Sunday Status Update: May 24, 2015

This week, Red Sonja again. Yeah, I don’t know.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Red Sonja: A duke contracted me this week (good thing too — I was almost back to turnips three meals a day) to find his daughter, who had apparently been abducted by a dragon. I’ve never been exactly clear on why dragons want girls (if they’re not going to just eat them), or in fact how they always seemed to latch onto a nobleman’s daughter. Did a bit of digging and it turns out she went of her own accord. There’s apparently some kind of thriving subculture of bored (read: rich) girls writing about romance with dragons, and dragons turning into particularly studly men, and that sort of nonsense. So anyway, dropped by the cave, had a chat with the dragon. Nice bloke, couldn’t be happier to get rid of the girl. Unfortunately, the little idiot spotted a vampire when we were halfway back and decided to elope, so now she’s quite a bit paler and breathing corpsebreath right against the back of my head. She didn’t get covered with any blood while I was pounding in the stake, though. Oh no, that was all me. Little crusty flakes of it drop off every time I blink too hard. Hate this kid.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Jana: I’ve been too busy this week to get any serious chunks of reading time, so I’m still working on The Gracekeepers, by Kirsty Logan, and Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. (They’re both really good, though, so please don’t take my slowed reading speed as an indicator of quality!) Also, did you know that Ann Leckie has a bibliography section on her blog, where you can read much of her published short fiction? I highly recommend “Night’s Slow Poison,” which is a small piece within the larger Imperial Radch universe, and “Maiden, Mother, Crone,” a lovely story about inherited witchcraft and familial bonds. Leckie was kind enough to bring this to my attention on Twitter, and I’m passing it on in case anyone else is in the same boat I was in: adrift in a sea of sadness, waiting until October for Ancillary Mercy.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews João: Still reading Stephen Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Bane because there were some days where I had to pull all-nighters to finish a Computational Physics project and didn’t have the mental acuity to read Donaldson’s lyrical, but complex, prose. Still think it’s a great book though. Have also gotten an early copy of Aliette de Bodard’s upcoming The House of Shattered Wings, which I am very excited to be able to read.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kat: Still trying to catch up or end all the series I’ve previously started, I finished off four this week. Tokyo Raider is the last audio short story inLarry Correia’s GRIMNOIR CHRONICLES. I think there will be another trilogy set in this world in the future, but for now I’m caught up. All is Fair, the last book in Emma Newman’s SPLIT WORLDS trilogy was kind of dull for me because I never really connected to any of her characters (which is why I never finished it before now). Fiendish Schemes is K.W. Jeter’s sequel to his steampunk classic Infernal Devices. Jeter is an acquired taste, I think, but I’m a fan. Today I should come to the end of The Rebirths of Tao, the final book in Wesley Chu’s fun TAO series. Next week I plan to complete two more series, but there are so many more to go!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Marion: I read all of the shortlisted novellas for the Hugo Award this week. That was disappointing. I finished up The Fold, by Peter Clines, which comes out early next month, and enjoyed it. A review will follow. I had never read Cetaganda, an early Miles Vorkosigan story by Lois McMaster Bujold, so I finally dove into it.  It’s dated, but still good fun. I went to a book event on Wednesday and picked up Giallo Fantastique, a crime/horror anthology published by WordHorde, and I’ve read one or two of the very creepy short stories in there. As I look at the list it seems light and eclectic, with the novellas functioning as a black hole in the week.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Rachael: This week I finished Reaper Man (review in the pipeline) and picked up an old favourite: Good Omens. I also went old school (we’re talking almost 3000 years here) and read Homer’s Odyssey, a story about gods and nymphs and giant man-eating whirlpools, which I guess makes Homer the great-great…………great-grandfather of fantasy.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Ryan: This week, I began Neal Stephenson‘s Seveneves. I also have bookmarks in Emmi Itäranta‘s Memory of Water and Kim Stanley Robinson‘s The Years of Salt and Rice.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Stuart: This week I listened to two books I’ve been meaning to read for over two decades, Stanislaw Lem‘s Solaris and Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange. Both books were excellent and thought-provoking, and of course I included film comparisons in my reviews of them. In particular, the narration for A Clockwork Orange by Tom Hollander was brilliant.

I also finished off William Goldman‘s The Princess Bride, which was fun but the framing narrative dragged on too much after the central story ended. I also started Neil Gaiman‘s Stardust (loved the movie) and Iain M. BanksConsider Phlebas, the first book in his Culture series, which I last read over 20 years ago.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Terry: It’s been a heavy work week, so reading has been hard to come by.  Still, I’ve made it through the Nebula-nominated novellas.  Watch this space for my review and my pick for the honors.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: This week, I listened to some of Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation. I’m finding it fairly enjoyable, although to be honest other “masterwork sci/fi” novels I’ve listened to have struck me as more engaging. Maybe it’s just the era in which Asimov was writing, but I find myself rolling my eyes a bit as a psychologist mathematically proves the imminent destruction of a galaxy-spanning Empire on a pocket calculator (in seconds). It’s not that Asimov isn’t a dynamic author and worth reading, it’s just that the ideas just feel more about Gee-Whiz scientific daydreaming than the more politically focused “what has humanity wrought?!” stuff to which I guess I’ve become more accustomed. My reaction is actually a little alarming, as I’ve always regarded the hard/soft sci-fi division as silly. Or at least I thought I did. Huh.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Bill:Missed last week’s, so the past two weeks I read:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: reread for our next book chat. Still stands up as it always does for me.

Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury — a good ratio of excellent/good to “meh”/weak stories by various authors. Several standout ones that make it worth the read alone (by Alice Hoffman, Joe Hill, Robert McCammon and Neil Gaiman)

The graphic adaptation of several of the stories from the original. Disappointing, though Hoffman’s story makes it close to worth it by itself (though it, and Joe Hill’s — especially his — are much stronger in their original incarnations)

Shadow by Will Elliot: a disappointing follow-up to his The Pilgrims

Citizen of the Galaxy graphic adaptation: also disappointing, mostly do to being far too rushed with abrupt shifts

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente, hmm, “disappointing” was the word of the month I guess. This I though was the weakest in a series that started quite strong

When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner. As my review tag line said —too much fighting, not enough characterization, so yes, “disappointing.

Trial of Intentions by Peter O’Rullian: I like what he’s trying to do here, what he could have done here, but the execution is off and one storyline is just infuriating. Though I’ll stick with it to book three probably (maybe).

Apparently, save for the Bradbury anthology, I had to go outside the genre to not be disappointed:

Rain by Cynthia Barnett: a mostly engaging, informative, if a little too stretched look at something most of us take for granted until we get too much or too little of it

Dear Mister Essay Writing Guy by Dinty Moore, a breezy, funny, and at times useful (though mostly funny) series of questions posed by non-fiction authors and answered by Dinty Moore via a direct response and then an applicable essay of his own

Great American Prose Poems ed. By David Lehman: most didn’t do it for me, but several were fantastic


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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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10 comments

  1. Marion Deeds /

    Tim — I think a lot of Asimov’s motivation was “Gee Whiz! Wouldn’t this be cool?” We are different readers now, and we bring a slightly more wary eye to the wonders of science, but I remember that innocent enthusiasm (which, to be fair, was playing out in the shadow of the thermonuclear bomb). I hope you appreciate that the really cool device in that scene was the hand-held calculator!

  2. Tim, the reason I don’t like FOUNDATION as much as everyone else does is because I’m a psychologist and I know that the whole premise of that series is completely ridiculous. No psychologist thinks what he did will ever be possible. But I think back then, as you suggest, when Freud was popular, people thought that psychologists had a lot more answers than they actually did. Over the years, the more we’ve learned about human behavior, the more we realize we don’t know.

    • Yeah, while I still like Foundation fairly well, I’d say both you and Marian are pretty much on the money — I’m aware that Asimov was writing for another audience and I try to read it as the fun, breathless adventure it was intended to be, but thoughts like “that’s so dumb” keep drifting across my mind, lol. Ah well. It’s nothing that’s Asimov’s fault…

    • Kat, it’s clear your issues with Foundation have to do with some unresolved issues about your father (whom you saw as the “Foundation” of your family), possibly because you remain in the latency stage, thanks perhaps due to the memory you buried regarding the indifference you perceived coming from your mother when you were two months old and she picked up your fallen pacifier without cleaning it off and just plunked it back in your mouth, raising all sorts of questions regarding two other stages. Oh, I see our time is up–see me next week and I’ll have more to say, perhaps on how a rocketship is sometimes more than a rocketship . . .

      • Bill, that’s it exactly. My mom is so cold and my dad is so hot.

        I have sent the weekly $100 by paypal again, as I have been doing for the last 5 years.

        • Send Bill some more money to have his couch re-upholstered as well…

          • Reupholster? And lose all those years of angst and sorrow and anger that have slowly seeped into the fabric? Nah. I’ll just keep putting that money to use honing my German.

  3. Lots of classics in this list – good reading, guys!

  4. I didn’t like the Foundation series when I read it in high school, and I can’t remember a single thing from the entire series (including Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth).

    Is it fair to say that Asimov was the weakest writer of the Big Three (Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov) and that his books have aged the most?

    • April /

      I actually had a government/international affairs class in college that was built around the Foundation series. I don’t remember a thing about it other than it was an enjoyable class.

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