association-list a veritable mint for dunning-kruggerands

Some notes on novels recently read

Living Next Door to the God of Love, by Justina Robson

Ignoring the misstep that was Natural History (it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as this one or Silver Screen), everything that Robson does seems to get both weirded and better. I am avidly awaiting her next novel. Really, go out and read this one, and pick up Silver Screen while you’re there.

Macrolife, by George Zebrowski

Pyr confuses me. On one hand, they publish things like Silver Screen and River of Gods, the latter of which is easily one of the best SF novels to have come out in the last couple of years (I’ll talk about this one more in the context of the Campbell jury prize nominees). On the other hand, the spent part of their budget bringing back Macrolife, which, while it isn’t by any means a horrible book, and is in fact filled with many wild and wonderful ideas, I’d rather have just read a pamphlet of the ideas and skipped the bullshit cozy catastrophe story about an American immigrant dynasty (we’re still pretty white-bread), who accidentally destroy the world and then make good anyway. The second section is equally painful story wise, but you’re already past the new ideas until the third part, so what you get is some hand wringing about the First World’s abandonment of the Third World and then a justification that it would hinder growth too much to stop and help everyone (anyone?) else out, and to stop growing is to die, etc. Admittedly, this came out when I was a year old, so perhaps I’m missing some historical context, or things have changed in the interim, but top this off with an astonishingly grating intro, and you’re left with a book that has some great ideas that are accompanied with a more interesting setting and much better writing in Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels.

The Overnight, by Ramsay Campbell

This is the first horror novel that I’ve read in a while (meaning around ten years). Incredibly creepy and atmospheric, but tends to rely on the same tricks over and over again. Ultimately, it ends up being incredibly grim. Worth it for the creep out at the time, though.

Visionary in Residence, by Bruce Sterling

For my money, the best of cyberpunk to come out of the original movement (stories aside) in the ‘80s were Schizmatrix, Vacuum Flowers and Count Zero (flame away). Ever since then, Bruce Sterling has been jerking me around. Time to re-re-re-read A Good Old-Fashioned Future or Holy Fire. Chairman Omniveritas has not delivered today.

The Voyage of the Sable Keech, by Neal Asher

I am a shameless Asher fanboy. Read The Skinner read it all! NOWNOWNOW!!one1

The Bonehunters, by Stephen Erikson

I’m not usually a fan of the huge, never-ending fantasy sagas. So it is with vast embarrassment that I admit that I bought this at great expense as soon as Borderlands imported me a copy from the UK and I enjoyed it very much, thank you.

The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi

I’m waiting for The Lost Colony before I write about this whole sequence. Fun reading. I think that, while the antecedents to this and Old Man’s War are fairly plain, people do Scalzi a disservice my comparing him with Heinlein. Mouthpiece characters and wish fulfilment sex are pretty much nowhere to be seen. I have the feeling that Scalzi, is one of those writers who is pretty good but makes a massive, mid-career jump upwards in quality (good->awesome), must like Vernor Vinge with A Fire Upon the Deep (you should read that too, post upcoming, eventually). I don’t know why I get this feeling, but there, I’ve said it.

Ring of Swords, by Eleanor Arnason

I enjoyed this, but I cannot claim to be totally convinced by her argument and or analysis of sex relations. She seems to avoid all of the interesting stuff that’s referred to in the novel. Although it all makes sense on the level of story, it often fails to excite.

The Etched City, by K. J. Bishop

I’m assuming that Bishop is part of the whole interstitial fiction crowd and this may or may not be true. Regardless, her stuff reads like their stuff, but while most of it leaves me cold, I quite liked this one. It put me in mind of One Hundred Years of Solitude. It’s stuffed full of gorgeous description and telling details and calamitous and incomprehensible actions. What you were looking for if you were thrilled, then disappointed by Veniss Underground

Darkland, by Liz Williams

I am also a Liz Williams fanboy. She can do no wrong. You should buy ten copies of everything she’s ever written and give all but one copy of each to people that you know.

Godplayers, by Damien Broderick

Meh. Kind of a less morally ambiguous update of Players at the Game of People. Feels… I dunno, smug. Broderick isn’t nearly as clever or as original as he seems to think he is. I’d give it a miss.

Dusk, by Tim Lebbon

My first encounter with Tim Lebbon. Quite good, but I’m thinking that I’ll have to wait for the continuation before I can make any calls about where this is really going. John Clute says it better and more elliptically than I can in this brief space. I’m anxiously waiting for the sequel, but for right now, I’m going to dig through his apparently fantastic back catalogue (because I don’t already have enough books on the To Read shelf).

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