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Search tags: october-december-2015-tbr
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text 2016-02-24 21:14
Reading progress update: I've read 285 out of 462 pages.
White Teeth - Zadie Smith

Hoping I can finish this book tonight.  It's due on Friday and I will be out to the theatre on Thursday night (to see As You Like It).  Now that I've put in this much time, getting to the end is starting to feel rather necessary!


I heard the author, Zadie Smith, give a lecture at our university two weeks ago and now I can hear her lovely voice, telling me the story in my mind's ear.


177 pages to go.



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text 2016-01-18 16:01
Reading progress update: I've read 71 out of 176 pages.
Bitter Lake: A Novel - Marika Deliyannides

Well, I'm enjoying this novel quite a bit.


What a relief!  You know how it is when someone with significance in your life asks you to read his wife's book?  You feel pressure to like it.


No problem with this one--I think its going to be a 4 star book.

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review 2016-01-08 18:28
Stormbringer / Michael Moorcock
Stormbringer - Michael Moorcock

The epic tale of Elric of Melnibone, albino prince of ruins, moves to it's awesome conclusion -with the whole of the natural and supernatural world in mighty conflict - the final conflict, Armageddon. Elric holds the key to the future: the new age which must follow the destruction.To turn that key he must sacrifice all that he loves and risk his very soul.


The strongest feeling I get from Moorcock’s Elric series is melancholy. I understand the lure of that state, as I get it when I read my beloved King Arthur books or at the end of a Shakespearian tragedy. But I feel like Moorcock does it with smoke & mirrors instead of through masterful story-telling. In Stormbringer (and the other Elric novels to be sure) I get this feeling from a combination of atmosphere and setting, but Elric himself leaves me cold. It’s pretty hard to root for the guy who is portrayed as the lesser evil. The details of each novel are tiresomely repetitive—Elric tries to resist using his demonic sword, Stormbringer; without it, he is too weak to be of any use in macho pursuits; he returns once again to using his soul-sucking weapon.

One simple word, repeated several times, was also jarring to me. Elric keeps saying “thanks,” which to me feels like a very modern usage and out of place in this rather archaic setting. If he said “many thanks” it would have grated less for me. Likewise, a number of times contracted words were used, when I thought that spelling out both words would have been more true to the ancient atmosphere, not to mention matching with the other language used. I guess I expect more precise language in a pseudo-archaic world.

I can’t say that I’m unhappy to be finished the Elric saga…..in many ways, it has felt like reading the same book six times.

Book 203 of my science fiction and fantasy reading project.

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review 2016-01-04 15:44
Armor / John Steakley
Armor - John Steakley

Felix is an Earth soldier, encased in special body armor designed to withstand Earth's most implacable enemy-a bioengineered, insectoid alien horde. But Felix is also equipped with internal mechanisms that enable him, and his fellow soldiers, to survive battle situations that would destroy a man's mind.

This is a remarkable novel of the horror, the courage, and the aftermath of combat--and how the strength of the human spirit can be the greatest armor of all.


Roll together Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Arnold’s Terminator, and you get the influences on Armor. It must have been part of the zeitgeist of the mid-1980s, as Card’s Ender’s Game was published right around the same time. The suit of armor is its own character, which binds the two bits of the story together. At first, we follow the exploits of semi-superman Felix, as he battles the Ants, an insect-like interstellar enemy of Earth (very like the Buggers of Ender’s Game). Eventually, we see space-pirate Jack Crow acquire the suit of armor and explore it’s stored memories with two scientists on a world that he is supposed to be infiltrating.

It was engaging, although I found the Jack Crow sections to be a bit opaque in meaning. Why did the author switch to his point of view? I’m unsure. And I found long unbroken stretches of text, where it was difficult to find a reasonable place to leave a bookmark, pausing places if you will.

All in all, military science fiction isn’t really my thing, although I appreciate the things that it can say about society.

Book 202 of my science fiction & fantasy reading project.

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review 2016-01-04 15:39
Heechee Rendezvous / Frederick Pohl
Heechee Rendezvous - Frederik Pohl

Advanced Heechee technology had enabled Robinette Broadhead to live after death as a machine-stored personality, enjoying his life by flitting along the wires from party to party with a host of other machine-people. But suddenly his decadent existence ends when an all powerful alien race intent on the utter destruction of all intelligent life reappears after eons of silence, and threatens the lives of all heechee and humans. Even Robin, virtually immortal and with unlimited access to millennia of accumulated data, cannot discover how to stop these aliens. It began to seem that only a face to face meeting could determine the future of the entire universe....


This is the book where we learn about the HeeChee. They cease to be a mystery and frankly, the people who meet them fail to be properly impressed, in my opinion. Real, live aliens with “wisdom” to impart and they can’t focus on that. Plus, we start to question the opinions of the HeeChee—are they right to be scared of the race that they call the Assassins or have they completely misinterpreted their actions?

I did think that Pohl’s use of the data fans as storage devices was rather prescient—very much like today’s USB devices to store information, photos or written words. Consider that the computers in use at the time were using floppy drives, something much more delicate and less than truly reliable. Any floppies existing in archives at this point are a nightmare for conservators, as you would have to locate the ancient technology of a computer with a floppy drive to extract the information (and assume that nothing has degraded). Anything that you really want to survive into the future? Print it out and preserve it. Paper is going to survive long after our technologies are as obsolete as floppy discs.

Also explored is the transfer of human consciousness to machines, as Robinette gets downloaded and struggles to learn how to interpret the world from that angle and how to express himself again. Pohl addresses a question of ownership—once your physical body is dead, is your disembodied intellect still considered legally alive? Or do you renounce your assets and projects to your heirs? The book doesn’t really get very far along exploring these questions, which will maybe get more treatment in the next book. I hope so. And I want to see what Pohl thinks will happen to such downloaded people—do they retain their humanity?

This is very much a transition book, moving from the demystifying of HeeChee technology to actual contact.

Book 200 of my science fiction and fantasy reading project.

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