Author recommendations - mostly science fiction

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Valuethinker
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Author recommendations - mostly science fiction

Post by Valuethinker »

lowwall wrote:Spook Country by William Gibson. I even went to his book signing in Chicago this week. It's the first time I've been to a book signing, so I wasn't sure of the protocol. I have all of his books - except the failed steampunk experiment Difference Engine - but only brought my yellowed first paperback edition of Count Zero. It's the first one of his books I purchased instead of checking out of the library. He seemed amused by my beat up old copy of Count Zero. He signed it and put a large "2007" after his name. I guess he thought I was planning on flogging it on ebay.
I tired of Cyberpunk as a genre, but William Gibson is utterly stellar. The character of Molly the Ninja will live with me, always.

You might like Charlie Stross (The Atrocity Archive, Accelerando etc.). Not cyberpunk per se, stylistically more conventional, but wild ideas about thinks like Kurzweil's singularity, Cthulu, etc.
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Re: Spook Country

Post by Alex Frakt »

Valuethinker wrote:I tired of Cyberpunk as a genre, but William Gibson is utterly stellar. The character of Molly the Ninja will live with me, always.

You might like Charlie Stross (The Atrocity Archive, Accelerando etc.). Not cyberpunk per se, stylistically more conventional, but wild ideas about thinks like Kurzweil's singularity, Cthulu, etc.
Cyberpunk was a pretty short-lived phenomena. I feel the last (and one of the best) true cyberpunk novels was Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. After that, the ideas of cyberpunk just became background fill for all of science fiction.

I've read Stross. He's OK, but like most science fiction authors, far from totally satisfying. SF is a weird genre, there are so many books published, but so little of actual merit that it is actually possible to read every author (maybe even every book) that matters in the field. I had managed to do so by age 16 (pre-internet I read around 5 books a week) and was faced with a bleak life of retread Philip Jose Farmer and Frederick Pohl. So imagine my happiness as I sunk into Neuromancer, "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."
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Re: Spook Country

Post by Valuethinker »

Alex ''lowwall'' Frakt wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:I tired of Cyberpunk as a genre, but William Gibson is utterly stellar. The character of Molly the Ninja will live with me, always.

You might like Charlie Stross (The Atrocity Archive, Accelerando etc.). Not cyberpunk per se, stylistically more conventional, but wild ideas about thinks like Kurzweil's singularity, Cthulu, etc.
Cyberpunk was a pretty short-lived phenomena. I feel the last (and one of the best) true cyberpunk novels was Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. After that, the ideas of cyberpunk just became background fill for all of science fiction.

I've read Stross. He's OK, but like most science fiction authors, far from totally satisfying. SF is a weird genre, there are so many books published, but so little of actual merit that it is actually possible to read every author (maybe even every book) that matters in the field. I had managed to do so by age 16 (pre-internet I read around 5 books a week) and was faced with a bleak life of retread Philip Jose Farmer and Frederick Pohl. So imagine my happiness as I sunk into Neuromancer, "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."
Agree with you re cyberpunk, and the tendency of science fiction to rewrite itself.

I suppose Philip K Dick, although I've always found him disappointing, relative to the hype. I don't think I've ever finished a PKD novel, which given he is probably far and away the most published writer, now (25 years after his death) marks me out.

I've gravitated more towards thrillers of late. There is Le Carre, and Charles McCarry (Tears of Autumn). Maybe Richard Price (Clockers). Travis McGee (the Lew Archer stories). Raymond Chandler (for the language, if nothing else). Most are formulaic, but I have enjoyed Ross Thomas (Briarpatch) who is well and truly forgotten.

I am not sure Alan Furst really ranks up there with Eric Ambler (the last 2 Fursts have been disappointing) but his immaculate research of the 1938-1942 period gives his novels atmosphere.

I use thrillers to recapture the environment of the 1970s, an era during which I was primarily going to high school etc. It seems that paranoid period of politics and social division, is again recurring. Politics now reminds me of politics in the 1970s, very much.
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More Science Fiction

Post by Alex Frakt »

Have you read the two Alfred Bester books, The Stars My Destination (I think this was published as Tiger!Tiger! in the UK) and The Demolished Man? They were the early high water mark of SF as actual literature. They have that 50s feeling of wild possibilities from the beat writers, yet there is an incipient paranoia that shows a complete awareness of his time.

In Philip K. Dick, the paranoia becomes a visible presence. So much so that a lot of readers can't get beyond it to see his real brilliance. He was an excellent writer, taut fast sentences that sweep you along. His overwhelming concern was metaphysics, and there has never been an author who presented its questions in such an entertaining manner. And what first drew me to him were his ideas. Most science fiction author will come up with one idea about the future - technological invention or question to be explored - and write a book around it. Some plodders will expand that one idea to 3 to as many as 20 volumes. PKD would spin off 10 or 20 ideas as side notes and just leave them there like little nuggets. His short stories contained more ideas to make you think than most of his contemporaries full novels. This is why his stories are such a gold mine for Hollywood now. Give Ubik or Do Androids Dream of ELectric Sheep another try.
I've gravitated more towards thrillers of late. There is Le Carre, and Charles McCarry (Tears of Autumn). Maybe Richard Price (Clockers). Travis McGee (the Lew Archer stories). Raymond Chandler (for the language, if nothing else). Most are formulaic, but I have enjoyed Ross Thomas (Briarpatch) who is well and truly forgotten.

I've read Le Carre, McGee and Chandler (and Ambler and Furst). Will check out Thomas. Here's a couple of detective fiction authors to add to your list: Dashiell Hammett (The Thin Man, Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon) and James Lee Burke (the Dave Robicheaux series - they are all alike, so don't be surprised if the thrill will dull after you read a couple). IF you like reading of the '70s, you have to pick up Larry McMurtry's novels set in that time. Finally, I should add my two favorite authors who aren't mentioned elsewhere: Hiruki Murakami and Patrick O'Brian.

If you haven't tried Patrick O'Brian, it's worth the effort. I'd probably start with the third book if you are unsure - it took that long for him to realize he was going to write this as a series. The first book was to be a one off and the characters weren't fully developed into their ultimate form, although they are still much more richly drawn than most. But it's still an incredible retelling of what may have been the greatest single ship action in British naval history. The strategies and movements of all the naval actions are recreated as much as possible from Cochrane's real actions - although the author does not make a fetish of it like Cornwell in his Sharpe books. In the second book, he dusted them off years later in an homage to Jane Austen. Which is great if you like Jane Austen, otherwise it's a bit of a lump.
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Re: More Science Fiction

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Alex ''lowwall'' Frakt wrote:Have you read the two Alfred Bester books, The Stars My Destination (I think this was published as Tiger!Tiger! in the UK) and The Demolished Man? They were the early high water mark of SF as actual literature. They have that 50s feeling of wild possibilities from the beat writers, yet there is an incipient paranoia that shows a complete awareness of his time.
I eventually concluded that The Stars My Destination was a remake of Count of Monte Cristo. Brilliant, inspiring, enervating but derivative. Demolished Man I never read.

'Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
And the stars my destination "
In Philip K. Dick, the paranoia becomes a visible presence. So much so that a lot of readers can't get beyond it to see his real brilliance. He was an excellent writer, taut fast sentences that sweep you along. His overwhelming concern was metaphysics, and there has never been an author who presented its questions in such an entertaining manner. And what first drew me to him were his ideas. Most science fiction author will come up with one idea about the future - technological invention or question to be explored - and write a book around it. Some plodders will expand that one idea to 3 to as many as 20 volumes. PKD would spin off 10 or 20 ideas as side notes and just leave them there like little nuggets. His short stories contained more ideas to make you think than most of his contemporaries full novels. This is why his stories are such a gold mine for Hollywood now. Give Ubik or Do Androids Dream of ELectric Sheep another try.
I loved Zelazny (who is sometimes linked to Dick, and they wrote a book together, so-so, calleed Deus Irae). So I should have another go at Dick.
Ursula LeGuin is another 'great' from that era, who I never managed to get into.

I was more of a Cyril Kornbluth/ James H Schmitz guy--classic 'golden era' science fiction.
I've gravitated more towards thrillers of late. There is Le Carre, and Charles McCarry (Tears of Autumn). Maybe Richard Price (Clockers). Travis McGee (the Lew Archer stories). Raymond Chandler (for the language, if nothing else). Most are formulaic, but I have enjoyed Ross Thomas (Briarpatch) who is well and truly forgotten.

I've read Le Carre, McGee and Chandler (and Ambler and Furst). Will check out Thomas.
Also do read Charles McCarry, The Tears of Autumn. Other than Don Delilo's Libra, I'm not sure there has ever been a better novel about the time of the Kennedy assassination and the US entry into Vietnam. McCarry was an ex CIA Agent (as, possibly, was Ross Thomas-- Thomas has a dry wit).
Here's a couple of detective fiction authors to add to your list: Dashiell Hammett (The Thin Man, Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon) and James Lee Burke (the Dave Robicheaux series - they are all alike, so don't be surprised if the thrill will dull after you read a couple).
Thank you.
IF you like reading of the '70s, you have to pick up Larry McMurtry's novels set in that time. Finally, I should add my two favorite authors who aren't mentioned elsewhere: Hiruki Murakami and Patrick O'Brian.
My wife a big fan of the former, especially his essay about the Tokyo Sarin gas attack (and the nature of Japanese society) 'Underground'.

I see Larry McMurtry's novel 'no country for old men' has been turned into a film, I shall await with interest.
If you haven't tried Patrick O'Brian, it's worth the effort. I'd probably start with the third book if you are unsure - it took that long for him to realize he was going to write this as a series. The first book was to be a one off and the characters weren't fully developed into their ultimate form, although they are still much more richly drawn than most. But it's still an incredible retelling of what may have been the greatest single ship action in British naval history. The strategies and movements of all the naval actions are recreated as much as possible from Cochrane's real actions - although the author does not make a fetish of it like Cornwell in his Sharpe books. In the second book, he dusted them off years later in an homage to Jane Austen. Which is great if you like Jane Austen, otherwise it's a bit of a lump.
[/quote]

I loved the film, and I like CS Forrester (although Hornblower less than some of his other stuff: The Gun, Death to the French, The Good Shepherd). So thank you I shall give it a whirl. Good to know where to start.

David Drake, the science fiction author, is reprising O'Brian with 'With the Lightnings' (space opera around Commander Daniel O'Leary). It's completely derivative *but* what makes it work is Drake's knowledge of classical history-- the Republic of Cinnabar is late Republican Rome, and Drake knows how to make that politics work in a novel. Beats the pants off David Weber, even if you know he has borrowed the cloth wholesale.

The other space opera I read almost religiously is Lois McMaster Bujold, 'Miles Naismith Vorkosigan'. Beginning with 'Cordelia's Honor' (Shards of Honor + Barryar) which is about Miles' mother, and on from there. Bujold has an amazing ability to take the material of space opera, and make it entirely human (and sometimes quite funny)- -she's quite capable of reducing an entire space battle to the main character listening to an intercom, wondering what is going on. Miles is both one of the most irritating heros in the history of science fiction, and a completely sympathetic one. See also CJ Cherryh 'Downbelow Station' which is a grippingly realistic space war (begins on a refugee ship, fleeing from a station blown to pieces, and goes on from there).

Glen Cook's fantasy series (9 in total I think, in 3 trilogies) 'The Black Company' is informed by a really good understanding of medieval warfare as well as protagonists who are as anti-heroic as they are heroic, he doesn't pull his punches and the characters are fully fleshed out. Some of the best military scenes in any fantasy I have read. His 'Garrett PI' about a detective in a fantasy world, sort of Chandler lost in elfland, is good, but not as good.

I don't know if you ever read James Salter 'The Hunters'? He was an F86 pilot over Korea, and the book is a distillation of the obsessive quest to become a fighter 'ace' and the conflicts this brings.

For other historical fiction: Len Deighton 'SS GB', about a Britain under the rule of Nazi Germany. It's very vivid, strikingly realistic.
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Post by shadowrings »

Hey Value.... are you snooping in my boxed books wherever the moving company has them in storage at currently? From the list of space opera authors I oculd almost think you are.. LOL :wink:

Shifted from company's totally subsidized 30 day temp quarters to a rental yesterday morning and then proceeded to roam around a bit more than I have had the time to do in the first 3 weeks I've been here...

I should have stayed away from the Gateway Mall. Barnes & Noble. Prolly a good thing that I didn't have my want list of books with me that's stored on Amazon currently.

I couldn't resist though picking up Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson's Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune though. Already through the first 200 pages of Hunters and I don't regret picking it up. The 2 men have done a good job of fleshing out Frank's outline for post-Chapterhouse Dune, at this point in Hunters in my opinion they have done a good job of following Frank's style without subsuming thier own unique-ness trying to duplicate the elder master. I'm looking forward to seeing how this act of the Dune space-epic ends in Sandworms.

vickie
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. | --- Carl G. Jung
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Re: More Science Fiction

Post by Alex Frakt »

Valuethinker wrote:I eventually concluded that The Stars My Destination was a remake of Count of Monte Cristo. Brilliant, inspiring, enervating but derivative. Demolished Man I never read.
It was of course. BTW, if you haven't read The Three Musketeers as an adult, pull it off the shelf, it's a surprising amount of fun. I like Demolished Man slightly more of the two.
I loved Zelazny (who is sometimes linked to Dick, and they wrote a book together, so-so, calleed Deus Irae). So I should have another go at Dick.
Ursula LeGuin is another 'great' from that era, who I never managed to get into.
I find fantasy completely unreadable. Even Tolkien was something of a trudge, finished out of a sense of duty. (I used to have a personal rule that I would finish any work I started.) So I've read only a bit of Zelazny, Deus Irae and Pyschoshop which was an attempt to fill out a very unfinished Bester work. Neither is better than mediocre. I've read LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness and The Word for World is Forest (great title), but can't actually remember anything about them other than I didn't want to read any more of her.

I don't actually like most of the New Wave science fiction types. Philip Jose Farmer, Harry Harrison, Robert Silverberg were second rate writers. And Disch, Delaney, Ellison are just so egocentric, I guess that was their appeal to the boomer generation. Good science fiction is about exploring novel possibilities, it doesn't lend itself to the bog-standard fiction fare of self-exploration.

J.G. Ballard is lumped in with the the New Wave, but I find his work to be completely distinctive. His books have a strange effect on me, they are essentially explorations of the darker aspects of humanity and are so disturbing that every time I read one I tell myself never to pick him up again. But they are also so compelling, when I come across a new title I just can't help myself. I always wondered what kind of background he had to write such books. I eventually read Empire of the Sun, but as history book, so I didn't make the connection that this Ballard was the same as the one who wrote Crash and High Rise until years later when I picked up one of his books and saw it on the Other Works by Author page. That was a cartoon lightbulb moment.
I was more of a Cyril Kornbluth/ James H Schmitz guy--classic 'golden era' science fiction.
Clifford Simak - the pastoral SF writer, A.E. van Vogt, and Theodore Sturgeon are my choice from this era. And Heinlein - I started reading SF in 3rd grade when my dad gave me copies of Space Cadet and Tunnel in the Sky. I devoured the stuff, working my way through all his pre-1970 work by the time I was 11. Except for Stranger In a Strange Land which I couldn't get the local librarians to give me :D I've reread most of these as an adult and they still make for enjoyable light reading. Although I sometimes wonder how much of my civil libertarian tendencies and insistence on doing things myself were influenced by this early steeping in Heinlein.
My wife a big fan of the former [Murakami], especially his essay about the Tokyo Sarin gas attack (and the nature of Japanese society) 'Underground'.
His novels are very different. They are more of the magical realist type, more like Borges or Marquez. But they are placed in a setting that's much more familiar. Like Gibson or Patrick O'Brian, he has managed to create a world that is seamless. You can sink right into it and the real world disappears for a few hours. This remind me, one of the coolest tools on the internet is the Literature Map, it shows links between authors based on reader preferences.

Speaking of Latin America - Paco Ignacio Taibo II writes some really good Mexico-based policiers.
[back to O'briian] I loved the film, and I like CS Forrester (although Hornblower less than some of his other stuff: The Gun, Death to the French, The Good Shepherd). So thank you I shall give it a whirl. Good to know where to start.
If you like Forrester, starting with Master & Commander will be no chore at all. It reads quite well on its own. The move Master & Commander is based on a much later book in the series which takes place during the war of 1812. For some reason Hollywood decided it would be more palatable to have the RN fighting a French frigate than an American :-), so they moved it back to the Napoleanic era where the series began. But other than that minor detail, they really captured the spirit of the books and the primary characters. BTW, in late 2001, following a Patrick O'Brian conference in Rhode Island, I spent part of a day climbing around on the HMS Rose, which Fox later bought to serve as the HMS Surprise in the movie. A group of us also got a private tour of the USS Constitution, which had an appearance in another of the books in the series.
David Drake, the science fiction author, is reprising O'Brian with 'With the Lightnings' (space opera around Commander Daniel O'Leary). It's completely derivative *but* what makes it work is Drake's knowledge of classical history-- the Republic of Cinnabar is late Republican Rome, and Drake knows how to make that politics work in a novel. Beats the pants off David Weber, even if you know he has borrowed the cloth wholesale.
I'll probably read it, but it's hard to imagine it being more than a pale shadow of the original. Drake is unable to write characters with any depth at all, which is the absolute hallmark of Patrick O'Brian. He's almost as bad as Laumer, whose thinking tanks are more completely drawn than his humans.
I don't know if you ever read James Salter 'The Hunters'? He was an F86 pilot over Korea, and the book is a distillation of the obsessive quest to become a fighter 'ace' and the conflicts this brings.
Yep, this was good. For idiosyncratic war novels, what about Richard McKenna's great "Sand Pebbles"?
For other historical fiction: Len Deighton 'SS GB', about a Britain under the rule of Nazi Germany. It's very vivid, strikingly realistic.

Also very good. BTW, the subgenre is usually known as alternate history. It's normally pretty bad stuff, S.M. Stirling is the best known of the current authors. A lot of earlier writers dabbled in some version of alternate history, even Winston Churchill. But the book that brought it into general awareness (and brings us full circle) was probably Philip K. Dick's greatest materpiece, "The Man in the High Castle."
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Post by Live Free or Diehard »

shadowrings wrote:I couldn't resist though picking up Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson's Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune though. Already through the first 200 pages of Hunters and I don't regret picking it up. The 2 men have done a good job of fleshing out Frank's outline for post-Chapterhouse Dune, at this point in Hunters in my opinion they have done a good job of following Frank's style without subsuming thier own unique-ness trying to duplicate the elder master. I'm looking forward to seeing how this act of the Dune space-epic ends in Sandworms.

vickie
Vickie;

I'm just over 200 pages into Sandworms of Dune. It's surprisingly better than I expected. Every review I have read has trashed it (and Hunters of Dune) because of their writing style; and the fact that they don't write as well as Frank. We'll see how the last 290 pages go.
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Re: More Science Fiction

Post by Valuethinker »

Alex

Zelazny's science fiction was early, and not as good as his fantasy (particularly the first 5 Amber novels, A Night in Lonesome October). However Lord of Light is a science fiction novel (though really a fantasy novel) and I still count it as one of my favourite SF books. And the short story 'A Rose for Ecclesiastes'. 'This Immortal' about aliens trying to bail out an Earth destroyed by atomic war, is also pretty good. For those of us who had delusions of being a perpetual student, 'Doorways in the Sand' is also pretty good science fiction-- the hero has a scholarship which will only expire if he manages to get a degree, which he studiously avoids doing for 13 years, until an alien force intervenes.. Unlike most SF writers, Zelazny genuinely tried to experiment with style.

More time later, but on JG Ballard.

His background is precisely 'Empire of the Sun' (see Stephen Spielberg movie and his novel of the same name).

His parents were caught in Shang Hai at the start of WWII. He grew up in a Japanese prison camp, and scavenging in the ruins of Shanghai-- he was basically a wild boy in those years. The darkness and bleakness of that vision sustains him, as he writes in his country cottage just outside of London. A unique writer-- he wrote a novel about a global London 'a drowned world' which was far ahead of its time.

Iain Banks and Iain M. Banks are another case of the same writer, writing in both genres. I've never been able to take either (the man has a serious sadistic streak). But he is enormously popular. Particularly The Wasp Factory/Use of Weapons/ Look to Spinward -- that series.

Yes Keith Laumer's Bolos were memorable and his characters mostly not. Laumer himself was a diplomat (hence the cynicism) and was crippled in his 40s by a stroke-- he was apparently quite embittered by it. 'The Great Time Machine Hoax' is still his best novel-- and it's philosophy about personal education and responsibility is still an inspiring one.

On the Bolos, the one where the Bolo waits in the town square in the jungle town, the village idiot, badly damaged, barely able to communicate, ridiculed by the locals. But it still has one last mission to perform.

The one about the Bolo commissioned into the 20th Virginia Regiment (I think it's called 'Field Test') will live with me forever. What if in creating artificial intelligent war machines, we accidentally recreate our best selves?

If you liked Heinlein, I hope you read Alexei Panshin's 'Rite of Passage' which is kind of an answer to Heinlein? Michael Kurland had one 'Princes of Earth' which is also very Heinlein-esque, I'm not sure it ever even made it to paperback, but it was Heinlein good, without some of the odious philosophy.

Although Drake can't write characters, there are certain novels and characters (Lacey and Friends- Lacey is based on Drake's time in civic politics, and is prophetic on the surveillance society), Forlorn Hope (a kind of proto Hammer's Slammers, but better), Birds of Prey (the Roman Centurion, trying to save the Empire from an alien from beyond), that live with me. Also his retelling of the Tet Offensive (Vietnam 1968) from an amoured cavalry perspective (Rolling Hot). And probably his first story published ('Contact'?) about an alien spaceship that intervenes in Vietnam.

Speaking of the Golden Age, did you ever read Theodore Cogswell? There were only 2 collections of short stories, but they included the absolutely classic stories (some part horror, part humour) 'Wolfie', 'Thmngs', 'The Wall Around the World' and of course 'The Spectre General'.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/c/the ... -cogswell/

'The Wall around the world' remains one of my favourite short SF collections.

The novel that probably influenced me more than anything was 'Lest Darkness Fall' by L. Sprague de Camp. Which was pure alternate history.

I also used to love Poul Anderson, the entire Polesotechnic League/ Terran Empire series. In particular the Dominic Flandry novels, and People of the Wind. Anderson wasn't afraid to write, sympathetically, about characters with religious beliefs. And his planet-building was better than anyone's.


My wife, who reads real literature, raves about China Mieville (Perdido Station). Not gotten there yet.
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Post by xerty24 »

I thought I'd largely run out of cyberpunk novels since reading Stephenson's Snow Crash and Diamond Age some time ago. Maybe I just stopped looking. I read Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan at a friend's recommendation recently and really enjoyed it. A more SF futuristic setting than most cyberpunk settings, but it had much the same feel as the gritty near-future of Gibson. Lots of cool ideas, yet the for all the technology improvements (cloning, digital personality backups) the people of the world are still all too human.
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Post by shadowrings »

Live Free or Diehard wrote: Vickie;

I'm just over 200 pages into Sandworms of Dune. It's surprisingly better than I expected. Every review I have read has trashed it (and Hunters of Dune) because of their writing style; and the fact that they don't write as well as Frank. We'll see how the last 290 pages go.
:D
Went straight from finishing Hunters Sunday night to Sandworms Monday morning and toted it into work with me to keep away the yawns between 2a and 4am. I am very, very impressed. And I'm not disappointed with the differences in style between Frank's writings and Brian/Keith's. No one can write the same way as Frank, but Brian/Keith did an excellent job of including elements of the old master's style successfully into thiers. Lot of fertile ground with the conclusion of Sandworms for them to work with in the "new" Dune universe if they so choose, though I'm sort of neutral whether they should or not. :P

Another fantasy author I stumbled on to when coworker passed me the book is Sherwood Smith's Inda.
Indevan-Dal Algara-Vayir is the second son of the Prince and Princess of Choraed Elgaer, destined to become Shield Arm (military leader) for his older brother Tanric. His future seems all laid out for him, down to the girl he'll marry -- until one day when a messenger arrives from the King, summoning Inda to the King's Military Academy. Inda thinks he's prepared for the harsh life at the Academy, as Tanric has always followed the tradition of thrashing his younger brother into obedience, but when he gets there, he finds himself caught up in a confusing tangle of loyalty and treacher
Author has wrote alot of books targeted for teens that I havent seen but this turned out to be a engaging, detailed and fast read. Excellent character development and world building, nice weaving of various types of character and plot archetypes common to the most popular fantasy genres. The characters are engaging and the plot moves along at a nice clip. I'm looking forward to the sequel The Fox to see where the story line for Inda ends up going.

vickie
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. | --- Carl G. Jung
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Post by Valuethinker »

shadowrings wrote:
Live Free or Diehard wrote: Vickie;

I'm just over 200 pages into Sandworms of Dune. It's surprisingly better than I expected. Every review I have read has trashed it (and Hunters of Dune) because of their writing style; and the fact that they don't write as well as Frank. We'll see how the last 290 pages go.
:D
Went straight from finishing Hunters Sunday night to Sandworms Monday morning and toted it into work with me to keep away the yawns between 2a and 4am. I am very, very impressed. And I'm not disappointed with the differences in style between Frank's writings and Brian/Keith's. No one can write the same way as Frank, but Brian/Keith did an excellent job of including elements of the old master's style successfully into thiers. Lot of fertile ground with the conclusion of Sandworms for them to work with in the "new" Dune universe if they so choose, though I'm sort of neutral whether they should or not. :P
I'll admit I never got anywhere with Dune. Read the first two, then sort of read part of the third, and stopped. The ecology was well ahead of its time.

I liked other Herbert work: Whipping Star and Dosadi Experiment (unsatisfying ending). I loved the idea of a civil servant whose job was 'professional saboteur'. Dragon in the Sea (one of his first, about a US submarine during a world war, with a spy on board).

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/h/fra ... in-sea.htm

Dune I admired the ecological vision enormously, didn't particularly admire the ripoffs of the history of Islam. Glen Cook did that better (the early Dread Empire series).

I admit to almost not reading much fantasy. Probably why I like Glen Cook, because he writes fantasy that isn't very fantasy (I mean there are sorcerers, and magic spells, and medieval armies) in that it is very hard, gritty, with machiavellian plotting. If Cook writes about a war, you feel you've seen the refugees and the burning villages, and admired the battle tactics of the commanders. For a similar reason I like CJ Cherryh in science fiction: a war to her means panic, confusion, mistakes, wasted lives, inconclusive engagements-- and she understands no one in a crisis situation has a complete picture (the movie Flight 93 caught that, I thought, rather well, only the audience knows what is really happening: the scenes in the ATC control room were very good for that).

Unusually for fantasy and sci fi, Cook also understands the meaning of 'unreliable reporter' in literature.

Someone told me I would therefore like Stephen Erickson, but I haven't gotten there yet.

If you ever get a chance, one of the best fantasy novels was written by a children's author: John Bellairs. Called 'The Face in the Frost' it is alternately whimsical and terrifying (sometimes on the same page). And if you are ever being pursued, in a snowstorm, by the end of the world, look for a man selling back doors and who repairs broken axe handles...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Face_in_the_Frost

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/b/joh ... -frost.htm
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Post by shadowrings »

I like CJ Cherryh as well and for the same reasons. My favorite is The Faded Sun trilogy.

vickie
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David Weber and John Ringo

Post by ChefJeff »

are two of my favorite SF authors.

Weber is known for his "Honor Harrington" series (About 13 books). It is pretty good military SF. Weber is great at fleshing out the interpersonal, political, historical aspects of a story. I would like to see his characters have a little bit more diverse dialogue.

Weber has taken on Keith Laumer's Bolo series. Bolo and Old Soldiers are both very well written. Weber does a much better job of developing his characters than Laumer does.

John Ringo is the best military SF writer I have seen so far!!!! Anybody who has ever been in the military will feel like they are back in the service as they read any of his books. My recommendation would be his four-book "trilogy" - A Hymn Before Battle, Gust Front, When the Devil Dances, and Hell's Faire. His characters have depth, the situations are as real as it gets - including military and political incompetence.
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Post by Live Free or Diehard »

shadowrings wrote:Lot of fertile ground with the conclusion of Sandworms for them to work with in the "new" Dune universe if they so choose, though I'm sort of neutral whether they should or not. :P
It looks like Brian and Kevin have already decided they're going to continue the Dune story after Sandworms. Sandworms lists a forthcoming novel to be called Paul of Dune.
Valuethinker wrote:I liked other Herbert work: Whipping Star and Dosadi Experiment (unsatisfying ending). I loved the idea of a civil servant whose job was 'professional saboteur'. Dragon in the Sea (one of his first, about a US submarine during a world war, with a spy on board).
I also like Frank Herbert's other books. I especially like Hellstrom's Hive, The Santaroga Barrier and Soul Catcher.
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Post by runthetrails »

Science Fiction: Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs series was very enjoyable.

For quality modern fantasy would recommend China Mieville.

For a good thriller series, try the John Rain series by Barry Eisler.


Mike
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Books/Authors to stay away from

Post by dual »

Spider Robinson-Variable Star. To parahrase, "I knew Bob Heinlein, Bob Heinlein was a friend of mine. Spider, you ain't no Bob Heinlein"

Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, "The mote in God's eye". Boring, excessively long, all the good action like starship battles takes place off stage, zilch science content. What's worse, it's full of Brit-centric howlers like future societies will adopt a British style monarchy.

Bob
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Post by LocalHero »

Greetings Readers,

It's been a lot of years since I read them but Gregory Benford's "In the Ocean of Night," "Across the Sea of Suns," and the rest of the series were some of the best science fiction that I read. Also enjoyed Gibson's Count Zero series. Not so impressed with "Idoru."

OT: Currently working my way through Randy Wayne White's Doc Ford series and Carl Hiaasen's Florida based books. Enjoying both authors.

More OT of this OT: Also reading The Little Book of Value Investing by Christopher H. Browne and Capital Ideas Evolving by Peter L. Bernstein.

Best wishes,
JB
Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together. -- Red Green
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Re: Books/Authors to stay away from

Post by Valuethinker »

dual wrote: Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, "The mote in God's eye". Boring, excessively long, all the good action like starship battles takes place off stage, zilch science content. What's worse, it's full of Brit-centric howlers like future societies will adopt a British style monarchy.

Bob
Ironic 2 authors who live in Southern California would come up with a 'Brit Centric' novel :? They are the two least 'British' guys I have met in Science Fiction.

You need to read back a bit in the source material (most of which appeared after TMIGE, to be fair).

If you read the Steve Stirling/ Jerry Pournelle series, about the early days of Sparta. How it comes to evolve from an American Founding Fathers type model (restricted citizenship) into an Imperial state. See also the collected works 'The Mercenary' by JE Pournelle, and 'West of Honor'.

The point they are trying to make (Pournelle had an essay on this) is that interstellar empires may well evolve into a more personal form of loyalty, which is, after all, far more common in human affairs. It's interesting to see how they evolve the Empire during the 20 years between that and the sequel (The Gripping Hand). I also liked the idea that the Empire is an alliance with the Russians ;-).

Yes I thought the empire was a British Empire clone (not unusual in science fiction see David Weber-- Manticore (?) is Britain, the baddies are Revolutionary France). Pournelle says not, and that they tried to drop subtle hints it was not. There are certainly aspects of it which are much closer to the Roman Empire (all that stuff about citizenship etc.). Not sure about that.

I liked TMIGE, I thought the aliens were some of the most interesting ones developed, and the thinking about the box in which they find themself similarly provocative.

I thought the astronomy was also interesting, not sure re 'zilch science content'? There aren't any starship battles, per se, in the novel-- it takes place as one rebellion has just been put down.

Generally I find the Pournelle/Niven interjection of conservative politics odious, but to be fair to Pournelle, he is not a 'conservative' in quite the modern sense. And TMIGE probably has less of it than most.
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Post by Valuethinker »

LocalHero wrote:Greetings Readers,

It's been a lot of years since I read them but Gregory Benford's "In the Ocean of Night," "Across the Sea of Suns," and the rest of the series were some of the best science fiction that I read. Also enjoyed Gibson's Count Zero series. Not so impressed with "Idoru."
"The Stars in Shroud" was also brilliant. Actually my favourite.
Also reading The Little Book of Value Investing by Christopher H. Browne
Best wishes,
JB
A brilliant book. Shame about the expense ratio on the fund.
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Brit-centric

Post by dual »

Vauethinker:"Ironic 2 authors who live in Southern California would come up with a 'Brit Centric' novel Confused They are the two least 'British' guys I have met in Science Fiction."

If you consider all the PBS series and grocery store rack tabloid stories on the British royals, I think a lot of us colonists have monarchy envy. It looks to me like the in-breeding has produced some serious mental deficiencies in that clan but their various antics, couplings, and pronouncements are usually good for a few laughs.

"Generally I find the Pournelle/Niven interjection of conservative politics odious, but to be fair to Pournelle, he is not a 'conservative' in quite the modern sense. And TMIGE probably has less of it than most."

I must have slept through the conservative politics. I would have enjoyed that. A counterbalance to the usual leftist propaganda you run across in SF. For example, in Variable Star the lovable Buddhist monk, or whatever, stops to give a multi-page lecture on the evils of American foreign policy. There may be more tripe like that but I just happened to run across it while I was skipping through to the end. Which BTW, is a totally unbelievable deus-ex-machina whimper.

Bob[/quote]
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Re: Brit-centric

Post by Valuethinker »

dual wrote:Vauethinker:"Ironic 2 authors who live in Southern California would come up with a 'Brit Centric' novel Confused They are the two least 'British' guys I have met in Science Fiction."
I think the Empire in the novel is more like the Roman Empire, than the British. Despite having the language of the 18th century British Empire, the imperial structure is Roman.

I agree the use of ethnically stereotyped planets is a bit lazy. Scottish ship's engineer, etc.

In the fine tradition of SF they have borrowed heavily. The names of the characters are Victorian, there is a touch of Patrick O'Brian in the organisation of the Navy, but actually the Empire is Roman.
If you consider all the PBS series and grocery store rack tabloid stories on the British royals, I think a lot of us colonists have monarchy envy. It looks to me like the in-breeding has produced some serious mental deficiencies in that clan but their various antics, couplings, and pronouncements are usually good for a few laughs.
I don't disagree-- but it's the culture of celebrity which is at work. They are our Hollywood.

You are beginning to treat your presidential candidates in the same way-- all the way down to the dynasties. And can't do without those cookie recipes.

"Generally I find the Pournelle/Niven interjection of conservative politics odious, but to be fair to Pournelle, he is not a 'conservative' in quite the modern sense. And TMIGE probably has less of it than most."

I must have slept through the conservative politics. I would have enjoyed that. A counterbalance to the usual leftist propaganda you run across in SF.
Pournelle, Niven, L. Neil Smith, Drake, Harrington, Heinlein, Gordon R. Dickson, Poul Anderson, Steve Stirling? Just to name a few right wing authors? Most of the 'hard' Sci Fi authors are 'right wing' tending to libertarian-- some embarassingly so.

I'm not sure what I'd call Cherryh-- right or left probably doesn't apply. Ditto someone like Zelazny or William Gibson.

I guess Philip K. Dick is 'Left Wing'.

Pournelle's style of conservatism is much more 'classic conservatism' than the libertarian screeds you get in a lot of science fiction. Jerry Pournelle would be comfortable, I think, with Edmund Burke. This is to distinguish Pournelle the novelist from Pournelle the columnist (who has spread some dreadful mistruths).
For example, in Variable Star the lovable Buddhist monk, or whatever, stops to give a multi-page lecture on the evils of American foreign policy.
If you want a condemnation of US foreign policy, then Ursula K. LeGuin 'the word for world is forest'. But that was written during Vietnam and caused an enormous stink at the time.
There may be more tripe like that but I just happened to run across it while I was skipping through to the end. Which BTW, is a totally unbelievable deus-ex-machina whimper.

Bob
Spider Robinson. Never really clicked with him.

I think we'll probably just disagree on The Mote in God's Eye. Of all the Niven/ Pournelle collaborations, I liked it about the best, or rather (in order of declining preference):

- Inferno
- TMIGE
- Lucifer's Hammer - Irving Allen disaster novel *and* nuclear power saves the world from the leftist cannibals (kid you not)
- Footfall - neat alien invasion idea, but Lucifer's Hammer says it all (rumour it was actually originally a sequel of the other)
- anything else

If you want their philosophy full in your face (other than Inferno, where you get to see their particular bugbears literally burn in Dante's Inferno) then 'Oath of Fealty'. Eco-terrorists try to destroy an integrated 'gated community'/arcology. That one (not the terrorists per se, but the community complete with closed circuit television) is now quite prophetic.

Niven's best is still his Known Space saga (all the way up to and including Ringworld - Ringworld Engineers etc. just couldn't sustain it although I did like it).

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/n/larry-niven/

Still bracingly imaginative science fiction: organ stealing (the Long Arm of Gil Hamilton and A Gift from Earth), multi-generational space wars (the man-Kzin Wars), telepathy and planet wide mind control (World of the Ptaavs), races of perfect cowards (Ringworld, Neutron Star) etc.


Pournelle? His strength is some of his politico-military novels about the Codominium (the American-Soviet collaboration which takes over the world)/ Falkenberg's Legion (the prequels to TMIGE such as The Mercenary, West of Honor). I've lost track of his endless collaborations.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/p/jerry-pournelle/
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His Dark Materials- Philip Pullman

Post by grok87 »

Valuethinker,
Thanks again for recommending these books. I've now read them all including Lyra's Oxford. Any news about when then next book will be out?

cheers
grok
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Re: His Dark Materials- Philip Pullman

Post by Valuethinker »

grok87 wrote:Valuethinker,
Thanks again for recommending these books. I've now read them all including Lyra's Oxford. Any news about when then next book will be out?

cheers
grok
There won't be. AFAIK. There will be 3 movies *if* (big if) the first one is a commercial success. A big risk, as it is quite anti-religion (the book at least) and in the US market, that could kill it (distributors and cinema chains won't carry it in the 'flyover country' markets).

The story in the 3 books ends.

We have to build the Republic of Heaven where we are
You might like Philip Reeves 'Hungry City' quadrology:

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/r/philip-reeve/
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Post by Index Fan »

In the realm of fantasy, I've found the George R.R. Martin series A Song of Ice and Fire to be exceptionally good. It is best described as The War of the Roses in a fantasy setting. Great characterization and plot twists, and the author is not afraid to kill off main characters. Not much in the way of clear good and evil. Not for the faint of heart; not your typical fantasy series.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/m/george-r-r-martin/

Another good, meaty fantasy series is the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. Dark and grand in scope. The author is an anthropologist.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/e/steven-erikson/
"Optimum est pati quod emendare non possis." | -Seneca
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Re: His Dark Materials- Philip Pullman

Post by grok87 »

Valuethinker wrote:
grok87 wrote:Valuethinker,
Thanks again for recommending these books. I've now read them all including Lyra's Oxford. Any news about when then next book will be out?

cheers
grok
There won't be. AFAIK. There will be 3 movies *if* (big if) the first one is a commercial success. A big risk, as it is quite anti-religion (the book at least) and in the US market, that could kill it (distributors and cinema chains won't carry it in the 'flyover country' markets).

The story in the 3 books ends.

We have to build the Republic of Heaven where we are
You might like Philip Reeves 'Hungry City' quadrology:

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/r/philip-reeve/
Valuethinker- thanks for the Philip Reeves tip, I'll check it out.
Indexfan- thanks for the George R.R. Martin and Steven Erikson suggestions.

Regarding the "His Dark Materials" series, here's a link to Pullman's website where he talks about his plans for a next book:

http://www.philip-pullman.com/pages/con ... ?PageID=61

cheers
grok
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Post by Valuethinker »

Index Fan wrote:
Another good, meaty fantasy series is the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. Dark and grand in scope. The author is an anthropologist.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/e/steven-erikson/
If you like Steven Erikson then you should like Glen Cook, probably the first writer of that gritty, detailed military fantasy stuff.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/c/glen-cook/

The Black Company is his meister-piece-- a gritty tale (9 volumes long, the below is the first 3) of a company of mercenaries (based loosely on the 14th century Black Company, a troop of English mercenaries under Sir John Hawkwood who were the most feared in northern Italy) trapped in a war between good and evil: but it's not clear which is which, and indeed they change sides midway through.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/c/gle ... ompany.htm


http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/c/gle ... f-fear.htm

is an earlier stand-alone work with similar themes.

His Garrett PI series (Raymond Chandler in a fantasy world, again gritty and street level) is also quite entertaining and has a dry sense of humour.
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Post by xerty24 »

Index Fan wrote:In the realm of fantasy, I've found the George R.R. Martin series A Song of Ice and Fire to be exceptionally good. It is best described as The War of the Roses in a fantasy setting. Great characterization and plot twists, and the author is not afraid to kill off main characters. Not much in the way of clear good and evil. Not for the faint of heart; not your typical fantasy series.
Indeed - a good summary of an excellent series. I would caution that while the first 3 books (out of 4 to-date) live up the standards set by the first award-winning one, the 4th I found fairly disappointing. It's passable and advances the various plots, but seemed unnecessarily vulgar and uninspired in stark contrast to the preceding ones. Don't get me wrong - go read the first 3 books if you like excellent fantasy. You might wait on the 4th until the reviews for the 5th come out though, before deciding if you want to continue.
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Post by shadowrings »

in the realm of fantasy... Jacqueline Carey.

Just finished reading her fifth, Kushiel's Justice in her Kushiel's Legacy saga. This particular book is the 2nd volume in her 2nd trilogy within this series.

Carey has created a very exotic alternative earth set in a time frame similar to the Renaissance, loaded with cultural flowering, political intrique, clash of cultures, and a melange of various unique (but familar) religons. She has done an excellent job in setting the stage of the vibrant world in which her epics are set.

The first trilogy is more of a save-the-world set with a cast of well developed and complex characters, good, bad and neutral. This second trilogy is so far evolving as the personal journey of the younger characters from the first trilogy.

This volume in particular is dark and moody and complicated by the culture clash-culture bridging of two cultures, that of the Picts of Alba and the D'Angelines of Terra d'Ange by a marriage between thier rulers. This is a coming-of-age tale, loaded with emotion, sensuality, uncertainity of the future, ambiguity of choice and the blossoming of tenative self knowledge. Justice is credible as a heroic fantasy.
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. | --- Carl G. Jung
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Post by shadowrings »

The Black Company is his meister-piece-- a gritty tale (9 volumes long, the below is the first 3) of a company of mercenaries (based loosely on the 14th century Black Company, a troop of English mercenaries under Sir John Hawkwood who were the most feared in northern Italy) trapped in a war between good and evil: but it's not clear which is which, and indeed they change sides midway through.
I concur V about Cook's Black Company. Tis one of the series I want to re-read whenever I get established in turf of my own and get my collection out of storage.

vickie
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. | --- Carl G. Jung
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Post by hafis50 »

I stopped reading SF a long time ago but I recall my favorite author was Stanislaw Lem because
His works explore philosophical themes; speculation on technology, the nature of intelligence, the impossibility of mutual communication and understanding, despair about human limitations and humankind's place in the universe. They are sometimes presented as fiction, to avoid both trappings of academic life and limitations of readership and scientific style, but others are in the form of essays or philosophical books.
(Wikipedia)
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Finally a topic I know better than investing!

Post by happy2 »

First, I would recommend Cory Doctorow. He and the earlier mentioned Charles Stross are the leading edge of contemporary sf, imho. I find Doctorow more accessible.

I would recommend all of Doctorow's books, esp the last two:
Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present (a brilliant collection of short stories)
Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (I would describe as magic realism a la Murakami - highly recommended)

All of his books are also available for free download - he is a Creative Commons advocate.

If any of you read blogs often, he is a contributer to boingboing dot net. Even if only 10% of the posts there interest you, it's highly recommended.

BTW, i think the last two Gibson books are his best yet. Definitely not cyberpunk, so don't let that put you off.

As far as I know, the creator of the Avatar concept, so popular today, was Vernor Vinge, in the terrific story, "True Names" available in True Names...and Other Dangers. IMHO, his best book is A Fire Upon the Deep, for which he won the Hugo and Nebula awards. He is also well known as the originator of the concept of the Singularity in 1984; this concept of exponential acceleration of tech leading to an asymptotic unknown is very popular today.

Non SF:
Almost anything by Murakami. Try Kafka on The Shore - Excellent Magic Realism
David Mitchell is great. Try Number9Dream or Cloud Atlas (his last book Black Swan Green, didn't do it for me).

Wow, this is OT :-)

BTW, when trying to post this, I got this ridiculous message, sorry I couldn't provide links, folks:

In order to try to prevent spammers, we do not allow our members to post links or images until they have posted at least 4 legitimate posts and have been with us for more than 6 days. We appreciate your understanding in this matter in order to help us eliminate spam from this forum. If you have somehow gotten this message even though you meet both of the criteria, please email the Site Admin at bhadmin (at) diehards (period) org

Thanks!
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Post by Valuethinker »

hafis50 wrote:I stopped reading SF a long time ago but I recall my favorite author was Stanislaw Lem because
His works explore philosophical themes; speculation on technology, the nature of intelligence, the impossibility of mutual communication and understanding, despair about human limitations and humankind's place in the universe. They are sometimes presented as fiction, to avoid both trappings of academic life and limitations of readership and scientific style, but others are in the form of essays or philosophical books.
(Wikipedia)
Science Fiction was one of the very few ways in the old Soviet Bloc countries where you could get this sort of stuff published.

A lot of what Lem wrote is actually political satire against the communist regime (or regimes in general).

It's been suggested that people like Lem (and the Strugatsky brothers in Russia Boris and Arkady) had fans amongst their censors, who liked their stuff well enough to let them keep publishing, as long as it was genre fiction and not 'serious' work. Each writer would have had his or her *personal censor*, in the Ministry of Censorship.

Stalin would have sent the lot to the Gulag to starve to death mining coal, but fortunately things had eased up a bit by then.

Lest we decry all of this, Science Fiction in the 1950s and 60s explored anti-American and sexual themes that were difficult or impossible to get published in mainstream fiction:

- the Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin (sexuality)
- The Word for World is Forest (a forest dwelling people are invaded by and fight a guerilla war with a technological power very obviously the US of A in Vietnam) ditto
- anything by Norman Spinrad (somewhat later)
- I will Fear No Evil by Robert Heinlein (transsexualism)
- Stranger in a Strange Land (sacrilegious as well as all about polyamory)
- just about anything by Philip K Dick
- The Space Merchants by Fred Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth- rabid American corporations take over the world-- risky stuff for Eisenhower's America
- Revolt in 2100 by RA Heinlein (religious dictatorship of the USA, although Sinclair Lewis did have 'It Couldn't Happen Here')

Remembering that Star Trek had the first on-screen interracial kiss in American TV, and the first black woman officer of a military (or other) vessel, plus an episode where the white-blacks slaughter the black-whites, you can see that the SF genre has long been used to get past the censorship system.

There's a Philip Jose Farmer one which was pretty racy too (can't remember the name), usually compared to the Left Hand of Darkness.
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Post by Valuethinker »

shadowrings wrote:
The Black Company is his meister-piece-- a gritty tale (9 volumes long, the below is the first 3) of a company of mercenaries (based loosely on the 14th century Black Company, a troop of English mercenaries under Sir John Hawkwood who were the most feared in northern Italy) trapped in a war between good and evil: but it's not clear which is which, and indeed they change sides midway through.
I concur V about Cook's Black Company. Tis one of the series I want to re-read whenever I get established in turf of my own and get my collection out of storage.

vickie
It's also one of the few fantasy/ sci fi novels I know of where the concept of the unreliable narrator is explored. Each novel is narrated by a different character from The Black Company, and each spends at least a little time rubbishing the previous writer of the Company's Chronicles (which you are allegedly reading).
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Post by Index Fan »

xerty24 wrote: I would caution that while the first 3 books (out of 4 to-date) live up the standards set by the first award-winning one, the 4th I found fairly disappointing.\
You are correct- the first 3 books in A Song of Ice and Fire are brilliant; the 4th book, despite some flashes of quality, was a disappointment. I think Martin has lost his fire for the series- and his editor should be fired to boot. But the first 3 are such great reading it makes it worthwhile.

Stanislaw Lem was an excellent writer- the theme running through many of his works (The Invincible, His Masters Voice, Solaris) was the relative incomprehensibility of other alien intelligences.

Brian Aldiss is another old master of science fiction. I greatly enjoyed his Helliconia trilogy that told the story of a several-thousand-year cycle of the rise and fall of a civilization on a far planet.

Also highly recommended is Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, which tells the story of humanity's first contact with an alien civilization, and the terrible consequences for the sole survivor of the expedition.
"Optimum est pati quod emendare non possis." | -Seneca
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Post by shadowrings »

Wandering thru B&N Tuesday (rinsing off 2hrs at the AZ DMV office) was pleasantly surprised to see 2 anthologies of 6 books by Simon R. Green originally published between '90-'92.

Swords of Haven which includes first 3 books in the Hawk and Fisher series and Guards of Haven which emcompasses the last 3 in that series.

The following quoted review succinctly describes these pithy, well-developed characters, and thier action-packed existance as cops in a town that Green describes as "the ancient city misnamed Haven, a sinister place where demons, thieves, sorcerers, and murderers own the night and anything can be bought-except justice."
The Swords of Haven is a collection of first three books of the Hawk & Fisher series: Hawk & Fisher, Winner Take All, and The God Killer. The first story, Hawk & Fisher, is an intriguing murder mystery. Hawk and Fisher, set to guard an important person during a party, have to find out who is killing off the guests one by one. In the second book, Hawk and Fisher are guarding the life of a political candidate, which isn't as easy as you'd first think. In the third story, Hawk and Fisher are assigned to the God Squad, the small group that keeps order on Haven's Street of the Gods. Someone is killing the gods and the other gods, understandably, are frightened. If someone doesn't do something, the gods might take matters into their own hands, and Haven might not survive a war amongst the gods.

Hawk and Fisher are a husband and wife fighting team. They are notorious in Haven, and people on the wrong side of the law wisely steer clear of them. They have a penchant for violence, and the fight scenes are many in this book. But don't let the tough guy exterior fool you. Hawk and Fisher are also intelligent, witty in a dark, tongue in cheek way, and are handy at solving mysteries.
All 6 of the books in these 2 anthologies are entertaining and fast reads.

I haven't stumbled on it yet but I've been told there's a pair of well written prequel to this series available as well titled "Blue Moon Rising" and "Beyond the Blue Moon".
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. | --- Carl G. Jung
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Post by shadowrings »

Just finished the first two volumes of L.E.Modesitt's Corean Chronicles, Legacies and Darknesses. I've read his Recluce series but hadn't read the Corean. Captivating and fast read. Waiting for the local B&N to the the next books in the series back in stock.
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. | --- Carl G. Jung
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Post by shadowrings »

Finished up on Simon R. Green's Tales of the Nightside novels last week. The 5 cent description for the series foundation "John Taylor was born in the Nightside-a city within the city of London where it's always three A.M. and where inhuman creatures and otherworldly gods walk side-by-side. It's the stomping grounds for the lost and missing-and John Taylor is an expert at finding people and things in the shadows." Believe t here is an 8th book scheduled for sale early '08.

And just completed the last novel in Jennifer Roberson's Chronicles of the Cheysuli this morning. Good series, I had read the first one many years ago but never got my mitts on the others, was glad to see all of them back in print in a 4 book omnibus series.
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. | --- Carl G. Jung
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Re: More Science Fiction

Post by gatorman »

Alex Frakt wrote:.


If you haven't tried Patrick O'Brian, it's worth the effort. I'd probably start with the third book if you are unsure - it took that long for him to realize he was going to write this as a series. The first book was to be a one off and the characters weren't fully developed into their ultimate form, although they are still much more richly drawn than most. But it's still an incredible retelling of what may have been the greatest single ship action in British naval history. The strategies and movements of all the naval actions are recreated as much as possible from Cochrane's real actions - although the author does not make a fetish of it like Cornwell in his Sharpe books. In the second book, he dusted them off years later in an homage to Jane Austen. Which is great if you like Jane Austen, otherwise it's a bit of a lump.
Alex- I think O'Brian is by far the best of the writers specializing in 18th century naval fiction, certainly far superior to Cornwall. O'Brian 's characters seem like real people whereas Cornwall's are completely one dimensional. I will give Cornwall this, he had the guts to kill off his protagonist, a plot twist I thought refreshing.
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Re: More Science Fiction

Post by Valuethinker »

gatorman wrote:
Alex Frakt wrote:.


If you haven't tried Patrick O'Brian, it's worth the effort. I'd probably start with the third book if you are unsure - it took that long for him to realize he was going to write this as a series. The first book was to be a one off and the characters weren't fully developed into their ultimate form, although they are still much more richly drawn than most. But it's still an incredible retelling of what may have been the greatest single ship action in British naval history. The strategies and movements of all the naval actions are recreated as much as possible from Cochrane's real actions - although the author does not make a fetish of it like Cornwell in his Sharpe books. In the second book, he dusted them off years later in an homage to Jane Austen. Which is great if you like Jane Austen, otherwise it's a bit of a lump.
Alex- I think O'Brian is by far the best of the writers specializing in 18th century naval fiction, certainly far superior to Cornwall. O'Brian 's characters seem like real people whereas Cornwall's are completely one dimensional. I will give Cornwall this, he had the guts to kill off his protagonist, a plot twist I thought refreshing.
Gatorman

The only person I can compare O'Brian to is CS Forrester. No one else comes even close. Forrester reaches into Hornblower's inner mind.

Cornwall admitted that the way he wrote his books was to deconstruct Forrester (how long is the chapter, what happens in the chaper, how does it end?) and having reverse engineered Forrester, he writes his books that way.

I think Alexander Kent (Captain Richard Bolitho) is actually better in his contemporary naval novels, writing as Douglas Reeman. I enjoyed a couple of the early Bolitho novels, but that was about it.
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Re: More Science Fiction

Post by gatorman »

Valuethinker wrote:
gatorman wrote:
Alex Frakt wrote:.


If you haven't tried Patrick O'Brian, it's worth the effort. I'd probably start with the third book if you are unsure - it took that long for him to realize he was going to write this as a series. The first book was to be a one off and the characters weren't fully developed into their ultimate form, although they are still much more richly drawn than most. But it's still an incredible retelling of what may have been the greatest single ship action in British naval history. The strategies and movements of all the naval actions are recreated as much as possible from Cochrane's real actions - although the author does not make a fetish of it like Cornwell in his Sharpe books. In the second book, he dusted them off years later in an homage to Jane Austen. Which is great if you like Jane Austen, otherwise it's a bit of a lump.

Alex- I think O'Brian is by far the best of the writers specializing in 18th century naval fiction, certainly far superior to Cornwall. O'Brian 's characters seem like real people whereas Cornwall's are completely one dimensional. I will give Cornwall this, he had the guts to kill off his protagonist, a plot twist I thought refreshing.
Gatorman

The only person I can compare O'Brian to is CS Forrester. No one else comes even close. Forrester reaches into Hornblower's inner mind.

Cornwall admitted that the way he wrote his books was to deconstruct Forrester (how long is the chapter, what happens in the chaper, how does it end?) and having reverse engineered Forrester, he writes his books that way.

I think Alexander Kent (Captain Richard Bolitho) is actually better in his contemporary naval novels, writing as Douglas Reeman. I enjoyed a couple of the early Bolitho novels, but that was about it.
Valuethinker- I'd have to agree with you. Forrester writes a fine book, not as good as O'Brian, but still very entertaining and worth reading. The rest of the bunch are entirely formulaic and, in retrospect, didn't deserve the time I gave them.
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Re: More Science Fiction

Post by Alex Frakt »

gatorman wrote:Valuethinker- I'd have to agree with you. Forrester writes a fine book, not as good as O'Brian, but still very entertaining and worth reading. The rest of the bunch are entirely formulaic and, in retrospect, didn't deserve the time I gave them.
Gatorman
I'll agree. If you really like POB, see if you can find copies of Captain Frederick Marryat's books. He served as a midshipman with Cochrane, worked his way up to post captain and then retired to write some of the first novels about life at sea. POB (and Forrester) borrowed quite liberally from his work, and at least in POB's case, from his life. For example, Aubrey's penchant for diving off the ship to rescue sailors gone overboard was taken out of Marryat's life.
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Re: More Science Fiction

Post by Valuethinker »

Alex Frakt wrote:
gatorman wrote:Valuethinker- I'd have to agree with you. Forrester writes a fine book, not as good as O'Brian, but still very entertaining and worth reading. The rest of the bunch are entirely formulaic and, in retrospect, didn't deserve the time I gave them.
Gatorman
I'll agree. If you really like POB, see if you can find copies of Captain Frederick Marryat's books. He served as a midshipman with Cochrane, worked his way up to post captain and then retired to write some of the first novels about life at sea. POB (and Forrester) borrowed quite liberally from his work, and at least in POB's case, from his life. For example, Aubrey's penchant for diving off the ship to rescue sailors gone overboard was taken out of Marryat's life.
Stunningly, many sailors then (and even now) can't swim.

The sailor legend is that you die of hypothermia anyways, so why bother?

Of course that is nonsense, but it seems to be a widely held superstition amongst sailors.

When I moved to this country (UK) from Canada, I was stunned at how many could not swim, this in a seafaring country, a combination I guess of:

- generally inhospitable swimming - except on the South/West coasts (Gulf Stream) the sea is *cold* and can be quite dangerous - by contrasts, Canadians learn to swim in the lake in most of the country

- absence of public pool infrastructure - noticeably run down under Thatcher

- no tradition of summer camps
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Re: More Science Fiction

Post by gatorman »

Valuethinker wrote:
Alex Frakt wrote:
gatorman wrote:Valuethinker- I'd have to agree with you. Forrester writes a fine book, not as good as O'Brian, but still very entertaining and worth reading. The rest of the bunch are entirely formulaic and, in retrospect, didn't deserve the time I gave them.
Gatorman
I'll agree. If you really like POB, see if you can find copies of Captain Frederick Marryat's books. He served as a midshipman with Cochrane, worked his way up to post captain and then retired to write some of the first novels about life at sea. POB (and Forrester) borrowed quite liberally from his work, and at least in POB's case, from his life. For example, Aubrey's penchant for diving off the ship to rescue sailors gone overboard was taken out of Marryat's life.
Stunningly, many sailors then (and even now) can't swim.

The sailor legend is that you die of hypothermia anyways, so why bother?

Of course that is nonsense, but it seems to be a widely held superstition amongst sailors.

When I moved to this country (UK) from Canada, I was stunned at how many could not swim, this in a seafaring country, a combination I guess of:

- generally inhospitable swimming - except on the South/West coasts (Gulf Stream) the sea is *cold* and can be quite dangerous - by contrasts, Canadians learn to swim in the lake in most of the country

- absence of public pool infrastructure - noticeably run down under Thatcher

- no tradition of summer camps
Not to be too cynical about it, but in an era when the main recruiting tool was the press gang, teaching sailors how to swim, and thus providing them a means of escape, was probably not a high priority.
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Post by gatorman »

Alex- Thanks for the cite to Marryat.

Here is a link to Marryat on Google books:

http://books.google.com/books?as_q=&num ... =&as_isbn=

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Re: More Science Fiction

Post by Valuethinker »

gatorman wrote:Not to be too cynical about it, but in an era when the main recruiting tool was the press gang, teaching sailors how to swim, and thus providing them a means of escape, was probably not a high priority.
Gatorman
A very good point.
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Post by shadowrings »

Jennifer Roberson's Deepwoods

Second book in her Karavans series. Continuation of her good character development, as well as fleshing out the world and thickening the plot even more. Tangled conflict, sire and sibling, relative-relative, mortal-immortal, beings vs environment..

I found it to be an enjoyable read and in some places difficult to put aside to take care of the various demands of reality :wink:

regards,
vickie

should be getting Rick's new ETF book soon and will dive into it as time permits
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. | --- Carl G. Jung
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Post by shadowrings »

Patricia Briggs Iron Kissed

This is Brigg's 3rd novel in a series centered on a character called Mercy Thompson. It's a fast captivating read. Like her previous offerings in this series the character development is well done. Character growth and relationship change throughout the story line are not rushed nor slow. She's very good at keeping her characters "in-character". I also enjoy the world-building of her alternative future.
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. | --- Carl G. Jung
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Post by shadowrings »

Elizabth Moon's prequel anthology Legacy of Gird. This anthology consists of 2 novels, Surrender None and Liar's Oath. It is also the prequel anthology to her three book anthology The Deed of Paksenarrion.

Although Legacy is not as fast moving or suspenseful as Deed. The volumes it consists of are good reads. The fantasy elements are intentionally understated as these stories demystify and humanize the legends of thier principles which were presented in Deeds.
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. | --- Carl G. Jung
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Post by roymeo »

I love most of the work of Samuel R Delany and Octavia Butler. Neither have been recommended so far, it seems.

roymeo
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