

Also I learned that Pearson is gay! That is pretty cool. I read her books when I was a kid and never looked at author bios (nor do I think they would have mentioned it). She's also from Alberta!

The Secrets of the Jedi by Jude Watson

Ahh, yes, my Star Wars obsession. When I say I love Star Wars what I actually mean is "the Prequel EU books" and Jude Watson is at least 50% responsible for this. I think the only post-RotJ books I've read is Zahn's Thrawn trilogy (which is really good, I get why people keep trying to sneak it into yuletide).

Secrets of the Jedi is about Obi-Wan and Siri's relationship. Watson also wrote Jedi Apprentice (about young Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon) and Jedi Quest (about Obi-Wan and Anakin) and The Secrets of the Jedi tie into Jedi Apprentice; this book ties into the Jedi Apprentice series. Obi-Wan and Siri, along with their respective masters, are assigned to escort a talented young boy named Talesan Fry to Coruscant after he discovers the plot of a group of bounty hunters. They're partly successful even though the Padawans get separated from their Masters halfway through, but Tal's parents are killed. Years later, when the galaxy is consumed by the Clone Wars, the Temple is informed that Tal, now a successful businessman, has created a perfect codebreaker and is offering the Republic the first bid.

Being Jedi, love is forbidden, and the book has an interesting treatment of it. In one of the Jedi Apprentice books Obi-Wan actually left the Jedi Order once; he felt that the Temple was not helping the civil war on Melida/Daan enough and refused to go back to Coruscant, staying to help. Spoilers for how they handle it )

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

Dragon Rider )

Snakecharm by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Snakecharm )

Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw

Hawk of May )

Airborn and Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel

Airborn )

Among Others

Among Others )

--

I'm working on Conspiracy of Kings by Turner and enjoying it a lot so far, though I'm having some trouble with the different perspectives. I think I've reread the previous three books altogether too many times already and I understand them really well now, but there is a lot here I'm skimming--the political bits for one. Sophos is growing up though! Awww.

This post took long enough that I finished a book while writing it. I wish I was faster!
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cover, white with silver lines and little paint-by-numbers written in. Some of the cover are coloured in, and there are two swans poking about. Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey is a humorous satirical dystopian novel revolving around the ability to perceive colour.

It follows Eddie Russett, who has been sent out into the Outer Fringes to learn humility. Head Office has set him the task of conducting a chair census (to make sure chair density hasn't dropped below regulatory requirements). Eddie can see red, and is therefore socially and economically above the Greys (who can't see any colour) and below all the other colours--Purples and down; this is a society not only divided but graded on colour-perception. He is courting Constance Oxblood, a much Redder girl, to thereby win back some of the ground his ancestors lost. And Eddie is travelling with his father, a Swatchman taking up a temporary position also in the Outer Fringes.

Eddie is pretty easy-going, curious, and honestly rather naive. He tried to implement a new queuing system in his hometown Jade-Under-Lime (and gets quashed there by the regulations) but he continues probing when in East Carmine, raising the ire of officials. The world of Chromaticia is regulated by merits and demerits, and if you accumulate enough demerits you're sent to Reboot. As he blunders around East Carmine he keeps coming into contact with Jane, a Grey whose sardonic (and violent) personality are completely unlike anyone else he's met.

The novel starts off very humorously and that was a really refreshing change from usual post-apocalyptic literature. But as it went on, the absurdity and humour started becoming more and more horrifying as you realized what was actually going on. Eddie is really very naive, but no more than many of his peers really, something that the Head Office tries to ensure. For me, the explanation of Mildew was what really made me realize just frightening Eddie's world was. I'm pretty burnt out on apocalyptic/dystopias in general, but Fforde eases you into it and I was seduced by the colour-based worldbuilding. Unlike most apocalyptic stories, this one is set so far into the future that the characters don't really care what the apocalyptic event was--it's just something that happened.

I really liked this book. More details and spoilers under the cut )

Recommended if you like dystopias or humorous writing mixed with satire or you like colour-based worldbuilding. I could go on for a couple thousand words on the worldbuilding on this one. 10/10
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
cover image of The Thief

All my public entries are about books these days, so please have another one!

I finished The Thief a few days ago. It's been a book batted around as a really good novel, but I never got round to it (so credit must go to [livejournal.com profile] kmo_lj who recced it again.)

The novel begins with Gen, a prisoner in the Sounis king's prison, where he's been languishing for months. The door to his jail opens and he's told that he's wanted by the magus. Gen was arrested for bragging in public he was thief who could steal anything (and did), but the magus wants him for some purpose, so he packs Gen on a horse and they leave the city alongside a few other characters--Pol, a soldier, and Ambiades and Sophos, two young men apprenticed to the magus. Slowly the magus reveals that he wants Gen to steal Hamaithes's Gift, a stone that in legend was given as a gift by one of the gods as a sign of divine right to rule. The novel is a mix of Gen and party moving through to Attolia (where Hamaithes's Gift is hidden) and Gen's telling of the myths.

The reveal! Holy cow! Reveals, plural, actually. I don't think I've ever read a book that's in first person all the way through and still has such a big surprise/revelation about the main character at the end. Most authors end up dropping at least some kind of biographical information to give insight into the character's motivations, which were almost completely lacking, though of course I never realized till the actual reveal happened. That is so cool. First person tends to talk about the thoughts and opinions of the person whose perspective is written from (sometimes as a clumsy way to do exposition or scene description) so it is really cool.

I also really enjoyed the writing. Some of the characters sounded very YA--they seemed to have some simplistic reactions and such (e.g. the magus was really rather trusting)--but Gen was very engaging and the reveal especially gave a lot more depth. The writing wasn't terse or spare or anything, but it dropped words exactly where they were needed--it was very deft, not a word out of place. Gen was always very dry, and I loved his narration. She also did a really great job with the scene where Gen walks into the cavern. When he first enters he nearly has a heart attack, thinking that there are people inside, then realizes they were statues--and then realizes in an even more heart-stopping moment that they aren't merely alive, they are truly the gods of myth. What a moment!

--

Currently reading, and quick discussion of article talking about hard science fiction )

danger!

Aug. 7th, 2013 04:17 pm
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I almost got sucked into reading Alastair Reynolds today when I was at the library. There was like ten of his books all in a row, I started rereading Pushing Ice (because I like causing myself pain, obviously), and I almost, almost, almost checked another book out.

Fortunately I couldn't, because I tried and the machine told me that "Your card will expire before the loan date, please talk to a librarian" and I didn't have sufficient ID to renew mine.

Pushing Ice made me absolutely despair because it is basically about exile. Involuntary, irreversible, complete cut off. Their ship is an ice-miner ordered to follow the suspicious activity of a gas giant's moon. Once out of the solar system, the "moon" begins to accelerate and attains a speed a significant fraction of the speed of light. They get caught up in the "slipstream" without realizing--they are deceived by their parent company--and Bella, the commander, makes the call that her duty is "not to get the crew home" but to keep them alive, the chances being too low to go back.

Yeah. And The Prefect was aggravatingly lacking any sort of character arc completion. I actually cared about Dreyfus; I didn't care about the super-sentient-intelligent-thing those two fighting robots were! Maybe it'd have been more interesting to people coming from the previous series, set in the future, though.

OK, I'm done ripping on Reynolds. But still, the science fiction part is very attractive. I keep getting sucked back in, and I refuse to read books that don't have some kind of decent characterization.

I had something else I wanted to talk about but now I have forgotten.

--

Thor 2 trailer is out.



THAT SLAP. That landscape. Oh my god, I can't wait.
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The Guns of Avalon, Roger Zelazny

Corwin, Lord of Amber, escapes from the dungeons of Amber to fight back against his brother Eric, who has usurped the throne of Amber, slipping between shadow worlds.

This is an extremely peculiar book. Corwin can 'walk in shadow', which means he can move between what amount to parallel universes. The novel opens with him walking out of prison and meeting with a wounded man named Lance (i.e. Lancelot). Corwin proceeds with Lance to Lorraine, a place that bears similarity to Corwin's own land--but this is a shadow of the other one. It's sort of Avalon, but not. Then they go off and have a battle...and Corwin unwittingly tells an impostor how to use the Pattern of Amber.

To be honest, this novel confused me a great deal. I see now that it is a second novel in a series (...this would explain rather a lot) but as I complained in a previous entry (here) the language wavers between very modern and archaic. In a way that might have been deliberate, but to me just sounded muddled. As well, the references were mixed too--there are references to our world (except one where there is no settlement on Africa) but also names like Ganelon (Song of Roland!) and of course the Arthurian influences (most notably Lancelot.)

I don't know if I want to try any of his other books. It was a tiny book but I didn't come out of it really liking anyone, except maybe Benedict, who seems to be the most level-headed of the bunch of brothers.

*

The Floating Islands, Rachel Neumeier

I also read The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier some...months...back. Fortunately I still have a copy and some of my thoughts written down.

The Floating Islands follows Trei, an orphaned boy, as he searches for his distant relatives living on the Floating Islands. These islands, adrift dozens of miles above the sea, are their own principality, defended by their geography. Arriving by boat, Trei is immediately struck by the kajuraihi--winged men that fly with crimson wings supported by dragon magic.

When he arrives at Canpra, the capital city, he meets and is accepted by his uncle into the family. He discovers he has a cousin, Araenè, who is a skilled chef, but he isn't in the household for very long when he successfully passes the initial test to become a kajuraihi. The test involves jumping from stepping stones to stepping stones between two islands, and then a further test by the dragons on the island.

Meanwhile, Araenè has a secret life of her own--when her parents are absent, she dresses as a boy and sneaks to the lectures at the university. On one such trip, she comes back and finds a door--walks in and finds Master Tnegun, a mage, who offers her a Dannè sphere and the assertion that she is a mage, if she won't stifle her magic.

Both of them become significant when the political tensions between the Floating Islands and the militant Tolounn, where Trei comes from, begin to heat up. Seeing the Islands as a new land to annex, their mages have found out how to suppress the magic that keeps them floating and protects them, and try to take over.

My thoughts )

*

And lastly, a picture. I was out today and saw this thing. I stared at it, and then walked by, and then turned around and had to take some pictures because...what?

image under cut, sfw )
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The Door into Summer

Robert A. Heinlein, science fiction, 1957


Dan, the protagonist of The Door into Summer, is an electronics engineer living in the 70's. A brilliant inventor and engineer, he's the creator of a household robot he calls Hired Girl, which is immensely popular. But as he develops more domestic robots, he's betrayed by his business partners and sent thirty years into the future through cryogenic sleep.

Probably the most appealing part of The Door into Summer is the protagonist himself--Dan is laid back, clever, and most of all, likeable. When he's awoken in 2000 he decides against trying to get a job as an engineer immediately:

I had avoided admitting that I was, or used to be, an engineer--to claim that I was now an engineer would be too much like walking up to du Pont's and saying, "Sirrah, I am an alchymiste. Hast need of art such as mine?"


Rest of review under cut, including the one major thing that squicked me )

Other than that, it's really a fun book to read, and with the exception of the antagonists, most characters have a heart of gold underneath. 8/10, 291 pages.


----

Blue Magic

A. M. Dellamonica, fantasy/dystopia, 2012


The sequel to Indigo Springs, Blue Magic continues to follow Astrid Lethewood and her struggle to release the vitagua. Once a gardener in a tiny town in Oregon, Astrid discovers that under her house flows a thawing river of vitagua, blue liquid magic. Frozen and sequestered long ago to protect its magical inhabitants, vitagua flowing out in such large quantities is contaminating everything. Trees grow to massive heights, insects swell to giants, and people start turning into animals involuntarily. Lethewood, like her father before her, can use the vitagua to enchant objects to do all sorts of magical things--heal sicknesses, make gold, hide people. In Indigo Springs the magical well in Lethewood's house explodes open, unleashing vitagua upon the surrounding area and creating a massive disaster.

In Blue Magic, the U.S. Armed Forces are trying to battle both the infections and put on trial Sahara Knax, Lethewood's former friend who has stolen the enchanted items (chantments) and has created a cult around herself. Will Forest, a negotiator with the army, joins Astrid to try to find his children; his wife is part of Sahara's Alchemists and has hidden them somewhere.

Adding to the pressure are the people within the vitagua world. The world where vitagua was sequestered also contains the frozen people who were once magic users; it used to be fairies, but these days many of them are First Nations. They want out, and so Astrid is under pressure to simultaneously re-release the vitagua back into the world, and do so very slowly to prevent disastrous events that full on contamination causes. The novel develops into a war where Astrid and her group of people--teachers, engineers, friends, neighbours, many strangers--try to handle the vitagua disaster. At the other end, the air force is bombing Indigo Springs, where they are headquartered; and most critically, a second group of opponents shows up again--Fyremen, whose mission is to destroy vitagua and anyone who wields it.

More analysis under the cut )

Like Indigo Springs before it, this book bowled me over with the action. Somewhat more mixed afterwards, but a really intriguing dystopian/fantasy book. 7/10, 382 pages.
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The Puppet Masters is a novel about Earth's contact with extra-terrestrials that want to enslave the human population. The protagonist, "Sam Cavanaugh", is an agent working with an unspecified intelligence agency, and the plot follows him as he tries to help beat them back. The extra-terrestrials are slug-like things that clamp onto the back of humans and completely take over their consciousnesses and willpower, and they begin infecting Earth. Like many megalomaniacs, their justification is that humans can't make peace themselves, and wouldn't it be better if someone solved that for them?

There, that's the bare bones of the plot. Heinlein wrote in in 1951, so I give it a pass when it comes to overused plotlines.

The novel's set in the future, so we have cars that fly and some pretty amazing appearance-altering technology (or the intelligence agencies have them anyway) but we also have a very solid Iron Curtain and some commentary about the Soviet Union. That said, the action is mostly closely focussed on Sam. When the agency investigates the disappearance of a couple of its best agents in Iowa, he tags along with the director, the Old Man.

Interestingly, because of the scale of the attack, there's an element of politics and social change involved. The slugs attached to humans make a sometimes hidden hump on the back of a person, and to avoid having one slug-infected person infest the rest (the slugs do so deliberately) the population of America strip. This doesn't exactly go over so well initially, and convincing the President and Congress that there is a serious danger isn't downplayed either.

The more informal reaction )

Enjoyed it, can't articulate it, 8/10. Still not thinking about certain things. I wish there was a way to turn off certain parts of the brain's analytics.
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I'm struggling a bit through--wait, I forgot the title of the book--The Guns of Avalon, by Roger Zelazny. I think I'm struggling because a) Corwin, the protagonist, and b) the weird language switching.

Corwin: I'm not getting a bead on him at all. He's very powerful (walks in Shadow, much more powerful than normal humans, regenerates flesh, used to be a powerful leader of some sort, etc) but he just doesn't seem to be very interesting. He's royalty but he's been distanced so long from his extensive family that all the political drama is being narrated to me (or to him, he's catching up) in little dribbles and at great distance. So far the most interesting person I've met is Dara, who I do quite like and understand, at least, even if I have a bad feeling about this seventeen-year-old girl. What happened to Lorraine doesn't reassure me. But Corwin--he's just kinda there.

Language: OK, what's up with the switching between high-fantasy and vernacular? Here's an excerpt with more formal language:

He was young and fair of hair and complexion. Beyond that, it was hard to say at a glance. It is difficult, I discovered, to obtain a clear initial impression as to a man's features and size when he is hanging upside down several feet above the ground.

(Page 70)

Nothing especially archaic, but not entirely modern, right? Especially that first statement. But then there's dialogue like this:

"Don't worry about it. It's not contagious."
"Crap," she said. "You're lying to me."
"I know. But please forget the whole thing."

(Page 44)

It keeps doing this. Corwin refers to his father as "Dad". His sword is "Grayswandir" (very pretty). And the whole thing's set with parallel universes (that's what "walking in the Shadow" means, you can walk between worlds and pick what you land in), and so there exist an Avalon. There's a Lancelot we meet. And Uther is mentioned by name. But we also have Ganelon, who I always associate (apart from the Kushiel's Legacy one) with the Song of Roland, the medieval epic. All these influences keep jerking me around, merging kind of confusingly.
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cover of Fahrenheit 451, a man made of printed-on paper in flames I feel that the conventional descriptions of Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 don't do it justice. For perhaps the first quarter or so of the book I felt it was entirely too heavyhanded. After all, I've been thoroughly spoiled for the themes of the book, and honestly I'd much rather be spoiled on the action; themes really spoil everything. The thing that bothers me about dystopia is an almost fetish for the past - re-imagining what came before a paradise. Sometimes it's an idolatry of the political system that came before (civilization only exists as a city--all right, fine, the word itself is derived from civitas inextricably tied to cities, but still.) Sometimes it's putting historical figures on pedestals. A similar vein exists with high fantasy: protagonists trust the knowledge contained within books more than anything else. And dystopias sometimes demonize or play up the dangers of new technology until I feel I'm listening to another lecture: all that TV that kids watch will rot their brains! all the videogames they play will rot their brains! all those movies, all that internet! and so on. Bradbury's "Veldt", one of his short stories, has some lingering similarity in themes (about TV, incidentally.) But this passage was a much more nuanced look at the issue. Faber is an old English professor who has been hiding for years, along like most thinkers:

It's not books you need, it's some of the things that were once in books. The same things could be in the 'parlour families' today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not. No, no, it's not books at all you're looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.

(Faber, page 78)


Faber is speaking as someone who was educated in the past, but his words fit in with how Clarissa's living--she doesn't have the same philosophical bent or education, but she's living what Faber's speaking about. "Infinite detail and awareness", except expressed in life instead of words.

I'd heard Fahrenheit 451 being described over and over again about the perils of modern society and the dangers of not reading. And truthfully, the book does deal with burning books and firemen whose roles are twisted versions of their original purpose, but perhaps that's because Bradbury was writing in 1951 and books were a/the major way of consolidating information. And there's no resurrection of a burned book. A ripped book, maybe. A water-soaked book, maybe. Once fire gets through a book, it's gone. But the idea of the novel is much broader than books.

The other interesting point that Bradbury seems to make is that it's not a top-down movement, not really. Unlike similar novels like 1984, it's not the government. It might have been the government or a higher power, once, but now the compulsion to destroy books and bury oneself in the blunting influence of TV is from the people themselves. The fire department will show up at your house if you have books, but the firefighters aren't being forced to do it; they feel it's right to do so. Through Faber, Bradbury criticizes the pursuit of happiness at the expense of everything else like critical thinking, though he notes elsewhere that people aren't really happy, either. The protagonist's wife, despite her 24/7 immersion in her virtual Family and other content, seems to be deeply unhappy in a way she isn't even aware of (it's ambiguous whether or not she tried to commit suicide.)

I'm pretty sure I could go on for a long time dissecting this novel (what about the chief fireman? The woman who chose to burn with her books? etc) but I'm sure lots of more eloquent people have done this already, and I've spilled enough ink myself!

Fahrenheit 451's a very short book; I liked it, but I do think he's more used to writing short stories. Bradbury's writing is unexpectedly lyrical and abstract, I suppose, with a lot of metaphors and similes that took awhile to get used to, but it left me distanced from some of the action, which was really effective. I make it sound like a very anvilicious novel, but I've heard so much about it that I'm incapable of actually judging anymore. Despite this, I'd still recommend the book--if for nothing more than to understand what all the references are invoking. (And he quotes "Dover Beach"! One of my favourite poems, so it's got my vote.)
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I decided that it was time to start on Heinlein (on whim) while in the library which has lots of sf. The only problem is that Heinlein has written a lot of stuff, so I went to ask the librarian sitting at the desk.

He didn't even know who Heinlein was! (GASP) But then he gave me the funniest look and said: "But you know who would know?" and I said--realizing suddenly and cutting him off rather rudely--"The librarians upstairs?" (The speculative fiction collection is upstairs.) He nodded. I don't think he's got a very good opinion of sf/f, or maybe of the librarians upstairs. But it was really funny. His expression was priceless. Maybe he was just chagrined that he didn't know who Heinlein was, when I'd worded the question like he ought to know.

So I got recs (I asked the librarian and she said: "That would be Robert Ansolm Heinlein, right?" straight off) and finished Door into Summer a couple days ago. I enjoyed it hugely. It wasn't just good, it was fun. The only part that I didn't like was the part with Ricky, because it was wayyyyy too close to grooming for me. I love Dan (the protagonist). He's a mechanical engineer and a rather brilliant inventor, and he's also pretty optimistic and funny, and Heinlein's sideways descriptions of certain things (er, like the women that Dan likes) were amusing. It also had time-travel into 2000. Some of the things were obviously not true (we still have colds, ugh, I have a sore throat right now.) But there are some things that Dan was trying to invent by 2000 that we've already got--like dictation software. Dictation software is so common that it's actually packaged into Windows 7 operating systems! But also, we're still using zippers.

I'm also pleased that I managed to track down one of the allusions from Among Others ("you have to be prepared to abandon your baggage").
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It's just sunny enough outside that today during my lunch hour, I went outside and finished reading Among Others (Jo Walton). It's supposed to snow at some point I think, but at one o'clock it was just like the beginning of spring - snow in the shadows of the building but lots of warmth in the sun. Still wearing my winter coat though.

Among Others, that was excellent. Oh my god. I've explained and recced it to three people today and I still can't come up with a suitable summary. Review forthcoming, after I post the Crimson Crown one (it was also excellent, but in a different way.) I'd be off to find allllll of Jo Walton's books, but I actually have a pile of sf/f on my floor right now, including the complete Lyonesse, so I have to get to those first.

But yes! If you see it on the bookshelf, grab it and see if you like it! Unqualified rec.

God, I've missed reading books. I've read so much novel-length fic, but it's not the same as a totally self-sustaining secondary fantasy. Even one with ties to the real world.
silverflight8: Barcode with silverflight8 on top and userid underneath (_support)
cover of Interface Masque, pixellated blue bird wingI'm going to admit this upfront: this is a rant disguised as a book review. By this I mean that this is me getting my music-student rage on. Among general reader rage, too. I fully admit to getting frustrated at around the first 1/3rd of the book because of logic, world-building, and characterization inconsistencies on top of bad, bad treatment of music, but sticking it out purely for the catharsis of writing a review. I finally finished it today. While it took me about a month-and-a-half to read the book (where normally a book this size is 2 hours, max) partly because of real life, it wasalso because I could not get through five or ten pages without being brought up short by some inconsistency or problem.

So. Wanna hear about Interface Masque?

The paragraphs under the first cut do not contain spoilers. The rage review contains spoilers. If I were you, though, I wouldn't read the book. Not worth it. In fact, I have so many issues with this book that I'm not even addressing the RANDOM ALIENS IN THE NET bits, because I have piled quite enough objections in this review, but please be assured that they are ??? and are like a red herring that doesn't actually help with anything. They're just there and never resolved properly.

Interface Masque, Shariann Lewitt. 350 pages. Science fiction - cyberpunk?

The reviewer bits )

The music-student (and general reader) rage bits )
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I am emerging from Round One of Exams (there are two this year) and so I should be posting...somewhat more often! If there is something you have wanted me to do for ages you should ask now since I have a lull of a few weeks before Round Two.

Babbling... )
silverflight8: Different shades of blue flowing on a white background like waves (Fractal)
Ice Song coverThe premise was very intriguing and the book cover well made. The back cover:

Sorykah Minuit is a scholar, an engineer, and the sole woman aboard the ice-drilling submarine in the frozen land of the Sigue. What no one knows is that she is also a Trader: one who can switch genders suddenly, a rare corporeal deviance universally met with fascination and superstition and all too often punished by harassment or death.

Sorykah's infant twins, Leander and Ayeda, have inherited their mother's Trader genes. When a wealthy, reclusive madman known as the Collector abducts the babies to use in his dreadful experiments, Sorykah and her male alter-ego, Soryk, must cross icy wastes and a primeval forest to get them back. Complicating the dangerous journey is the fact that Sorykah and Soryk do not share memories: Each disorienting transformation is like awakening with a jolt from a deep and dreamless sleep.

The world through which the alternating lives of Sorykah and Soryk travel is both familiar and surreal. Environmental degradation and genetic mutation run amok; humans have been distorted into animals and animal bodies cloaak a wild humanity. But it is also a world of unexpected beauty and wonder, where kindness and love endure amid the ruins. Alluring, intense, and gorgeously rendered, Ice Song is a remarkable debut by a fiercely original new writer.


In general, I like the books I read. I feel guilty for tearing a book apart, and this is not against you personally, Kasai, but really, this book deserves it. Spoiler warning. )

I give this 5/10 on the premise and the trying - some of the writing was truly gorgeous, but it was drowned out in the excessive wordiness, inconsistent characterization, and unevenness of the plot. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone.

Crossposted to [livejournal.com profile] bookish
silverflight8: bee on rose  (Default)
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Sure, but will we recognize them as life at all? 

And I think this is more of a matter of them meeting us, rather than us meeting them, as far as our technology is concerned at the moment.

But hey, who knows? Maybe those sci-fi novels were right, after all...

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