28 May 2010

Dan Simmons - Endymion (Hyperion Cantos Book 3)

  • Author: Dan Simmons
  • Title: Endymion
  • Publisher: Gollancz 1996
Book 3 of the Hyperion Cantos.  I didn't realise that this book was part of a series until after I was half way through, but it's OK, since it stands alone quite well.  The story of Raul Endymion and  his adventures with an android partner and Aenea, being a young girl who has travelled through time and will one day be the messiah, or something.  And there's a pseudo-Catholic galactic government that controls resurrection technology, except that they seem to actually be controlled by the AIs that were supposedly destroyed in the fall of the WorldWeb, which is part of the previous stories. Basically, civilisation has kind of collapsed fairly recently in a war between some guys, some other guys, some computers and the other faction of computers.  And there is another faction of computers as well.  And maybe a computer god, although that might be in the future.  And an alien thing, but it might not be real.  I don't really get the overarching plot parts of this story, since there is a sequel and there were two prequels that I haven't read, but it was a fantastic read.

24 May 2010

Ken MacLeod - Learning The World

Probably one of the best first contact novels I've read, it tells the story of the planet bound humans who discover that so kind of alien space ship is headed toward the planet.  Meanwhile, the humans on the generation space ship are about to reach a new planet after 400 years of travel from the Civil Worlds, and it seems to be inhabited by aliens.

Of course both lots think of themselves as 'people.' But they are not the same species.

A really clever way to tell two stories at once, and make both sides totally engaging.  Read this book.  It is brilliant, hilarious at times, sad, enlightening, confusing and just fucking great.  Ken MacLeod rules.

Elizabeth Moon - The Serrano Connection

  • Author: Elizabeth Moon
  • Title: The Serrano Connection
  • Publisher: Baen 2008
  • ISBN: 1416555951
Another day, another Elizabeth Moon omnibus, this time the second in the Serrano series.  This book contains the two previously published novels Once a Hero (1997) and Rules of Engagement (1998), featuring Esme Suiza, who was a character in the final book in the Heris Serrano series, Winning Colors.  The Serrano connection is Barin Serrano, a character from  the second of the Heris Serrano stories, Sporting Chance, who meets Esme, and they fall in love (awww)

In Once A Hero, Esme has been assigned to the RSS Koskiusko, a deep space repair facility, as she tries to recover her career from the fallout of the events at the Battle of Xavier. Will she survive her reputation?  More importantly, will she survive the terrorists who have just boarded this gigantic space ship?

I love the idea of the space ship.  Massive deep space construction yard with 100 000 people on board?  Awesome.  I want one.  Some excellent incidental characters as well.  And of course, Esme saves the day, outperforms her seniors and basically is Hero, again.
In Rules Of Engagement, Esme finds herself transferred from the Koskiuko to HQ for command track training.  She unfortunately falls afoul of Brun 'Bubbles' Meger, a spoiled rich kid who manages to completely fuck over Esmes life, and not to care about it.  As Esme struggles to scrape her life and career back together, Brun gets herself kidnapped by Fundamentalist Christians.  Can Esme rebuild her reputation? Will Brun survive?  Will Esme and Barin finally get together? Will Brun realise what an asshole she has been and save Esmes career?  The answers and more lay herein....

It's more of the same, space ships, weird space royalty and their spoiled rich children, military kids who struggle between history and self, the Regular Space Service of the Familias Reginas empire..  Ya know, space opera, the good stuff.

Parts of this story made me pretty angry, as you can probably guess.  I fucking hate rich kids who feel entitled, who have no concern for the impact they have through the actions they take.  Blah blah.  Needless to say, the books vindicate my opinion.  Yay for the battlers!

Definitely worth reading, if largely for completeness sake. Really nice imagery, but a little bit inconsistent in terms of character. I mean, Brun was supposedly reformed in earlier books, yet all of a sudden she's a useless bitch again.  It's not so much a sequel as a continuation with the lead character snatched out, so it's good, but might have been better. I think the repetition of the "Esme doesn't understand and won't stand up for herself" thing over successive novels is a bit blah, when she seemingly learned her lesson the first time.  I dunno, seems a little like the ball was dropped, if ever so slightly. The writing in these novels is absolutely top notch, but I think the plot and characters kinda stalled, mostly in Rules of Engagement.

I'd suggest that you read it, but try not to get as emotionally invested as I did in the characters, or you might get pissy, like I did.  Just saying.

I'm a bit pathetic, I know. Yay Me!

Lois McMaster Bujold - Falling Free

Originally published in 1988, this neat little story is about the morality if geneticly engineering humans by corporations, and moral obligation when you encounter injustice. This novel won the Nebula Award for best novel in 1988, and tells the story of an engineer who is assigned to a project that is now set to be cancelled, along with the destruction of the experimental materials, which turn out to be a bunch of kids with four arms and no legs.

This book is set in the Vorkosigan universe, about 200 years before the main action re Miles Vorkosigan.  I haven't read any of the others, but I really like the way that Lois McMaster Bujold writes.  It reminds me alot of Elizabeth Moon, who is one of my very favorite writers.  I intend to get a hold of more of McMaster Bujolds books.

Really good story, really well written.  A nice sunny afternoon read (if you read like I do) or a nice Sunday read (if you read like a human.)

Paul McAuley - Fairyland

I had to wait a really long time for Fairyland to arrive from the State Library service, but it turned out to be worth the wait.  McAuley manages to write one of the weirdest stories I have ever read and also one of the funniest. Many many laugh out loud moments, even though it is not a particularly funny story.

This story is essentially a future in which genetically engineered 'dolls' are used as slave labour, until an experimental child genius decides to free them. Results? Pretty much every monster from mythology ie fairies, gnomes, ogres, warewolves (sp is correct mate!) are brought to life.  Oh, and the fairies are blue skinned midgets that eat people, produce addictive hallucinogens in their blood and really fucking hate humans.

Seriously, this book is beyond good.  Future decline of society, drugs gone crazy, freakshow and babyboomers suck all rolled into one.  Creepy in a lot of places. Best use of First Rays of the New Rising Sun in a novel.  Best use of Gary Larson strips in a novel.  I laughed out loud in a very inappropriate place when I read the bit with the Larson mention, damn Farside. I wish I could find the strip.

Get this if you can.

    20 May 2010

    The Years Best Science Fiction : Ninteenth Annual Collection (2001)

    The 2001 edition of Gardner Dozois annual picks for the best short fiction in SF.  Highly recommended for anyone who wants to read short SF but doesn't have access to the masses of small print and American magazine sources.  So far, I have bought 4 of this series and intend to eventually have them all.

    Highlights this year include work by Nancy Kress, Paul McAuley, Robert Reed, and excellent piece by Dan Simmons, James Patrick Kelly, Michael Swanwick, two stories by Ian McLeod, Ken McLeod, Paul Di Filippo and Charles Stross.  Also quite a few new writers.

    This book is available from Amazon.com for a fricking cent (US) plus postage for the hardcover in Good condition with the dust jacket. Meaning about $14 Australian with a 4 to 6 week wait.  Compared to $40 for a paperback, same wait time. It's on my list, but not a high priority cause Bunbury Library has a copy.  All the same, it's well worth ANY price you might come across it at

    After the jump, there are short descriptions with some spoilers.

    19 May 2010

    Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait - K.A Bedford.

    OK, I really wanted to like this book.  I really want to like K.A Bedford, because she is from Perth and local SF writers with published books are pretty rare around here.  Unfortunately, there is a reason that local writers don't get published.  This books is essentially a fairly average ex-cop novel with time machine tropes pasted over the top.

    Yawn, boring.  I read this novel already.  I think Mickey Spillane wrote it.  Or maybe it was that JD Robb chick.  It was like reading my own fiction.  Average, overwritten, under planned.  Got tied up trying to explain the concepts rather than just telling the story.  That's why I am not published.

    The concept was actually pretty good, but this book needed a serious edit and rewrite.  I think it could have been great at half the pages.  I only finished it though because I felt obligated to give the benefit of the doubt to an Australian writer.

    Sorry KA, I wish I didn't have to write this, but I must be honest with my own reading diary, and this book was pretty crap.  Somehow it managed to win the Aurelius Award in 2008.  

    Oh I get it now....

    Tumblr is like twitter for fuckwits.

    18 May 2010

    Working Like Crazy

    Just finished another run of work at BP, but I did manage to get SOME reading done.  I haven't been to the library in a week though.  Otherwise, I have not been doing anything interesting.

    I would very much like to get an Ipad or an ebook reader of some description.

    Recently read titles:
    • YBSF 23rd Annual Ed Gardner Dozois
    • Learning The World - Ken McLeod
    • The Engineer Reconditioned - Neil Asher
    • The Serrano Connection - (books 4 and 5) - Elizabeth Moon
    • Free Falling - Loiss McMaster Bujold
    Might have been some other stuff too, but I can't read the spines from here.

    07 May 2010

    Elizabeth Moon - The Serrano Legacy

    • Author: Elizabeth Moon
    • Title: The Serrano Legacy
    • Publisher: Orbit UK 2006
    • ISBN: 978-1841494845
    The Serrano Legacy is the Omnibus edition of the previously released novels Hunting Party (1993), Sporting Chance (1994) and Winning Colors (1995).  These novels tell the story of Heris Serrano, of the famous military family of the same name.  This is classic space opera of the military vein, and the novels in this collection make up an arc largely dealing with Heris overcoming her exile from the military and estrangement from her family to retake her position as a up and coming senior leader in the Regular Space Service of the Familias Reginas empire.

    Great fun, with all of the best aspects of this field of scifi.  Space ships with environment systems and thousands of planets supporting every kind of lifestyle and industry, evil space pirates and insane military leaders who bare grudges against whole wings of the RSS on the basis of which commander they served under, rich planetary rulers with stupid hobbies and far far too much money.  Moon builds up this fantastic universe full of little nooks to explore and discover as you read through, tonnes of tiny little details that make the story not just plausible (in terms of relationships and society, not tech obviously) but something that you can feel almost a part of.  At the same time, her prose describes a physical universe that has real depth and a clear, understandable vision.  You can see the parts slotting together to make the working whole in everything from the political workings of the fictional galaxy, to the physical workings of the systems involved in space travel.

    Moon writes like a combination of the Grand Vision of writers like Arthur C Clarke and Issac Asimov, but without the nerdishness that made their characters seem wooden and one dimensional.  Moon has a real understanding of not just people as individuals, but as groups, families, societies and nations.  This is absolutely some of the best large vision fiction I have ever read, right up there with my favourites of the new wave like Robert Reed, Paul McAuley etc.

    What I love even more is that there are 2 more collections in this universe, following other characters from the stories in this volume.  Perfect.  I love that depth that is built though this kind of reuse of setting.  I'm very suprised that I missed these books back in 93/94, but not entirely upset, because I got to read them all in one hit without having to wait to see what came next.

    You should probably read this book.

    04 May 2010

    Larry Niven - The Draco Tavern

    The Draco Tavern is a collection of Nivens stories set in the fictional bar for visiting aliens at the Mount Forel Spaceport in Siberia.  The collected stories were written between 1977 and 2006, dealing with the daily life of Draco Tavern owner Rick Schumann and his staff of scientist/barstaff as they try to deal with the needs and wants (intoxicating or otherwise) of the hundreds of alien species that drop by when a Chirpsithra space liner is in port.

    Niven is well known for his ability to write funny, interesting, complicated future histories, and this collection is no exception.  The 27 stories in this volume cover topics ranging from the existence of God to feminism, war and politics, relationships, species survival, reproduction and commerce.  And a whole bunch of other stuff.  There are all kinds of weird aliens, including a rock that barely moves over hundreds of years, but is wired into the internet, technology that is sometimes more than it seems, bubbling green drinks made from radioactive isotopes, atmosphere screens and environment suits.  There are even sentient fish living in transparent water filled balls that transport them around on dry land.

    This is not a particularly heavy read, because it doesn't take itself too seriously, but it does raise some challenging questions, and in many cases attempts to answer them.  All of the stories are told from the perspective of Rick Schumann, in the context of him telling a tale, very much like you would expect.  Very "barman with a moral tale" tropish.  And it totally works.

    I gave this book to Java to read, and he loved it.  The lack of 'adult' content makes this a particularly good read for younger sf readers who are beyond the idiotic crap that is often sold as YASF.  I wish more writers would do this, because graphic sex often means that I can't (won't) give it to my kid to read.  He doesn't need to be exposed to that just yet, and it is frustrating when a fantastic novel has just two or three paragraphs that make it unsuitable for kids.  Especially when it does nothing for the story.  Sigh.  Cory Doctorow could learn a thing or two from this.  IE Makers.

    Good stories, good collection.  I wouldn't buy it, but I will probably get it from the library again.  three stars out of five.

    Alastair Reynolds - House of Suns

    Hooray for Space Opera!!  This outstanding novel by Al Reynolds is the story of Campion and Purslane, clones of Abigail Gentian, and members of the Gentian Line.  Abigail cloned herself 999 times as male and female, and the clones are organised into a trading family of 'shatterlings'. 

    It is now six million years into the future, the galaxy is relatively stable and the shatterlings are preparing for their 32nd reunion, at which they collate their knowledge and experiences, make major decisions and tell of the misbehaving clones, when disaster strikes!!  Someone has launched an ambush on the Gentian line and all but wiped them out!  OMG.

    Campions and Purslane are late to the reunion (by several decades) because they travel together - a serious breach of the Lines rules.  Worse still, they are lovers, which is entirely unacceptable to the Line.  It all worked out for the best though, because now they can find out the answers to the real questions at hand:  Who wants the Gentian Line dead?  And why?

    I wish that this were a series rather than a standalone novel.  The Lines are such a fantastic idea, families of identical people with identical memories, living over millions of years, watching the galaxy develop, watching civilisations and empires rise and collapse, seeing the path that real time humanity takes in all it's branches. 

    Reynolds stories are written with the assumption that FTL is not possible.  This makes for fairly boring space combat on the surface, but Reynolds manages to convey a thrilling visual image with an understanding of the reality of moving through space at sublight speeds.  That doesn't really make sense now that I re-read that sentence, but I know what I mean. 

    Probably the best Reynolds story since the Merlins Gun shorts a few years back.  Highly recommended.

    03 May 2010

    Recent Readings - The last 2 weeks

    I've been working and haven't really had time to sit down and type, plus putting in a shitload of reading.  Work is fine, but I am glad I don't have to work at this place too many more times.  The money is not that great, and to be honest, the people are starting to shit me off.  Not the staff, the customers.

    In other news, my rotten tooth has started to fall apart.  Awesome. 

    Also, my ass is really numb because I just sat for a few minutes (2 hours) catching up on news/blogs/email for the first time in a week.  I did intend to do it on friday but ended up playing with this excellent little drawing thing called Harmony that some dude did in javascript or something.  I fricken love it.  Expect a blog redesign incorporating many many Harmony Generated Images.

    • Alastair Reynolds - Zima Blue and Other Stories
    • Alastair Reynolds - Galactic North
    • Alastair Reynolds - House of Suns
    • New Space Opera 1 - Anthology of new stuff.
    • New Space Opera 2 - Second volume
    • Larry Niven - The Draco Tavern
    • Elizabeth Moon - The three Heris Serrano books (The Serrano Legacy Omnibus)
    • A couple of Robert Heinlein juvenile series books - Starman Jones and Starship Troopers
    • William Burroughs - Junky
    I should get out more.  But I don't like you people.  I really would rather have rejuvination, a space yacht, a large interplanetary bank account, and a pet thingy.  Preferably loyal, furry, protective and good at fetching things I left in other cabins.  And a crew of highly compitent but unorthodox ex military people of mixed gender, who will do pretty much whatever I tell them too (I am a highly ethical person, so no exploitation or bad treatment of my crew, obviously) while remaining fiercly loyal to me and assisting me to fight injustice where ever we come across it. 

    Sigh.  The 21st century sucks.