Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Year in Books: 2013

So, I read 65 books in 2013, all SF and fantasy. I kept track, because otherwise at the end of the year I only remember the last five or six that I finished recently. Actually, I read a few more—my count doesn’t include George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, which I began in the summer of 2012 and read mostly on my iPad while commuting by bus. I finished up A Dance with Dragons in July, and officially joined the throngs demanding: “Write faster, George R.R. Martin, write faster!”

The list of books doesn’t include those I started and decided not to finish. I’m not in graduate school anymore, and I don’t have to slog through novels that I don’t really like, darn it! I doubt if any of them were really bad—just not what I needed to be reading at the time.

To cite one example, I began Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys and got about a quarter of the way through before getting bored and frustrated with the protagonist (or one of them anyway) who was getting pushed around by his long-lost brother—they’re both sons of an incarnation of Anansi, the West African Spider god.

Neil Gaiman’s a fine writer, and it’s probably a good book, but I couldn’t see making my way through the whole novel to find out if the brother was ever actually going to grow a spine. (I can recommend Gaiman’s novel Neverwhere, by the way, which I read a couple of years ago. It has kind of a similar structure—wimpy protagonist is forced to eventually become a hero—but with more action and more interesting characters.)

The one book I read that wasn’t a novel was the biography Robert A Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, by William H. Patterson, Jr. It’s a very good look at the first half of the life of one of the 20th century’s most influential science fiction writers. I think Patterson oversells his case a little in the Forward as he tries to argue for Heinlein’s significance in American culture, and I could have stood to read a little less about Heinlein’s attempt at a political career in 1930s California, but aside from those minor quibbles, I found it an entertaining and informative work. I love reading biographies about writers.

Anyway, I’ll attach the complete list in a Page on the right. Here, I’ll just list my favorites. I used a highly rigorous five-star system that mostly consisted of: “Did I like this? Did I like it a lot? Did I really really like it A LOT?” In chronological order:

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold
The Apocalypse Codex, Charles Stross
The Hydrogen Sonata, Iain M. Banks (final book)
Spin, Robert Charles Wilson
Fathom, Cherie Priest
Great North Road, Peter F. Hamilton
The Daedalus Incident, Michael J. Martinez
Gradisil, Adam Roberts
The Explorer, James Smythe
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie

I know, I know: I should probably broaden my reading a bit and occasionally open a book that doesn’t feature space travel, aliens, or magic. Maybe next year.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree . . .

. . . Why are you so blurry?

Happy holidays to my hordes (dozens?) of readers. More chapters, stories, and rambling thoughts in 2014. We're living in the future!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Winter is coming

. . . And here's what it looks like outside my window:

The snow appears to be falling up. If the TARDIS arrives, the Doctor can find me at the bar.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving is over

Yes, turkey and stuffing and family and friends, and taking my son to the bar . . . good times. Now back to the long slog of work and shopping and getting to Christmas, December deadlines and holidays, and the New Year.

I have read 59 books this year, all of them SF/Fantasy. Maybe I'm in a rut. In the laundry room, of a community bookshelf, someone left the Robert A. Heinlein biography (Part 1: the early years), and I'm reading that right now. It's pretty good. Because this volume focuses on his early life, I don't expect to learn much about the details of how he wrote Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land, or even The Puppet Masters (one of the first "adult" SF novels I ever read), but you can start to see some of the incidents and experiences that must have shaped his later writing. I think the biographer overplays Heinlein's influence on the 20th century in his intro, but still: Heinlein was a huge influence on science fiction, and SF has been a big influence on technology and culture (excuse me while I check my smartphone), so maybe he's got a point. Good book, so far. And while it's generally positive (it's an "authorized" biography, after all) it doesn't make Heinlein out to be a saint. Just a guy trying to find his way in the confusing days of the early 20th century.

(Sometimes I remember that I'm living in the 21st century, with access to information from all around the world on a computer I can slip into the side pocket of my cargo pants. Which is maybe more useful to most of us than a moonbase—although I still want that).

Saw the movie Europa Report the other day. Great. Sort of like Gravity with hints of Alien, although, be warned, if you're looking for monsters, you'll wait a long time. Still, it captures the claustrophobia and fear of a long space voyage and the dangers to be encountered when you're a long, long way from home.

Posting two new chapters of Prodigal Prince right now, to make up for the fact that I'm late this week. I try to at least post a new chapter every Sunday, but the holiday weekend got out of control.

And I thank my friends who have been kind enough to read chapters of the new novel I'm working on, The Black Guard. As I think I mentioned before, it's another urban fantasy. With automatic weapons. Gunfights! Explosions! Giant spiders! What more could anyone want? Don't you want to read it? Right now? Please?