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Robert Hutchinson

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Abracapocus [Jun. 9th, 2006|11:44 pm]
Robert Hutchinson
Finally, here is all my blathering about the books I have read in the past two months or so. I suck both at literary criticism and at stringing lots of words together in general, so beware.

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
Start April 3 -- End April 15

I bought this on the strength of the short fiction by Reynolds that I have read, plus my inclination to enjoy modern space opera. I was pleased enough to devour all of the follow-ups; that seems like a good enough endorsement. If I had to think of a complaint to cover all of the books, it would be that many of the characters had lots of good development, but only in those areas that directly served the plot. (I can think of one notable exception later on in the series.) I do know that plot must be served, but the more time you spend talking about the character's motives for revenge or love or philanthropy, the more I notice that she doesn't give any conscious thought to the food she's eating for breakfast.

Asimov's Science Fiction, April/May 2006
Start April 16 -- End April 17

Double issue, but nothing really stood out for me.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
Start April 17 -- End April 19

I laughed out loud four or five times, which is high praise indeed from me (I laugh easily at audiovisual media, but not the printed page). The longer pieces, adapted from speeches, were my favorites.

Asimov's Science Fiction, June 2006
Start April 19 -- End April 20

I was tremendously underwhelmed by both of the novelettes--James Patrick Kelly's "The Leila Torn Show" and Beth Bernobich's "A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange"--but loved "Eight Episodes" and "Chu and the Nants" (Robert Reed and Rudy Rucker, respectively) to pieces. "Eight Episodes" is the kind of story that does to me what straightforward horror stories are supposed to do for everyone else, I think. Someone needs to start a fake wiki with such material in it.

Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams (library)
Start April 20 -- End April 23

This book was a strange experience. I can't say I was especially wowed by the setting, or the prose, or the characters--but taken together, they made a very good book. A very solid book, to use a cloudy adjective.

Unicorn Variations by Roger Zelazny (library)
Start April 20 -- End April 24

Fair to good, although there's always a percentage of Zelazny that I don't get and/or don't care about.

The Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley
Start April 23 -- End April 26

Paperback ... one of those Books Often Mentioned ... hey, let's buy it. Pretty good. Pretty creepy in places.

The Rift by Walter Jon Williams
Start April 26 -- End April 30

You can only make a disaster novel so interesting, and this one rises to that level, more or less. The various monomanias of some of the characters were sometimes hard for me to digest--I was left wondering just how racist the internal thoughts of a racist can be, for instance. (Not to mention wondering how the author settled on those internal characterizations.)

Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds
Start April 30 -- End May 3

A "sidebar" to the Revelation Space trilogy. It was my favorite of the Reynolds books to read.

How Much for Just the Planet? by John M. Ford (library)
Start May 4 -- End May 5

I had read some of the stuff Mr. Ford apparently comes up with, off the cuff, just in his replies on Making Light, and also knowing that this was a comedy Star Trek novel that tweaked the collective nose of Star Trek as often as possible ... well, I HAD to read it. And it was glorious, the parts that wildly contradict canon and all. My only hindrance was not knowing the melody for some of the printed songs. (I thought a second hindrance was not being able to clearly follow the last third of the book, until I realized that the characters couldn't follow it either, which let me just be pulled along.)

Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel Delany (library)
Start May 6 -- End May 7

I think that I can appreciate Delany's writing, but I can't really enjoy it. A for-instance: I would greatly enjoy his use of an extended metaphor, only to want to throw the book at the wall on the next page while reading about the history of Has-No-Bearing-On-Anything City. I can easily see someone with different literary tastes reversing those two examples in perceived quality, as well.

Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds
Start May 5 -- End May 12

The second of three in a series. It has words.

The Princes of the Air by John M. Ford
Start May 12 -- End May 13

I bought this at a used bookstore, solely because of the author. Ford is so damned good at writing, not just farce, but anything that has that sort of intricate density. Both of his books that I have read often seem like exercises in setting up amusing arrays of dominoes, and it completely works for me.

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge
Start May 13 -- End May 16

Vinge's characters always seem a tiny bit "off" to me in their motivations. I am totally not buying the idea of a "Wikibay bicycle". Now that I've got all of its faults listed, go buy this book and read it now, damn you. It is candy. Made of gold.

Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds
Start May 15 -- End May 20

Book 3 of 3. A bit weaker for me than the others, solely due to some of the narrative shortcuts and recaps used to keep the paperback at a mere 750 pages.

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
Start May 21 -- End May 24

Chinese fables and such? Completely not something I would enjoy. But so many people were bemoaning its not being in print, and calling it their very favorite fantasy novel, that I picked it up used.

It was perfect. So funny. I almost don't want to read the sequels, knowing the way they stopped being written.

The Hugo Winners, Vols. I and II (library)
Start May 24 -- End TBD

Edited by Isaac "facetious arrogance as humor never gets old" Asimov, this is almost all of the short fiction that has won Hugo Awards, in chronological order. I'm still trying to finish it--the moving into the new house, and the availability of the glorious Internet, hurt my book-reading time severely.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Start May 26 -- End May 28

I was amused throughout, but was irritated by the way would jump from being unconsciously funny to serious to sad to wacky to consciously funny to disturbing to exciting. Those sound like a bunch of great things to find in a book, but they didn't feel well integrated at all to me.

Asimov's Science Fiction, July 2006
Start May 29 -- End May 30

Sakes alive, look at all the arty stuff. "Fireflies" (Kathe Koja) completely didn't work for me, "You Will Go to the Moon" (William Preston) largely didn't--but "The World and Alice" (L. Timmel Duchamp) largely did. About "Impossible Dreams" (Timm Pratt): when someone who's still as much of a neophyte as I am says "Oh, THIS story again!", it's not good. Also, I'm not a movie buff, but I've spent enough time around them to appreciate that part of the story. No, wait, that was the entire story. "Movies are different OMG." I don't see how it could be very entertaining at all for someone who might confuse Orson Welles with Orson Bean. "The Djinn's Wife" (Ian McDonald) had a very good core, but it took some patience to let it soak through the setting for me.

Why do I start a new paragraph? Because "Nano Comes to Clifford Falls" (Nancy Kress) deserves my undiluted scorn. Okay, I'm kidding, it's not that objectionable, but the Sci Fi Premise completely falls flat for me. Yeah, if matter compilers are suddenly placed into a world that had nothing of the sort up until that point, you might end up where the story did. But how is that thought-provoking?

Now that we are moved in, with glorious cable television and Internettery, my ability to devour books is greatly hampered. As mentioned, I am still working on finishing the Hugo winners book. Also bought but not yet read: Jasper Fforde's Lost in a Good Book (the bookstore was trying to get rid of two dozen of them for $5 each), Alastair Reynolds' Century Rain, and Tobias Buckell's Crystal Rain. And only just now do I notice the lexical coincidence of those last two titles.