29 December 2012

Skirting the Issue: My Top 6 SF Books

The question is what book dazzled me this year.   Sitting here I cannot arrive at a single book deserving of being placed on my top ten.  Skirting the issue of my best read of 2012  I am revealing my Top Ten.  A Top Ten list while informative is really not about the books themselves.  A Top Ten reveals what you as a reader like, duh.  My Top Ten does not even hold ten.  The top 6 are locked down but four others are up for debate.  

A recent addition, Black Out/ All Clear by Connie Willis triumphantly moved into the number 6  position.   Time travel has never looked so good.   And that is saying something considering Kage Baker has locked down the idea of time travel so soundly in her Company books.  Why I love them:  packed with WWII trivia, solid plot development, time travel.  Read: Twice.  

Can a SF reader call themselves a SF reader if they do not embrace something by Isaac Asimov?  A debatable question maybe controversial enough to launch a side blog focusing on the" Foundation Effect".....   The Foundation Series takes spot 5.  Why I love them:  the idea of pyschohistory - prediction of future events through Mathematics, the suspenseful, alien quality while being old-fashioned.  Read:  Thrice. 

 I am a space opera junky.  Therefore my top 6 would be of little relevance if Louis McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga was not to be found on it. Of all the books, and by all I mean  I am too lazy to count them, my favourites are those featuring the Gems from the Cetagandan Empire.  I love secret societies, especially opulent, weird, genetically perfected societies.  But above all it goes back to Miles; SF's most charismatic hero ever written.   The most recent addition to the Saga, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance is a classic Bujold plot filled with love, intrigue, humour and suspense.  Maybe not the best book to pick up if you are new to the Vorkosigan Universe but definitely one of the author's stronger books released in recent years.  Read:  Most books twice, some more depending on how sappy I felt.

In  third  happens to be about a Company.  Dr Zeus Inc. profits by time travelling  from the 24th century into the past to save artefacts deemed valuable to be then retrieved in the future.  The Company employees, once human, were transformed as children into immortals.  I cannot choose one book from the Kage Baker's series so instead claim the entire group to fill one spot.  Why do I love them:  the humour,  the strong characterization that Kage wrote so well, the love stories and finally her concept of time travel.  Read:  4 times maybe more depending on the book.  

Without a doubt my favourite book of all time is Dune by Frank Herbert.  This blog is really an homage to his genius.   It's hold on me is simple.  Being a lover of reading, there is nothing more powerful than discovering an author who has complete control over his vision.   The wacky thing is. Dune ranks 2.  Although it is my favourite SF book, it is not the book that I return to time again to simply lose myself in its pages.  Read:  Over 20 times....i realize by typing this out that  a. I look insane   b. I look awesome.

Top Spot happens to be Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert.  Book 6 in the Herbert's Dune series, Chapterhouse:  Dune has been reviewed by many as weak link in the chain of books.  To me though it is the most fascinating of them all.   A reader is permitted  to go behind the velvet rope.  Walk amongst the Bene Gesserit as it struggles to survive against a foe more all encompassing then the God Emperor's (Leto the II, Paul's son, half man, half sandworm...read the books!) Golden Path.  Please excuse me I got all Dune there on you.  Why I love it: look into the Bene Gesserit, an all women powerhouse, the suspense of what is coming back from the Scattering, the final showdown, the speculation of how Herbert would have closed the series...which is defunct thanks to these.  Read:  More than Dune.  Holy Shit Balls.  

14 December 2012

Sugar Plums: Books for wee imaginations

An Auntie of one and god-mommy of two I have earned the title Book Auntie, showering the little ones in my life with gifts to spark their imaginations over the years.  Now that I am a  mommy myself I am able to share those stories with my child as he grows.  Here are a few of our favorites....

Alligator Pie, Dennis Lee
If you are Canadian then I can guarantee that you have just quoted the entire first stanza to the Alligator Pie poem.  If you are not, well what a great opportunity to find out what little Canadian children are being read. The poems are wonderfully insane as only Dennis Lee can write and the illustration by Frank Newfeld are disturbing enough to trigger little minds to look at them over and over again.

Serious.  This book was purchased on the sheer hilarity of the title and shipped off to my niece that day.  Opening it up is one ridiculous page after another documenting a farmer's woes when his cows go on strike.  Luckily the duck was a neutral party....

When Lois Armstrong Taught Me to Scat, Lovely wonderful illustrations to accompany great sentence like "Chew-itee Chew-itee chew-itee Chop, Crackity Crackity Snappity Poppity Pop!" makes for a great read to cuddle up to at night.  Son approved since age one, this book is a favourite at our house.

Trying not to get too sentimental this collection happens to be the first book purchased by me for my little son. At just a week old, and having realized that my entire life for the next 6 months would be spent sitting nursing him, I wanted to do something beyond staring at the wall.  Pooh got us through many a long night.

All Aboard the DinoTrain, Deb Lund
Alright, alright I confess I got a Dino loving little boy at home.  The pages are filled with weird 4 stanza lined, rhyming drama about a  group of dinosaurs taking a train to parts unknown. At this age it is more about the transportation then the destination.

Best Mother Goose Ever, Richard Scarry
I really am unsure of the appeal to this book but it was well-loved by me as a child and now my son.  Filled with very British inspired illustrations to accompany classic mother goose poems, this is a must for every little person.  Bonus points to your family if your husband reads every single poem out loud in a different accent.

7 December 2012

The Gift of Sci-Fi

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Death Star
Not a Storm Trooper was stirring not even a bounty hunter
The stockings were hung by the chimney with fear,
In the hopes that Darth Vadar soon would be there.

Welcome to the first annual how to turn your loved ones into sci-fi nerds this Christmas.

For the wee ones:  Have a little one who finds the dark scary?  Pick up The Woods by Paul Hope , cuddle up together and learn that as long as you have someone to hold your hand, there is no reason to be afraid of the unknown.

The Safe Bet:  Buying for someone who likes adventure books but not adventurous enough to go full Vernor Vinge, spiders that drive, adventurous?  Grab  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, wrap it up, chuck it under the tree and be confident in your choice.  Why?  Well, you just happened to gift  one of the hottest books of the year jammed  with 80's nostalgia that takes the reader on one hell of ride.  Bonus points to you if your loved one is a fan of RPG (role player games!).

For the tortured soul:  Have a tween girl in your life lying around the house like a sack of sad goo willing to venture beyond zombie/vampire love?  The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth is a must.  These books are similar in theme to the Apocalyptic violent blood bath found in The Hunger Games but in my humble opinion better written with a more swoon worthy love story.  Your tween can spend the holidays lost in a land of violence and gore pining over Tobias while you can spend it lost in rum. 

For the reader:  This is for The Reader in the family.  You know that person who is most often identified because of the book they are nose deep in than there facial features.  Time to impress this reader in your life and introduce them to time travel.   Black Out/All Clear by Connie Willis are on my personal top ten books of all time. (holy shit balls) Bonus points if The Reader is WWII nerd.  And no I do not think these books are too long.  The longer the better. 

For the nut job:  Have someone willing to read anything, not judge and likes to get nuts? A couple of holidays ago, my hubby gifted me the Gaea Trilogy by John Varley and it was the best Christmas ever as far as reading crazy ass, what the crap is going on kind of holiday.  All I remember is drinking rum and cokes, and living in a world where an orbital satellite is sentient and manifests itself into an image of Marilyn Monroe.  Honestly people, this shit is crazy!