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New novels?

(14 posts)
  • Started 11 months ago by geoffhart1962
  • Latest reply from Steve R.

  1. geoffhart1962
    Member

    This topic seems to have scrolled into oblivion, so I'll restart!

    Just finished Stross' "The Delirium Brief", latest in his Lovecraftian Laundry Files series. If you liked previous installments, you'll love this one, as it retains all the good stuff but drops us off a cliff -- rather than merely sliding faster downhill. Free fall is so much fun... until the landing part. *G*

    This time, the precipitating crisis is the return of an old villain (a cult leader who's been p0wned by a particularly nasty alien parasite and has become the agent of one of the Elder Gods) who has already seemingly taken over (by privatisation) most of the American occult spy agencies and now has his sights set on their British counterparts. It's no spoiler to report that the Laundry is eliminated as a government agency, leaving its agents to cope with whatever resources they managed to sequester before the axe fell. The results are equal parts biting satire about government corruption/incompetence and the lunacy of privatizing public servicesm, and an increasingly horrific exploration of the consequences. Lots of chewy Strossian detail*, several nicely described set piece battles, and some highly qualified victories.

    * One assumes he has a full-time staff of dozens researching the details.

    Hard to say more without spoilers, but Stross has mentioned that we're nearing the end of the Laundry sequence, which may involve "dropping the C bomb" (i.e., Cthulhu). I wouldn't remotely call the ending of "Delirium Brief" optimistic or reassuring, but most of our favorite heroes from previous adventures (and a few surprising heroes) are still in there fighting hard against the inevitable. Will they win? Tune in next year for the sequel and probably conclusion of the series.

    Posted 11 months ago #
  2. iamnothing
    Member

    I'm afraid I can't contribute to this thread at present; I haven't been able to finish reading a new novel since May. I did read a new novella. Maybe I should start a new novellas thread?

    Posted 11 months ago #
  3. geoffhart1962
    Member

    Time for another charity-supporting "humble bundle": 25 books for $18 (or less for fewer books): https://www.humblebundle.com/books/scifi-fantasy-tachyon-books

    Posted 10 months ago #
  4. geoffhart1962
    Member

    Just finished Elizabeth Bear's "Karen Memory", which on the whole, I enjoyed. It's an interested and entertaining steampunk adventure, complete with brass automatons and airships, set in a late 1800s pseudo-Seattle, with some real historical figures and some hommages to real historical figures, making for an interesting historical feel. I particularly liked the notion of the city granting a "mad scientist" license to the most extreme tinkerers, with the proviso that they had to work outside the main area of the city (to avoid collateral damage) and to schedule their outbreaks of madness (i.e., technological demos) so that citizens could plan to be elsewhere.

    The main protagonists are society's disempowered, struggling to achieve power: in particular, a cast of women "seamstresses" (a euphemism for brothel workers), a black marshall, a Chinese anti-slavery activist, eastern Indians women, an American Indian (Comanche). And Karen's our spunky POV character, who must solve daunting problems before she can achieve love and the possibility of an alternative career choice. The many characters are distinctive and enjoyable, though a few come perhaps a little too direct from central casting. That's offset by the remarkable diversity of character; most "westerns" are whitewashed in the extreme, but here the diversity both feels and is realistic.

    On the whole, it's a pleasant read, though I found it didn't draw me in as strongly as Bear's other books and short stories. Part of the problem was that I found Karen's narrative voice unsatisfying and a bit offputting. I don't think it's fair to say that it's badly done; more that it just failed to resonate with me, even though I liked the character.

    Posted 10 months ago #
  5. geoffhart1962
    Member

    Just finished Kameron Hurley's "God's War". It's set on a planet a few thousand years in the future, populated by rival sects of what are recognizably offshoots of Islam. At the time of the story, the world has experienced some 300 years of ruinously bloody warfare between the two dominant sects that shows no signs of ending. There's been a tremendous ongoing loss of male lives (since males are preferentially sent to the battlefields) -- think World War I trench warfare, only far worse -- with interesting social consequences. These include a heavily skewed female to male ratio; in the more conservative of the two societies, women outnumber men more than 20 to 1. The ratios are still skewed, though less extremely, in the other society, since women also participate in the fighting. To be clear, the author does not seem to be singling out Islam for criticism, since characters from both societies are sympathetically portrayed. The main plot driver is the introduction of foreigners (from another planet) who bring with them destabilizing technology that could end the war -- though not necessarily in nice ways. Our protagonists are recruited to stop this.

    There's some fascinating worldbuilding relating to gender roles, and some funky "biopunk" technology; "magicians" can manipulate what appear to be genetically engineered or hybrid machine/organic bugs, which are omnipresent and perform functions such as lighting homes, powering vehicles, and shielding their masters from projectiles. It's an exceptionally violent world; our protagonists are bounty hunters responsible for hunting down deserters who may have been released by the enemy to carry plague to their native lands. Hurley also gives us interesting insights into boxing culture, based on her own training as a boxer.

    The characters are interesting and complex, and their interpersonal relationships are even more complex, sometimes in surprising ways. There aren't many entirely good or evil characters (possibly only one who is a named character), and events resolve in complex -- and not always expected -- ways.

    I've enjoyed Hurley's essays in Locus for many years, and always meant to get around to reading her fiction. I'm glad I did, and I look forward to encountering more of her worlds.

    Posted 10 months ago #
  6. geoffhart1962
    Member

    Just finished Curtis Chen's "Waypoint Kangaroo". The reason for the first part of the name isn't really clear, but the "Kangaroo" relates to the protagonist's quirky secret power: the ability to open a hole into an adjacent dimension, where he can store stuff and later retrive it. If you remember the "portable hole" from Bugs Bunny, that's the basic idea, only differently implemented. It's a whacky notion in a story that's otherwise fairly straightforward hard SF, and it has important plot implications.

    The basic notion is that the eponymous Kangaroo is a spy, hence his codename, and engages in a certain amount of James Bondish buckle-swashing. Mash up Bond with Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series and you've got the basic idea, though Chen is doing more of an hommage rather than being derivative.

    The nominal plot is that Kangaroo is banished from Earth to go on a forced vacation on a luxury cruise-liner. Needless to say, spies never get to have a peaceful vacation. By the end of the book, he proves to be crucial to thwarting a plot to destroy Mars as an independent nation. (I don't think that's a spoiler; you'll see that ending coming a mile off, though how it's executed remains cliffhangerish right to the end.)

    It's a well-written, often funny, tightly plotted romp that never slows down for long. If you like Bond or Slippery Jim DiGriz, you'll love Kangaroo. Now I want to go back and read more Harrison!

    Posted 9 months ago #
  7. iamnothing
    Member

    Well, I managed to read 2 SF novels recently: _Apes and Angels_ by Ben Bova and _Welcome to Boss Lady's Planet_ by Jeff Carroll. The first is hard SF and follows _New Earth_ IIRC. The other is space opera with a lot of action as well as some thematic material.

    Posted 7 months ago #
  8. Greg
    Member

    I just finished Philip Pullman's "The Book of Dust." It's the first volume of his new trilogy concerning the world of Lyra Belacqua. If you liked "His Dark Materials," the original trilogy, I'll certainly recommend this one. My only complaint is that I can't go directly on to the second volume. It may not turn up until sometime next year.

    Just before Pullman's new novel I finished "Brave Story," a thumping big 250,000-word fantasy paperback by Miyuki Miyabe. Those pages turn quickly, but there are a lot of them to turn. I thoroughly enjoyed the tale. That said, I would offer a caveat with any recommendation: I'm fond of Japanese anime and video games; the book was influenced by both. This won't be everybody's cup of tea.

    Posted 6 months ago #
  9. geoffhart1962
    Member

    Don't recall whether I posted in this forum, but there's a SFWA story bundle you might be interested in (ending ca. 30 May): https://storybundle.com/scifi

    I haven't heard of most of the authors, but seems like an inexpensive way to get to know a bunch of potential new favorites!

    Posted 4 months ago #
  10. geoffhart1962
    Member

    Another "pay what you want" bundle, this time for fans of military SF: https://storybundle.com/military

    Posted 3 months ago #
  11. Marian
    Member

    The Invisible Library, recommended by a friend, turned out to be a lot of fun. It's an adventure that owes a lot to Jasper Fforde. Very fast moving and very imaginative. It's the first in a series and I'll admit that while I enjoyed it, I'm not inspired to pursue the series. This fits the definition of a summer beach read.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  12. Ron
    Member

    Book: We Have Always Lived in the Castle
    Author: Shirley Jackson
    Type of Book: Horror novel
    My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    What follows are my posts in a Goodreads discussion of We Have Always Lived in the Castle:

    In some ways it is like a mystery novel, in other ways like a Gothic novel.

    I can't help but think that Shirley Jackson drew upon her life in writing this novel. The theme of persecution of people who exhibit "otherness" is one of the themes in Shirley Jackson's fiction.

    Merricat Blackwood, her elder sister Constance, and their ailing Uncle Julian live in a large house in isolation from the nearby village.

    The events of the past are revealed, including what happened to the remainder of the Blackwood family. Years ago, Blackwood family members were murdered – poisoned with arsenic, which was mixed into the family's sugar bowl and sprinkled onto blackberries at dinner. Julian, though poisoned, had survived. Constance, who did not put sugar on her berries, was arrested for, and eventually acquitted of, the crime. Merricat was not at dinner, having been sent to bed without dinner as punishment.

    Merricat walks into the village twice a week and carrying home groceries and library books, where she is faced directly with the hostility of the villagers. Children taunt with verse. A character says that he did work on the Blackwood house but didn't get paid for it.

    Merricat is a practionter of magic, such as nailing a book to a tree and choosing three words for 'protection'. After discovering that the book has fallen down, Merricat becomes convinced that danger is imminent. Before she can warn Constance, their estranged cousin, Charles, appears for a visit.

    Charles quickly befriends Constance, insinuating himself into her confidence. Charles is aware of Merricat's hostility. He makes many references to the money the sisters keep locked in their father's safe. Merricat perceives Charles as a threat, calling him a demon and a ghost. Uncle Julian dislikes Charles, calling Charles 'dishonest' and a 'bastard.'

    One night before dinner, Merricat, in her anger against Charles, pushes Charles' still-smoldering pipe into a wastebasket filled with newspapers. The pipe sets fire to the family home. Villagers observe the fire. There is still resentment from the villagers. One character hopes that the entire house burn down. Firemen arrive to put out the fire. Once it's out, villagers begin throwing rocks at the windows, smashing them and surging into the house to destroy whatever they can. Merciat and Constance are verbally taunted. Merricat and Constance, driven outdoors, are encircled by some of the villagers who seem on the verge of attacking them. Merricat and Constance flee for safety into the woods. In the course of the fire, Julian dies of what is implied to be a heart attack, and Charles attempts to take the family safe. Merricat and Constance shelter for the night in a hideaway that Merricat created some time ago. Constance confesses for the first time that she always knew Merricat poisoned the family. Merricat readily admits to the deed.

    It seems that Merricat has above average intelligence, having the foresight of creating an hideaway. She probably got ideas about arsenic poisoning from her library books.

    Upon returning to their ruined home, Constance and Merricat proceed to check what was damaged and what is useable. Damage was done by the fire and by the villagers. Some food apparently got stolen, but not the books.

    I can't help but think that was a swipe by the author, Shirley Jackson, at her neighbors.

    I was also reminded of an event years ago. There was a used bookstore in my neighborhood which was broken into after it was closed. An attempt was made for the cash register, but it was already empty. None of the books were stolen.

    Back to the story: windows of the house are boarded up, barricades are set up, and they lock the door. Some people knock on the door and attempt communication with Constance and Merricat, but they don't respond.

    Some villagers, awakening to a sense of guilt, begin to leave food on their doorstep. Charles returns once to try to renew his acquaintance with Constance, but she now knows his real purpose is to steal the money in the house and ignores him. In this part of the novel, the two sisters say loopy things, in my opinion. The two sisters choose to remain alone and unseen by the rest of the world.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  13. Ron
    Member

    Book: The Haunting of Hill House
    Author: Shirley Jackson
    Type of Book: Gothic horror novel
    My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    What follows are my notes from a Goodreads discussion:

    1. I'm reading the Penguin edition of The Haunting of Hill House.

    2. I read the Introduction--its a thing I do. I find this interesting:
    "The true antecedents of The Haunting of Hill House are not the traditional English ghost stories of M.R. James or Sheridan LeFanu, or even the gothic fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, but the ghostly tales of Henry James.'

    3. The novel starts with exposition. Here we learn of the four main characters of the novel: Dr. Montague, the paranormal investigator. Two women, Eleanore and Theodora , each of whom had experienced paranormal events. Eleanore, it seems, had experienced poltergeist phenomenon; Theodora did extremely well on the Zener card tests. The fourth character is Luke Sanderson, the young heir to Hill House.

    4. Eleanore travels to the house. Of the four main characters, she is the first to arrive. Not long after, Theodora arrives. There is pretty good rapport between Eleanore and Theodora. Twenty five percent done with the book.

    5. The other two main characters enter the story, Luke and Dr. Montague. The four main characters seems to get along with each other very well.

    6. Dr. Montague explains the building's history, which encompasses accidental death and suicide.

    7. The interior architecture of the house is unusual. Some characters are concerned that they might not find their way around the house. To resolve this problem, Dr. Montague--if I recall correctly--left doors open. Yet these doors were later closed.

    9. Dr. Montague explains the eccentric interior design of the house. The angles are not straight. For example, steps and floors are slightly titled. This is given as a reason why the doors which were opened got closed--the doors closed simply because of gravity. But is this naturalistic reason correct? I can see why, in the book's Introduction, the stories of Henry James is considered the true antecedents of The Haunting of Hill House.

    10. The narrative is smoothly written and goes at a good pace. My reader says I'm 50 percent done.

    11. Read from the 50 percent point to the 75 precent point. Two main things: assorted supernatural phenomenon, and the discovery and reading of a creepy scrap book by Mr. Crane. So far, this book is a solid four stars for me.

    12. Two additional characters enter the story: Mrs. Montague, and Arthur, who if memory serves is a school teacher. Her character is shown by what she says. She thinks spirits are real, though she strikes me like a New Age 'psychic' type--she has the view that spirits don't have nefarious motives.

    12. Mrs. Montague wants to do planchette. According to Wikipedia,: "A planchette ( /plɑːnˈʃɛt/ or /plænˈʃɛt/), from the French for "little plank", is a small, usually heart-shaped flat piece of wood equipped with two wheeled castors and a pencil-holding aperture, used to facilitate automatic writing. The use of planchettes to produce mysterious written messages gave rise to the belief that the devices foster communication with spirits as a form of mediumship. "

    13. Mr. Montague thinks planchette is nonsense. Mrs. Montague and Arthur get some words from planchette.

    14. There are paranormal events in the house. It seems though, in some cases, Eleanor is the only one aware of these events. Or perhaps she is losing touch with reality? There is one scene where the original four main characters experience the house shaking. Arthur and Mrs. Montague slept right through it. This provides some comedy.

    15. Eleanor winds up in a precarious part of the house, yet she says she is happy and considers Hill House her home. The other characters fear that she is going to fall; with the help of Luke, she makes it down the stairs safely.

    16. Because of her behavior, the characters think its best for her to leave. Eleanor gets into the car, and gets killed by driving into a tree.

    17. The novel's opening paragraph has been remarked upon. The novel's last paragraph I think is strong too.

    18. I'm going to throw out an interpretation. Its not, strictly speaking, a ghost, like that of a deceased person, behind the paranormal events, but more like a Genius loci. Sort of like an intelligence that is part of the house. Dr. Montague said there was an underground stream. After perusing some woo-woo websites, I came across this: "...One special quality of blind springs is that they seem to have an effect on consciousness..." I came across related stuff about ley lines and earth energies.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  14. Steve R.
    Member


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