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Sci Fi recommendations


marlonharewood
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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

 

Spoiler

who is a time traveller from the 1970s trapped on the Q train and somehow unable to leave. August and her friends gradually unearth Jane’s real identity and then hatch a plan to reverse the accident that caused the time loop and so free her. 

 

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…

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On 11/05/2022 at 21:11, little che said:

Has nobody else read Sea of tranquility by Emily St Mandel (of station eleven fame) yet ?

It's such a beautifully written book that has themes of time travel  and pandemic living and has a central mystery that since people will probably guess at midway but I have to admit I didn't see it until just before the reveal.  Very recommended


I’ve now read this and is is indeed absolutely superb. I’m glad I waited to read it with no interruptions as some of the little details are easily missed. 

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45 minutes ago, Vespa Alex said:


I’ve now read this and is is indeed absolutely superb. I’m glad I waited to read it with no interruptions as some of the little details are easily missed. 

Excellent. She writes such interesting stories and the small ways in which each book carry over to the next are always compelling.

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2 hours ago, little che said:

Excellent. She writes such interesting stories and the small ways in which each book carry over to the next are always compelling.


This is the first I’ve read, as I did Station Eleven as an audiobook when I had a long commute. Will definitely get more. 

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On 20/05/2022 at 22:57, jimmyrazor said:

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…

 

Sci-fi is often a good container for either showing future societies accepting of lgbt+ relationships, and/or as a vehicle for diving into attitudes towards them (Left Hand of Darkness being a famous one there), so yeah, it's not uncommon to see.

 

I wouldn't recommend them as a way to get your rocks off, but Arkady Martine's Teixcalaan series; Tamsyn Muir's Locked Tomb trilogy; and CJ Cherryh's Cyteen are all books involving non-heteronormative romances as greater or lesser aspects, while also being excellent books.

 

(Benjanun Sriduangkaew's works in general also delve heavily into that subject as a rule, but what few I've read I haven't found particularly compelling as actual stories; it appears I'm in a minority there though, so your mileage may vary).

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Despite owning it since it was first published I'm just now getting around to reading Gideon the Ninth. I'm about a third of the way through and it's really getting interesting. I might queue up Sea of Tranquillity to read next since you lot seem to like it so much

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One issue I do have at the end of that first book is

 

Spoiler

They teased something important with Gideon being the only infant to survive the nerve gas but then went nowhere with it. I hoped it'd come back by the end as something important but no. Apparently Harrow was the main character all along. The brief things I've read about book two are very intriguing and the blurb for book three seems to be taking the story elsewhere. Given the subtitle of the series is Locked Tomb I'm sure we're also curving back around to that very tantalising glimpse of what Harrow saw in there.

 

*Edit* Also

 

Spoiler

In the first testing room while fighting the regenerating skeleton Gideon saw glowing points in the creature that Harrow said she shouldn't have. They never circled back to that. I'm hoping despite the ending to the book that we're not done with Gideon yet

 

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So I started Harrow the Ninth yesterday. Currently at 70% and

 

Spoiler

Gideon just took over in a fist pumping moment and immediately complains Harrow didn't do any weights

:)

 

Amazing series. Waiting until September for Nona the Ninth is going to be torture.

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I think I have the first book, so will wait until the third book is out before starting. That said, I've still got five books of the Malazan series to read so I'm going to be a while anyway lol.

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On 22/05/2022 at 16:32, Wiper said:

Arkady Martine's Teixcalaan series

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.

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On 24/05/2022 at 09:10, Talvalin said:

I think I have the first book, so will wait until the third book is out before starting. That said, I've still got five books of the Malazan series to read so I'm going to be a while anyway lol.

 

It's now a four book series. Apparently the first arc of the final book became so large she turned it into a book of its own and called it Nona the Ninth.

 

New book day for me today. These two just came out

 

https://smile.amazon.co.uk/Eversion-Alastair-Reynolds-ebook/dp/B09NFLXBYP

A small group of intrepid explorers are in search of a remote and mysterious artefact. It's a well-funded expedition, well organised, which is lucky as they're sailing north of Bergen on the schooner Demeter, searching for a narrow inlet which will lead them to a vast uncharted lake - and their goal­­­--

Until disaster strikes.

Doctor Silas Coade wakes from disturbing dreams, on the steamship Demeter, in pursuit of an extraordinary find almost too incredible and too strange to believe, secreted within a lagoon in the icy inlets of Patagonia. But as they come in sight of their prize he and the crew see they are not the first to come so far: there is a wreck ahead, and whatever ruined it may threaten them as well--

Shaking off his nightmares, Doctor Silas Coade joins his fellow exploders on the deck of the zeppelin Demeter and realises something has already gone dangerously wrong with their mission. If any of them are to survive, then he will have to take the exploration - and their lives - into his own hands . . .

 

https://smile.amazon.co.uk/Weaponized-Neal-Asher-ebook/dp/B09KRYFK6Q

 

Ursula has lived twice the normal human lifespan, courtesy of the latest technology. But now she’s struggling to find excitement and purpose, so signs up to the Polity’s military. She excels in weapons development, and progresses rapidly up the ranks. But after botching a powerful new ammunition test, she’s dismissed from service.

Hunting for a simpler, more meaningful existence, the ex-soldier heads for the stars. And after founding a colony on the hostile planet of Threpsis, Ursula finally feels alive. Then deadly raptors attack and the colonists are forced to adapt in unprecedented ways. The raptors also raise a deeply troubling question: how could the Polity miss these apex predators? And alien ruins? Meanwhile, biophysicist Oren has formed his own survival plan – one he’ll pursue at any cost.

As a desperate battle erupts to consume the planet, Ursula finds she must dig deep into her past to ensure humanity’s future.

 

And then I decided to grab this

 

https://smile.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B098JDVK33?psc=1

 

Seventy-five years from today, the human race has been cast from a dying Earth to wander the stars in a vast fleet of arks—each shaped by its inhabitants into a diverse and fascinating new environment, with its own rules and eccentricities.

When her sister disappears while responding to a mysterious alien distress call, Eryn insists on being part of the crew sent to look for her. What she discovers on Candidate-623 is both terrifying and deadly. When the threat follows her back to the fleet and people start dying, she is tasked with seeking out a legendary recluse who may just hold the key to humanity’s survival.

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35 minutes ago, Flub said:

 

Done. That looks great

The second chapter is as good a chapter as I’ve read in years. Think it’s going to stay with me for an awful long time. A fantastic piece of writing. Hope you enjoy. 

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17 hours ago, Flub said:

Chapter 1 was interesting, chapter 2 was grim, chapter 3 was wtf? and then the pig started talking. I'm in.

 

Oh my word. The chapter with the pig was so well written.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm about halfway through the new one by Alastair Reynolds, Eversion. It's a strange mix of the exploration bits from At The Mountains of Madness and a Star Trek timeloop episode. 

 

It starts out on an 18th Century sailing ship exploring the ice north of Norway looking for an unspecified object. Tragedy strikes and the story starts again with the same characters except it's now the mid 19th Century and we're on a steam-powered ship off the coast of Peru looking for a structure of some kind. Tragedy strikes again and the story picks up the same characters in a new vehicle in a new time period. In each period characters remember little details from the previous one but are never sure if they're dreaming or imagining things. 

 

I'm really enjoying this. It's nicely paced so you're not waiting for the story to move on, the characters are well written and the central mystery  is compelling. 

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Thanks to @idiwamistakenly thinking I’d recommended Walter M. Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, I read that book myself recently, and obviously it’s great. But I noticed there was a selection of Miller’s shorts called Dark Benediction on the Kindle store too and it’s very good, as long as you can put up with the usual golden age attitudes to female characters.

 

I was giddy with excitement to find it includes a story called Crucifixes Etiam, which is basically about a guy who is part of a Mars terraforming project having an existential crisis. I read this when I was a kid and it always stuck with me, I had no idea who it was by so I was delighted to find it here. There is other good stuff too, and if you enjoyed Miller’s Leibowitz prose style you’ll almost certainly dig this.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 23/06/2022 at 23:17, ZOK said:

I think someone posted about Octavia E. Butler in here a while ago - it would have been her 75th birthday yesterday and NTS did a day of special shows to celebrate, some great listening here:

 

https://www.nts.live/shows/octavia-butler

 

That may have been me, thanks Ill give that a listen.

In other news I finished Eversion , I enjoyed it overall. Although it felt a bit like a short story rather than a novel.

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On 27/05/2022 at 10:24, Michael J Glocks said:

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…
 

 

On 23/06/2022 at 23:17, ZOK said:

I think someone posted about Octavia E. Butler in here a while ago - it would have been her 75th birthday yesterday and NTS did a day of special shows to celebrate, some great listening here:

 

https://www.nts.live/shows/octavia-butler

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…

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  • 2 weeks later...

I reread Schismatrix Plus recently after watching the  Swarm episode on Love ,Death & Robots . I kinda appreciate the effort that went into LD&R  version of Swarm given how much they had to simplify it for TV.

 

Re Schismatrix, you could hang entire space operas  (and people probably have )off single ideas in chapters there's that much going on.

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I bounced off Schismatrix when I tried to read it earlier this year. Maybe it was just not the right moment but I found it hard to get into it. I keep reading praise for it though so I will try again soon. 

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I read it a few years back and wasn't entirely sure what the fuss was - enjoyed the sort stories moreso than the main one, I actually took my time recently and it worked much better for me, I'm thinking I'll need to read it again because  I'm sure there's a load of detail that I can't remember or undoubtedly missed.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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…

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