Thursday, 11 January 2007

2007 and everything's moving (part 1)

Okay, time to get back into this. I'm currently on holiday and, naturally enough, the weather has been crap in Wellington and, as I understand it, in most of the country. In the middle of summer.

I have a friend - let's call her the Short Dominatrix - who just went camping in the Coromandel. Seeing her yesterday, I gloated that she must have frozen her ass off. "Oh no," she chortled, "it was fine all the time. I have pictures. Including many of girls in bikinis. Wanna see them?"

I think I'm getting too predictable.

Anyhow, I picked up a few extra bookcases in an idle moment, and am in the process of sorting my collection and moving all the mediocre SF and non-fiction into the bedroom away from the gaze of those I wish to impress, or at least not to sneer at me. I am going to leave a short shelf of SF that I wouldn't mind being associated with in plain view, that which I would press on casual browsers.

So here's part 1 of what PiatoR suggests you read, assuming you can't avoid a SF geek:

i, Tim Powers, The Drawing Of The Dark - an excellent fantasy novel set at the seige of Vienna, 1529. A down-to-earth protaganist, and Arthurian themes moving in the background.

ii, Ursula Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven - a classic. Le Guin takes on Phillip K Dick's territory with her own sensibilities.

iii, Greg Egan, Quarantine - Egan is a writer much better at short stories than novels, where his hard sf leaves readers cold. Quarantine is the exception - a story solidly grounded in a real protaganist in a believable world led step by step into Egan's flavour of high weirdness

iv, Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas - Robbins's best, IMHO.

v, S M Stirling, Drakon - Stirling is pretty contemptible as a person, and as a writer given to overwritten alt-history military sf. Passable, but others do it better (John Birmingham, for example). Drakon, however, is the exception where his talents are actually harnessed in a good story. Imagine the film "Predator 2" done intelligently...

vi, John Steakley, Armor - a story that takes the tropes of military sf, powered armor and the war against the bugs, and twists them to tell a very humanistic tale. What exactly happens to a man stuck in a war he can't survive if he refuses to die?

vii, Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Dark Matter - What at first appears to be a competent attempt at a standard serial killer novel turns weird. What if the psychopath running around gruesomely slaughtering innocents in search of some mad insight into the universe - was right? Definitely give this a try if you're into slasher fiction.

viii, Charles Stross, Sigularity Sky - a cutting edge (i.e. post-Vinge, post-cyberpunk) retake on space opera, with more than a hint of satire thrown in. The New Republic is at war with - what, exactly? They're taking the planet - how, exactly? And when their mighty war fleet confronts the Enemy - will it even notice?

ix, John Brunner, TeheCompleat Traveller in Black - classic high fantasy as it should be done. Should be read at least once by anyone who thinks they like fantasy.

x, George MacDonald Fraser, Flashman - the start of the series. Fraser mixes stories grounded in firm historical detail of the heroic or more obscure parts of the Victorian era, a quick and funny imagination, and one of the most memorable characters around. If you haven't met Lord Harry Flashman, coward, lecher and blaggard yet, do yourself a favour.

Okay, part 2 follows in a day or two.


opit said...

After reading sci-fi for decades I've found that the "pulp fiction" heritage of the 40's has been more in the mind of the reader than a real take on the world. That's why Star Trek and Star Wars failed so miserably : nobody likes space opera.
I'm not too serious anymore about following the precepts of John Campbell that science is the basis of science fiction. I think it was the ladies - starting with Andre ( Mary ) Norton - who spun the most enjoyable "coming of age" tales.
Even the wyccan and LDS crowds have made an imprint on the genre.
Orson Scott Card has had his moments, but L.E. Modesitt's approach - reminiscent of Zenna Henderson - is a good read.
Anne McAffrey has more tales than enough. Cynthia Jane Cherryh's Foreigner series is just flat unique.

Phoenician in a time of Romans said...

Congratulations - you're the anti-me.

I have a couple of Modesitt's, but didn't like him/her much (compare, for example, "The Parafaith War" to John Barnes's "The Man Who Pulled Down the Sky" or even (God help me) Michael Williamson's "The Weapon"). I gave up on MaCaffrey a while back and Cherryh just left me cold - my friends swear by her, but her writing is just too turgid.

There's another pulp sf from Steve Perry worth reading - I'll post the remainder when I get home later on tonight.