27 March 2013

Anticipation: A cruel mistress

Like this time last year I am having difficulty in trying to choose the right books to pack.  Your assumption is correct, I am going away to visit water.  Still a book lover and not an e-reader owner, I lack the technology to store an infinite catalog of books.  However the tech allure is mounting daily especially with airlines being so stingy on weight requirements.  Since the budget is allotted for beers, sandals and beers, the kindle bindle with have to wait. What am I going to read?  Frankly, I have no clue, but the odds are in favour of dragons or some type of space thingy.  In all honesty, the books I want to read have yet to be released.  In order of freak out levels, here are my top 4 most anticipated reads.
Read me
I am thrilled beyond measure that there will be a series about The Checquy.  Daniel O'Malley, author of The Rook has smartly decided to carry on, thus feeding his new adoring public with more tales from the super secretive, highly important British governmental magic division.  When will this bad boy be released?  Considering O'Malley's publisher and editor received their copies in Jan. it is going to be awhile.  How do I know this, he told us so in his rather fabulous verbose blog.   Level of Anticipation:  2 out of 5 freak outs.  Having just reread the book, I can wait.  Like I have a choice. 

Who's that guy?
Continuing with the fantastic, it will come to no surprise that Mercedes Lackey's (and various authors) next installation of the The Secret World Chronicle is big on my to read list.  Based on the rather disturbingly hyper popular MMO, City of Heroes, these collections of stories are offered first as podcast installments then later printed onto paper, bound and available for purchase.  In other words, they are made into books, that I then buy.  If you are looking for something fun to read, and when I say fun I mean "comic book, action packed, super insane, the world is being taken over by Nazi Robots, thank goodness for the super power league who will save us" then this is the series for you.  Level of anticipation:  3 out of 5 freak outs.  Hey, a girl sometimes just wants to read some ass kicking that is milder than the Games of Thrones but more ultra-violent than Spider-man circa 1967.
Rated G for generally awesome

October! WTF
Dang it all to heck and back again, but I have fallen victim to Young Adult or YA if you must know.  Thanks in part to The Hunger Games, which I was so slow in finally reading and so wrong in not picking up sooner, I chanced up on  The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth.  To say that I am keening on the impeding release of the yet to be named Book 3 is an understatement.  Level of Anticipation:  4 out of 5 freak outs.  Roaming the Young Adult section in the book store is rather creepy.  Just publish the darn book so I can scurry into a corner and get my fix.

4 out 5 freak outs for a YA book means simply that it is awesome.  The question remains what book is causing me to break out in hives from anticipation?  If you have to ask then you haven't been paying attention to my recent posts about The Expanse Series:  Leviathan Wakes, Caliban's War.  We (humanity) are not alone.  Venus is sentient and has a habit of transforming humans into vomit zombies.  It's a problem.  
Level of Anticipation:  5 out of 5 freak outs.  This is the best space opera I have read in years and am loving every sentence.  A must for all you space junkies.

16 March 2013

EAST or WEST: A Review of The Long Earth, Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Terry Pratchett's and Stephen Baxter's collaboration, The Long Earth perplexes me.  Having recently stuffed my copy up onto my third floor bookshelf, I am cognizant that I did read it, even liking it.  Why then am I struggling with the review?  My first attempt at describing the plot was a fail on all levels.  My husband, who is not one to shy away from SF, scurried out of the room after asking me to please stop talking.  Somehow during my ill attempt at summarizing the book I freaked him out.  True, husband is terribly sensitive to aliens to the extreme of monitoring their activities for the sole purpose of ensuring we (Dune family unit) are ensconced in the deep woods of Newfoundland before the mass invasion.  He may describe himself as an advertising copy writer to the general public but in reality  he is Alien Tracker/Keeper of the Family Safety. 

While satisfied with the terror I instilled if let's say I was describing The Things by Peter Watts, I doubt mind-numbing horror was what Baxter and Pratchett were going for.  Where did my telling go so wrong?  In all probability it has to do with stepping. Stepping is the ability to move from one "dimension" to another and another and another and....  Thanks in part to the Internet, a potato, some wires and an East, West labelled switch, humanity can step to new virgin Earth.  Earth as we know it is a product of a myriad of chances.  The happenstances of evolution if altered, exaggerated or skipped would have great ramifications to our way of life.  An extreme example and a section of the book that captured my attention is an Earth without the Moon.  A limitless chain of Earths are open for humanity to explore, expand into and per usual,  attempt to tame.  These endless realities is The Long Earth.  

Interesting stuff, and to be frank I felt at times that I needed some Coles Notes to get me through the science.  I am not completely positive that I grasp the full implications of The Long Earth.  As steppers stretch East and West further away from our Earth, they pass through massive groupings of Earths displaying similar characteristics such as grassland or ocean dominance.   Geologically this makes perfect sense, but from an evolutionary perspective it does not feel right.  Would not parallel universes based on chance be more random?  True, there are planets that steppers arrive too that are so dissimilar from one step before and after that they are called Jokers.  As the story crept along I kept hoping that my questions would be answered. Alas, this was not the case.  

This is not the first book I have read in recent months where the plot freezes up.   Hello, 2312.  It is a shame because The Long Earth and 2312 held such promise, showcasing interesting world views, and ideas of who we are in our solar system.   While 2312 was successful in displaying how remarkable space is, The Long Earth fails to capture my imagination.  The book is reminiscent of an experiment gone wrong.  What would humanity do if suddenly there was an abundance of sustainable land, minerals, water and space? 

Great concept, too bad  Baxter and Pratchett lost control of their vision.   Deciding to add "science" into a SF book doesn't automatically make it better.  In fact, the science frustrated me so much  that I am now not willing to admit that I liked the book. And I do, I really do but then again, do I?

4 March 2013

March Madness: The Liaden Universe

As the doldrums of slushy-iced filled February moves into slushier snow days of March, I realize I am in need of a mission.  A reading mission that is, not a cold war John Le Carre type.  I take that back, my desperation is critical enough that I would consider flying off to Berlin, trench-coat in hand in pursuit of plans stolen by the Commies.  Cabin fever sits firmly on my brain.  

My first attempt in developing a reading adventure quest was a big fail.  Last spring I was struck by the desire to expand my Star Wars book knowledge.  Unfortunately, this grand pursuit came to a lurching halt having subsequently read and disliked The Thrawn Trilogy. Devastated (exaggerate much?) by not discovering a hidden, creative, vast world of prose all wrapped tightly up in The Force, I swore off missions.  Obviously, I haven't learnt my lesson as here I am again developing a reading pursuit that is not only interesting but achievable.  The question is what to read.  The most adventurous quest I have been able to find is the guy who is reading in order of star date, every Star Trek book published.   Blink. This is no mere idea, this is a life pursuit or more simply expressed a nut job geek glorifying in what he loves best.  While I jest, I read his blog, even linking to it on Thank the Maker. From one geek to another, I salute you.  

No sharp corners in Steampunk
Fine and dandy, but honestly, what should I read?   Steampunk? Images of punk rock bands of teens rolling through apocalyptic 25th century sub-burbs pop into my brain. (too much cyberpunk in my past)  While the Apocalypse is not far off, Wikepedia informs me that  Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western Civilization during the 19th century.  Therefore, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.   

What the crap?
Finding myself at a decision crossroad, I ponder, do I want to venture down this steam-inspired fantasy world or find something, how shall I express this, less weird.  Rather rich coming from the one who has recommended books with a homicidal vampiric crew member, and cyborg, time travelling immortals.  In my own defence, we all have our own built in weirdness scale, mine happens to freak out at Victorian alternative history with too many gears, gas masks and goggles lying about.  

And suddenly, (it so happens it was very sudden) I arrived at the answer:  The Liaden Universe.  A year ago I spent a lovely month being introduced to this series and then was thoroughly distracted by teen angst.  My neglect has turned fortuitous as now I have my mission and you have months of prose regarding this series ahead of you.  Lucky bastards.   The Liaden Universe, written by Sharron Lee and Steve Miller is, you guessed, space opera.  Do you take comfort in my predictability? The universe is complex, spanning eons with three major divisions of the human race represented:  Liadens, Terrans and Yxtrangs.  Rammed with every type of emotion and plot development, these books will be taking me on a mission of pure kick-ass reading fun.