Sunday, 25 July 2010

Read:// Tides From the New Worlds by Tobias S. Buckell [ebook]

It's taken me a little while to get through this though that's down to life and children rather than any problem with the book which I enjoyed more for the leisurely read.  

If you didn't know Tobias Buckell was Caribbean born and raised, you could probably guess by the time you finished reading Tides From the New Worlds, a collection of his short stories. Influences from his life spent growing up in a different culture are clearly evident in many of the tales here and they are all the better for it. This is not the heavy-handed insertion of token 'ethnic' characters that often seems to happen in fiction, or the use of 'generic low tech culture' as a tool to show how much more advanced and therefore civilised the other cultures in a story are. This is speculative fiction written with very real feeling characters and places which just happen not to be white people living in America or America-in-space.

Not all the stories here are science fiction, if labelling is required then this would definitely sit under a speculative one but there's a real mix with alien contact stories and space habitats sitting alongside airships (gotta love airships), fantasy and what I guess people like to call magical realism though I've always thought that's just what we used to call fantasy before the Orcs took it over. Likewise not all the stories have that Caribbean flavour but for me some of the best stories are those that combine both science fiction and that clash of cultures like the quite brilliant opener The Fish Merchant.

The standard of fiction definitely doesn't rely on those elements though with my favourite story being A Green Thumb, one that reminds me of the sort of stories that got me into science fiction, it has that light hearted sense of wonder I associate with stories from the science fiction magazines I devoured whenever I could get my hands on them. It might not be considered the best story here but it puts a big grin on my face. For very different reasons I loved the moving All Her Children Fought which brings to mind Ender's Game, though it's brevity means it packs more of an emotional punch in my opinion. There's also an interesting little introduction to each story so you can get a feel for the things that inspired or influenced each of them.

Coming from a mixed background myself, I'm drawn to science fiction written with and from different cultural views. I have grown up British though I clearly don't look it, yet I don't know much of my roots abroad apart from what my father has told me so I'm always interested and slightly envious of people who have a clear understanding of where they come from. Tobias obviously has a real understanding and sense of pride in his Caribbean roots, I've read a couple of interviews and blog posts where this is obvious and it shines through in the last story in the collection Toy Planes which reads like Caribbean advocacy, it's brilliant.

I didn't like everything, The Duel whilst an interesting setting didn't grab me maybe because I know little of American history, likewise Smooth Talking didn't seem to hold my attention. The ones I liked far outweigh the odd few that didn't appeal to me though and all in all Tides From the New Worlds is the best single author collection I've read in a long time. I'd love to own that beautiful looking hardback but at this price the ebook is a steal, it's cheaper than most of the fiction magazines you can buy and way better value for money given the number of stories and overall quality.

I really, really have to hunt out his novels now, knowing that they include that seemingly effortless mix of different cultures and science fiction...and I'm pretty sure someone mentioned there were more airships. :)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Free Read:// The Choir Boats by Daniel A. Rabuzzi

Spotted this a bit late but Wowio currently have a decent looking fantasy ebook free for July. Chizine publish some interesting short fiction online so I might take a look at this once I've cleared a few things from the top of the pile. PDF only like most of Wowios ebooks, wish they would do epubs too.
As many of you know, we’ve been offering a free download every month since the earliest days of WOWIO, and we always do our best to pick intriguing titles that will pique the interest of our readers and new visitors.

This month, in honor of our site relaunch, we’re doing something really special — we’ve teamed up with publisher ChiZine Publications to offer one of their critically acclaimed fantasy novels — The Choir Boats by Daniel A. Rabuzzi — as our July Book of the Month.

Described as “vibrant” and rich with “verve and wit,” it’s a seagoing fantasy yarn that is like “Gulliver’s Travels crossed with The Golden Compass and a dollop of Pride and Prejudice.”

Monday, 19 July 2010

Bought:// The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF - Edited by Mike Ashley

Published By: Robinson
Buy From:

The last sixty years have been full of stories of one or other possible Armageddon, whether by nuclear war, plague, cosmic catastrophe or, more recently, global warming, terrorism, genetic engineering, AIDS and other pandemics. These stories, both pre- and post-apocalyptic, describe the fall of civilization, the destruction of the entire Earth, or the end of the Universe itself. Many of the stories reflect on humankind's infinite capacity for self-destruction, but the stories are by no means all downbeat or depressing - one key theme explores what the aftermath of a cataclysm might be and how humans strive to survive.

Well real life seems to be catching up with me as usual. Still working my way through a stack of books but haven't finished anything for a while now. Spent a few days away with the family so National Book tokens grasped firmly in hand I ventured to a nice little independent bookshop and snagged a few books.

Top of the pile is this one - The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF - an anthology containing both reprints and newly commissioned stories. A lot of these books contain mostly reprints so I'm really looking forward to reading this. Love the theme of apocalypse and how people deal with it so I'm sure I'll find something in here to entertain me.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Listen:// UR - Stephen King

Buy From:
An Unabridged Novella Unavailable In Any Collection!

Tapping into our primal fears of modern technology that made Cell a #1 bestseller, Stephen King sets his sights on the latest high-tech gadget in UR, in which a mysterious e-book reader opens a disturbing window into other worlds.

Reeling from a painful break-up, English instructor and avid book lover Wesley Smith is haunted by his ex-girlfriend's parting shot: "Why can't you just read off the computer like everyone else?" He buys an e-book reader out of spite, but soon finds he can use the device to glimpse realities he had never before imagined, discovering literary riches beyond his wildest dreams...and all-too-human tragedies that surpass his most terrible nightmares.

A short novella reading at 2hr 20min, it's competently read and quite interesting if not exactly full of original ideas. It was original published as a Kindle exclusive and a Kindle is the major plot device, giving the new owner Wesley Smith the ability to read books that famous authors have published in parallel universes that were never published in his own. I started out thinking it was going to be a terrible plug for Kindles but it's actually a decent tale, reminded me of an old-school sci-fi short story but obviously written in King's style.

It's not all about reading books, and things take a different turn when he accesses information which affects his world. I can't say much more without spoiling the plot, it's more Twilight Zone than outright horror but I found it entertaining and I'm sure most King fans would.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

News:// SF & Fantasy Masterworks Reading Project

I'm strangely drawn to reading projects or challenges and by drawn to I mean I like to start them full of enthusiasm and then fail miserably because I have a terminally low attention span. I'm still considering reading through the Hugo winners but it'll have to wait until I've at least made a dent in the book mountain my wife is hidden behind.

A bunch of SF&F book bloggers are undertaking the slightly crazy project of reading and reviewing all the books in both the SF and Fantasy Masterworks series. They are undoubtedly great collections of genre books, I do think they tend to concentrate on older works and the obvious 'grandmasters' but this is fairly common in any list of classic science fiction or fantasy. I'm passionate about new science fiction and I spend a fair amount of time promoting newer works to friends both online and off who tend to run into the same recommendations of classic texts that are not always in my opinion the best introduction to the genre though they may be important.

Anyway I'm getting a bit off topic, thought I'd continue the meme I spotted at the Speculative Scotsman.

Books in bold I've read, italicised I own but haven't read.

I'll do the fantasy list if I can find a list that's easy to copy&paste but for now the SF Masterworks:

I - Dune - Frank Herbert
II - The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin
III - The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
IV - The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester
V - A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller, Jr.
VI - Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke
VII - The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein
VIII - Ringworld - Larry Niven
IX - The Forever War - Joe Haldeman
X - The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham

1 - The Forever War - Joe Haldeman
2 - I Am Legend - Richard Matheson
3 - Cities in Flight - James Blish
4 - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick
5 - The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester
6 - Babel-17 - Samuel R. Delany
7 - Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny
8 - The Fifth Head of Cerberus - Gene Wolfe
9 - Gateway - Frederik Pohl
10 - The Rediscovery of Man - Cordwainer Smith

11 - Last and First Men - Olaf Stapledon
12 - Earth Abides - George R. Stewart
13 - Martian Time-Slip - Philip K. Dick
14 - The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester
15 - Stand on Zanzibar - John Brunner
16 - The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin
17 - The Drowned World - J. G. Ballard
18 - The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
19 - Emphyrio - Jack Vance
20 - A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick

21 - Star Maker - Olaf Stapledon
22 - Behold the Man - Michael Moorcock
23 - The Book of Skulls - Robert Silverberg
24 - The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds - H. G. Wells
25 - Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
26 - Ubik - Philip K. Dick
27 - Timescape - Gregory Benford
28 - More Than Human - Theodore Sturgeon
29 - Man Plus - Frederik Pohl
30 - A Case of Conscience - James Blish

31 - The Centauri Device - M. John Harrison
32 - Dr. Bloodmoney - Philip K. Dick
33 - Non-Stop - Brian Aldiss
34 - The Fountains of Paradise - Arthur C. Clarke
35 - Pavane - Keith Roberts
36 - Now Wait for Last Year - Philip K. Dick
37 - Nova - Samuel R. Delany
38 - The First Men in the Moon - H. G. Wells
39 - The City and the Stars - Arthur C. Clarke
40 - Blood Music - Greg Bear

41 - Jem - Frederik Pohl
42 - Bring the Jubilee - Ward Moore
43 - VALIS - Philip K. Dick
44 - The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin
45 - The Complete Roderick - John Sladek
46 - Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said - Philip K. Dick
47 - The Invisible Man - H. G. Wells
48 - Grass - Sheri S. Tepper
49 - A Fall of Moondust - Arthur C. Clarke
50 - Eon - Greg Bear

51 - The Shrinking Man - Richard Matheson
52 - The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - Philip K. Dick
53 - The Dancers at the End of Time - Michael Moorcock
54 - The Space Merchants - Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth
55 - Time Out of Joint - Philip K. Dick
56 - Downward to the Earth - Robert Silverberg
57 - The Simulacra - Philip K. Dick
58 - The Penultimate Truth - Philip K. Dick
59 - Dying Inside - Robert Silverberg
60 - Ringworld - Larry Niven
61 - The Child Garden - Geoff Ryman
62 - Mission of Gravity - Hal Clement
63 - A Maze of Death - Philip K. Dick
64 - Tau Zero - Poul Anderson
65 - Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clarke
66 - Life During Wartime - Lucius Shepard
67 - Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang - Kate Wilhelm
68 - Roadside Picnic - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
69 - Dark Benediction - Walter M. Miller, Jr.
70 - Mockingbird - Walter Tevis

71 - Dune - Frank Herbert
72 - The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein
73 - The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
74 - Inverted World - Christopher Priest
75 - Kurt Vonnegut - Cat's Cradle
76 - H.G. Wells - The Island of Dr. Moreau
77 - Arthur C. Clarke - Childhood's End
78 - H.G. Wells - The Time Machine
79 - Samuel R. Delany - Dhalgren (July 2010)
80 - Brian Aldiss - Helliconia (August 2010)

81 - H.G. Wells - Food of the Gods (Sept. 2010)
82 - Jack Finney - The Body Snatchers (Oct. 2010)
83 - Joanna Russ - The Female Man (Nov. 2010)
84 - M.J. Engh - Arslan (Dec. 2010)

So more than I thought but still quite low. I'll be looking forward to the reviews.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Free Read:// The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains - Neil Gaiman

Well the last couple of weeks have been pretty bad in terms of reading. I used to take a stack of books with me on holiday, these days it's a stack of nappies. Can't complain though, have had a lovely time with my family and I am slowly catching up now.

I've not yet managed to get through Stories yet but you can read Neil Gaiman's story from the collection - The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains - for free over on the rather lovely Fifty-Two Stories website.