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[personal profile] ed_rex2014-03-03 01:41 am

Review: The Departure, by Neal Asher

'Steaming like raw meat dropped onto a hot stove'

Image: Cover of The Departure, by Neal Asher

It's not news that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I have a soft spot for space opera; I confess, the big space base (which I initially mistook for a starship of some sort) adorning the cover of Neal Asher's novel, The Departure, helped sell me on it.

As it turned out though, The Departure hardly qualifies as space-opera and only squeaks by as science fiction pretty much the way Superman does: on technicalities only.

Though it's set in the future and some of the action takes place in orbit and on Mars, the book is really just a narrated first-person shooter dressed up in some SF tropes — a corrupt and incompetent world government, artificial intelligence, robotic weapons and a transhuman genesis.

But all that is only window-dressing. That spectacular cover is a gateway to lugubrious dialogue, sophomoric libertarian philosophy, hackneyed world-building and, especially, to one pornographic blood-bath after another.

The Departure is one of the worst books I have read in a very long time. More boring than Atlas Shrugged (which I reviewed a while back), it drips with just as much contempt for ordinary human beings. Unlike Rand's John Galt though, Asher's superman does much of his killing at first-hand.

Does this novel have any redeeming qualities? The short answer is "no". The long answer lives behind this link.

Rose and Bay Awards

Nominations are currently OPEN for the 2013 Rose & Bay Awards. This award recognizes excellence in crowdfunded  material.

Art: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith Nominate art! (0 nominees)
Fiction: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith Nominate fiction! (4 nominees)
Poetry: [personal profile] kajones_writing Nominate poetry! (2 nominees)
Webcomic: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith Nominate webcomics! (5 nominees)
Other Project: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith Nominate other projects! (0 nominees)
Patron: [personal profile] kajones_writing Nominate patrons! (4 nominees)

Eligibility period: January 1, 2012-December 31, 2012
Nomination period: January 1, 2013-January 31, 2013
Voting period: February 1, 2013-February 28, 2013

One of the awesome things about the crowdfunding business model is that it breaks the stranglehold of mainstream publishing. This encourages people to publish material on topics they love for niche markets that mainstream editors would never accept. Publishing is a popular category on the crowdfunding hubs like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. What crowdfunded projects did you enjoy last year with speculative themes? Who did the most original portrayals of aliens? Which artists were doing cover illustrations? Which writers took you to other worlds? Who hosted prompt calls where you could ask for science fiction? Nominate them in the relevant category. Did you know folks who helped support those projects with donations? Nominate them as patrons!

Please drop by to nominate your favorite crowdfunded projects from 2013. Post about the award in any relevant venue to help alert more people.
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[personal profile] wisesong2012-11-15 06:21 am

The USS Galileo is looking for players!

The GALILEO needs you!




Welcome to the USS Galileo, a Star Trek roleplay set in the year 2389. This is an all original character cast crewing the Nova-class science vessel Galileo, on her missions throughout the galax. We are looking for writers to help take up the mantle at any one of our open posts. We have dozens of open positions available for the picking, so make sure to check us out! This roleplay is for anyone who is interested in the Trek continuity, who enjoys writing and active participation in a roleplay. This roleplay uses the very intuitive Nova software to make writing between multiple people simple and fun. If you love Star Trek, roleplaying and writing, the Galileo is for you.

These are the voyages of the starship Galileo. Her mission, to explore strange, new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations.
To study spacial rifts, wormholes, and time fluxes. To develop and test the latest cutting-edge technologies.
To observe and catalog new life forms...even though they might be slimy and look kind of disgusting....
To boldly go where no research vessel has gone before!


Current mission! » Rules! » Personnel (Writers)! » Roleplay information! » Enlist today!


"Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so."
~ Galileo Galilei
boundbooks: Zhang Ziyi (dark coffee in blug mug)
[personal profile] boundbooks2012-11-02 10:52 am

Get FREE copies of Kameron Hurley's GOD’S WAR and INFIDEL

"In celebration of the release of RAPTURE, the final book in the trilogy, Night Shade is giving away totally FREE ecopies of BOTH GOD’S WAR and INFIDEL.

...

Just send an email to Beldamegiveaway@nightshadebooks.com. Night Shade will shoot back an email to you with the info you need to download the files for GOD’S WAR and INFIDEL. Both Epub and Mobi files are available.

Free downloads are only available from November 1st to November 8th, 2012."

via http://www.kameronhurley.com/?p=12633

The first of these books was all kinds of very good (I haven't had the chance to read the second yet), so if you've heard of these and haven't had the chance to read them, this giveaway might be of interest to you. The files appear to be DRM-free.

Here's the blurb for God's War:

Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn't make any difference...

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there's one thing everybody agrees on--

There's not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war--but at what price?

The world is about to find out.
ed_rex: (Default)
[personal profile] ed_rex2012-10-07 03:49 pm

The Chaos: Nalo Hopkinson's nightmare of Blackness

Drawing on myths from Jamaica to Russia, on folk tales of Coyote and Brer Rabbit, and maybe from sources as disparate as Chuck Jones, J.R.R. Tolkien and Mervyn Peake (not to mention Lewis Carroll), Nalo Hopkinson's "Young Adult" debut is as singular a creation as it has been my pleasure to read in a very long time.

All at once a surreal adventure, a subtle exploration of privilege in caste-ridden society and a daring push against the walls of narrative fiction itself, The Chaos has no villain and its (black, Canadian) heroine never wields a blade nor fires a gun.

Though questions of race and identify form organic parts of how the novel's characters view and interact with the world (none of the book's major characters is white), race is not what the book is about. Hopkinson is telling a story, she is not preaching.

Narrated by probably the most fully-realized teenager I have come across in fiction, The Chaos is always surprising, a thoroughly unconventional page-turner you owe it to yourself to read — to pass on to any literate young person you know.

For my full review, click, "When I cried, the tears were black."

 

ed_rex: (ace)
[personal profile] ed_rex2012-07-31 12:40 am

Review: A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness In the Sky

 

Awards among the shallows:

Hugos considered as dyptich of semi-precious novels

Vernor Vinge and why the golden age of science fiction is still twelve

 

 

I really ought to know better by now. It doesn't matter whether an award is given out by fans or by peers, critics or the general public, whether the criteria is ostensibly "best" this or "favourite" that.

Awards are a crap shoot, influenced by fashions, by lobbying and by plain old bad taste.

That's right, I said it. Sometimes an award is given out to a book (or a movie, or a play, or a poem — the list is as endless as variations in the arts) that simply doesn't deserve it. That doesn't even merit being on the short-list in the first place.

Let me tell you about Vernor Vinge and why the golden age of science fiction is still 12. My full review lives at Edifice Rex Online. Yell at me here, or there.

ed_rex: (Default)
[personal profile] ed_rex2012-05-09 02:27 am

Review: Stargazer, Volume Two - by Von Allan

The girls, the monster and the Artifact!

More than a year ago I reviewed the first half of what I thought then was a "gentle" children's adventure, Stargazer, by Ottawa indie cartoonist Von Allan. I bought the concluding sequel back in December if memory serves, but circumstances didn't see me get to it until now.

A black and white comic book featuring three pre-pubescent girls in the role of unlikely heroines, Stargazer features a Magic Doorway in the tradition of Alice's rabbit-hole and Narnia's wardrobe (and the Starship Enterprise's warp drive, for that matter).

But what seemed a "gentle adventure" in its first half, proves to be a considerably more spicy brew in its second. What seemed to be turning into an exercise of that hoary old "And then she woke up!" cliché becomes something very different — and very memorable — by the time the story is over.

A little rough-hewn, Stargazer nevertheless has considerable virtues. This story of friendship and loss just might be a gateway drug to comics for that young boy or (especially) girl in your life — but keep a kleenex handy. My full review lives on my site, ed-rex.com/reviews/books/stargazer_volume_two.

ionized: The glowing blue-purple plume of a pulsed plasma thruster against a black background. (Default)
[personal profile] ionized2011-12-22 06:00 pm

Oops.

So I am apparently the community maintainer. Obviously, I am not very good at it, since I'd forgotten this comm existed. Is there anyone subscribing who'd like to take over? I don't mind staying on if nobody wants to, but I'm not going to do much to promote the place or anything. I don't really have the time or the interest anymore.
boundbooks: A color photograph of two manatees in bright blue water, looking at the camera. (manatees look at you)
[personal profile] boundbooks2011-10-03 12:17 pm

Tobias Buckell's Kickstart Project for Apocalypse Ocean

I figured that this would be of interest to the community! Tobias Buckell is currently holding a Kickstart Project for funding the fourth book in his Carribean-inspired sci-fi series, which started with Crystal Rain. Of the $10,000 needed, his project has successfully passed the $5,000 mark, and you can still participate in this project until October 19th 2:56pm EDT.

Kickstarter page for The Apocalypse Ocean:

"One of the most frequent questions I get is this: 'When will you write a sequel to Crystal Rain/Ragamuffin/Sly Mongoose?' The truth is, I have most of the outline for the fourth book already written, as well as a chunk of the opening already done. And I think it would be great to see it fully written...If enough people commit to backing it, readers will get an awesome eBook (I create eBooks for freelance income on the side), or a great hardcover (with the help of a great designer), with even cooler rewards for those who want to read the book as it is being written or who want to leave their mark on the Xenowealth universe.

...

If we can raise $10,000, upon completion of the novel (I will start writing it January 1st at the latest, and will finish in June), backers receive their rewards (those backing the project for above $250 get to read along live, however) once the book is finished and turned into an eBook and limited edition hardcover."


Check out his blog for updates on the project, or go to the Kickstart page for The Apocalypse Ocean.
ed_rex: (Default)
[personal profile] ed_rex2011-08-10 06:29 pm

Review - Crysis: Legion, by Peter Watts

 

As you might know, I've been serially reviewing the latest Torchwood series, a work that (I presume) is as much the product of Russell T Davies' personal vision as is possible in an inherently collaborative medium.

So it is rather difficult to ignore the irony, that there is more credible social commentary, more humour and more excitement in Peter Watts' 300 page adaptation of a first-person-shooter video game, which (again, I presume) was written strictly for the money, than there has been in the first five hours of Davies' brain-child.

Watts' story, about a an accidental cybernetic soldier's brief campaign on a ruined island of Manhattan a scant 12 years in our future is also fairly rigorous science fiction, as one might expect from the "reformed marine biologist", but probably not from a novel about a super-soldier and his mysterious battle-armour.

If Crysis: Legion is not quite the follow-up to his 2006 hard-SF masterpiece, Blindsight one might have wished for, it's a better book than one has any reason to expect of a media tie-in.

Click here for "Strange bed-fellows". Some spoilers may occur.

ed_rex: (Default)
[personal profile] ed_rex2011-05-28 12:59 pm

Review: All the Lives He Led, by Frederik Pohl

All the covers I ruined

I have a confession. Back in the lonely days of my early adolescence, I spent a lot of my free time haunting bookstores and there developed a peculiar and unsavoury habit. Not shop-lifting, but vandalism.

I had it in for Fred Pohl's brilliant novel of missing aliens and absent lovers, Gateway. Y'see, the Del Rey paperback (pictured at right) was, to put it bluntly, crap. Usually, simply opening the book wide enough to scan the middle pages was enough to detach the cover from the book's spine.

At a buck-ninety-five a copy I thought Del Rey owed its readers something better, and so made it my mission to open every copy in every bookstore I entered. I was, I self-justified, protecting my fellow readers from shoddy merchandise and, maybe, encouraging the publisher to try again. It must have worked, as I don't think Gateway has ever been out of print.

Little did I know that some years later circumstances would see me become friends with Pohl's former wife Judy Merril, or that she would one day introduce me to him at a conference she had been involved in organizing in Toronto.

That meeting didn't go so well. Though we huddled together in a doorway while sharing a smoke, I didn't want to bore him by telling him how much I'd enjoyed Gateway and Man Plus and Jem and The Space Merchants and that I had the advantage of him because I had also read his autobiography, The Way the Future Was. Worse, I was even worse with small-talk than I am now, and Pohl didn't seem to think it necessary either.

We grunted about the lousy weather and that was about it. But I digress.

In 1979, Pohl had been a professional for 40 years. When I met him in person he had been at it for about 50 and seemed to me, if not quite ancient, then certainly old. He was tall but stooped, his body showing signs of that inevitable surrender to entropy and gravity that faces all who live long enough to endure it.

In 2011, Pohl has been a pro for more than 70 years and is not only regularly writing a Hugo-winning blog, he is still writing fiction.

And so I recently scrounged up the coin to pick up his latest book — in hard-cover, no less. And frankly, given my recent experiences with paying good money for one lousy book or another I put down my money kind of nervously.

So I am doubly-pleased to be able to say that All the Lives He Led is one of the best SF novels — best novels — I've read in a while and with nary a rocket ship or time machine in sight.

The full review is at Edifice Rex Online, with very little in the way of spoilers.

krait: Ilisidi riding her mecheita (Foreigner - mecheita)
[personal profile] krait2011-05-24 10:48 pm

A community for group readings?

I and a couple of friends are planning to read and discuss C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner together over on my journal - we're still working out details, but the basic plan is to read a certain number of chapters per week, then comment via a "discussion post" for discussing each week's reading.

I bring it up here because I was curious whether anyone knows of a comm for things like this (group reading / read-togethers / readalongs / does anyone know if there's a name?); I was thinking of creating one, aimed at both sci-fi and fantasy readers, where those interested could post "testing interest levels" sorts of posts to find co-readers, links to any group-read they've organised in their journal, or place their "discussion posts" if they don't want to host such a thing on their personal journal...

Would anyone be interested? A number of people on my flist back on LJ would periodically do something like this, so I know other people enjoy readalongs, and thought it might be neat to collate all the relevant details in a comm, so if you couldn't quite remember where you made that post about [something you read with a group], you could find it again! :D

(Naturally, if anyone here would like to join the Foreigner readalong, you're very welcome! There are some more details in my most recent DW posts.)


Crossposted to [community profile] fantasy, since the proposed community would include both genres.
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[personal profile] ed_rex2011-02-23 01:24 pm

Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin

 

For the record, my copy of N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms came courtesy of a contest conducted by the writer Tricia Sullivan, whose novel, Maul, I read a few years back and which which has since stayed with me far more strongly than most. I wish I could say the same about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. (Edited to fix typos. Thanks to shanaqui for the head's up.)

Stormwinds over a cardboard world

Nebula-nominated first novel is epic failure

I opened N.K. Jemisin's (now Nebula Award nominated) first novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, having occasionally read the author's blog and commentary elsewhere on the internet, and was well-aware the book had been getting a lot of positive attention since it was published last year. In other words, I was looking forward to reading at least a very good debut novel and hoping for even more than that.

Instead, I find myself obliged to discuss a first novel about which I can find almost nothing good to say whatsoever — except to note that, on page 222, the author offers a striking and (I think) original metaphor for the female orgasm.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a novel remarkable only for the lack of detail and verisimilitude of its world-building, the droning sameness of its characters (god or human — you can't tell them apart), the thoughtlessly anachronistic dialogue and banality of its prose.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not the worst novel I've ever read (there are lots of bad books out there), but it might be the worst highly-praised science fiction novel I've ever come across (I say "might" because it has been many years since I read Lord of Light).

The basics include a number of standard fantasy tropes. A world not quite our own, shared by humans and a more ancient and powerful race; a heroine with a Special Destiny; a society with a pre-industrial technology (plus magic) and a feudal political order with a cruel and corrupt extended family at the top of the heap.

There's nothing inherently wrong with re-using the familiar to tell a story, but there is a lot wrong with using those tropes so badly the reader never feels they are looking in on another world, let alone that they have actually entered into what Tolkien called a secondary creation.

For a fantasy to succeed, if must convince the reader of not only the reality of its narrative but of that narrative's background. The author must pay attention to such things as his or her world's history and culture, to its tools and technology, as much as to character and psychology.

To my ears, neither Jemisin's world-building nor her character-building convince, let alone provide cause to care. Worse, her prose is sophomoric and her dialogue painfully melodramatic.

I did not answer, and after a moment Scimina sighed.

"So," she said, "there are new alliances being formed on Darr's borders, meant to counter Darr's perceived new strength. Since Darr in fact has no new strength, that means the entire region is becoming unstable. Hard to say what will happen under circumstances like that."

My fingers itched for a sharpened stone. "Is that a threat?"

"Please, Cousin. I'm merely passing the information along. We Arameri must look out for one another."

"I appreciate your concern." I turned to leave, before my temper slipped any further ...

These are not words that sing, nor dialogue that breathes. Is there anything in this book that does? There is more on my website.

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[personal profile] ed_rex2011-01-07 03:12 pm

Review: Venus of Dreams, by Pamela Sargent

 

When I was nine or ten years old, the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar showed up on my black and white television. I liked the music and was confused by the tanks and American soldiers showing up in place of Roman centurions, but what i remember best was a scene in which Caiaphas or Pilate — some official anyway — looked out on the crown of Jesus' supporters and sang about how "There must be more than 50,000" of them.

Thing is, Jesus Christ Superstar was made on the cheap (or looked to be) and, unless my memory utterly fails me, that "crowd" was much closer to fifty people than it was to fifty thousand. At that age, such a discrepancy utterly shattered my suspension of disbelief, no matter how good the music.

Unlike a film's, a novel's crowd scenes are limited only by power of the author's imagination, which is one reason why there are a great many epic science fiction novels but very few epic science fiction movies.

So it is particularly strange that the scope of Pamela Sargent's ostensible epic, Venus of Dreams, feels every bit as small as that crowd dancing on the sands of the Judean desert. A 500 page novel about terraforming the planet Venus, that takes place over decades, ought to be a sweeping and complex tale encompassing science and culture, technology and politics, with a large (if not necessarily larger-than-life) and representative cast of characters throwing light on societies and mores other than our own.

Venus of Dreams manages none of these things. Instead this confused mess of a novel begins as an unconvincing bildungsroman, awkwardly transitions into an even less convincing story of political intrigue and ends with an utterly improbable attempt at revolution against a government we never really understand in the first place.

Click here to read my cranky review in full at Edifice Rex Online.

boundbooks: Zhang Ziyi (stars: rising void)
[personal profile] boundbooks2010-04-09 12:49 pm
Entry tags:

Race and Breaking Plausibility

Sci-fi discussions for breaking plausibility usually revolve around two things: technology and alien species. I’m thinking about discussions along the lines of ‘can we ever go faster than light’ and ‘what constitutes a truly alien species’? One plausibility breaker that doesn’t get brought up much is race. Basically, why do so many sci-fi novels break the expected distribution of race?

According to a 1999 UN Report, here’s the projected percentage breakdown:

2100 World Population: Africa 23.7%, Asia 57.1%... )

If this is the projection, then sci-fi should be filled with characters and protagonists from Africa and Asia. At least one of my favorite sci-fi series has this problem: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series accidentally implies that Asia and Africa are smoldering wrecks judging by the majority white people that her protagonist runs into.

How do some of the books that you’ve read handle this issue? Did they do it well (or offer a plausible explanation for breaking the expected distribution) or did they fumble it?
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)
[personal profile] holyschist2010-03-19 06:28 pm

Free online speculative fiction

I've been reading more speculative fiction online lately, particularly at Strange Horizons and Fantasy Magazine. Both have some really stunning work.

Recently I read Alaya Dawn Johnson's amazing Aztec-based fantasy story A Song to Greet the Sun (warning: potentially very triggery stuff, abuse and murder) and Alice Sola Kim's SF-ish Beautiful White Bodies, which made it on the Tiptree honor list for 2009. I also loved Willow Fagan's my mother, the ghost (dunno what genre I'd call this).

Do you have favorite non-subscription online fiction magazines or stories? A favorite SFF author who has links to some of their work online? Please share!

(x-posted to [community profile] fantasy and my personal journal)
starlady: (hitsugaya smirk)
[personal profile] starlady2010-02-17 03:20 pm
Entry tags:

Review of Torch of Freedom by David Weber & Eric Flint.

So, the Honorverse! Am I the only one who reads all of the books in it compulsively? I just finished the most recent volume, Torch of Freedom, and really liked it. There are spoilers behind the cut, though I did my best not to give away the ending. (Note: the full review is here at my journal.)

I wanted to like this book so much less than I did. In point of fact, it's the most sheer fun I've had in the Honorverse since…I don't know when; maybe not since The Short Victorious War (though I think the Saganami books are also pretty enjoyable). It's also an interesting mixture of frustrating tropes combined with some surprisingly thorough thinking on (among other things) slavery as an institution and human nature.

Freedom! Forever! )

And if you're interested, you can download full-text HTML versions of the first 14 books here; they're off the Torch of Freedom CD bound into the book, which is free to share for free. I've numbered the main novels according to internal chronology; the remainder of the books are the short story collections, which generally fill in interesting gaps in the narrative.

I wonder what people tend to read David Weber (and Eric Flint) books for. If you do read them, or other military sf, what keeps bringing you back? 

starlady: Darth Vader reading Deathly Hallows (join the dark side)
[personal profile] starlady2009-11-16 01:38 am
Entry tags:

Recent science fiction reads

C.L. Anderson, Bitter Angels

Joanna Russ, The Zanzibar Cat


Samuel R. Delany, Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia

(All links go back to reviews at my journal. I generally don't spoil.) Anyone else read these? What did you think? 
ellarien: bookshelves (books)
[personal profile] ellarien2009-11-15 10:50 am

Liz Williams, Winterstrike

I picked this up in the UK over the summer, where it was published in paperpack by Tor; it doesn't appear to be out in the US. I think it counts as SF; the ghosts and transferable souls seem to be technological, but it does have a somewhat fantastical feel.

Cut to be safe: Plot spoilers for the first few chapters. )

It's very atmospheric, whether in the frigid cities and wastes of Mars or the steamy, drowned marshes of Earth, and full of nifty weirdness. The writing has the same kind of bleak, dreamlike, grungy beauty I've also seen in M. John Harrison [Viriconium, etc.]; it seems to be one of the registers specific to British authors. On the down side, I found it rather confusing; all three of the pov characters are rather similar and have similar voices. Also, it ends frustratingly in a place which suggests it isn't a standalone, but I've no idea when or if the sequel will be available.

If anyone has any opinions on this book, or knows anything about a sequel, please comment.
foxfirefey: Fox stealing an egg. (mischief)
[personal profile] foxfirefey2009-11-07 12:11 pm

Seeking funny science fiction you've read

[personal profile] jimhines is seeking your submissions for a 2009 roundup of humorous science fiction and fantasy! (Also posted to [community profile] fantasy.)