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  1. Speaking of 350 pages too long I’ve just finished Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear. Once again I’ve been a victim of my own stupidity, as getting the book on Kindle meant I had little idea how long it was before I started. It turns out it’s too long. It’s about an independent salvage engineer and her buddies who come across an abandoned ship in deep space that contains It sounds exciting summarised in a paragraph like that, and there are some fun ideas, but I found the actual book far too long and repetitive. It feels a bit like it was written without any firm outline of where it was going, and the final denouement seems to come out of nowhere. I just felt like it went on and on, and I ended up skipping paragraphs as I approached the end, hoping to get it over with. If it had been 300 pages long and not 700 it would have been a lot more enjoyable.
  2. I read Chasm City a couple of years ago and found it pretty unsatisfying too. All I remember about it now is that there was some ok world building involving a wealthy upper world and a grimy lower world that felt like it might have been borrowed from a dozen other works, it was about 350 pages too long and the final twist I was very disappointed after enjoying Revelation Space so much. I haven’t gone back to Reynolds since, but I’m guessing some of his other books are much better?
  3. If you like hard science fiction and deep, fascinating, PhD-proximate ideas, I think you’d like Peter Watts. Starting with Blindsight, which is an awesome first contact novel involving vampires, (and which is nowhere near as cheesy and silly as that short summary makes it sound).
  4. I finished Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. And it was … fine. There are a bunch of strands, a bit like a David Mitchell book, which all come together one way or another. A girl is a seamstress in medieval Constantinople, a boy is a peasant farmer drafted into the Ottoman army to siege the city; an elderly man is a Greek-English translator who is organising a children’s play in the local library, a lad is a disaffected teenager who’s been seduced into becoming an eco terrorist; a child is a passenger on a space ship bound for a distant planet, fleeing a ruined Earth. They all play a part in the discovery or preservation of ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’, a lost story by Ancient Greek writer Diogenes. It’s beautifully written, and there is a great twist 80% of the way through that I didn’t anticipate, but overall it left me feeling a little cold. I found it a bit self-consciously literary, clever rather than emotionally involving. But I suppose your mileage may vary, and other people might consider it more affecting…
  5. Thanks for that link. Enjoyed that very much. A story about women living safely in a community where there are no men seems even more relevant than usual somehow this month, too… Also thanks for this Octavia Butler playlist. Amazing, this thread is an incredible resource. I don’t know how long NTS retain their shows. I hope I can listen to most of it before it gets deleted… I’ve read another couple of Nebula / Hugo nominees in the meantime. Plague Birds by Jason Sanford is set on a far future, post apocalyptic Earth where humans live in quasi-medieval villages, and they’ve all been genetically modified with animal genes. The lead character Crista starts out half wolf, and then early in the book becomes a Plague Bird - a human-AI hybrid with a nano machine intelligence that lives in her blood and can be released from a cut in her wrist to fly through the air in a cloud and murder people. Yup, it’s pretty crazy. The plague birds are sort of Future Police, keeping everyone in line, and she has to investigate a group of rebels called The Veil. The first twenty percent or so of the book is good fun - imaginative, inventive, mysterious, full of ideas. But it’s a slow slide downhill from there, and it soon starts to feel like a random mishmash of every idea the author could find in their notebook. An alien child! Cannibal monks! A war with an army of zombies with half eaten faces! A giant robot with a sword! A city run by an AI that lives in a mirror! I know that summary makes it sound AWESOME, a bit like ‘Nier Automata: the book’, but it’s a lot less interesting. It ends up feeling like one thing after another after another, and it reads like an underdeveloped splurge. Just two of those ideas would have been enough, I think. The prose is pretty workmanlike, too. (And it feels like more than half the characters have a name that begins with the letter ‘D’, which irritated me more than it probably should have.) I was fairly annoyed with it all by the end and I don’t think I would recommend it. The other nominee was Machinehood by S B Divya, and I did even worse with that. The main character is a bodyguard for hire in a future world where everything everyone does is filmed and live streamed constantly by great clouds of micro drones. People largely work gig-type jobs, their efficiency dependent on drugs that speed them up and increase their focus or strengthen their muscles, and they rely on tips from their audiences for their income, so the pressure is on to be stylish, cool and entertaining at all times. A new group of anti-technology protesters have emerged, called the Machinehood, who want all life-enhancing tech abandoned, and they’re killing ‘funders’, the future equivalent of oligarchs and billionaires. I’m afraid, exciting as it sounds, I gave up on this one 30 percent of the way through, because despite all the potential for cyberpunk shoot outs and incredible action, I found it very boring. In fact I kept falling asleep whenever I started reading, and although that’s probably a symptom of how tired I am, it felt like a signal to give up and move on. Sorry. Another not-recommendation. Now I’ve started Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. Reads like yet another book by someone who really admires David Mitchell so far, but I’ll see how it progresses…
  6. Ooh, I already have A Memory Called Empire - I started it a couple of years ago and then put it down, can't remember why. I must go back to it. I'll have a look at your other recommendations, too, thanks! Have just started Plague Birds by Jason Sanford in the meantime - only 15% of the way in but enjoying it so far.
  7. So in my ongoing trawl of time travel sci-fi, I’ve just finished One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston: In contemporary New York, ingenue August meets and falls in love with Jane, a mysterious woman on the subway It’s 10% sci-fi and 90% lesbian romance, and it often veers into too-cutesy-for-its-own-good territory, but I found it engaging and fun. There’s a lot of kissing and enough sex that I’d hesitate to read it on a crowded train. Google has revealed that it has quite the fan-art following, too. But it also has a few things to say about Stonewall and inclusion and changing times, and I must say I really enjoyed it, finished it in a couple of days. I think sci-fi lesbians is a definite thing, isn’t it? I’m thinking of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, This is How You Lose the Time War, Ancillary Justice, I think? And then Mass Effect if you play it right (my FemShep romanced Liara in ME1, then spent all of ME2 shuffling about lovelorn until she got a swooningly romantic reunion at the end of Lair of the Shadow Broker) Any other sapphic sci-fi recommendations welcome. In the meantime, I’m heading back to the Hugo/Nebula reading list…
  8. Ah, cool. I don't think I even realised this was a thing. Interesting. I'm guessing this will be a big influence on Black Panther? I'm going to look into this some more... In the meantime, I finished The Bone Clocks - really enjoyed it. For people who don’t know it, it’s a David Mitchell multiple POV story looking at different episodes from the life of a Gravesend teenager called Holly Sykes who… I think I liked the first half more, when it felt more character based and the wider, fantastical story was only hinted at. The second half was a lot of fun but I did get a little confused about what the rules were. He’s a great writer, though, and I ripped through it at a pace of knots. Like an idiot, I read Slade House a few years ago, not realising it was a sort of sequel. I don’t think it ruined anything for me, though. I think I’m going to try some of the Nebula and Hugo nominees next. I like the Incomparable podcast episodes about the award shortlists: https://www.theincomparable.com/theincomparable/bookclub/ If they enjoy something I usually find it worth trying out. They weren’t super impressed with Plague Birds or Machinehood on the most recent episode, though. But I might try them anyway….
  9. I’ve read a couple of interesting books recommended by a friend after I told him I loved time travel stories. One was Recursion by Blake Crouch. Someone invents a way to travel back through time to an intense memory, but with the side effect that the whole world simultaneously resets to the same time, and everyone can recall their own memories from the abandoned time line as a vague deja vu. Cue mass panic as everyone is suddenly hit with a strange, dream like awareness of actually being married to someone else in another part of the country. There’s lots zipping back in time again and again to try to undo mistakes and save the world and it explores the idea pretty thoroughly. The whole book reads like an expanded pitch for a five season SyFy show that never got commissioned. The characters are paper thin and the writing is trashy and the science is awful … but it’s a good page turner and I kind of couldn’t put it down. I’m not sure I’d call it a recommendation but I don’t regret my time with it. The other book was Kindred by Octavia Butler. A woman from 1976 finds herself uncontrollably slipping back and forth in time to nineteenth century America. But because she is black, as soon as she arrives in the past she becomes a slave. It’s ‘12 Years a Slave’ but with a POV character who has a twentieth century sensibility. It’s bloody harrowing, and no fun to read at all, but it’s very informative and again it explores its idea quite deeply. There is no science in it whatsoever, so it doesn’t really count as science fiction - the question of how she travels through time is ignored. But it’s a good, fascinating, (and dismal) read. I’ve just started The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Brilliant so far.
  10. I’ve just read Ra and Fine Structure back to back after the recommendations in this thread, and I thought they were both pretty magnificent. They both deal with really massive ideas - they feel wider in scope to me even than something like Three Body Problem - and I found them both total page turners. Fine Structure is probably the better of the two, but they share a lot of common ground: ensemble casts, huge discoveries - and quite a few scenes of superheroes-flying-at-high-speed-and-punching-each-other style action. Just as in There Is No Anti-Memetics Division, I think he’s very good at staying just on the cusp of intelligibility, and I had to put in a bit of effort to keep up. I read the free ebook of Fine Structure that you can download from his website, and at the end there’s a Q and A that did clear up a few questions that I had, but which also reassured me that I had more or less understood some of the plot points that seemed a little obscure at the time. So, yes, both greatly enjoyed, thanks for the recommendation. Anyone able to suggest anything along similar lines?
  11. Can I play? Bear in mind I'm bound to be rubbish, but I'd like to give it a go. I've only tried online gaming twice - once was a free Live weekend on Halo 3, and it was like getting beaten over the head by strangers for two hours. The second was Journey, though, so rather more positive. I've signed up to the Social Club as JimmyRazor. PSN id: JimmyRazor. Thanks!
  12. Do you mean The Machine Stops by E M Forster? I hope MS aren't using that story as the basis of their 'long term strategy'!
  13. Me! Me! Yes, look at MEEEE! Well, I've made a video, anyway. For a song by TV/stand-up showbiz comedian Spencer Brown. And I think it's rather good. Um, even if I say so myself. Sadly no videogame references, but I thought I'd try and foist it on you peeps anyway. If anyone would like to check it out, it's now available in stunningly low-quality pixel-vision on You Tube: Incidentally, some swearing, so I guess NSFW. As always, comments most welcome. (Of the 'What a genius, you're amazing!' variety, obviously.)
  14. Top marks for Kelthink, there - giving me feedback on my offering when it seems like I only put in the post about an hour ago! Here's what he was on about: 1. David Bowie - Golden Years 2. DJ Shadow - Skullfuckery 3. Ice Cube - My Summer Vacation 4. Mark Ronson feat Ghostface Killah and Nate Dogg - Ooh Wee 5. YoYo feat Ice Cube - You Can't Play With My YoYo 6. Digital Underground - The Humpty Dance 7. Common - The Corner 8. Beck - Strange Apparition 9. Gangstarr - Skills 10. The Go! Team - Ladyflash 11. Maps and Diagrams - Altitude 12. Jon Hopkins - Lost In Thought 13. Four Tet - You Were There With Me 14. Talk Talk - I Believe In You Glad to see Maps and Diagrams getting some loving in his feedback!
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