27 April 2010

Dan Simmons - Worlds Enough and Time

[update ="28/5/2010"] I have since read some other Dan Simmons stuff and wish to retract my statement about not looking for more of his books, I was wrong, I admit it, why can't you let me get on with my life?????[/update]

The first thing I ever read of Dan Simmons was the short story "On K2 with Kanakaredes," which would have to be up there in one of the great alien visitor stories of recent times.  It's this great adventure story in which a bunch of guys discover that the incredible differences between people can be overcome by the common ground, if you are willing to take the time to look for it.
    I was expecting a lot more from this book.  Maybe that is a bit unreasonable.  I have to say that I was fairly disappointed overall.  I really thought this was going to be massively awesome.  It was just ok. I probably won't go hunting for more books by this guy, although I would still read a story if it was in an anthology.
    • Looking for Kelly Dahl alright, a pretty good premise, but it fell down at the end.
    • Orphans of the Helix was ok. Space-operaish but nothing really earth shatteringly brilliant.
    • The Ninth of Av didn't make any sense to me at all, as expected from the intro.  Really fucking weird, plot was so strange I couldn't keep track, did not like.  Sorry Dan.
    • The End of Gravity was a bit dull.  The intro describes it as written for the screen, and I hate the screen anyway, so I might have just been showing my literary elitism here.
    Oh well, back to Ms Moon and Mr Reynolds I guess.

    20 April 2010

    The Years Best Science Fiction: 25th Annual Collection (2007)

    • Author: Gardner Dozois - Editor
    • Title: The Years Best Science Fiction: Twenty Fifth Annual Collection
    • Publisher: St Martins Press 2008
    • ISBN: 978-0312378592
    The 2007 edition of Gardner Dozois' annual of his favorite science fiction stories in the short form.  This is one of my must reads every year, and also on my must buy list.  Just a matter of the money really.  And of course, I have no money.  As usual.  I first read this edition last year (2009) but didn't get around to making any notes on it.  Or if I did, I can't find them.

    This edition features work by the usual suspects, including Ken McLeod, John Barnes, Ian McDonald, Neal Asher,  Al Reynolds, Kristen Rusch, Kage Baker and Chairman Bruce.  Very definately a fantastic year for space opera, which is of course the very best subgenre of SF, and if you don't agree, they you are wrong. 

    I wish Gardner Dozois would do two or three of these volumes a year instead of just the one.  I know for certain that there is the work to fill three volumes, and I hate having to wait so long for the next one to be published.  I've been waiting for 10 months for 2009 edition, and it isn't due until June.

    If you like scifi and you have never read one of these books, go get one from the library.  Go on.  You won't regret it.  There would not be more that 1 or 2 stories a year that I don't completely love, and they are usually ok too.  Mr Dozois has excellent taste.  I don't know if he tastes excellent though.

    Short descriptions of the stories that may spoil the damn things for you after the jump.

    16 April 2010

    Kage Baker - The Sons of Heaven

    The final book in the completely brilliant Company series has been read, and now I am done.  Damn.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved the ending. I just wish it hadn't ended.

    I'm impressed that Baker sustained this concept over not just 8 novels, but also two collections of short stories, several uncollected shorts and a related novel based on the Mars colony only vaguely mentioned in the novels (The Empress of Mars, Tor 2009 based on the novella The Empress of Mars.)  Not once did I lose interest in the story, and every character, no matter how minor (or in some cases irrelevant), became a person rather than just a bit in the book.

    I really don't want to write anything about the plot, except to say that it twists and turns, loops, twists again, loops twice more, at which point I lost track of the direction, then blew me away with the final twist, which twisted once more, then looped, then twisted again.

    Kage Baker will be sadly missed by this little white science fiction obsessive.  I guess I'll have to start on her fantasy novels next.  I give this novel, and this series, 10/10, 100%, 5 Stars, and so on. 

    Kage Baker - The Machine's Child

    I was pretty happy when I finally got a hold of this 7th volume in the Company saga by Kage Baker.  This novel comprises the first part of the grand finale that has been building over the previous volumes and numerous short stories.  Schemes are coming together.  Lost characters are being rescued, recovered, revived and reborn.  Weapons are being gathered and assigned to the troops.  Finally, the Silence is drawing near.

    OK, there may be a slight, minor spoiler after the jump, but honestly it is nothing specific or major, so you may as well read it.

    12 April 2010

    Michael Swanwick - Dragons of Babel

    • Author: Michael Swanwick
    • Title: The Dragons of Babel
    • Publisher: Tor 2007
    • ISBN: 9780765319500
    The Dragons of Babel is an expansion of and conclusion to Swanwicks short story "King Dragon."  The story of Will, who as a youngster is used by a crashed Dragon to dominate his home village.  After the Dragon is destroyed, Will is banished and in the process of trying to find a new life, encounters Esme, a girl with no memory. 

    Will travels with Centaurs, spends time in a refugee camp, is prophesied over by a suicidal dwarf, finds Esmes mother, who promptly dies, and is shipped to Babel as part of a refugee resettlement scheme.  On the train, he is co-opted by Nat Whilk, conman, as an appretice in the art of Trickstering.

    I don't like fantasy very much, despite the fact that I read a lot of the stuff.  Ok, so I do like it, but I am picky.  When I first read King Dragon, I thought that it would make an excellent novel and I was totally right.  Swanwick really understands the art of the twist, so throughout this novel, you never have any idea what is coming. The imagery is so vivid that you can see every coridor, building, creature and sunbeam.  And the ending is so bloody suprising, I laughed, then flicked back 5 chapters to check to see if I missed the clues.  Yes, I did, but that was very much on purpose on the part of Swanwick. 

    This novel acts as a kind of sequel to The Iron Dragons Daughter,  which is set in the same universe as this story.  It's a parallel universe to our own, and in fact is just our world with magic and elves and other fantasy beasties.  Fricken elves.  They are such selfish bastards. 

    I highly recommend this novel.  It doesn't require that you read the prior story or novel, so you can go and get it today.  Go on.  Quickly.  PS - Jacket Art by Stephan Martiniere

    Paul Di Filippo - Ribofunk

    • Author: Paul Di Filippo
    • Title: Ribofunk
    • Publisher: Four Walls Eight Windows 1996
    • ISBN: 9781568580623
    Di Filippo coined the term Ribofunk to describe fiction of a near future where biotechnology dominates the world culturally, politically and economically.  Yes, it is a play on Cyberpunk.  Ribo as in Ribosome, Funk as in music.

      Anyone who knows me will know that I am not a big fan of biotech fiction, but this collection that started the whole thing is actually pretty good.  I usually find that biotech gets silly very quickly, but Di Filippo manages to keep the whole thing fairly firmly grounded.   I particularly enjoyed the sequence of detective stories, but there wasn't a story in here that I didn't at least like. 

    This book is worth reading largely for it's historical importance to SF overall.  Di Filippo has done much better work, but it is not the quality of the work that is at issue here so much as the subject matter.  It was a pivotal book for the genre, but also demonstrates why biotech fiction is not particularly prevalent.  I think Di Filippo used all of the ideas in these stories.  There is not much else to say on the subject of Ribofunk.

    After the jump is a list of and brief descriptions for the stories in the book. 

    Kage Baker - Gods and Pawns

    • Author: Kage Baker
    • Title: God and Pawns: Stories of the Company
    • Publisher: Tor 2007
    • ISBN: 9780765315533
    Gods and Pawns collects stories of the Company from 2003/2004 with two previously unpublished stories.  As with all other Kage Baker books that I have read, I loved this so much I have reread it about five times.

    At the risk of sounding like a pathetic fanboy (which I probably am...), Baker always manages to make me feel giddy with childlike glee whenever she writes about the immortal agents of the Company.  I really enjoy the way she ties real life into the stories, and maintains a level of plausibility that never breaks into my ability to just read the stories.  There is nothing worse that a glaring inconsistancy or stupid idea to ruin science fiction.

    Please be warned:  There are some spoilers after the jump, although I try my best to not give away too much of the suprise and never ever the ending.

    11 April 2010

    Kage Baker - Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers

    • Author: Kage Baker
    • Title: Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers
    • Publisher: Golden Gryphon Press 2002
    • ISBN: 9781930846111
    Another collection of short fiction set in the Company universe by Kage Baker, this book features four new stories along with ten previously published stories.  The book collects the first four Alec Checkerfield stories in the one volume, and also features a special introduction by Baker in which the central character attempts to penetrate the Companies secrets, and fails.  Fails to DEATH!!

    The great thing about this collection is that it places all of the short works in the one place, easy to access.  When reading the novels, it can be a valuable resource in attempting to link the clues and get some idea of who is doing what, and to whom.  The conspiracy factor in this series is so complicated that at times I feel that I need to make a chart just to keep track of where everyone is, and which side they are on.  Of course, these things are not entirely clear, but Black Projects at least goes some of the way to removing some of the blur.

    Yes, there are probably spoilers after the jump.

    07 April 2010

    Paul McAuley - Gardens of the Sun

    • Author: Paul McAuley
    • Title: Gardens of the Sun
    • Publisher: Gollancz 2009
    • ISBN: 9780575079366

    I just finished Garden of the Sun, and can happily recommend it to everyone who enjoys high quality, big vision fiction.  I hate to sound like a fanboy, but OMG AWESOME!!  Seriously brilliant work by McAuley in the latest novel in The Quiet War universe.  Now I am hoping that he will write something about the expansion of human settlement out of the Solar System, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    Paul McAuley is the master of New Space Opera, which is my absolute favourite kind of scifi.  Widescreen settings, technology that I would kill to be able to access and a massive political spectrum told from the perspective of individual people makes for truely exciting storytelling, and McAuley, along with Alastair Reynolds, has pretty much written the book on just how effective the large view can be at telling human stories. 

    Spoiler Warning - I give away major plot developments and outcomes after the jump.

    06 April 2010

    Hugo Awards NomNomNom

    2010 Hugo Nominees announced so I lifted the list from some wheb Cite.  This is not the complete list, as I cut out the stuff that doesn't interest me like movies, art, tv shows.  I have read quite a few of the stories nominated this year, but hope to get a look at heaps more before the end of the poll.  After the jump you can

    News Report - Armed Robbery In Bunbury

    Apparently, two people in their 30s robbed a bank and a discount store in Stephen St, Bunbury  at around 10am today (so it must be the Commonwealth Bank and King Kong or maybe Thingz?) then took off toward Centrepoint Shopping Centre.  The police searched but could not locate them.

    At around noon, a chemist in South Bunbury (not sure which one yet) was held up.  The alleged offenders then caught a taxi to the Glade Caravan Park, where they were apprehended by police and are now in custody.

     From ABC News Onlines report -
    A Salvation Army worker Marion Myles says the two people taken into custody had asked for help from the charity this morning.
    "They came here looking for welfare, emergency relief, and food vouchers," she said.
    "As soon as I asked for their paperwork, he took off, he just ran, he pushed her out the door and off they went. They seemed agitated."
    What the fuck kind of paperwork do you need to ask for charity assistance?

    More info to follow as I find out.  Rest assured I will be staking out and chatting with as many involved people as possible!!

    Slacking Off!!

    OK, so I have not posted in a week or so, because I have been too busy sitting on my ass and not doing anything.

    I did finish 7 books though, so bulk update to come.  Now I have to type it.  Damn.

    Oh, photos from the Donnybrook Apple Festival!!  As per usual, all photos taken by sheer luck.  Java had fun and I only got slightly sore feet.  Very expensive though, at $9 a ride!!

    02 April 2010

    Kage Baker - The Children of The Company

    I was absolutely thrilled to get book six of the company series and sat up all night to read it.  It was well worth the sore eyes, oversleeping and lateness the next day.   This book acts as a roundup of the answers to a bunch of questions left open so far, without actually giving anything more that hints as to what the hell is going on.  Everyone is plotting.  Everyone is being manipulated.  Everyone is crazy, dangerous, and evil.  Everyone is also brilliant, endearing and so thoroughly pathetic you will want to adopt them, wrap them in cotton wool and give them a nice hot chocolate....

    There are one or two spoilers after the jump - click with care to