Thursday, December 15, 2016


Novel + novel + novel.

As I mentioned last time, 1st up was "The Chemical Wedding" by John Crowley. The full cover says "The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz A Romance in Eight Days by Johan Valentin Andreae in a new version by John Crowley". Phew! So Andraea wrote this allegorical, alchemical tale, 1st published in 1616 in Germany. It is written as a journal being kept by a monk named Christian Rosencreutz - German for Rosy Cross, also known as Rosicrusians, which has been a popular name for christian ceremonial magic / mystical sects apparently since the 15th century. Crowley retells the tale, updating the language and commenting. A lot of Crowley's comments dwell on how bizarre the story is. I totally agree, it is completely off the walls, but generally in somewhat of a charming way.

The book was only 211 pages, it was an odd, quick read - but fun. I got most of the references to ceremonial magic symbolism as I had studied it some during my "explore all religions" phase when I was maybe 21-23 YO. Most of what I read then was early 20th century Rosicrusianism, Waite, Crowley, Tarot. Interesting, I remember that the red fluid and white fluid mixed to create the elixir of life / philosopher's stone were female and male respectively. In this book red is masculine and white feminine. I guess you shouldn't expect consistency with made-up stuff.

The book was illustrated, and I found the illustrations mostly unappealing. They really didn't do much for me - I guess I was spoiled by Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen, and Edmund Dulac. Also, some of them just seemed inappropriate - like the picture of a statue of Venus sleeping which has hair curlers.

Next up, "Babylon's Ashes", by James S. A. Corey, The Expanse #6, 544 pages. Wow, it didn't seem like that long a book. It started out slow but then picked up pace well. The ending, tho, I thought was weak - it somewhat fell into the old sci fi "deus-ex-machina" trap. But it was a relatively happy ending.

I think the novels are now being influenced by the SyFy screenplays. The addition of 2 new crew members to the 4 we knew well from the 1st 5 novels I like, but it somehow seems influenced by TV.

I thought this novel totally broke my "100 pages per narrative thread" rule for novels - but I didn't realize it was 544 pages long. Let's do the math anyway. Here's the chapter count per narrator - there are 53 chapters, plus a prologue and an epilogue featuring characters who take no part in the main action of the book.

  • Pa 10
  • Filip 7
  • Holden 11
  • Salis 1
  • Clarissa 1
  • Dawes 2
  • Avasarala 3
  • Prax 3
  • Alex 2
  • Naomi 4
  • Jakulski 1
  • Fred 1
  • Bobbie 2
  • Vandercaust 1
  • Amos 1
  • Marco 2
  • Roberts 1
So the 100 page rule would say each narrator should get 10 chapters. Only Pa and Holden make that. 17 total narrators? Seems to make it harder for the reader. Roberts is introduced as a narrator in chapter 44. Maybe this is more screenplay thinking? I wonder what these numbers are like for Game of Thrones?

Finally, "Broken Monsters", by Lauren Beukes, 2014, 449 pages. From urban sci fi to time-traveling serial killer, Ms. Beukes has wound up now writing full-bore horror. I reviewed this in Kobo, here's that review:

This is a very well written book, very well paced with great characters and great background development. I suspect the internet tech overlay will become dated quickly, but it works now.

But, it is definitely horror, and it made me realize I really don't like horror novels. I was totally creeped out the 2nd 1/2 of the book, and I really don't like being creeped out. Too old maybe. I'm more of a bright shiny future kind of guy.

If you like horror, then Joe Bob definitely sez, check it out.

Her prior novel, "Shining Girls" was somewhat headed in this direction, but did not totally creep me out the way this one did. This novel also has more police procedural overtones to it. It seemed to be exceptionally well researched. I guess I just don't like horror as a genre.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Lots + 1 + 1

I'm still attempting to ignore reality for a while, so, more science fiction!

I had not read any short stories for a while and noticed I had Just Over the Horizon The Complete Short Fiction of Greg Bear (Book 1) so I went for it. Greg Bear was one of my favorite authors in the 1980s, particularly his "Eon/Eternity" books and "The Forge of God/Anvil of Stars", "Blood Music", "City of Angels", and his fantasy series "The Infinity Concerto/The Serpent Mage". Lots of good physics. I have read all of these books multiple times. Hmmm, he is 73 days younger than me.

The short stories were OK, but I think he is much better at longer form writing. The short story version of "Blood Music" was fun to read again. Some of the things that dated some of the stories were interesting. One example, a cafeteria in a medical facility that had a smoking section. Ha ha, of course all medical campuses that I know of now are completely smoke free.

I then noticed I had a short story by John Scalzi, "An Election", 24 pages. The eBook was $0.99. I hadn't read any Scalzi in a while. The story really didn't do much for me. I think it was supposed to be cutesy, not so much to me. In a finger to the eye of the puppies, the protagonist is married to another man. Progressive SF is definitely in favor of LGBTQA inclusion.

Finally, I noticed a novel that seemed to have come to the top of my eBook reader: "Among Others", by Jo Walton, 2011, 304 pages. This book won the Hugo and Nebula for best novel. I guess since the protagonist is 15 YO, it is yet another YA novel that makes excellent reading for all ages. It is a fantasy, but I liked that it wasn't until 3/4 of the way through the book that you knew that for sure. Up until that point, it could have been a mainstream novel about a troubled young woman with schizophrenia including as a symptom extreme pareidolia.

The protagonist is also a voracious reader, mainly of science fiction. There is much discussion of various authors and titles, all pre-1979/1980, when the story is set. This reminded me of some movies about movie-making, where the gist seems to be "We make movies, movies are magic, we're really cool!" In this book, though, this did not come across as nearly so self-congratulatory. It wound up being fun, as the authors were mostly among my favorites from Back In The Day, and I had read most of the titles discussed - but 40 or so years ago!

I have been (exercising in the morning,) reading in the afternoons, and watching movies at night. I powered on through this book last night and finished around 11:00. With about 10 pages to go, my iPad ran out of juice - the charging cable had come unplugged! So a slight delay to reaching the very satisfying conclusion. This was a very enjoyable book.

Next up to read, "The Chemical Wedding" by John Crowley. I really enjoyed much of John Crowley's work, going back to the late 1970s. Very self-referential - I remember a couple of his novels where the characters gradually come to understand that they are characters in a fairy tale. I hadn't seen anything from him for a while, so I backed this kickstarter.

My reward was a hardcover copy of the book, which came last week. But, somehow, my reward also included 5 x 500 page hardcover books (9" total thickness) - The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 17th-21st editions (2004-2008). I had the 4th and 8th editions of this series, so there was a place for it on my bookshelves. I guess the publisher had a bunch of these in a warehouse somewhere and wanted to get the space back, but still, when I saw what had been included, I was definitely like "post-scarcity utopia"!

Thursday, December 01, 2016

2 + 1

I continue to evade reality reading science fiction. 2 novels and 1 novella since last time.

The 1st novel was "Death's End", by Cixin Liu. 608 pages. This is the 3rd novel of the "Rememberance of Earth's Past" trilogy. I recently blogged on the 1st 2 in the series. The novel starts out mostly backfilling events of the 1st 2 novels, but then does carry the narrative forward aggressively. Like the 1st 2 novels, the physics is the best part of the story. Some very creative invocations of aspects of modern thinking in physics. I think the series could continue on to more books, I have not read if that is intended or not.

Next up, the novella, "Everything Belongs to the Future", by Laurie Penny. 128 pages. Near future, very expensive drug regimens allow lifespan to extend to 150 years, with youth and vigor. Our current economy seems to be becoming increasingly an experiment in social darwinism, it only gets worse when life itself is involved. Extended lifespan seemed to be something to hope for, but, as I have mentioned before, when the 1% or the 0.01% claim it exclusively for themselves, they will have at last succeeded it out-feudaling the feudal ages. This is a good (and short) read.

Finally, "Palimpsest", by Catherynne Valente. 2009, 367 pages. I seriously thought about not finishing this book. It is very wordy. Palimpsest is another world, a fairyland where everything must be described in excruciating detail. You get there by having sex with a person who has a portion of the map of Palimpsest on their skin. Then you get a piece of the map on your skin too. So the 1st part of every chapter is working into a sex scenario, of pretty much every combo of male/female, followed by the rest of the chapter concluding in Palimpsest. Once I get an ebook in my iPad, I feel like I need to read it at some point. So this one I wish I hadn't got in my iPad. Ms. Valente writes very well, but, way too many words for the value delivered.