New Years Resolution: Volume 1.
My resolution this year is to blog about every book I read (free reading anyways). At least a sentence. I've been compiling books since sometime in December (I can't remember when) so I should start now before I completely forget.
1)The Best of Fritz Leiber
by Fritz Leiber.
I've actually already read the book that is basically volume two of this collection, and that one was good, but this one is better. Even with the notable lack of any Fafser and the Grey Mouser stories, this book is still incredible. I think that as I get older and more mature, Leiber finds his way deeper into my heart as the best of the best in authors. There are easily a dozen stories I could talk about in this book, but I'll limit myself to Space-Time for Springers
. STfS is a story about cats. It might possibly be the best science fiction story about cats ever written. It is certainly the best I've ever read. I don't want to ruin it, but the story catches you by surprise and is so deep. It leaves you wandering and needing to analyze and then like ten minutes later it finally hits you what just happened. It's a completely different reading experience than any other story I've ever read and it does so only to its benefit.
2) The Gripping Hand-
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The sequel to Mote in God's Eye
is good, but not the greatness that the original was. Totally competent, probably one of the best sequels ever written 20 years later, but not incredible. It totally failed to make me like some of the key characters and somehow wasn't as gripping as Mote.
3) Warm Worlds and Otherwise
- James Tiptree Jr. I find it strange that Robert Silverberg was convinced that J.T. Jr. is a man due to his stories. I read the same stories and come across as finding them by a woman. Then I read other stories and they aren't the stories of men who like themselves. They could be written by a woman without issue, but a man who wrote that story would simply have a darker worldview in my mind than Tiptree has. Regardless, Alice Sheldon is a wonderful writer. Again, several stories I could talk about and this time I'll swing back to one of the best known Tiptree stories: The Girl Who Was Plugged In
. The Girl Who Was Plugged In shows many of the hallmarks of Tiptree writing: engaging characters, an overwhelming understanding of teenaged angst and the individuals feelings of isolation and rejection, tight plotting, almost fairytale like narratives and Brothers Grimm style endings. This is one of her most famous works with good reason. It asks questions about our near future and what it means to be human that may very well be applicable. Again, a story that sticks with you for awhile. So does Love is the Plan, The Plan is Death, which is probably her next most famous story.
4) Darkover Landfall
- Marion Zimmer Bradley. I still don't know why I bought this. I decided awhile back that I'd read enough Darkover novels, but it was basically the origin story and two dollars. It was...strange. It turns out that all the Darkover stuff I'd read before now was set so so far past the time line of this novel as to be essentially completely unrelated. There were a few things that made sense, but mostly it left me confused how things in this novel slotted into the stuff I'd previously read. It was still worth the read and basically I read it in a day.
5) Vault of the Ages
- Poul Anderson. I'm angry I read this book. It'll fade, but this wasn't a worthwhile 170 pages of my time. The initial premise is interesting (if cliched), a scientist foreseeing mankind's doom seeds an underground vault with all the knowledge mankind will need to rebuild after the atomic war. The problem is that said vault is basically a McGuffin to tell a story about a 15 year old prince in what's the equivalent of maybe 10th century Ireland (except you know, it's South Carolina). I was almost half way through before I realized the story wasn't going to actually GO anywhere with the actual interesting plot piece. I read the rest of it in a few hours anyways because I was no where near the rest of my books.
6) Ex Machina: Ex Cathedra
by Brian Vaughn. This was the 7th trade paperback of Ex Machina. If you don't know what Ex Machina is, go read the series and come back. No really, you should be reading Ex Machina already. It's the only comic book currently on the market I actually consider worth reading. It's by the same guy as Y, The Last Man, and frankly, it's a lot better. Up until now I've been reading ningwers
loaned copies, but since he moved I had to buy my own. It uh...doesn't work as a trade paperback, it's all about the individual issues in this case. Vaughn is a master of the last page, and you totally lose it when you have 0 stop time before the next page. Even the 30 seconds it takes to reseal one comic and open the next is enough to let you appreciate that moment by comparison.
7) Old Twentieth
- Joe Haldeman. I have a special place in my heart of Haldeman. I love Forever War
and Forever Peace
. Old Twentieth is good, but the ending is painfully predictable and mostly it's just an interesting read without actually being meaningful in some way. This is totally out of character for a Haldeman novel to me. Maybe he's growing as an author?
8) Future Weapons of War
- edited by Joe Haldeman and Martin H. Greenberg. I bought this at B&N on a whim. An author I like and the anthologist I trust most, I figured I couldn't go wrong. Unfortunately, I was wrong. This is one of those crappy short story collections of original works written that year instead of stories compiled around the concept from any year. Subsequently, I think almost every story used the phrase "Green Zone." Several of the stories in here were worth reading, but more than a few were drek or felt like rehashings of things others had previously written, and done better.
9) The Last Colony
- John Scalzi. Everything I've come to expect from a Scalzi novel- fun, fast, and meaningless. It's popcorn reading at it's best, but it does make me think I wouldn't want to meet Scalzi on the street. He simply revels in killing and murder a bit too much.
10) The Android's Dream
- John Scalzi. Old Man War
is Scalzi's deepest work. This is his most satirical work. It's funny as hell and still not that deep. It's sorta like a much more shallow Snow Crash
, but with an actual ending.
11) Mything Person
- Robert Asprin. Again, bought on a two dollar whim. This one I literally read in a day. Mostly, I bought it for the title. It turns out it's a Thieves World
novel, and it was one of those books just dripping in accumulated back story. Thankfully each novel plot is stand alone so that didn't stop it. Fun, but I'm not a big fantasy reader.
12) Conjure Wife
- Fritz Leiber. People mention this as one of Leiber's best works. I don't know why. It's definitely gripping, but it's just not incredible in any way compared to say his short stories Sanity
, or Space-Time for Springers
, or Gonna Roll Dem Bones
. It's also merely competent when compared to several of his other novels. Still, an excellent read with an ending slightly too abrupt and hand waved.
- A.E. Van Vogt. This is one of those novels that gets mentioned in every god damned blurb about Van Vogt in every god damned anthology ever written, so I decided to read it. It's a competent space opera, but nothing special. Again, not a particularly good ending.
14) The Weapon Makers
- A.E. Van Vogt. A decade ago (good lord, it's been that long?!) I formulated a policy on Van Vogt that while he was a pleasant read, there was absolutely such a thing as too much of him. He is very much a man of small doses. So I still don't know what possessed me to read Slan
directly after reading The Weapon Makers
. TWM is the sequel to The Weapon Shops of Isher
. For those that don't know, The Weapon Shops are among the most famous second amendment science fiction stories. However, as there are very few science fiction stories written with the right to bear arms a central tenant, that's not a particularly impressive achievement. The first story in Weapon Shops (which I have still not read as I have yet to secure a copy) is called Seesaw
, and it is one of those blasted stories that I've read six or seven times in various anthologies all of which mention in the blurb that it's the first story in the Weapon Shops series. So I decided to read the things. Briefly, the Weapon Shops are unconquerable stores which sell magic guns able to only be used for defense and which will not function for military personnel. Again, ultimately, it's space opera and that's about it. It's fun, and I liked it more than Slan
Bah, I have nothing left but anthologies to analyze. This is going to take awhile.
15) Asimov's Mysteries
by Take a Guess. The most annoying thing about Asimov mystery collections is how damned similar their names sound. I bought this collection not knowing if I already owned it. Wait, scratch that, I bought this collection TWICE in the last year without knowing if I already owned it. It turns out this was a worthwhile buy (both of them) as this is far and away my favorite Asimov mystery collection. It turns out I'd already read 3/4ths of the stories, but several of these are just classics (his first story ever, and Pate de Foi Gras
) and the rest totally made it worthwhile. There is also an enjoyable benefit sometimes to organizing all of an authors stories in a specific universe or theme in the same place sometimes as is the case in this book.
This is basically his science mysteries, with all that is good and bad about that. To start, Asimov likes arm chair detectives. It would be nice if he also liked likable arm chair detectives. His science fiction mysteries (before Elijah Bailey) have Wendel Urth, possibly the most unlikable Sherlock Holmes character ever written. Any time he's in the scene you just want him to leave because he's so damned annoying. It's unfortunate that there are some good mystery stories grafted onto him. However, the real treasure troves of this collection are the stories you've never seen anywhere else, the stories that could only have been written by someone who spent too long in academia and while they are wildly funny to someone in academia probably would bore anyone else to tears. Reading these stories made me wonder if now that I've been through grad school I'd suddenly like Whiff of Death
instead of thinking it was his worst novel. Anyways, What's in A Name
is officially in my top 5 favorite Asimov stories now. Short simple and amusing.
If you actually read this giant block of text please comment as I'd love to know if anyone is going to read an entry this ridiculously long.
16)The 1985 Annual World's Best SF
- Donald A. Wollheim Presents. This one was bought at the dollar book store (dangerous place) and totally worth it. It has a good story by Connie Willis (Cash Crop
), a crappy story by Steven R. Donaldson (making me really not want to pick up the novel I bought by him awhile back), a very fun story by Gary Shockley (The Coming of the Gungas
), the superb Salvidore
(I think this won the Hugo) and the even better Press Enter *
by John Varley. Press Enter *
has haunted me for years ever since I originally read it. It's like zombies but not as prevalent. In its own way, it keeps me up at night. There's a good reason this story appears in every 1986 anthology and I hope it continues to stand the test of time.
17) Combat SF
edited by Gordon R. Dickson. It's the anthologies weapons of war should have been, only collected 20 years earlier! (actually given the total lack of some of the best 80s stories on this topic, it's probably 70s...1975, yep). It has some of those seminal stories you always remember. Poul Anderson's The Man Who Came Early
(one of the best time travel stories ever written), Time Piece
by Haldeman (I think this story twisted about and reworked is what become Forever War
, as it's quasi-same universe, but at the same time, not), and The Horars of Wa
r by Gene Wolfe, which while a terrible pun and a total product of Vietnam still was a moving piece.
18) New Dreams This Morning
edited by James Blish. Anthologies are extremely dangerous things for authors. Because when I finally get to hear an author actually talk, I frequently conclude that they are a pompous windbag (::looks down at his black pot::) and idiots. James Blish does that in spades. It turns out that Blish is one of those "I'm an artiste!" types that annoy me to death. He seems to think that science is evil and will kill art and engineers have no souls and artists ultimately know what's right for the world. You know, one of those types. This is basically a science fiction collection of the "best" sf stories about artists and what it means to be an artist in a technological world. What I find most damning about this work is the lack of the uplifting stories about artists. It's like the academy awards of science fiction short stories about the arts, if the ending is too happy it's unacceptable. What I consider one of the top two stories about science swallowing art does not appear in this book and that it is ultimately the story on the subject that leaves you uplifted convinced that science can advance art, I find myself annoyed.
However, now lets tangent to one place where this book confused me and opened my mind. Damon Knight's The Country of the Kind
is one of those stories that if you've read anthologies of old science fiction, you've probably read at some point. It's often reprinted and well worth it. Before now, I had never before caught that the main character in the story is an artist. Even now, I'm still not sure what to make of it all. Briefly, the story seems to imply that in breeding a peaceful perfectly happy humanity, a humanity of infinite happiness (absolutely no dystopia here), it will probably breed out artistry as artistry requires conflict. It seems pretty clear that Blish thinks this is a travesty, but I'm not so sure and I'm not so sure Damon Knight (the perennial critic I might point out) thinks so either. It seems a more than fair trade for the life they lead. At least now I realize the ending to the story is open to the interpretation and eyes of the reader.
19) Science Against Man
edited by Anthony Cheetham. I don't think I'd ever read any of the stories in this collection before. None of them were bad, most of them were funny, some were downright good. I think the best was James Blish's (haha...I know) Statistician's Day
, basically about a world in which population control means death and birth control.
Just two more and they both deserve entire posts unto themselves.
20) The Best of Lester Del Re
y by Lester Del Rey. Maybe I should have ended with this one, as this one is just unmitigatedlably enjoyable. Del Rey writes stories with just terrible terrible names (Nerves! Day of the Giants!) but so unbelievably engaging. He writes a lot of space opera and yarns, but he always writes something interesting and you never regret reading it. I hadn't previously realized just how obsessed the man is with robots (robots which are quasi-Asimovian) but he does it well. Vengeance is Mine
and Helen O'Loy
both about robots are just wonderful. Similarly, For I Am A Jealous People
feels like something I could have written, only better. Or rather it feels like something I wish I could have written, and perfectly ended. I could write about or analyze several of the other stories as well. I always think of Del Rey for camp, but he amazes me time and again with his ability to write something worth reading.
21) Starlight The Great Shrot Fiction of Alfred Bester
by Alfred Bester. I had previously always thought Bester died young. I hadn't realized he just had a very low output of science fiction stories. The weird thing when you get a lot of Bester in one place is you realize just how similar a lot of his work is. He's completely obessed with Freudian psychology in his stories and they almost always play a central theme. Bester is a little bit of an arrogant artist type, but he's at least enjoyable at it. His stories are always experimental, and while their staccato style is sometimes frustrating it's at least interesting to read. Meanwhile, this is of course Alfred Bester, so the man can write. Time Is The Traitor, Hobbson's Choice
and The Pi Man
, are all often reprinted and with good reason. In particular, I've always loved The Pi Man
. It's top tier among the various Wandering Jew style stories I've read (I've read at least a couple anthologies worth of them at this point) and just poignant. Making you feel that sorry and hopeful for an immortal takes work.
Finally, done. This concludes the list of what I've read in approximately the last ten weeks.