What Sci-Fi Book Are You Reading?

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Sneaky Burrito

Crazy Cat Lady
Staff member
A lot like Neal Stephenson's Anathem.
The action parts of Anathem weren't bad. But Stephenson totally bungled the science (especially the biology), and that just made me angry.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
...one of those books that will bore me to tears but simultaneously be really interesting...I'm not sure how this is possible, but it totally is.
I get that. I immediately thought of H. James' The Turn of the Screw, C. Dickens' Oliver Twist and R. Ellison's The Invisible Man. The most disappointing of these three was Oliver Twist, especially after Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, both of which I enjoyed immensely. James and Ellison I had to read when I was in school. Ellison's novel turned out to be one of the most difficult novels I've ever gotten through. I found it both boring and shocking. It was a harrowing journey, and by the end of it I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. In hindsight, one of the most important novels I've ever read, but if I ever reread it (which I doubt), there will need to be a very specific reason to do so (like if I were to jump ship from this 'brane' to another parallel one to join a still active Black Panthers; alternatively, if I have a gun pointed at my head). I'd rather read another take on the theme with Sinclair's Kingsblood Royal, which has been on my to-be-read list for a few years now.
...like Neal Stephenson's Anathem.
It took me around 80 pages to immerse myself in the world of Anathem, after which I was riveted. Sneaky B doesn't have much love for this novel, either. Her criticisms actually make me want to reread it to see what I missed.
 
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Zymologist

Has been in the eye of the world
The action parts of Anathem weren't bad. But Stephenson totally bungled the science (especially the biology), and that just made me angry.
I'd say that I want to reread it now to see what you're talking about, but I don't actually want to do that. :)

The thing I found most interesting in Anathem was The Book that they had to study for punishment--the one full of contradictions and stuff. I just thought that was an interesting idea.
 

Sneaky Burrito

Crazy Cat Lady
Staff member
I'd say that I want to reread it now to see what you're talking about, but I don't actually want to do that. :)

The thing I found most interesting in Anathem was The Book that they had to study for punishment--the one full of contradictions and stuff. I just thought that was an interesting idea.
That was interesting. I didn't mind the set-up of the society, either, with monks (or whatever) not really using technology.

But the whole thing with breathing different "types" of oxygen but not being able to eat the same food and physical constants having different values in the same space (which would have to be true, for the oxygen thing, among other factors), would never work.
 

atheling

A Poet of the Khaiem
I get that. I immediately thought of H. James' The Turn of the Screw, C. Dickens' Oliver Twist and R. Ellison's The Invisible Man. The most disappointing of these three was Oliver Twist, especially after Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, both of which I enjoyed immensely.
I remember being forced to read Great Expectations in high school, and basically liking it in spite of myself, but anyway thinking at the time that it was "hard". Well I guess people change: I read it again many years later (same old paperback, too) and it wasn't hard at all! I don't remember now why I thought it was hard. Probably my skull was hard.
 

ofer

Journeyed there and back again
The action parts of Anathem weren't bad.
It took me around 80 pages to immerse myself in the world of Anathem, after which I was riveted.
I'd say that I want to reread it now to see what you're talking about, but I don't actually want to do that. :) .
I'm not in the habit of commenting on a book until I finished it but I got to say, started reading Anathem about an hour ago and one thing I can say - this is the worst start to a book EVER. :rage:
I don't know how many pages on architecture I just read, I just know that I don't want to read even one more, and they were followed by a few pages on the topic of music composition. What the fuck is going on here? It's like reading a textbook for a midterm exam
So, without spoilers, does it get better or am I wasting my time here? I can't believe the pages I just read were written by the same guy who wrote Snow Crash. And I don't know if I can stand 80 pages of this.
 

Sneaky Burrito

Crazy Cat Lady
Staff member
I'm not in the habit of commenting on a book until I finished it but I got to say, started reading Anathem about an hour ago and one thing I can say - this is the worst start to a book EVER. :rage:
I don't know how many pages on architecture I just read, I just know that I don't want to read even one more, and they were followed by a few pages on the topic of music composition. What the fuck is going on here? It's like reading a textbook for a midterm exam
So, without spoilers, does it get better or am I wasting my time here? I can't believe the pages I just read were written by the same guy who wrote Snow Crash. And I don't know if I can stand 80 pages of this.
It has been a long time since I read the book. There is definitely action in the second half. But it takes a looong time to get started.
 

ofer

Journeyed there and back again
Thanks, Sneaky. Not quite ready to throw the towel at this one yet - just venting some steam :). I don't mind a slow start to a book/series (I read a lot of Tad Williams books) but when it's done it's usually about characters, not a lecture on the fine points of bell-ringing. Shades of "read chapters 4-8 by tomorrow as there might be a quiz".
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
does it get better or am I wasting my time here?
Dude, stick with it. It turned out to be one of the best recent reads I've had. It's true, it takes a while for the momentum to pick up, especially since you have to get used to the setting, lexicon and what-not of the world, but I ended up loving it. Yeah, the chapter where all the architecture was described was difficult for me to get through, too (luckily, there's not too much more of that), but keep persevering. I thought the book had an immersive quality similar to the Titus novels or Dune. In fact, I'm going to reread it because I want to pick up on things that I'm sure I missed the first time around.
 

atheling

A Poet of the Khaiem
I'm not in the habit of commenting on a book until I finished it but I got to say, started reading Anathem about an hour ago and one thing I can say - this is the worst start to a book EVER. :rage:
I don't know how many pages on architecture I just read, I just know that I don't want to read even one more, and they were followed by a few pages on the topic of music composition. What the fuck is going on here? It's like reading a textbook for a midterm exam
So, without spoilers, does it get better or am I wasting my time here? I can't believe the pages I just read were written by the same guy who wrote Snow Crash. And I don't know if I can stand 80 pages of this.
I think that may be about where I quit the book, too. I think. Been a while. Maybe slightly later. Maybe I hit the century mark and figured Neal left his story wherever it was he dropped his keys.
 

ofer

Journeyed there and back again
Thank you both for your views. I read a few more pages and a least there was a dialogue in it (at this moment I'll take all the small mercies I can get). I don't really mind the made-up words as I experienced them with other authors as well but dear god, the first 30 pages or so were atrocious. Should be read by any aspiring author as an example of what not to do when starting a book.

And @Boreas , now that you compared Anathem to Dune I consider you fully committed. If the book will continue to suck I'm coming after you with my newly acquired Niki Lauda accent. ;)
 

atheling

A Poet of the Khaiem
Dude, stick with it. It turned out to be one of the best recent reads I've had. It's true, it takes a while for the momentum to pick up, especially since you have to get used to the setting, lexicon and what-not of the world, but I ended up loving it. Yeah, the chapter where all the architecture was described was difficult for me to get through, too (luckily, there's not too much more of that), but keep persevering. I thought the book had an immersive quality similar to the Titus novels or Dune. In fact, I'm going to reread it because I want to pick up on things that I'm sure I missed the first time around.
Well that's the chance you take when you set something aside. Could be that I would have loved it. It's still on my shelf. I'm not normally so bothered by the bad science as some other people (with shiny green eyes), maybe I'm to dense to notice it so much.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
...Anathem...this is the worst start to a book EVER.
Actually, I didn't think so. It was a difficult start because I had to spend a lot of time figuring out things without having it all explained. That's why I thought it was quite immersive. I used the glossary very, very frequently in the beginning, and I had to build up an analogous picture of Abre with Earth in my mind, especially concerning the various historical personages with their philosophical contributions. Some of these figures and precepts were easily recognisable. Some others I either couldn't figure out or just didn't know. Some I came to recognise/understand much later in the novel (finally coming across an explanation in an Earth-based context). This was one of my favourite parts of the book...figuring out which parts of the novel (either in setting, historical events, intellectual figures, ideas) were congruous (or partially so) to our own reality.

The chapter where the architecture of the Conscent is described in excruciating detail was very taxing, and unnecessary. I dozed off whilst reading in bed, jerked awake, reread the same few sentences or paragraphs or page again and again and got nowhere. That was the slowest chapter to get through. Having said that, I don't mind too much. I can forgive a novel of such scope having it's own Tom Bombadil.

Could be that I would have loved it.
You still might. It started to really click with me and get exciting from around pages 80-100. By then, I got familiar enough with the setting that I didn't have to constantly remind myself what something meant from the glossary (which is itself very immersive). The whole novel as a Socratic puzzle with all it's dialogues was lots of fun, and I really appreciated and came to enjoy reading about the rarefied, monastic world of the scholars. What I really liked was Stephenson presenting a short history of philosophy from the time of Socrates and Plato to modern ideas in physics/philosophy...all to explore the concept of
the multiverse, a direction I was *kind of, subconsciously* expecting (viz. Plato's ideal forms, which sets everything up in the beginning), but not in the way it was presented -
which made me go wtf a number of times when I started to realise how Stephenson was going to go about it.

And @Boreas , now that you compared Anathem to Dune I consider you fully committed. If the book will continue to suck I'm coming after you with my newly acquired Niki Lauda accent.
Gulp. Now that's what I call an out-of-context problem. Duly noted. I must not fear Niki Lauda. Niki Lauda is the mind killer. Niki Lauda is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face Niki Lauda.

Post script: "Dune" has one of the worst starts to a novel. It would make better reading if the whole first chapter were ripped out (or rewritten). It's like a Greek drama (come on, the Atreides? Sons of Atreus? A bit tongue-in-cheek for Herbert to link Paul and his father to the descendants of Agamemnon and Menelaus) where everything plays out nearly as it's prophesied in the beginning. Still, it was one of the formative novels of my teens and I still love it.

P.p.s.: Or maybe I should say pretentious instead of tongue-in-cheek. There's nothing even remotely humourous about "Dune".
 
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atheling

A Poet of the Khaiem
Post script: "Dune" has one of the worst starts to a novel. It would make better reading if the whole first chapter were ripped out (or rewritten).
Well, but Dune set up the main conflict in the very first scene of the book. The whole story was concerned with the very same question that led his mother to wake him up for the examination by the reverend mother. Granted, the next several scenes are all "Little Lord Fauntleroy goes to Arrakis", but they were set against a dark and ominous backdrop.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
Started reading Altered Carbon, hopefully it will be better than the last Sci-Fi book I read !
I've read about it. I've read a sample chapter. I know Ben ranks it highly. But it just doesn't look that interesting to me at all. It just looks like the action packed crap that I typically despise. Let me know what you think and I'll let you know if I change my mind about the possibility of me reading this. :cool:
 

Hand of Fear

Journeyed there and back again
@moonspawn I'm starting to think that Sci-Fi might not be a very good genre for me, and that maybe I should just stick with Fantasy instead.

I would have thought that I would have liked this genre a lot, since I really enjoy watching Sci-Fi films so I can't understand why I'm not enjoying these types of books.

Does anyone have any explanations for this ?

Either that or I'm just picking the wrong books, I'm coming to about the halfway point in the book and it's better than The Martian and it's relatively easy to read. There's nothing I can say that's bad about this book, but it doesn't really standout yet either.

There's action in it, and gunfights but nothing over the top and they are not slammed in to your face at every point possible in the book. I like the idea of the science behind it, and it some parts of it remind me of the film Blade Runner.

The writing is tight and he doesn't waste words or overdo anything, however I don't feel any real connection with the characters if the main protagonist was to die I doubt very much that it would make me feel anything.

Other authors I have read can make you like/hate characters really quickly.
 

TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
You should give Hyperion a shot @Hand of Fear ... it's so so so (so so) good, and if you don't like that, then I'd hazard a guess that the genre ain't for you.
 
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