Please excuse the lack of a clever title. Anyway, here are some books I've read sort of recently, along with half-assed reviews, listed in reverse chronological order of reading! I haven't written any reviews for a while, so there's lots of them. At least that's forcing me to keep each one short!
Blue Remembered Earth - Alastair Reynolds
Reynolds' latest. Good, but not great. I didn't really like any of the characters, although I suppose there's no reason I need to do so. It's one of those books where folks follow obtuse clues to some grand revelation. The clues themselves were so bizarrely obtuse that I didn't really care about them. The grand revelations weren't really all that grand. But, in between, the writing is solid, although lacking the level of deliciously descriptive detail that marks Reynolds' best works.
His best work? The Prefect.
Redshirts - John Scalzi
Scalzi writes a fun and clever take on those expendable redshirts from Star Trek. This is a fast-reading lightweight book. That's a compliment. That's what he means for it to be and it is completely successful on that level. It doesn't mess about trying to be anything different. The main story is followed by three related short stories. The second one tries out a rarely seen gimmick. I think it should have been limited to just the video part of it, with the set-up moved to the main story. The gimmick would have worked better that way.
Solaris - Stanistaw Lem
After reading Roadside Picnic, see below, I decided to watch the glacially slow movie based on it, Stalker. And that got me to thinking about watching the just as glacially-paced Solaris. (Made by the same guy.) But, before I did that, I decided to read the book first.
Interesting, overall, with one of those open-ended musing endings which I find annoying. Still, was certainly worth reading. Just don't expect it to scratch any sort of hard sci-fi itch.
Roadside Picnic - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Old school Soviet sci-fi. It's not, however, loaded with propaganda. The current release is notable for being free of governmental edits, despite the lack of any sort or real political content. It's a really good read. The protagonist feels real and there's enough sci-fi stuff to keep me interested. As mentioned above, it was adapted into a movie, Stalker, in which very little happens, but where the non-action is strikingly filmed.
A Universe From Nothing - Lawrence M. Krauss
This may be my favorite book about hard science. One problem with science-oriented non-fiction is that it tends to be pitched at a low level. If you have a decent background in various sciences, then you're usually left wishing for much more and deeper detail. (I don't mean having advanced degrees. I just mean having something like a year of college-level physics under your belt.)
But this book isn't
dumbed-down at all. Well, of course, it is dumbed-down some. But it's still detailed enough, and difficult enough, to make it a satisfying read.
And, best of all, it gives a concise answer to why there is something rather than nothing, because nothingness is unstable.
Game Change - John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Get an inside eye on the 2008 elections. This book purports to be factually accurate. Assuming that's so, this is a fascinating look indeed. Obama comes out looking the best. Hillary gains loads of sympathy, striving within a campaign hampered by a lack of organization and a famous husband who still loves attention (and women). McCain only looks good in comparison to the walking disaster that is Palin.
And Edwards is a clueless asshole. How did he fool so many of us for so long?
Kingdom Come - J.G. Ballard
new book from J.G. Ballard. (Meaning that it's newly published in the United States.) As usual, it's the same damn book he always writes. I've found, much to my surprise, that I'm entirely Ballarded-out, making this a tedious read.
A Fuller Explanation - Amy Edmondson
If you've ever tried to actually read Buckminster Fuller's Synergetics, you know it's pretty wild and obtuse. I have a copy and I've always had to be content with just looking at the weird diagrams. I just ain't that smart!
Edmondson tries to put it all into normal English, in the hopes that mostly normal people can understand it. And she does a damn fine job. She's lightyears more readable that Bucky. Which is not to say that this is a light read. It's not. But at least you feel like you have a shot at understanding.
One warning, though. You'll forever cringe when someone speaks of
In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash - Jean Shepherd
This is the book on which most of the Xmas classic
A Christmas Story is based. It's not as enchanting as the movie nor is it as fun. It's still funny but the best bits are in the movie. Just go watch the movie.
The Cleanest Race - B.R. Myers
So, what the hell is the deal with North Korea? Why does so much of the population utterly buy into utter loony worship of an utterly loony ruler? Myers attempts to answer that question by drawing on internal North Korean documents never meant for outside consumption. I won't go into the details and I'm not at all sure I buy his thesis. But, damn, it's interesting watching him lay it out.
Make Room! Make Room! - Harry Harrison
Classic novel on which the movie Soylent Green is based. Plot-wise there just isn't all that much. The book is more about the society formed than the particular plot lines. That's not to say it's plotless. There's certainly a plot. It's just that the plot doesn't really seem to matter much. Interesting and classic, but not something I'd read a second time.
Containment - Christian Cantrell
I suspect that this is self-published. Regardless, I enjoyed it a lot. Some reviews have complained about an abrupt ending, but I found that it worked perfectly well. (Although the ending is fairly easily guessed.) In all, some solid fairly hard sci-fi.
Oddly, I can no longer find it at Barnes & Noble as an eBook, which is the format in which I bought it.
Machine Man - Max Barry
This one starts out great as a technological/psychological profile but steadily falters into a robot action novel by the end. Well, not the very end. The very end redeems itself a little. Still worthy of reading, I just wish the early promise had held up throughout the whole book.
Rat Girl - Kristin Hersh
A biography by an artist I don't know writing about her years in a band I didn't listen to. Regardless, I still found it interesting. It's as much about bipolar disorder as it is about music and it's certainly better written than either of these Husker Du / Bob Mould related tomes. And she's much less of an asshole than Bob Mould, too.
Accelerando - Charles Stross
I didn't realize that this was a collection of related short stories while I was reading it. Thus it felt really disjointed. It has some really great concepts, some a little mind-blowing. But it also relies on characters who act in extreme gestures seemingly simply because the story, such that is it, depends on it. In that way, it reminded me of Reynolds' Pushing Ice.
You might note that I have an obvious preference for hard sci-fi that contains great ideas, meticulously described, with interesting characters. Scalzi can hit this sweet spot. So can Reynolds. But it's tricky to do. That's why so many of my reviews are of the good-but-not-great variety.
Definitely putting the Scalzi one on my to-read list, but I'll keep all of them in mind.
Oh, i remember one thing about Goodreads - you can use it to keep track of books you want to read. So, for example, if you had put all these on your Goodreads page, I could have just clicked a pull-down link to put it on my "to-read" shelf there.
So, basically, you're saying it's all about you and your needs.
Damn straight! Like you even need to ask.