What Sci-Fi Book Are You Reading?

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Derk of Derkholm

Journeyed there and back again
#23
Have downloaded the sample of "The Windup Girl", am looking forward to reading it.
 

Lev Daert

Philosophizes with Kellhus
#24
Reading starfishers trilogy, volume 2: starfishers.
Really good so far.

Glen Cook sometimes really surprises me with his wisdom. Very enjoyable to read.
The book reaffirms my love for his writing. It always takes some reading to get to that point though. It takes time to get used to his style, but when you do, it's pretty great.
 

Sneaky Burrito

Crazy Cat Lady
Staff member
#26
Cook is high on my 'post-Malazan tbr list'. Out of interest how long are his books in general; are we talking 1000+ pages, or several hundred?
They're short. You can fit 3-4 Black Company books into one omnibus volume the size of a single Erikson book.
 

Lev Daert

Philosophizes with Kellhus
#28
Just finished Volume 3 of the Starfishers trilogy: Stars' End.
That concludes the trilogy and I must say that I really enjoyed it. Sure, it wasn't perfect but it all moves along at a rapid pace and there's enough here to keep you satisfied.
The Characters are complex and while not overly developed, do come over, mostly because of their defects, as real people. Cook's style is love it or hate it.
The technology seems outdated at times, a small niggle though as it all comes close enough to technology we have now to be shoved along somewhat more recognizable lines.

The individual books' place in the trilogy seem strange (after finishing book 1 and starting book 2) but now that it's finished it feels more like a circle coming to a neat close.

Book 1
A very much different beast than books 2 and 3. I think it was originally meant as a standalone story but quickly became the origin story for one of the main characters in the later books. At times i almost got flashbacks to the chronicles of Amber, with the whole huge and ancient family riddled with manoeuvering and infighting. Really loved that almost Mythic quality to it.


Books 2 and 3
Loved the Starfish, while shallow and underdeveloped they did bring some Warmhearted and Welcome levity, sort of like a friendly space Fangorn, or more like I was seeing in my mind's eye; that hairy dogdragon thing from the neverending story.
Also the whole spy business with the psychoconditioning brought some interesting things to the table, I enjoyed the feeling of surprises waiting around the bends, Wheels within Wheels, that sort of thing.
Also the explanations and reveals at the end were pretty Impressive.

So, really enjoyed it then, just wish there was alot more;
It feels like you could build a longer running series around the starfisher books, as with most of cook's books.
but for now I only have passage at arms to look forward to:

A standalone story set in the same universe, that by some people is called: the best submarine story ever written. Even though it is set in space. But I suppose there isn't really much difference between being stuck in the ocean in a metal can and being stuck in space in a metal can.
Looks like a short read too.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#29
I completely forgot to post my thoughts on the Commonwealth Saga after reading it. So here it goes.

I thought it was a pretty interesting series. Pandora's Star was an excellent book. Judas Unchained wasn't as good because it got pretty repetitive and it seemed like a lot was being added in just for filler but it was still good. Hamilton is a talented prose writer and a master world builder but that I found to be one of the problems. There's too much worldbuilding for my tastes. At one point he literally went on for 15 pages describing an alien species. I don't have a problem with worldbuilding as long as the author is fits it within the framework of the story. There were times such as the example above where I felt like the worldbuilding was a tangent away from the story. Another problem I had with the book were the many times when Hamilton let his political belief's distract away from the main events but that is another thing entirely. The characterization was pretty good but over the top and like most science fiction writers, he handled the romance part horribly. Revolving the plot around the supposed disappearance of a star and a space voyage to that star was interesting but as far as plot development is concerned it was very deus ex machina in places and predictable. The interconnectivity of the unisphere reminded me of the Worldweb in Hyperion. Like in Hyperion people can travel from planet to planet very quickly and the different worlds are all part of the same whole. But Hamilton isn't nearly as good at creating a complex story as Simmons. I would post more but won't for fear of spoiling both stories. So I guess what I will say is that there is a certain event that happens in Pandora's Star that is very similar to an event in The Fall of Hyperion but this event in Pandora's is more literal and thus far more predictable. As far as the literary standard is concerned Hamilton might not be a great author but his books were fun to read. Eventually I'll get around to reading more of his stuff.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#30
I read "Anathem" by Neal Stephenson. Mind blown. Loved the big ideas and I'm all for the dialogues on maths, physics and philosophy, even if they veered off to the exposition side. It took me around 80 pages to get the groove going since it took that many pages to get familiar with all the terms that Stephenson uses and I had to constantly refer back to the glossary during those first 70-80 pages. Once you get familiar with all that, it's great. What I particularly loved was trying to figure out the various analogues of Greek philosophers that Stephenson had created for his world of Arbre (from my very limited knowledge of ancient Greece) - luckily, they were all analogues of some quite famous ancient Greek philosophers and there are plenty of hints to help you figure out who's who. It was a richly created world so very similar to our own, yet just different enough to be slightly strange, which, I realised, was the whole point.

Then I got into to a military sci fi mood and read the first two books of Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet series. Found it a frustrating read despite the interesting plot because of very bad dialogue, flat and predictable characters, constant whining to himself by the protagonist (at least, Thomas Covenant had more reasons to whine than this guy will ever have) and ludicrous [power] relationships between many characters combined with their stilted and odd dialogue (plus, some strange and unbelievable assumptions). By the end of the second book, the plot was getting still more interesting. However, I'm going to have a very hard time motivating myself to go any further, if at all.

I picked up David Weber's Honor Harrington series instead and they were much more palatable. Read the first two books, with the first, "On Basilisk Station", being better than the second, "The Honor of the Queen". In the second novel, I found the justification of the oppression of women by the extremely patriarchal society of Grayson and the shallow acceptance of it by the Manticorian navy (Honor's navy) and the diplomatic mission there to be totally unbelievable and ludicrous! Plus, tough Captain Honor Harrington has a bit of a hissy fit and runs off for a bit - also very unbelievable. But the action and battle sequences were top-notch. OBS is the better read with a slow yet complex build-up that leads to an awesome and climactic battle scene. I was surprised that so many pretty tough and cool characters were killed off.

Edit: I've read people comparing Honor Harrington to the character of Horatio Hornblower from C. S. Forester's novels. Well, apart from some superficial similarities such as the HH names and that both series of books concern naval settings, I think the comparison is a little bit of a stretch. Now, David Feintuch's Seafort Saga of books (7 in total) are much more in line with the Hornblower books. Nicholoas Seafort IS Horatio Hornblower of the future and his rise to power and responsibility from a lowly midshipman is just like Hornblower (including the severe self-castigation for perceived weaknesses and mistakes).
 
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Sneaky Burrito

Crazy Cat Lady
Staff member
#31
I read "Anathem" by Neal Stephenson. Mind blown. Loved the big ideas and I'm all for the dialogues on maths, physics and philosophy, even if they veered off to the exposition side.
That book pissed me off. The science would not work. Period. From biochemistry (the whole not digesting food from other worlds thing) to physics (physical constants having different values in the same universe/dimension/space/whatever), it would simply not work. It made me so angry that I probably missed out on many of the good qualities of the book. Guess that goes to show how our backgrounds inform our reading experiences.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#32
That book pissed me off. The science would not work. Period. From biochemistry (the whole not digesting food from other worlds thing) to physics (physical constants having different values in the same universe/dimension/space/whatever), it would simply not work. It made me so angry that I probably missed out on many of the good qualities of the book. Guess that goes to show how our backgrounds inform our reading experiences.
See, I accepted the biochemistry bit because I have no idea when it comes to that. As for the physics and philosophical parts, you have to keep in mine that most of the premises underlying those ideas (specifically, that of multiple universes) is purely hypothetical without empirical proof. One of the underlying premises of the Multiverse that he used in his novel was the theory of information flow, that information can flow only in one direction between different 'worldtracks' (usually from a higher to a lower one). From what I understood, the idea of the Multiverse he presents is a more involved theory that springs from the rudimentary idea of Plato's Ideal Forms. This information flow idea was explained in one of the appendices at the back. What I really liked was how Stephenson built (rather plausibly, I thought) a science fiction scenario from some purely hypothetical ideas that can't be tested (yet). Most of the ideas he utilises in his novel have been discussed before from as far back as Plato to as recently as Goedel and Barbour. Even though this is science fiction, it is still fiction and it does require some suspension of disbelief. If you're too stuck on the accuracies/inaccuracies of every little detail, you'll whittle away what pleasure you might get out of the read. Anyway, what's different here than most hard sci fi novels is that it approaches all the relevant ideas mostly from a non-empirical standpoint (a lot of it springing from math and pure logic as opposed to physics). Myself, I loved it. It's replaced "The Diamond Age" as the best N. Stephenson novel I've read.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#34
Started Hyperion. The first 'Sci-Fi Classic' I've ever picked up.
Hope you like it. Though, you'll need a copy of "Fall of Hyperion" on hand as the story continues directly.

I'm (finally!) reading the last Culture novel by Iain M. Banks. I've put it off for a year-and-a-half now out of the depressing knowledge that no more Culture stories will be forthcoming.
 

TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
#35
Hope you like it. Though, you'll need a copy of "Fall of Hyperion" on hand as the story continues directly.

I'm (finally!) reading the last Culture novel by Iain M. Banks. I've put it off for a year-and-a-half now out of the depressing knowledge that no more Culture stories will be forthcoming.
Thanks @Boreas ... So would you (or anyone else) recommend I read the whole lot in one go, i.e. Fall of Hyperion, Endymion & Rise of Endymion? Is it all top notch or do the latter ones tail off in quality?
 

ofer

Journeyed there and back again
#36
I read the first 2 together, and after a few months the next 2. I didn't intend to do it in the first place - it's just that book 4 wasn't available on kindle for 2 or 3 months for some reason. Didn't really matter, though, because the second book provides a closure to the first story, and then book 3 resumes it back again.

As for the quality - the first 2 books are brilliant. Among the best I've ever read. Books 3 and 4, in my opinion, are very good, but slightly less so than the first 2. It's probably like the difference between the first 2 books of A song of ice and fire and the rest of that series.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#38
The two Hyperion books form a continuous story, which needs to be read in one go. I have seen paperbacks of both books compiled into one and that makes much more sense to me. Similarly, the two Endymion books form one continuous story that is set quite some time after the events in Hyperion (the consequences of all that takes place in the Hyperion Cantos is meted out in these other two books).

Read the first two in on go. Then I suggest you take a break from anywhere between a few months to a year and then read the last two if you end up liking the Hyperion story (there was a break of approximately 6 years between the release of the Hyperion and Endymion books). I definitely think there is merit in taking a solid break between the first and second story.

As for quality, I think it's very high for both stories. The Hyperion books, serving as the introduction to this richly imagined universe, gives you quite a jolt. Plus, there is a difference in the style of writing between "Hyperion" and "Fall of Hyperion". The Endymion books refamiliarise you with a very changed Hyperion universe and the style in which they are written is, again, different. I suppose I understand why some people think the Hyperion books are of stronger quality but I think the Endymion books are also very, very good and equally poignant.

Edit: In case you want to try another SF book after you finish the Hyperion Cantos, I would recommend: "The Player of Games" by Iain M. Banks (a straightforward story about a self-involved games master from the Culture).
 
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Jon Snow

No Power in the Verse can stop me
Staff member
#39
I don't know if I'll ever get to read sci-fi ever again. Always this constant stream of books from publishers (double edged sword!). One day though. Would be great if I got paid a great wage to read and review books ^_^
 

blitzburns4

Owns a Ring of Power
#40
The Dying Earth by Jack Vance is amazing. I'm currently still in the first book, and am on the fifth tale. I've never read anything like this in my entire life.
 
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