Monday, December 21, 2015

3 2 5

I mentioned last time I figured out I had already read "Three Parts Dead" by Max Gladstone. So I went on and read the next 2 in this series: "Two Serpents Rise" and "Full Fathom Five". These stories appear to be set on Earth, but an Earth with gods, demons, and wizards. But, it is still an Earth similar in development to ours, with 17 million inhabitant mega-cities and magic-based technology and infrastructure. Hmmm, looking up the links to these books, this series is being called "The Craft Sequence" - craft is what magic is called.

They are all good reads, good plotting, pacing, and characters, and the parallel Earth somehow is interesting. But, looking through my old Fantasy posts, I came across a statement that I have to agree with: that science fiction I think does have new concepts, sometimes useful and important, whereas fantasy is pretty much straight escapism. Oh well, still fun sometimes.

The 1st story deals with a captive god disappearing, I think somewhere in North America, and a priest and novice wizardess trying to figure out what is going on. The 2nd story seems to be Aztecs, in a country where the gods have been killed and the wizards rule. The son of the last priest of the deposed gods and a wizardess cooperate in what is basically a corporate takeover gone bad. The third one appears to be in Hawaii, and most of the characters are female: a priestess and a street urchin channeling something are the 2 main narrative threads. The 2nd and 3rd both have some Dilbertish mockery of corporate culture and corporate-speak.

There's a 4th one out, I think I'll wait a while to read it. Still 24 books unread in my iPad, and I'm 2 months behind on the magazine stack.

Meanwhile, so much sci fi & fantasy coming out on TV. I watched Syfy's 6 hour "Childhood's End" by Arthur C. Clarke. It was OK - production values good, but maybe mostly B-list actors. I think overall that the ideas about aliens in it that were way edgy when the novel came out in 1953 are not so edgy now.

I also watched the 1st episode of "The Expanse" on Syfy. Great production values, and I think better actors. I have read these novels. I think that the amount of world-building for this series is large enough that I will enjoy it more if I let some or all of the episodes build up on the DVR and then binge watch them.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Future Visions

"Future Visions", subtitled "Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft", is a collection of 8 short stories and 1 short graphic novel. It has some all-star authors: Greg Bear, Elizabeth Bear, Nancy Kress, Jack McDevitt, Robert J. Sawyer, David Brin, and Ann Leckie, plus a couple of others I hadn't heard of.

Basically, the authors spent time at Microsoft and then wrote stories incorporating 1 of the research areas they had seen. The resulting stories by and large seemed to me to be contrived. (Duh!) I think I liked the David Brin the best, but, from reading his blog, his "Adam Smith Libertarianism" seemed to be bleeding into the story pretty badly.

Well, the collection was free. I'd say I got my money's worth.

Time I think for something more fantastic or magically realistic. Hmmm, I just somehow opened by mistake "Three Parts Dead" by Max Gladstone. We have a winner, ladies and gentlemen!

Or not - starting reading it and realized I'd already read it. A good fantasy, with gods, mages, and gargoyles. I can't find where I blogged it ??? I really, really wished "search this blog" worked better in Blogger blogs. I guess I'll read its sequel(s) instead.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Ancillary Mercy

"Ancillary Mercy", by Ann Leckie, is the 3rd book in the Ancillary series. I blogged on the 1st 2 books here and here. Amazon says the book is 368 pages long. Hmmm, Amazon has put "(Imperial Radch)" after the title of these three books, although that phrase appears nowhere on the cover or title page???

As I started reading the book, my first thought was, "oh no, here we go, more drinking tea and obsessing over china tea services", and was actually kind of dreading going on. But then, I got totally turned around by this passage, regarding the name of a ship:

"What sort of name is that? Didn't Notai ships usually have long names? Like Ineluctable Ascendancy of Mind Unfolding or The Finite Contains the Infinite Contains the Finite?

Both of those ship names were fictional, characters in more or less melodramatic entertainments.

It's an Iain M. Banks Culture novels tribute! Yay! That is the future I want to live in, a post-scarcity, socialist, anarchist utopia.

So that got me rethinking the whole series. The protagonist is an ancillary - a human body wired up to be a remote peripheral to the AI mind of a starship - who is the only survivor when his ship is destroyed. His mind is that of the ship, so a starship AI is the main character of the series. In addition to the ship AIs, every space station is run by an AI.

It's kind of like The Culture v0.3, with a cloned and networked tyrant governing rather than benevolent AIs.

With that mindset, I greatly enjoyed finishing the book. There is a zany alien ambassador who is fun. The conceit of these novels is that the society is genderless. Everyone is a she, and they sure present as women to me. Take for example these passages, the 1st from Chapter 8, the 2nd from Chapter 9.

Why should she not apologize for being oversensitive?

You've been awake for nearly an hour and you've been crying almost the whole time.

So I was shocked by this sentence in Chapter 5, page 4 of 23 in my eBook:
You'd be proud of him.
??? I presume this was a typo. I think that is the downside of a gimmick - that a slight error in execution leaves the reader wondering if it was intentional or not. I think that, algorithmically, it would have been better to do genderless by alternating between male and female pronouns. That might wind up being totally unreadable. I wonder if she tried it that way? Note that ancillaries are referred to as "it", so the genderless pronoun is spoken for.

I think next I am going to read a free collection of short stories from Microsoft. Still 25 unread books on my iPad, so I think I'm going to keep reading more junk until the new year.