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Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds

May 11, 2010 Comments off

Centry Rain is a mystery science fiction novel. Don’t read the back, it gives the mystery away. Two storylines develop: a twenty-second century archaeologist who has just made a career-ending (and possibly life-ending) mistake, and a private detective in Paris in the nineteen-fifties asked to take on the case of a suicide that the police won’t believe could have been a murder.

The storylines seemingly have nothing in common, then suddenly everything clicks into place. A fascinating and well-paced read.

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Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds

December 22, 2009 Comments off

I loved this book. It’s a tale of murder and revenge, with a stunning twist that will keep your fingers glued to those pages. Two tales in fact, since the life story of a historical character is told in flashback, that explains the situation on the planet where the story begins.

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Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber

December 15, 2009 Comments off

This is a book I read in a couple of days, and then spent a couple of months thinking about. Then I read it again.

It starts off, as many SF stories do, with humanity exploring the galaxy, colonising planets, and then coming into contact with an implacable alien force bent on humanity’s destruction.

They win.

Humanity is reduced to a few colonists sent off in a desperate last-ditch effort to re-establish the species, and stay low-tech and out of sight until humanity is ready to face the aliens and win. Instead, the colony directors brainwash the colonists into believing them to be angels, sent by god to rule over them. The military directors argue against this, there is a fight, and the ‘angels’ manage to wipe themselves out.

Nine Hundred years later, a robotic body is activated, complete with the memories of a young ship’s officer. Her task, given via recorded message, is to go out into a society ruled over by a rigid church that has banned technology, and prepare the way for the second coming of humanity.

Her name is Nimue Alban and hers is one hell of a story.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

October 23, 2009 Comments off

This modern work of philosophy is a must-read for anyone who reads. No, really, it’s that good. It is the world seen through the eyes of a child re-told by an author with a child-like view of the world.

The Little Prince has a great deal of charm, with the occasional sting, just so you know. From the stupidity of bureaucracy through to self-destructive behaviour, expressions of love and the vanity of greed and power, this book provides a welcome, gentle poke at society in all its strange forms.

The author urges us to be more like the Prince, and you can tell this is something he wants for himself too. de Saint-Exupery died in 1944, probably shot down over the Mediterranean (he loved the solitude of flying), fortunately for us, his work lives on.

Reading Communities

August 18, 2008 Comments off

Many of you may have been in reading groups, book clubs and the like. A group of people come together, read a book, and then talk about it.

Something I haven’t found yet (but maybe it’s out there) is a community site where people talk about the books they love, to people who have never read those books.

Sites, like book clubs tend to focus on drawing like-minded readers together, often based around genre. So there will be a sf reader site, where people who care about such things can argue the pros and cons of ‘hard sf’ versus ‘space opera’ to their hearts’ content.

I would like a site that encourages me to seek out interesting things I’ve never heard of, with a structure that serves them up to me, since all that mouse clicking can be exhausting. A reading community, of people drawn by a love of reading, a love of stories, and a willingness to share and discover.

It’s Monday, and I’m dreaming. Realistically, if I want such a site, I should build it. Hmm.

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Cutting the Genre Cake

August 6, 2008 Comments off

To me, there are just two valid categories of books – those worth reading, and those not. I think this is how it works for everyone else too, individually. When we want to discuss books with others, as well as the breathless recommendations “oh, you must read…” there’s that grey area of “you’ll like this one if you enjoyed that one”.

This is where genre starts to creep in, at least for me. Other than as an aid to communication, I don’t care for it. So when I wanted to list off some recommended books, I decided to divide things by genre. This I thought would be a way of dividing the books into small, themed bite sized chunks that would fit easily into an article.

More fool me.

My main lesson was more of a reminder – that genre, like taste, is subjective. When I write a top 5 fantasy list and then get taken to task for not including books such as Perdido Street Station and the Baroque Cycle, I do a double take. Those aren’t fantasy as I cut my genre. Those are speculative fiction and historical fiction, respectively. But it’s not helpful to point that out. Here genre obfuscates rather than aids discussion of what really matter – books worth reading. Who cares what genre those books are – what they are above all if great books worth anyone’s time to read.

Genre, as I’ve mentioned before, is a device invented by booksellers to facilitate the selling of books. Genre tends to apply only to subsections of books – fantasy, science fiction, and crime fiction. The terms science fiction and fantasy are often used interchangeably. We know what they mean. Genre is a selling tool, not a discussion aid. I knew this, and should have approached things differently from the start.

So I’ve abandoned the lists. I will create a recommendations page and put as many books on there as I think should be on there. That will be far more helpful, and, as per the list articles, all reader suggestions for further reading are most welcome. Hopefully this time they will be made after a clear article that encourages and doesn’t narrow discussion.

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A Short Break

July 10, 2008 Comments off

Normal posting service will resume on Wednesday July 16.

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