Friday, 25 August 2017

Summer Reading Fun: Part 3


My sudden spurt of reading has been driven by seeing the size of my unread book pile.  My original count was 38 novels sitting around, gathering dust, and generally sniggering at me while lowering property values.

That's a joke for those with no sense of humour.

This motivated me to dive into my unread pile, but I have to confess that I have recently bought some new books.  The new arrivals include the William C. Deitz's novel Into the Guns, which is the first in a new series; Tanya Huff's new Confederation novel A Piece Divided; and Larry Correia's Monster Hunter Siege, which I bought in hardback because I couldn't wait despite knowing I won't read it immediately I had to have it.

Colour me a fan of the Monster Hunter series.

So my unread novels currently stands at 30 books: made up of 16 new books, and 14 old books to be re-read.

I've known about William C. Dietz's work for a while, but like all things, it can take me a while to get around to reading an author.  He's known for his Legion of the Damned series, but I didn't start there, but rather with his prequels series that begins with Andromeda's Fall.

I found this an enjoyable read.  

The heroine, who starts from a place of comfort,  has to escape assassination when the new Empress takes to the throne and decides it is a necessary thing to kill all the supporters and relatives of the old emperor.  It's a reversal of the rags-to-riches plot with added murder, death, and intrigue set against the French Foreign Legion in space!  And by this I mean Dietz uses the heritage of French Foreign Legion as the framework for a future version as the setting of his story.

It works for me, it may not work for people who are not interested in or who abhor military history being seen as something other than a blot upon humanities record as a species.  

I breezed through the series, made easier by the fact that each book starts where the other finishes.  So, this is truly a trilogy, and not a series of three books set in the same universe.  The ending is clearly delineated, and though I've not read the main series, it serves the purpose of being a prequel for the Legion of the Damned, and is a good introduction to Dietz's Legion setting.

The fact that I bought a copy of the first book of his new series tells you all you need to know.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Brian Aldiss RIP


My long-term followers who read this blog will remember that I first mentioned Brian Aldiss during the London SF Worldcon, LonCon 3, here.  Where a  bunch of enthusiastic fans sang happy birthday to him.  A happy memory.

A moments reflection reminds me that this was five years ago to today.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Brian back in 2015 at the British Science Fiction Association and Science Fiction Foundation jointly run day long event, imaginatively called the Mini-Convention, which you can read about here.  What I wrote there, where I said, "...given that he's not getting any younger (none of us are) it seemed like an opportunity we should take."

So, another icon of my youth has died, the by all accounts peacefully in his bed on the 18 of August.  At the age of ninety-two he's had a good run.  It feels a little bit sad to realize that I've not read any of his books in years or reviewed any of them on my blog.  I can see a re-read at some point in the future.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Summer Reading Fun: Part 2

After finishing the Grimnoir Chronicles I started reading Michael Z. Williamson's A Long Time Until Now.

Some of my friend's don't like American libertarian science fiction.  I've often expressed the opinion that I don't like science fiction which espouse communism.  So I understand that certain ideologies can put readers off.  However, on reflection, after an email exchange with a different friend, I would recognize that both are in essence science fictional utopias.  One based on individual freedom, the other based on communal sharing.

In my professional capacity as a cognitive behavioural therapist I think neither can be implemented, because it would require an evolutionary change in homo sapiens sapiens genome to effect either.

Having skated around politics, lets move back to the text.

Williamson's latest book is in my mind not as good as his Contact with Chaos story.  However, A Long Time Until Now shares a lot of the things that made his other book very interesting.  The description of paleolithic life and arising social structures within a science fictional framework displays a stunning knowledge of history from extensive research.

What let it down, for me, was its length, and the ending.

A Long Time Until Now is a long book, and while I didn't feel it was too long or poorly paced, the story does take it time to unfold.  The bigger disappointment was that the ending didn't quite nail it, because I was left wanting to know more, but its pretty clear there won't be a sequel.

Saying that, I would recommend getting it anyway and reading it for the masterful research.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Summer Reading Fun: Part 1

I met Larry Correia back when he came over to Blighty to sign a  few books and go to book fairs, and you can read my piece I wrote then here.  I'm a big fan of his Monster Hunter series, and contrary to any impression you may have of him, he is actually very nice and his wife Bridget is easy to talk to too.  So, I've had copies of his Grimnoir Chronicles sitting on my to be read pile, which has been irritating me for a while–I hate having too many unread books sitting around lowering property values, I mean collecting dust in my flat.

The problem was I had heard Hard Magic being read on the Baen Free Radio Hour podcast, and quite frankly I found it only mildly interesting to listen to.  But it had been a while so I felt beholden to read the first book before reading the sequels, and I'm glad I did.  The reading experience was far superior than the listening one, and I delved into the sequel, Spellbound, and then Warbound, the third book of the trilogy, consuming them with gusto.

On reflection I think it has to do with pace.

Spoken word speed is between 110 to 160 word per minute.  I read at around 350 to 450 words per minute, which is not meant to be a boast, it's just my average reading speed of a minute per page.  So, the experience of listening to Hard Magic had made it feel slow and dull, even though the narrator was good––it wasn't his fault––it's the format that I don't like.  When I read a book, I'm carried along by the pace I read at.  An interesting book grabs me and drives me to finish reading it.

It is amazing what a difference that makes.


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