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Our reads in January 2020

Science Fiction Fans

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1dustydigger
Jan 1, 8:17am Top

New decade,new year,new month,but always a new pile of books to share.

2Shrike58
Edited: Jan 1, 8:57am Top

Ain't that the truth, as I'm looking at a substantial stack I picked up from assorted libraries just before the end of 2019. If I read nothing else in January The Elfin Ship is on the immediate TBR list, due to it being my book group's choice for the month. The Light Brigade and Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City are also likely to get read.

3dustydigger
Edited: Yesterday, 5:14pm Top

Dusty's TBR for January
SF/F
Naomi Novik - Spinning Silver
Katherine Addison - The Goblin Emperor
Daniel O'Malley - Stiletto
Leigh Brackett - The Sword of Rhiannon
Ransom Riggs - Map of Days

u> from other genres
Barbara Michaels - Ammie, Come Home
Rachel Howsell Hall - Trail of Echoes
Robert Van Gulik - Murder in Ancient China
Ngaio Marsh - Grave Mistake



4dustydigger
Edited: Jan 6, 6:38am Top

At the moment I am riveted to Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver. I am always fascinated at how many authors are attracted to fairy tales and how they are inspired to produce such a wide variety of interesting work.Novik starts off and for a hundred pages she sets up her highly detailed, rooted in reality mediaeval world,it could almost just be an historical novel. Only then does she lure us into the fantasy world,which seems utterly believable.Long time since a book has gripped so hard and I am eager to get back to it whenever the holiday mayhem allows me to.Remarkable.

5seitherin
Jan 1, 4:17pm Top

6Stevil2001
Jan 1, 10:37pm Top

>4 dustydigger: I really enjoyed Spinning Silver; it got my top vote in the Hugos last year. I'm not one for fairy tale retellings, but Novik takes the basics and makes something with an astounding sense of character and deep, complicated themes.

7leslie.98
Jan 1, 11:44pm Top

I have been reading the Sector General series - finished Ambulance Ship this morning and dove right into Sector General which kept me busy for most of the day. I am taking a short break and reading something else before going on to Star Healer...

8Unreachableshelf
Jan 2, 9:30am Top

I haven't started it yet, so don't know where on the axis of horror, dark urban fantasy, and SF on which Welcome to Night Vale lives this will sit, but today I'll be starting The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home.

9SChant
Jan 2, 11:01am Top

>8 Unreachableshelf: I love the Nightvale podcast. Would be interested to know what you think of the book.

10johnnyapollo
Jan 2, 1:01pm Top

Reading Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee....

11dustydigger
Jan 2, 2:19pm Top

Loved Spinning Silver.Novik uses the fairy tale asinspiration,but with a very light touch.The use of the Jews and their cuture added an intriuing twist too. She was very deft in handling all the complex strands of plot,character and motivations. A worthy Mythopoeic award winner.
Now its on to The Goblin EmperorTwo fantasy orientated books in a row,in keeping with my new year resolution to read more fantasy - as long as it has some originality. :0)Could bear searching for a hidden sword,a ong lost prince,or a road quest.

12iansales
Jan 3, 2:20am Top

Currently reading Old Man's War. The prose is readable but bland, the Earth of the future seems little different to today - other than the Colonial Union, etc - and the characters just keep on lecturing each other all the time. The book could have been published any time during the 1960s or 1970s.

13Sakerfalcon
Jan 3, 5:56am Top

I'm enjoying Rose Point, second in the Earthrise series. This should appeal to anyone who liked The long way to a small angry planet.

14leslie.98
Jan 3, 8:47am Top

I have finished Star Healer and now face a dilemma - neither my library nor Open Library has the next book in the series, Code Blue - Emergency. One of my New Year's resolutions was to reduce my book buying but how else am I going to continue with this very enjoyable series?? For now, I am shelving the problem and moving on to other books.

15daxxh
Jan 3, 11:39am Top

>14 leslie.98: I bought the omnibus editions of the Sector General series since my library didn't have them all. There were four volumes. I will hopefully start them this month.

I am almost finished with Antediluvian by Wil McCarthy and have the novella Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky next.

16DugsBooks
Jan 3, 1:03pm Top


"Asimov at 100" is an interesting one page article in Science magazine about Asimov who was born in 1920. I did not realize his cause of death was " Asimov had contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion during open-heart surgery".

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/367/6473/20

17leslie.98
Jan 3, 2:14pm Top

Perhaps this will be a good year for me to reread the Foundation series then!

18iansales
Jan 3, 2:27pm Top

19vwinsloe
Jan 3, 3:25pm Top

>16 DugsBooks: Interesting, thanks for posting it.

20leslie.98
Edited: Jan 3, 3:49pm Top

21iansales
Jan 4, 4:50am Top

>20 leslie.98: No year is a good year to read the Foundation series.

22leslie.98
Jan 4, 3:33pm Top

>21 iansales: I guess that we will have to agree to disagree about that.

23Fraz-Ahmed
Jan 4, 7:51pm Top

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
Start of the new Year and I have just published my first book on Amazon called Qalandar Earth Needed a Superhero. I will read more and more books this year & hope to publish the 2nd part of my first book by the end of this year.

24iansales
Jan 5, 12:26pm Top

Finished Old Man's War. Meh. A surprising amount of swearing, but the whole thing read dated in style with identikit world-building. Now reading The Man in the Darksuit, which I found in a local secondhand sf bookshop, and which is proving pretty bad.

25leslie.98
Jan 5, 1:08pm Top

I have started Red Mars - I had planned to read it last year but for some reason never got around to it.

26Shrike58
Jan 6, 6:58pm Top

Finished Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City (A-) this evening. This is the secret history of the defense of a capital modeled on Byzantium from the perspective of the unlucky bastard of an engineering officer who got stuck with the job. Mordant and ironic, I suppose that I'm going to be reading more of Tom Holt's alter-ego in the future.

27SChant
Jan 7, 5:24am Top

>26 Shrike58: On a similar theme, his Engineer trilogy is very good.

28Shrike58
Jan 7, 5:28am Top

I'll take your advisement on that. As always; so many books, so little time.

29Unreachableshelf
Jan 8, 2:19pm Top

After pulling several things off of the shelf of books that accumulated during four years of award committee reading and discovering that they weren't actually worth keeping all that time, I've settled into a three and a half year old ARC of Dark Matter.

30RobertDay
Jan 8, 6:17pm Top

Finished The Fractal Prince. More of the same weirdness that was in The Quantum Thief. next up is Pat Cadigan's Synners.

31AnnieMod
Edited: Jan 8, 7:40pm Top

Just started The Divide by Alan Ayckbourn - a dystopia set post plague which killed most of the population and changed the social order (technically the story is about overturning that new social order but we seem to be getting the "how it came to be" as well.

32iansales
Edited: Jan 9, 4:49am Top

Currently reading Crimson Darkness, a self-published novel by William Barton, whose novels I really liked back in the 1990s. Some pretty heavy world-building going on.

33dustydigger
Jan 10, 4:31pm Top

Really enjoyed Katherine Addison's The Goblin EmperorRefreshing in this day of unreliable narrators,moral ambiguity and dysfunctional characters as a whole to be able to take to heart a lovable,principled and in general all round good guy as protagonist! Two good fantasy novels in a row for me,good start to the year.
I was occasionally reminded of C J Cherryh's writing style,when we so closely followed the pov of our young hero,in a very immersive style which made the book gripping and intense.Loved it.

34paradoxosalpha
Jan 10, 4:40pm Top

I'm currently at the mid-point of From the Legend of Biel. I'm still not sure where it is going--it's got a bit of a 2001: A Space Odyssey feel to it--but the writing is decent so far.

35dustydigger
Jan 10, 4:43pm Top

If anyone from this group fancies joining the WWEnd challenges this year,you would be most welcome.Once again I am doing my Pick N Mix challenge.Choose10,20,40 or 80 SF/Fantasy or Horror books to read over the year. There are many challenges to suit everyone.

36Shrike58
Edited: Jan 11, 7:55am Top

Basically bounced off The Light Brigade (C+) as it simply didn't move me; even if I give Hurley full credit for all her good intentions. The dystopian corporate army angle seemed hackneyed and time travel/displacement usually doesn't interest me. I might have to try Hurley's fantasy. As a point of comparison The Stars are Legion seemed a lot fresher, even if its characters were so post-human that it was sometimes hard to relate to them.

37ronincats
Jan 10, 10:04pm Top

>33 dustydigger: I figured you would like this, dusty! It is very good.

>35 dustydigger: I haven't participated for a couple of years, since the year they did the new to you women writers! I'll check it out.

38daxxh
Jan 10, 10:29pm Top

Just finished Walking to Aldebaran. Meh. Loved the mythology this seems to parallel. Didn't love this novella.

39ronincats
Jan 10, 10:43pm Top

Got a freebie to review, the second in a series, Spoilers: Things Get Worse by Galen Surlak-Ramsey. Here's my review:

I received an ebook of this for the Early Reviewers, without reading the first book in the series.

That said, enough is said about the events of the last book in this one for me to have a pretty good idea of what went on and, since there isn't any character development, it doesn't really matter anyway. This is a non-stop sequence of crises, all action mostly avoiding whatever aliens are trying to kill the group at any given moment, with highly improbable escapes. The author attempts a light hand with some humor, but it mostly thunks and throws the reader out of the story, not that we're really invited into it as more than an audience anyhow. I have no sense that Dakota has any depth to her (or even that she is a woman) any more than any other of the characters, although it is clear the author is attempting to create a "kick-ass heroine". And I would refuse to be an AI in this story categorically!

If the author would stop trying to do so many things at once and concentrate on a story that one could care about, as opposed to mindless action entertainment, I think he could develop some potential.

40karenb
Jan 11, 4:26am Top

>30 RobertDay: Haven't read the Jean le Flambeur books yet, but I did enjoy Rajaniemi's Summerland: WWII spying with ghosts (and subtle math).

>24 iansales: The thing I liked about the Old Man's War books was how they dealt with aging in a youth-driven society. There aren't many old protagonists in SF books.

>36 Shrike58: I thought God's War was good, but I haven't read TLB book yet. Would it make a good book for a book group, do you think? My SF-only group is picking more books next month.

I've been catching up on series, mostly fantasy, for the last few weeks. The latest Incryptid book (That ain't witchcraft from Seanan McGuire was entertaining enough, and now I'm caught up there. I also finished up Marjorie M. Liu's Hunter Kiss books, only a few years later than the author did.

Next month's book for SF group is The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull, who seems to be a new author who is definitely new to me. Anyone else read it yet?

41iansales
Jan 11, 5:12am Top

>34 paradoxosalpha: I've read that. I actually remember buying my copy of the book from a junk shop in Bridlington in the very early 1980s on a trip to the seaside with my grandparents. I reread it a few years ago and reviewed it for SF Mistressworks. I was... disappointed.

>40 karenb: I thought The Quantum Thief over-hyped and over-rated, but I did like Summerland. I reviewed the latter for Interzone. I really liked the Bel Dame Apocrypha but bounced out of The Mirror Empire. I should give Kameron's books another go.

42iansales
Jan 11, 5:33am Top

>40 karenb: About Old Man's War... Except it didn't do that, really. It harped on about the physical degradation caused by ageing - in fact, that was given as the chief motivation for joining up. The treatment of old people in society was pretty much ignored - but then the protagonist was well-off. There were, however, lots of lectures, especially about invented technology and future history. And the latter didn't really work - a giant galactic federation constantly at war and Earth was pretty much the same as the time the book was written?

There are plenty of sf novels and stories about old age. Some friends were putting together a list specifically about older women in sf. Now, if only I could find it...

43dustydigger
Edited: Jan 12, 4:14am Top

Just heard Mike Resnick has died. I intend to read his typically rather bonkers book,Stalking the Vampire in honour of this acclaimed and well liked author and editor. RIP, Mike

44rshart3
Jan 11, 12:03pm Top

>43 dustydigger:
Sorry to hear that. Some of his stuff was pretty canned & junky, but when he was on a roll he was fun. Maybe I'll reread Santiago or one of the others.

45ChrisRiesbeck
Jan 11, 5:30pm Top

After a detour in non-SF (American on Purpose and Away with Words), started John Dies at the End.

46leslie.98
Edited: Jan 12, 8:09pm Top

I have finished Red Mars and despite some misgivings, I will be starting Green Mars soon.

47johnnyapollo
Jan 13, 8:46am Top

Currently reading the Magicians by Lev Grossman....

48Sakerfalcon
Jan 13, 8:52am Top

I'm reading Sound mind, while I still remember the gist of Double vision.

49SChant
Jan 14, 5:08am Top

Started The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss. So far it's got Jeckyl & Hyde and Sherlock Holmes in it, so I'm expecting Frankenstein and Dracula at some point. A bit ho-hum but will persist to see if it picks up.

50iansales
Jan 14, 1:48pm Top

>49 SChant: Hmm, you might have missed the point of the book if you're looking for male characters from Victorian fiction.

51ScoLgo
Jan 14, 2:43pm Top

Began the new year with a good one: The Shore of Women is more than competently written and, while she seemed to be laying out a predictable ending, Sargent wound things up in a different manner than I expected. 4 stars.

Next up was The Armageddon Rag. This should have been right up my alley with a rock & roll apocalypse in the making but... an unlikable protagonist coupled with overly repetitious concert descriptions pulled it down to 3 stars.

Asimov's Caliban by Roger MacBride Allen was a competent contribution to the Robot Universe - but at 3 stars was a bit of a step down from the Mark Tiedemann trilogy I read last year. Inferno and Utopia are both on my WWE Pick & Mix list for 2020.

Now e-reading The City and The City. About 1/4 of the way in and it's interesting but has not yet completely grabbed me.

My current print book is the non-genre Complicity by Iain Banks. This one has fully pulled me in and actually kept me up long past bedtime last night. The use of 2nd person perspective during the murders seemed strange at first but I think I know why Banks made that choice. We'll see if I'm right as we close in on the denouement tonight.

52RobertDay
Jan 14, 6:57pm Top

>51 ScoLgo: I've been catching up on Banks' non-genre novels myself recently. Something I find interesting is to see how often he puts words into the mouth or ideas into the head of his pov protagonist that I look at and think "And there's proof positive that Banks was a proper, 100% science fiction fan, because that's exactly the sort of thing a fan would say (or think)."

Certainly, there are things in the "no M." novels that non-genre readers will miss, or at the very least not appreciate the hinterland behind an odd throwaway comment.

53ScoLgo
Jan 14, 7:36pm Top

>52 RobertDay: I must admit to not being all that well-read when it comes to Banks. This is only the 5th, (and 2nd non-SF), novel of his that I have read.

He has yet to disappoint. My first foray into his catalog was Consider Phlebas and I will say that I have enjoyed the other four novels more than that one, (hang on... 'enjoy' may be the wrong word for The Wasp Factory, but I was impressed with the writing and how Banks managed to get under my skin). I do plan to re-visit Consider Phlebas at some point because I suspect I simply was not prepared when I dove into it... ;)

54SChant
Jan 15, 2:01am Top

>50 iansales: I'm not "looking for male characters", I'm well aware that it's the daughters of some of those characters, I just find it a girly version of Penny Dreadfuls and not very original.

55iansales
Jan 15, 2:27am Top

>54 SChant: I don't know of any other novel featuring popular Victorian Gothic characters that's told from the POV of a group of female characters, so I guess that makes it original in one sense. Plus the way the text is structured, as a "fictionalisation" of the Athena Club's adventures, with interjections during the writing process, is something I've not seen before. I enjoyed the books (I've read the first two and have the third on the TBR), although I thought the prose not as good as Goss's short fiction and the second book was a bit longer than it needed to be.

56iansales
Jan 15, 2:37am Top

>51 ScoLgo: I was disappointed by the ending of The Shore of Women. I reviewed it for SF Mistressworks: https://sfmistressworks.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/the-shore-of-women-pamela-sarge...

Complicity is easily one of Banks's best mainstream novels.

57andyl
Jan 15, 6:40am Top

I've just finished Song For a New Day by Sarah Pinkser. Which is a novel that starts with an ending, and ends with a beginning. I liked it a lot. A novel of found family, music, and corporate power set in a dystopic USA where it is illegal for groups of any size to congregate.

I think I will be starting Velocity Weapon by Megan O’Keefe next.

>41 iansales:
Ian, If you haven't read it you should try The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley. It is much more tightly plotted and generally more focused than any of her other books IMO. Partly because of what it is trying to do it has to be.

58dustydigger
Jan 15, 7:27am Top

Just starting Leigh Brackett's Sword of Rhiannon. Love the cover by Robert E Schultz!

59RobertDay
Jan 15, 8:08am Top

>53 ScoLgo: Consider Phlebas was based on a very early unpublished novel that Banks wrote; I've always felt it to be very much a 'first sale from a new author' book because it is at heart a basic adventure/thriller story, with a McGuffin. All his later SF novels have more depth to them.

Not that I'm saying that Phlebas is without merit - far from it. I'm still gobsmacked by the opening line: "The ship didn't even have a name." I read that when Phlebas was Iain's first SF novel and thought little more than "Punchy opening line." I read it again 25 years later and my jaw hit the floor, because we learnt in the meantime that The Naming of Ships is a difficult matter (as Eliot might have written if he'd lived in the Culture), and so "The ship didn't even have a name" has ramifications way beyond the simple statement of fact.

60pgmcc
Jan 15, 9:32am Top

>51 ScoLgo: Complicity vies with The Bridge for the title of "My Favourite Iain Banks" novel.

61pgmcc
Jan 15, 9:35am Top

>53 ScoLgo: Consider Phlebas was the first Banks book I read. I really enjoyed it. I re-read it a couple of years ago and found additional layers of meaning I had missed the first time through. I have found that with all my Banks re-reads.

62pgmcc
Jan 15, 9:38am Top

>59 RobertDay: I remember my reaction when I firsst got to the end of Consider Phlebas; "That was a ripping yarn." I think that fits your description of it.

On my re-read a couple of years ago I realised there is a very strong anti-war message.

63ScoLgo
Jan 15, 2:23pm Top

>56 iansales: Thanks for the link. I rather liked the ending. As I was reading the novel, (and I agree with just about everything in your review regarding the overall narrative), I found myself expecting an overly trite, "And the walls came down as men & women strode hand in hand into their new uncertain future...", type of ending. While I grok your disappointment, I had anticipated so much worse at the finale that, by comparison to my expectations, I ended up liking where Sargent went with it.

Finished Complicity last night and... wow! Yes, a very good book. Thanks to everyone that commented about Banks in this thread. I need to move more of his catalog into my 'read sooner rather than later' queue.

>58 dustydigger: Hard to go wrong with Brackett!

64RobertDay
Edited: Jan 17, 5:27pm Top

>63 ScoLgo: and others: my last word on Banks (for now) - I think of his non-genre novels, the one that impressed me most (of those I've read; I still have four on the TBR pile) is Whit, because the protagonist and her situation is as diametrically opposite to Banks himself as you could imagine.

'Whit' is set in a religious cult, but Banks writes about it, the people in it and their beliefs completely straight. He resists the temptation to take that character and do a hatchet job. Oh, he has some fun with some of the trappings, but no more than he has with the trappings of modern urban life or big cool spaceships. Anyone can take their betes noir and poke satirical fun at them; it takes a clever writer to treat their antithesis with equality.

65SFF1928-1973
Jan 17, 10:38am Top

Off topic, I'm reading Lord Tyger by Philip Jose Farmer. I say off topic because Farmer's updating of the Tarzan scenario definitely doesn't qualify as SF.

66daxxh
Edited: Yesterday, 2:46pm Top

Just finished Nine White Horses by Judith Tarr. I really liked the second story, Classical Horses. I am pretty sure the horse on the book cover is my horse's half brother. How cool is that?

Next book is Medusa in the Graveyard and then maybe Made Things or Brothers in Arms.

67dustydigger
Edited: Yesterday, 5:13pm Top

Stiletto was a pleasant enough read,but I preferred The Rook. which was more focused on Myfanwy Thomas,she is rather sidelined in this outing.
I am suffering from an athritis flare up at the moment,so have had to put aside the very heavy Map of Days. It seems to be made of art paper,and is extremely heavy,too much for my weak wrists at the moment. Instead I am starting Leigh Brackett's Sword of Rhiannon and Pat Frank's Alas Babylon.

68karenb
Edited: Today, 1:18am Top

>67 dustydigger: Ah, reading that's easier on the body -- there's a whole series of threads we could start. Robots could be useful, there, to hold books and turn pages.

re: Iain Banks
One of the best contemporary writers, for sure. I've enjoyed and liked everything I've read of his, with or without the M.

>57 andyl: I loved A song for a new day. Two protagonists, our possible future, and everything you said. Are you reading the PKD nominees, then?

>51 ScoLgo: I enjoyed Armageddon rag most when I first read it, in my twenties. I reread it a few years ago, and yes it has flaws. It's one of the few reasonable SF/F novels about music and musicians, though, liked by actual musicians.

Me, I just finished the third Athena Club book, The sinister mystery of the mesmerizing girl by Theodora Goss. As seems usual with trilogies, I thought it hung together better than the second one.

Next up: Gods of jade and shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It's been on my TBR since before it came out, but a book group discusses it next week.

69iansales
Today, 5:14am Top

Currently reading Spinning Silver, a story about Jewish moneylenders in an invented Slavic country.

>68 karenb: I hadn't realised the Goss books were a trilogy. I though it was a series. I have The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl on my TBR. Btw, if you liked the Goss books, try Lisa Tuttle's Jesperson & Lane series.

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