I enjoyed this collection of mid-period Asimov. The stories were pretty classic Asimov, short on character, but long on plot and action and I thoughtI enjoyed this collection of mid-period Asimov. The stories were pretty classic Asimov, short on character, but long on plot and action and I thought the forewords and afterwords where the Good Doctor talked both about the story and threw in autobiographical details of his own life were just as interesting. When talking directly to the reader, Asimov has a wonderfully chatty style; I'd have loved to have met him in person (although I can say that safely, as I'm not a young woman).
Of the stories themselves, partial as I am to a good shaggy dog story (I love Clarke's Tales from the White Hart, for example), Shah Guido G. was a good one, with a fabulous pun at the end of it. The title story, Buy Jupiter was a nice one too, with another neat sting in the tail. Does a Bee Care? is one that I've read before in another collection somewhere and still enjoyed on a reread, while Let's Not is one of several dystopic or post-apocalyptic stories in the collection, and the last line is a stinger.
So a strong collection, worthy of the established fan and the Asimov novice alike, but as noteworthy for the biographical detail from the author as the stories themselves....more
I didn't realise this tale of far-future space exploration was part of a series until I added it to my GoodReads list, a couple of hundred pages in. II didn't realise this tale of far-future space exploration was part of a series until I added it to my GoodReads list, a couple of hundred pages in. I found out later, from Reynolds' website, that all three books in the series are intended to be able to be read individually and I've got to tip my hat to the man, I very much enjoyed this without having read the others in the series. Reynolds' world-building is impeccable, he introduced elements that have presumably been major points in previous books with a deft touch, never infodumping, but never leaving me floundering, wondering what was going on.
I feel like I know Eunice and Chiku Akinya even though they never turn up in this book (sort of). The Tantors are fabulous creations and the Risen maintain their air of intimidating creepiness throughout. The themes are very broad, Reynolds' certainly doesn't stint there. The thoughts on machine intelligence, the idea of the Terror (with a capital T) and the constant theme of hope for mankind and the other intelligences it shares the universe with maybe actually getting along. That is worth reading. Kanu is probably the character who espouses that the most, particularly through his relationship with Swift.
I found Goma to be an interesting character, although she sometimes felt like she was there to push the plot forward more than anything else. And even as an atheist myself, I found her hard-line attitude to Peter Graves somewhat bewildering.
(view spoiler)[The only bit of characterisation that I really didn't quite felt worked was Dakota's change of heart on Poseiden. She'd been so focused on getting there for so long, and suddenly she changes her mind and thinks it maybe isn't a good idea? I don't really get that. (hide spoiler)]
This was great space opera (and pleasingly sticking with slower-than-light travel for all concerned). I'm definitely going to go back and read the other books in the series now.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Three thousand years have passed since Ender Wiggins committed unwitting xenocide in Ender's Game, but thanks to relativistic interstellar travel, boThree thousand years have passed since Ender Wiggins committed unwitting xenocide in Ender's Game, but thanks to relativistic interstellar travel, both he and his sister Valentine remain young, as they search for somewhere to release the last of the alien 'bugger' hive queen. On the colony world of Lusitania another alien species has been found, this time in a primitive state. To prevent another xenocide, the Hundred Worlds Starways Congress enacts a law much like the Prime Directive forbidding interference in the culture of the new species, colloquially known as 'piggies'. However, despite this, the colony's xenobiologist still dies, vivisected by the piggies. Ender, now a Speaker for the Dead, is called to speak his death. Twenty years pass before he is able to arrive (only a few weeks for him) and he finds a colony full of pain and secrets. It's up to him and the hidden AI sentience known as Jane to try and prevent another xenocide.
Although it's been a very long time since I've read Ender's Game, this feels like a very different book. It's a talky book, with a very interesting alien ecosystem at its heart. I was frustrated at by the lack of information about that for most of the length of the novel, as just asking some basic questions would have resolved matters. Regarding that, Ender's explanation of the motives behind the 'prime directive' law makes an awful lot of sense and I can understand it in that context.
I found this a very humanistic and compassionate book. As Ender digs into the life of the man he's come to Speak, he finds many secrets and buried pain, but he excises it like a surgeon, skilfully and without malice. I appreciate that writer and book are different things, but I can't really match the writer of Speaker for the Dead with Card's politics and other views. I prefer the Card who wrote this book.
Although there are unresolved plot threads left hanging at the end of this book, there is closure, so I don't feel the need to read the sequel. This is perfectly readable as a standalone book (although I'd still read Ender's Game first to understand the character of Ender better)....more
This is an appropriately timey-wimey multi-Doctor story by the writer of Father's Day and the novel British Summertime. Clara finds a picture that shThis is an appropriately timey-wimey multi-Doctor story by the writer of Father's Day and the novel British Summertime. Clara finds a picture that should be impossible, and sets out to make sure that it doesn't happen. As you'd expect, the rest of it doesn't go to plan. It's a fun story primarily involving the the 10th, 11th and 12th Doctors, although others do make cameos. Clara is travelling with the 12th Doctor, but the companions of the 10th and 11th Doctors are ones that we haven't seen on TV (Gabby and Alice respectively). I don't know if they're been around in the comics for a while, but having just encountered them in this one graphic novel, I can definitely say that they feel like the kind of people that the Doctor would hang out with, so that's a definite bonus.
The Doctors themselves are mostly written to their own characters although occasionally the 10th and 11th feel a little interchangeable (not something that can be said for Spiky Twelve). I found the art a little inconsistent: at times I wouldn't have recognised someone if it weren't for what they were wearing (dunno if it was just me, but the 10th Doctor seemed to suffer from that the most; I don't know if David Tennant just has a difficult likeness to capture).
I also liked the little mini-comics at the end of each issue (especially the one with the Doctors doing various sketches from British comedy, but then I'm a bit of a fan of Neil Slorance).
So, a fun story, although I did have to read it twice to grok it, what with the time travel, alternate timelines (I particularly liked the Time Lord Victorious) and paradoxes, but it's definitely satisfying....more
So Mike Callahan is gone, back to his own time and place, and Callahan's Place was blown up in a nuclear explosion. Is that going to stop the regularsSo Mike Callahan is gone, back to his own time and place, and Callahan's Place was blown up in a nuclear explosion. Is that going to stop the regulars? Of course not. Several years later, Jake Stonebender, our narrator through the series, opens his own bar, Mary's Place, and the old Callahan's regulars flock back. Hilarity (or at least puns), as they say, ensue.
This was an enjoyable book to read, but, for me, it misses the magic of the original trilogy. The core theme there was to help those who came in, on the principle that pain shared is reduced, while joy shared is increased. Here, we only get one new person to help in that way: Jonathan Crawford, who is overwhelmed with guilt. Although we have some new characters introduced here, Duck and Naggeneen amongst others, they're not hurting and in need of solace. We don't get to see the gang doing what they do best, which means that, I fear, we don't get to see Robinson at his best either.
This is still an entertaining book, although one for established fans and definitely not a jumping on point for new readers, but it's to the earlier books what Mary's Place is to Callahan's: a good try, but missing a vital ingredient....more
After I finished this book I wanted to hug every single crew member of the Wayfarer (yes, even Corbin). Since that wasn't possible, I settled for theAfter I finished this book I wanted to hug every single crew member of the Wayfarer (yes, even Corbin). Since that wasn't possible, I settled for the next best thing: I hugged the book instead. I absolutely adored this book but I'm struggling to put just why into words. The plot concerns the crew of the wormhole tunnelling ship Wayfarer, recently joined by Rosemary Harper, who is running away from her past. The crew is a heterogeneous affair, captained by a Human but with several other species on board. Right from the start you realise just how integrated they are, the lizard-like Aandrisk navigator, the strange double-minded Navigator, the jovial Dr Chef (whose name encompasses his functions), not to mention the ship's AI, Lovey, as well as the human techs and algaeist who keep the ship running. Rosemary is lost at first, but soon settles into this odd crew, who are just about to get the contract of a lifetime.
The blurb on the cover of my copy uses the word 'humane' to describe the book, and I think that's a great word. There's something about it that gives you hope for Humanity and its future. One thing that I liked about it was that humans aren't top dog in this universe. They're Johnny-come-latelys to galactic society and only by accident at that. Humans messed up their own planet and had to flee, some to the solar system and others built a big fleet and sailed off into the unknown. If they hadn't been found by an alien probe, they would all have died, and this has given them a sense of humility, one entirely lacking in current society. The 'Exodans' (those descended from the exodus Fleet) are mostly pacifist and have an understanding of themselves that I hope that we can achieve without having to lose the Earth.
So yes, humane, joyous, fun. For once, the cover blurbs are entirely accurate, as far as I'm concerned. I grew to care deeply about the crew of the Wayfarer and their very disparate lives and societies, yet bound together with ties of friendship and more. I was welling up more than once while reading this book, and rarely because of sadness. The writing is absolutely lovely and had me going at the good as much as the bad. And there's certainly darkness in this universe. We see that in the "practicality" of the Galactic Commons, in the stories of Rosemary and Dr Chef and in hints at the past. But this is a galactic culture that accepts its history and looks forward as well.
I know there's a companion novel (not sequel) to this coming out, but that seems to have a different focus. I really hope that there's more stories to be told about the Wayfarer. I, for one, am going to desperately miss her crew....more
Karen Memery is a working girl (a "seamstress") in a city something like San Francisco in an age where airships plough the sky, Singer have built walkKaren Memery is a working girl (a "seamstress") in a city something like San Francisco in an age where airships plough the sky, Singer have built walk-in sewing machines and mad science is licensed. One day a girl arrives at their door fleeing for her life, with her pursuer right behind her. This sets off a chain of events that include mind control, murdered street walkers and a US marshal coming to town.
There's an awful lot to enjoy in this book. The setting starts off subtle so you hardly notice when the oversized Singer and nasty electric glove show up. Karen is a great narrator, and the book is written in her vernacular, also helping envelop you into the world of the book. It's nice to see a story where LGBT characters are prominent, yet not playing to that (moreso since much of the book does place in a brothel), not to mention people of colour playing prominent roles (one major secondary character is black, another is Indian [from India, not Native American]). I think perhaps there was one capture/escape cycle too much but the book is very readable and a lot of fun....more
I'm an avid fan of Robinson's Callahan's series so when I discovered that he had written more in that universe, I snapped it up, even though it's notI'm an avid fan of Robinson's Callahan's series so when I discovered that he had written more in that universe, I snapped it up, even though it's not set in Callahan's itself. This series of four linked stories is, instead, set in Lady Sally's, a brothel run by Callahan's wife (the eponymous Lady Sally), which rather than being the usual sort of sordid place that these often are, is instead a 'house of healthy repute', where the 'artists' deal with 'clients' and everyone is happy, in the same way that people are at Callahan's.
I mostly enjoyed the stories, although I can't help worrying that Lady Sally's place feels a little like wish-fulfilment (or is that saying more about me than the author?). As for the stories themselves, the first tells how our narrator, Maureen, comes to work at Lady Sally's, after being saved from her pimp. The second demonstrates why despite their protests, a teenage boy's dearest wish is a bad idea; the third is all about control and is probably the creepiest story in the whole book for me, as control is taken away from everyone we've come to like. The final story is a bit of a heist and introduces Maureen's friend, the Professor.
We do meet some regulars from Callahan's. Mike himself pops up, as do Fast Eddie, Jake (narrator of the Callahan's stories) and Ralph von Wau Wau, but they all pretty much just have cameos. I think for me the thing that doesn't quite gel is that Lady Sally's doesn't have quite the same empathy of Callahan's place. Although the emphasis here, as well as there, is on helping people (clients mostly, in this case) it hasn't got the camaraderie of Callahan's famous pub, where everyone clubs round to help someone in need. Although Robinson does try to recreate that formula, for me, he doesn't quite manage it. (view spoiler)[Also, the whole romance thing in the last story sort of came out of nowhere and didn't entirely work for me. (hide spoiler)]
Oh, and I didn't think the puns were as good as those that get bandied around at Callahan's either.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I enjoyed Fenn's Downside Girls, the collection of short stories set in the Hidden Empires series, of which Principles of Angels is the first. This,I enjoyed Fenn's Downside Girls, the collection of short stories set in the Hidden Empires series, of which Principles of Angels is the first. This, however, didn't grab me a huge amount. The plot follows two main characters: Taro is the adopted son of the Angel Malia, who was murdered by the man who bought his body for the night; and Elern Reen is a musician who comes to Khesh City on behalf of a group that everyone thinks died out centuries ago to kill an Angel.
I found the book very slow to get started. The two strands are almost entirely separate until close to the end, when Taro and Elern finally meet, although their stories do overlap occasionally around the edges. I really wasn't hugely interested for a good chunk of the book, not finding it bad, it just didn't grab me. It got more exciting towards the end and there's a lot of good ideas in there, but it did feel a little like everything was thrown at the wall to see what would stick: floating city; divided society; state assassins; secret hidden enemies; aliens; and more that would constitute spoilers. I'm probably not going to bother too much in searching out more of the Hidden Empire books.
Through an unlikely series of events, astronaut Mark Watney, a member of the third manned mission to Mars, is abandoned alone, but alive, when his creThrough an unlikely series of events, astronaut Mark Watney, a member of the third manned mission to Mars, is abandoned alone, but alive, when his crew evacuates. He has to figure out how to stay alive, and how to contact Earth, long enough for any hope of rescue.
The first thing that struck me about this book is how funny it was. This is a very serious situation, and some authors might have played it such, but Weir gives Watney an upbeat, optimistic voice that doesn't let him get down, even when the odds are utterly against him. He's an extremely likeable protagonist, and you can't complain that he's uber-competent because he's a bloomin' astronaut. If you can't expect an astronaut to be just as competent at growing potatoes from scratch as rewiring the local oxygen reclaimer then who can you ask?
The whole book is incredibly readable. The writing is kept at a nice level and although the scientific explanations come thick and fast, they never break the flow of the book. And, peering back through to my GCSE and A-level chemistry and physics respectively, it seems that the major science is correct; at least nothing jumped out at my level of understanding as being an utter howler. That's very impressive. The whole book is very impressive and the only reason it didn't get 5 stars is because of the Taiyang Shen plotline, which sort of fizzled out. (view spoiler)[This confused me. Why was there only one possible booster that could do what they needed? Why couldn't a commercial launch from a Soyuz or Arianne be used? And even if the Taiyang Shen was required, I don't get the conviction that only booster of that design would ever be built. After spending so much money on the design of a booster, who the hell only uses it once?? Surely you want to build and use as many as you can to get maximum use from the design. And even if the Chinese wouldn't build another, then why couldn't the original probe be carried on a future American/Soyuz/Arianne booster. (hide spoiler)] This whole plotline fizzled out for me.
But apart from that, I loved this book from beginning to end. Highly readable, very exciting and with a really likeable protagonist to get behind. Definitely worth reading just to remind yourself how good the people we send into space, and the teams backing them up here on Earth, are.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
And so the great Questionable Content binge comes to an end. The fifth volume of QC shows an artist who continues to mature in his storytelling as welAnd so the great Questionable Content binge comes to an end. The fifth volume of QC shows an artist who continues to mature in his storytelling as well as introducing some new characters (Cosette, although not by name, and Marigold). Sven gets an intern/conscience and Faye starts to open up some more. There are several laugh out loud moments, including the last comic in the collection, featuring Pintsize and Momo.
The themes that I know will be coming up are still being explored, including Marten and Dora's relationship and Faye's drinking. And here's me thinking that webcomic writers just made stuff up on the day ;-). There are seeds being sown that will be reaped hundreds, if not thousands, of comics down the line. It'll be a while before I get to binge on paper again since, as of the time of writing, volume 5 is the latest paper collection available (and also, I know what to expect at the end of volume 6, so I may well wait until the one after before buying more).
But for now, I was trying to persuade myself that I have many real books to read, but who am I kidding, I'm going to go online and pick up from where this leaves off....more
Volume 4 of the esteemed Questionable Content has an immediate difference over its predecessors: it's a completely different format. Rather than a larVolume 4 of the esteemed Questionable Content has an immediate difference over its predecessors: it's a completely different format. Rather than a large square book, with two comics to a page, it's a much smaller but thicker book, putting a single comic over each two-page spread. This undeniably makes it easier to read (with less squinting over the text), but it does mean that the books will look different on my shelves, something I detest (I'm looking at you, Laundry Files and SF Masterworks).
As for content, this volume collects comics #900-1200 and both the storytelling and art continue to mature. We see Hannelore's mother for the first time, and while we don't see her father, he's definitely involved. Marten and Dora's relationship matures, as do Dora's insecurities. Speaking of insecurities, we also get to see a different side to Steve as he worries about his relationship with Meena. Faye's drinking gets spotlighted as well, but it's not all doom and gloom. There are a lot of laughs, especially where Pintsize and Wimslow are involved.
Some of the author commentary is quite interesting as well, especially where says that he wouldn't do a joke like that again (often to do with trans issues) or where he disagrees with his characters. I've been binging on QC as I got the whole lot of paper collections in one go. So I've got one more paper collection to go, and then it's back to just one strip a day :-/....more
My Great Questionable Content Binge continues with the third collection of the slice-of-life webcomic. So Marten and Dora have become a couple, but itMy Great Questionable Content Binge continues with the third collection of the slice-of-life webcomic. So Marten and Dora have become a couple, but it's interesting to see just how early that Dora's insecurity over the situation raised its head. I had forgotten about that, from when I was reading it online. (view spoiler)[I had to skip ahead on the webcomic to find out when they broke up, and it's not until about #1800 or so, so there's a good couple of more volumes of Marten/Dora coupledom to come, but if he sticks with the 300 or so comics to the collection, volume 6 will end on a downer :(. (hide spoiler)] It's also interesting to see how early the seeds of Faye's hard-drinking and her friends' worrying about it were sown. That's something that will get reaped 2000 or so strip down the line. Blimey, that's some forward planning, going on there!
The enlargement of the cast continues with Penelope (or is that Pizza Girl?) joining the Coffee of Doom crew as well as Tai and Angus making their débuts. QC has turned from a will they/won't they romance into, effectively, a humorous soap opera, albeit a soap opera with murderous scooters, mischievous PCs and semi-feral roombas. It's a lot of fun to read, and so much quicker on paper than on-screen (those waits between page loads cumulatively add up).["br"]>["br"]>...more
The second three hundred strips of the excellent Questionable Content see the format shift. We finally get a resolution to the will they/won't they thThe second three hundred strips of the excellent Questionable Content see the format shift. We finally get a resolution to the will they/won't they thing between Faye and Marten and the introduction of the rather awesome Hannelore. The art starts to mature as well and by the end of this volume we start to see the characters as we know and love them today. The cast also starts to expand as not only Hannelore appears, but we start seeing the family of our already established cast, with Marten's mum, Dora's brother and Faye's mum and sister. This starts to make our cast start to feel like rounded people with real lives that we care about (especially after we find out about Faye's history) and this is something that Jacques has been very good at maintaining to this day. So still early days but evolving rapidly....more
This is an interesting collection of science fiction short stories, all written by women around the dawn of the genre: the tail end of the 19th and eaThis is an interesting collection of science fiction short stories, all written by women around the dawn of the genre: the tail end of the 19th and early decades of the 20th centuries. I must confess to being completely unfamiliar with any of the authors, except Edith Nesbit, of Five Children and It fame, but it was interesting to see that women were writing in what is usually regarded as a very male-dominated genre and era right from the start. Some of these stories were published in the big magazines of the era (Amazing Stories, Astounding etc), others were published in mainstream publications and still others were published in author anthologies: the same routes to publication as we see today (plus ça change and all that). As the editor says in his introduction, these women were pioneers in the field, tackling themes that are still common in the genre today: time travel, alternative universes, cybernetics, robots and more.
The stories are as varied as you'd expect, ranging from grim stories of genocide (Via the Hewitt Ray) through whimsical stories about strange islands (Friend Island) to humorous stories of unhelpful household aids (Ely's Automatic Housemaid). Nothing particularly jumped out at me as a wonderful story that I must keep forever, but there were no real clunkers either, although you do have to remember that these are period stories and have to be read as such. Very interesting for the historical context but also enjoyable in itself....more
I've been reading Questionable Content for several years now and have read it start to end online a couple of times since then, but I've decided to spI've been reading Questionable Content for several years now and have read it start to end online a couple of times since then, but I've decided to splurge on paper copies. The book is physically attractive, being a good size, although I was disappointed by the size of the comics within, with the text sometimes making me squint a bit (especially in some of the wordier ones). But QC is a vertical strip, so having two strips side by side like that on a page seems like the best way to make it work. The art is a bit wobbly in this volume, a long way from Jacques' later work (as seen on the cover and some of the early strips here, where the originals weren't of good enough quality to print, so he redrew them) but something I always like about webcomics is the way that we can literally see the artist getting better in front of our eyes.
The plot concerns indie kid Marten and his pals (including sociopathic AI pal Pintsize) just trying to get on in life, find love, a job that they don't hate and talk a load of crap about music. I'd forgotten just how much time the early comic spends talking about music and bands that I've never heard of. Thankfully, this fades away later on, but if that's not your geekdom, those strips are skippable. I'd also forgotten just how small the cast is at this stage. QC's cast grows arms and legs over the years, but here, it's pretty much just entirely Marten, his flatmate Faye and her boss Dora forming the core love-triangle cast, with Marten's friend Steve and Pintsize as the supporting cast.
The book is funny, interesting and shows flashes of the greatness to come, but it's still definitely worth reading on its own merits....more
This is a small collection of four short stories set in Fenn's 'Hidden Empire' universe. The first three stories all directly involve Angels, the offiThis is a small collection of four short stories set in Fenn's 'Hidden Empire' universe. The first three stories all directly involve Angels, the official assassins of the City, while the last focuses on a musician and only references them indirectly. I've not actually read anything else by Fenn, but she's going to be a Guest of Honour at Satellite 5 so I thought I should read something that she's written before the con and I enjoyed the collection quite a lot.
Fenn is excellent at both storytelling and worldbuilding without exposition. Despite it never really being mentioned, I picked up a fair bit about the City that the stories are set in, and I enjoyed reading about this city whose elected officials all have a Sword of Damocles hanging over them. If they fail to do what is expected of them, the Angels carry out "the will of the people" and "remove" them from public life. Permanently. The three linked stories see a few characters recurring, from the newly appointed Angel, Malia, to the shadowy Minister, the master of the Angels.
Collateral Damage starts with a newly appointed Angel and an accidental friendship that she strikes up with a woman in a bar and deals with love and betrayal. Death on Elsewhere Street has a downsider getting accidentally involved with a "removal" and the repercussions that she has to deal with following it. The final linked story, Angel Dust sees a young downsider have to complete a mission for a wounded Angel to the Minister himself. This is probably the widest in scope of the three stories, the one that gives us more than a very narrow view of the City and whets the appetite the most.
The fourth story, The Three Temptations of Larnier Mier shows us a musician who was injured while witnessing a removal and who must decide between her career and her faith. I found this one somewhat less interesting than the Angel stories. Perhaps I was hoping for a different outcome, but you can never entirely win with religion.
I enjoyed the collection a lot, and I'm intrigued now to read Principles of Angels, the book from which these stories are spun off. However, I'm somewhat put off after discovering that that is the first in a series that currently spans five books, and it's not clear if it's finished or not. I don't know if I want to commit to yet another ongoing series, but that's a question that I can perhaps put to Fenn at the con :).
Oh, and I'm still not entirely sure if the cover art is fantastic or awful....more
In the fourteenth (fourteenth!) volume of the Foglio's epic Girl Genius series, our heroine, Agatha Heterodyne, has escaped from the time-locked MechaIn the fourteenth (fourteenth!) volume of the Foglio's epic Girl Genius series, our heroine, Agatha Heterodyne, has escaped from the time-locked Mechanicberg and is trying to get to Paris, where she hopes to learn enough to free her city. The logical way to get there is by train, but these aren't just any trains. They're run by a monastic order, who have their own views about the sanctity of the timetable, and have the firepower to back them up.
The introduction to this volume says that it would make a good jumping on point for new readers, but I think that's crazy talk. We're thirteen volumes into an ongoing story with well-established characters and a pretty damn complex plot (besides, the whole thing can be read for free online).
The story is as fun as ever, as we rejoin Agatha, Gil, Martellus and the rest of the cast, each with their own, complex stories, motives and machinations. There's not nearly enough Jägers in it for my taste, but then I've always had a soft spot for the Jägermonsters. Now, roll on the next volume! (You see what I did there...? 'Cos they're on a train...? I'll get me coat...)...more
This is a small collection of three short one-act plays that Bradbury wrote in the 1970s that I was completely unaware of, although in saying that, IThis is a small collection of three short one-act plays that Bradbury wrote in the 1970s that I was completely unaware of, although in saying that, I recognise both the title play (The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit) and one other (The Veldt) as short stories. I don't know if they started off as plays and were converted, or the other way around but both still work very well as plays. I'm not so experienced at reading plays but it does feel like there's dialogue but not much in the way of stage direction.
The title play follows six young Latino immigrant workers who pool their resources and buy a single white suit that they share out amongst themselves. It's about friendship and poverty and what can be learned through sharing and is a sweet little play. The Veldt is an altogether darker affair. It has themes of parental affection, misuse of technology and the tension between work and family life. The final play, To the Chicago Abyss has elements of Fahrenheit 451, although from a different perspective.
I would love to see these performed, just to see how they'd work on stage, rather than on the page, especially the technological magic of The Veldt. Even without that, though, they're still very enjoyable to read....more
This anthology brings together short fiction that was nominated for, and some that won, the James Tiptree Award for "science fiction or fantasy that eThis anthology brings together short fiction that was nominated for, and some that won, the James Tiptree Award for "science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender". As well as that, there are a number of essays both relating to the award itself and the wider genre. There were a number of stories here that I enjoyed a lot, and some less so.
Looking Through Lace, by Ruth Nestvold, was probably my favourite story in the collection. This is about a young xenolinguist trying to understand the complexities of an alien language while also having to overcome the prejudices of her superior. This one reminded me of some of Ursula K. Le Guin's anthropological stories and I liked the characterisation and deft worldbuilding.
I also enjoyed both the retellings of The Snow Queen (itself also included in the collection) preferring the modern Travels with the Snow Queen over the Japanese-set The Lady of the Ice Garden.
I was less keen on The Catgirl Manifesto: An Introduction by Richard Calder. This was written as an academic-style introduction to a fictional work that seemed to have a few layers of fiction to it. Perhaps I would get more out of it on a second reading, but as it stood I found it difficult to follow and somewhat incoherent.
So a good collection if you're interested in exploring gender or just want some challenging SF....more
I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this book to start with because of the change to Louis Wu's circumstances at the start of the novel (he's a junkie,I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this book to start with because of the change to Louis Wu's circumstances at the start of the novel (he's a junkie, addicted to the pure pleasure of electrical stimulation of the brain). But that actually turned out to be one of the more interesting things about the book. Why would a character as obviously strong as Wu turn to the wire? That question does get answered, along with the other obvious question of what he does next. Perhaps his escape from addiction was a little too easy, but, as I've said, we know from the previous book that Louis has a very strong will.
The return to the Ringworld itself is interesting if not novel. The quest that Louis and his alien companions find themselves on is, eventually, to deal with the instability of the Ring and save its trillions of inhabitants from doom as it crashes into its star.
The one moment of pure 'sensawunda' in the book, for me equivalent to learning about the Fleet of Worlds from Ringworld, is when we learn how the Ringworld's meteor defence system works. That left me giggling to myself in awe for quite a while.
This sequel is, in no way, essential. Ringworld stood on its own perfectly well. The only reason I picked it up was because it was very cheap at a book sale and I needed another book to get the four-for-a-pound deal. I don't regret having read it, but I doubt it'll leave much of a mental impact....more
Writing reviews of Saga is starting to get a little dull, really. Each volume is brilliant and moves the story in new directions that throw me off-balWriting reviews of Saga is starting to get a little dull, really. Each volume is brilliant and moves the story in new directions that throw me off-balance but never to a degree that I stop enjoying the story or caring for the characters. Fiona Staples' art also continues to be gorgeous, bringing the characters to life in their weird, sexy, horrific glory.
Alana and Marco have been separated by the wannabe revolutionary, Dengo, of the Robot people and while Alana tries to deal with him to recover Hazel, Marco has to team up with his enemy, Prince Robot IV whose child Dengo has also kidnapped.
This all happens in parallel with Gwendolyn and Sophie's quest to find something that can save The Will, and doesn't that storyline come with a kick to the gut!
I basically like all of these people and just want them to all talk over their problems, work them out and all live happily in a Friends-style apartment block where they'd be in and out of each others' homes all the time. Yeah, I know. A guy can daydream though!
I don't know how much Saga there is to come, but I look forward to the time when I can basically sit down with a bit pile of graphic novels next to my chair and just work through the whole story in one sitting. ...more
Picking up pretty much directly from where Ancilliary Sword left off, the conclusion to Breq's trilogy again changes the direction of the series a biPicking up pretty much directly from where Ancilliary Sword left off, the conclusion to Breq's trilogy again changes the direction of the series a bit, with things that have been rumbling a little in the background coming more to the fore. Breq is now publicly known as the last remaining piece of Justice of Toren and she must move quickly to protect Athoek system from the inevitable attack by Anaander Mianaai.
There's a lot to love in this book and I pretty much want to just pick up the first book again and read the whole trilogy in one go, although I think I'm going to resist doing that until I make more of a dent in my to-read pile.
I think this book brings Breq's involvement in the wider story of the Radch to an end. There's lots more that she could do, of course, but I suspect that she'll be quite tied up in the aftermath of what happened in Atheok, and its fallout, to take any further part in wider events. And I can't imagine that there won't be further events. The story of the Radch and its ruler at war with herself is rich pickings for further storytelling and I look forward to reading it.
As for this one, it was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Not just Breq, but those around her got decent character development and all got a chance to do something cool....more
The fifth collected volume of of the utterly marvellous webcomic takes us to the end of Annie and Kat's year nine at Gunnerkrigg Court. Annie is now mThe fifth collected volume of of the utterly marvellous webcomic takes us to the end of Annie and Kat's year nine at Gunnerkrigg Court. Annie is now medium of the forest and her friend Andrew is medium of the Court. She has to balance her new duties with her education, not to mention all the ups and downs of being a teenage girl.
There are some lovely stories in this volume, especially that of Mort and how Annie helps him find peace, while at the same time finding out more about Jeanne, the ghost trapped in the Annan Water. The new romance between Kat and Paz is incredibly sweet and Annie's initial reaction to it is very believable for the girl that we've come to know over the last forty-something chapters.
The chapter that followed Renard and Hetty was beautifully told as well, with Renard's obvious pain over his past choices contrasting with the selfishness of Hetty. Renard is now one of my favourite characters in the story, which is saying something, in a story that has so many wonderful characters to choose from.
The final chapter is a suitably dramatic end to the year for the kids of the Court but it's the last couple of pages that really make it, with the revelation of the deepening of Robot's involvement in the cult that grown up around Kat.
Every time I think that Gunnerkrigg Court can't get better, it does. Siddell is growing as both a storyteller and an artist. However, now that the volume has ended, it'll be at least a year until the next one. Many webcomics work okay running a few pages a week (and Siddell has been nothing if not reliable at doing so) but I find GC impossible to read on such a schedule. I usually let a chapter or two build up and read them then, but it's really when you have a whole book in one go that you can appreciate the story properly. I don't know how much more there is to come, but I look forward to the day when I can put the entire set next to my chair and just work through them all in one giant binge. Until then, I'll keep reading one chapter, and one book, at a time....more
Of the three books in this omnibus volume, I definitely enjoyed the first the most. That one seemed to have the same sort of ethos as the Callahan's sOf the three books in this omnibus volume, I definitely enjoyed the first the most. That one seemed to have the same sort of ethos as the Callahan's stories, and the same sense of empathy. I felt that that got somewhat lost in the other two volumes and in particular, I found the protagonist of the second book somewhat annoying and difficult to relate to.
The idea of dance and art more generally was quite central (it being the Stardance books, after all) but I've never really been able to appreciate dance to a particularly high level. In particular, I've never found it particularly expressive of abstract concepts, something which is quite central to these books. I guess that's a failure of imagination on my part, though.
It was slightly uncomfortable having Chinese people be the villains across all three books. Admittedly, they were all members of the same family across time, but still, it felt a little uncomfortable to read, but it still felt a little off.
If I were to score each book individually, it would be 4 stars for Stardance, 2 stars for Starseed and 3 stars for Starmind....more
I'm a very recent convert to Callahan and his place, but I already adore it. These stories, all centred around Callahan's Place, its weird and wonderfI'm a very recent convert to Callahan and his place, but I already adore it. These stories, all centred around Callahan's Place, its weird and wonderful regulars and how they all go out of their way to help others are a joy to read. Warm, witty and humanist, Robinson shows a depth of feeling and empathy that really resonates with me. And the puns, oh goodness, the marvellous truly awful puns! I love puns (even if I'm not very good at them myself) so seeing them celebrated here was a(nother) wonderful thing about the book.
I've read many of the stories here in another collection but this is a superset of that, containing all the stories from there and a few others. This means that I can give away the other book, to let somebody else experience the joy of finding Callahan's Place while I go on and get hold of both the Lady Sally and Mary's Place books to continue the journey.
The unofficial motto of Callahan's Place is that pain shared is lessened while joy shared is increased. I'll get a glass of something, step up to the chalk line and raise a toast to that any day....more
I liked the second volume of Ursula K Le Guin's self-curated collection of short stories better than the first. This volume contains her more overtlyI liked the second volume of Ursula K Le Guin's self-curated collection of short stories better than the first. This volume contains her more overtly SFF stories, which are definitely more up my street than the Literary stories of the first. Le Guin's writing remains beguiling and a joy to read and these stories have the combination of character and plot that I prefer over focus on just character. Favourites include the Hainish stories, particularly The Matter of Seggri, a classic SF what-if story asking what would happen on a world where women vastly outnumbered men; Solitude, where a field ethnologist takes her two young children to a pre-contact planet where the adults are split by gender and rarely talk to one another; The Wife's Story is a different take on the werewolf genre; and, of course, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Call it a fable, a warning story or what you will, it's a beautiful, and immensely chilling story. Not a word is wasted and it remains with the reader long after the last page. It makes us question ourselves, and I have the haunting feeling that I wouldn't have the strength of character to be one of those who walks away.
So, a marvellous collection and both worthy addition to a fan's library and an excellent jumping-on point for those new to Le Guin's work (I include the first volume in that as well, to get the full range of her writing)....more
The Long Earth series is a bit of an oddity in the oeuvres of both Pratchett and Baxter, and I struggle to see aspects of either author, although whatThe Long Earth series is a bit of an oddity in the oeuvres of both Pratchett and Baxter, and I struggle to see aspects of either author, although what there is is very definitely Baxter over Pratchett. In this book, there's another voyage into the distant parts of the Long Earth, Joshua Valienté goes in another quest at the behest of the strange AI known as Lobsang and Sally Lindsay finds herself on the Long Mars.
Like The Long War, the title is somewhat misleading. Although Mars does feature in one of the several parallel plot threads, it's neither dominant nor the most interesting. In fact, one might say that it's actually sort of pointless. They go to Mars, step along it, find the macguffin and come home. There were many possibilities for story along the way (not least the giant monolith that defies approach that they find on one) but they never really got a look in.
Back on Earth (or the Earths), there's a new perceived threat from a number of superintelligent young people who call themselves the Next. I feel this was handled clumsily and that the idea of the military crapping themselves over a bunch of smart kids was hardly sensible (not that the kids helped themselves with their arrogance and unlikeability, but then they were teenagers, so maybe that's not a huge stretch of the imagination).
The big thing though, as with the rest of this series, is that I'm not seeing anything connecting the different story strands. They're all little vignettes of the Long Earth but there's nothing coherent about the whole thing, nothing to grab me and make me want more. The characters who should have developed over the course of three books are still mostly ciphers.
The Yellowstone eruption of the previous book has changed (the Long) America in so many ways, and could result in so many interesting stories, but here it's just sort of brushed under the carpet. It's referenced every so often, but it doesn't really feel like it's made much of an impact on the Long Earth.
At this stage I'm ready to give up on the Long Earth series. It was chance that got me this book, and although it's better than The Long War, it's still not satisfying for fans of either author's work. I'll see what the reviews of the next one say before I think about whether or not to continue....more
An ex-astronaut, some would say washed-up ex-astronaut, has turned detective in this novel, in which a number of men of a similar background and physiAn ex-astronaut, some would say washed-up ex-astronaut, has turned detective in this novel, in which a number of men of a similar background and physique have all died in the same area. Our narrator (who I don't think is ever fully named) is involved in the investigation to try and solve the mystery.
There is a sort of 'feel' to East European/Russian novels (SF or not) that I've read of this period and The Chain of Chance fits into it. The book feels very impersonal, especially in the early sections where this narrator is driving around Rome with electrodes attached to his chest, wearing a dead man's clothes, for no obvious reason. The plot is mostly infodumped on us as the narrator goes to seek the assistance of a French computer scientist in the middle of the book and we get a bit more warmth being injected into the protagonist at this point. Once I got through the infodump, I started to care a little about him and feel that his world was more than just monochrome and emotionless and I was somewhat drawn into the mystery, but even the solution to that feels very Eastern bloc (view spoiler)[with the idea that everything is chance (hide spoiler)].
The scene in the airport with the girl was quite random and didn't really fit with the rest of the book. It seemed like it was just there to inject a bit of action into an otherwise dry story. For me, it felt too jarring to do that properly, though.
So an odd book. It's the third Lem novel that I've read, after Solaris and Tales of Pirx the Pilot and probably the one that I've enjoyed the most, but that cold, impersonal feeling is still there. I probably won't read any more of his work, I think (although maybe I'll give Pirx another go).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Everett Singh is a young geek whose physicist father is kidnapped before his eyes. But his father has left him something: an app on his tablet that tuEverett Singh is a young geek whose physicist father is kidnapped before his eyes. But his father has left him something: an app on his tablet that turns out to be a map to the multiverse, something which some people would literally kill to get. A combination of skill and luck gets Everett to one of the parallel Earths where he falls in with the crew of the airship Everness. He must win their trust to help him in finding his father and escaping his enemies.
This was a pacey written book with lots going on to keep the reader interested. Everett is a likeable enough young protagonist and there are stacks of geek and pop culture references interspersed that would probably endear the book to the YA audience that it's aimed at.
I couldn't help thinking at times, however, that Everett is a bit too competent and calm under everything that happens. Or maybe that's just me projecting (I'd fall apart, I suspect).
A decent enough book but not one that made me immediately want to go and find the next in the trilogy....more