Monthly Archives: July, 2010

Day 8, of 30 Days of Books

Day 08 – A book everyone should read at least once

I guess it would be cheating to repeat myself, by saying The Book Thief, although I’m awfully tempted, because I think you should. Instead, I will spread myself around and instead Fahrenheit 451.

It might be a bit clunky, to the modern reader, and there are futuristic ideas that might amuse. But there are some ideas that are scary for how close they come to being real even now, and you can see how things could go that step further into crazyland. And, of course, it’s a marvellous, salutary, terrifying look at what the world could become. I don’t really think for a moment that Australia could ever become what Bradbury was imagining… surely?… but little bits and pieces….

It is likely to give anyone who loves books screaming nightmares, but I think that should just make us appreciate them all the better. And work at improving our memories.

Day 7 of 30 Days of Books

Day 7: least favourite plot device in books you’ve otherwise enjoyed.

Do catch-phrases count as plot devices? I say they do. And after a while, they drive me mad. Eddings used Garion’s whining “why me?” to good effect, mostly, but that still didn’t stop him sounding like a whiny little boy (which he was). The worst offender, though, is Simon Green. Especially in the Deathstalker series, which is not helped by being so very long. Now I adore the Deathstalker books, with bright-eyed passion, but by book three every time Owen opened his mouth I was cringing, anticipating that he was going to use on those stock phrases that he’d used the last million times. Jack, Ruby, and oh Hazel – all with the same problem. I understand that it can help build character, but I would actually prefer characters with a greater vocabulary.*

*all of you who know and love The Fifth Element, insert your best Ruby Rod impersonation at this point.

Day 6 of 30 Days of Books

Day 6: favourite book of favourite series OR favourite book of all time

What a terrible, terrible thing to have to decide. For a long time my automatic answer has been Lord of the Rings, and… I think I still have to go with it. I know this is simultaneously not a popular answer, and a too-popular answer, but too bad; I love it. I love Aragorn; when I can forget Elijah Wood, I love Frodo; the Rohirrim make me happy and so does Lothlorien. I love that the ending is bittersweet. Yes, there are too few women characters; yes, the bit from final battle to final page is a bit too long. I don’t care. If I had to take just one book to that desert island, I think this would be it. Also, it’s so long, I could make a good few torches out of it, if I had to.

(There was no way I could do the ‘favourite book of favourite series’ idea, because for me, they usually blur together. That’s like asking me to define exactly what happens in Episodes Iv, V, and VI of Star Wars. Could do it, but it would hurt my brain.)

Day 5 of 30 Days of Books

Day 5: a book/series you hate

Books I’ve not actually managed to finish? I hate James Joyce’s Ulysses, and yes I did indeed begin it, for an English subject. I got to the point where I was bribing myself to read it: “get through 20 pages, and you can read a chapter of that Eddings book.” Didn’t work. Hated the lack of punctuation (which I KNOW is a stylistic thing, I don’t care), hated the characters, BORED BORED BORED by the lack of plot.

That I have actually finished: A Thousand Acres, and consequently King Lear. Another I had to read for an English subject. This puts the story of Lear into the American Midwest, I think, sometime in the middle of the twentieth century. Again, I loathed the characters… and when it added memories of incest, it lost me completely. Can’t watch Lear ever again, by association (sorry, Amy).

Day 4 of 30 Days of Books

Day 4: favourite book/series ever

I’ll go with series here, but it’s still an awfully difficult question: I mean, what criteria do I use? Eddings and McCaffrey bug me a little too much these days; Jasper Fforde has never quite peaked into the besotted stakes; Douglas Adams amuses me, but isn’t quite an absolute favourite.

I think I have to go with the Deathstalker series, by Simon Green, even though I think I’ve read them only once. It’s space opera at its finest, for me. Space ships; crazy technology; an empire ruled by a seriously terrifying Iron Bitch. A somewhat-bumbling hero who grows up beautifully; a tough and scary female lead (you know, I wonder if Joss Whedon has read these? Zoe has some awfully Hazel-like characteristics… but then again, not really); backed up by a marvellous, generally broken but grimly determined ensemble who just make me happy.

Also, there are awesome adventures, some not-overwhelming but inherently wonderful romances, witty banter, and some of the greatest worldbuilding ever.

Day 3 of 30 Days of Books

Day 3: the best book you’re read in the 12 months

This is very hard, and over the last little while I may have mentioned quite a few books I think fall in to this category. In my head, the battle is currently between China Mieville’s The City and the City, and William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. I think that Mieville wins in this case.

As well as being a SF fan, I have long harboured detective-story-love. This doesn’t often get exercised; I am not up on the good, modern stuff; there’s so much SF stuff I want to read that it gets precedence; I just feed it with a bit of CSI or NCIS and I’m basically happy. After reading and enjoying Perdido Street Station, I had no idea that this Mieville story would deliver on my other genre. But it does, and indeed to the point where the SF is so slight (although I definitely think it’s there) that a primarily detective-book lover could probably read this and, after an initial confusion, love it as much as me. It’s one of those books where if you come with SF expectations, you get an SF vibe; if you don’t, you don’t.

Anyway, it’s brilliant. The characters are well-rounded and not flawless; the plot is sneaky and deceptive and entertaining. The star, of course, is the doubled city. This is a place where there are two cities existing in the same place: not like a fairy city co-existing with a human one, but two actual human cities, both on the map, share the same geographical space. But you have to go through customs to ‘get’ from one to the other, and noticing one while in the other… well, that’s the biggest no-no there is. I know, sounds ridiculous, but seriously: Mieville writes it so slickly, so convincingly, that I can almost imagine it working (almost).

This is the book I’ve been raving about for a while, and will continue to do so.

Day 2, of 30 Days of Books

Day 2: A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about

Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak.

Both of these books staggered me so much that words have generally failed me in trying to convey their sheer awesomeness.

Shadow of the Wind: boy has father who owns bookshop. Finds a book no one else seems to have read or own a copy of. Weird things (in a non-fantasy way) happen, which appear to be connected to said book. Boy meets fascinating people, has complex relationships with many of them, has classic but non-contrived growing-up experiences. Also, set in Barcelona, which features so prominently in the story that I wish I knew the place to appreciate it better (my copy had a map, showing the congruence between real life and the book!). Madly, wonderfully, fabulous.

The Book Thief: set in Hitler’s Germany, it follows a little girl’s experience of living in a little German town, not really understanding what’s going on. I’m not a fan of war books, but this isn’t one; war provides the setting, and motive for some of the action, but it is not the centrepiece. Relationships are: how she relates to her guardians, to her friends, to the man who comes to stay in their basement, and to the rest of the townspeople. For all its setting, and that it has some unpleasant parts – I couldn’t accuse Zusak of whitewashing WW2 – this is still a delightful book overall. I read it in a day, and almost cried when I had to put it down so that I could do something trivial, like prepare food. The joy of humanity, the power of books – that’s what this is about.

Everyone should read these two books.

You can look forward to:
Day 03 – The best book you’ve read in the last 12 months
Day 04 – Your favorite book or series ever
Day 05 – A book or series you hate
Day 06 – Favorite book of your favorite series OR your favorite book of all time
Day 07 – Least favorite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise
Day 08 – A book everyone should read at least once
Day 09 – Best scene ever
Day 10 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 11 – A book that disappointed you
Day 12 – A book or series of books you’ve watched more than five times
Day 13 – Favorite childhood book OR current favorite YA book (or both!)
Day 14 – Favorite character in a book (of any sex or gender)
Day 15 – Your “comfort” book
Day 16 – Favorite poem or collection of poetry
Day 17 – Favorite story or collection of stories (short stories, novellas, novelettes, etc.)
Day 18 – Favorite beginning scene in a book
Day 19 – Favorite book cover (bonus points for posting an image!)
Day 20 – Favorite kiss
Day 21 – Favorite romantic/sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Day 22 – Favorite non-sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Day 23 – Most annoying character ever
Day 24 – Best quote from a novel
Day 25 – Any five books from your “to be read” stack
Day 26 – OMG WTF? OR most irritating/awful/annoying book ending
Day 27 – If a book contains ______, you will always read it (and a book or books that contain it)!
Day 28 – First favorite book or series obsession
Day 29 – Saddest character death OR best/most satisfying character death (or both!)
Day 30 – What book are you reading right now?

Galactic Suburbia #12

Download us from Galactic Suburbia or iTunes (while you’re there, you could rate us, too!).

In which we talk about publishers behaving badly, authors self-publishing, the future of reading and the price of a short story. Also we talk about books. Shocking, isn’t it?

News

Night Shade apologises for any problems they’ve caused any of their authors.

SFWA puts Night Shade Books on probation as a qualified SFWA market for a period of one year, effective immediately.

The Weird Revival.

Aqueduct publish their 50th book in 6 years of publishing.

Shirley Jackson awards winners.

Mythopoeic Awards announced.

Don’t forget to vote in the Hugos (by July 31) and nominate for the Ditmars (um… today, July 23)

What have we been reading/listening to?

Alex: The Walled Orchard, Tom Holt (abandoned); Soulless, Gail Carriger; Secret Feminist Cabal, Helen Merrick; Pattern Recognition, William Gibson.
Listening to: Coode St podcast; AstronomyCast; SGCast (definitely abandoned); Bad Film Diaries.
Tansy: Moonshine, Alaya Johnson. Palimpsest, Catherynne Valente on the iPad! Kraken by China Mieville (abandoned).
Listening to: the Ood Cast. Bad Film Diaries
Alisa: Power and Majesty

Pet Subject: self publishing in the changing face of the publishing industry

The Omikuji Cyberfunded Art Project
Apple opens iBookstore to self-publishers

We’re looking to do another feedback episode soon, so get your Feedback, etc: galacticsuburbia@gmail.com

Day 1, of 30 Days of Books

Created by alg. Because I am a sucker for a good meme.

Day 01 – A book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just freaking end already (or both!)
Over the last few years, I have consciously tried to not read ongoing series that have not yet ended. My experience with waiting for the next book by Robin Hobbs scarred me perhaps more than I realised; I’ll always be grateful that I didn’t even start reading Harry Potter until after the last was published. That said, had I been writing this 6 months ago I would have answered immediately with Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom series: I waited so long for the last couple to be published! Nearly drove me mad (and was not helped by the fact that each one was finished within about 3 hours of me getting it home).

Anyway, I wish Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing series had gone on longer. I guess it’s still possible that it will, and I just haven’t heard about it…. I loved the first one, Wildwood Dancing, about 5 sisters and their experience of the faerie world, one falling in love with totally the wrong boy and the other not realising what she had before she lost it. I loved their sisterly relationships, and their relationship with their father (what IS it with missing mothers??); the descriptions of landscape, and dancing, and frocks was captivating. When I heard there was a second one, Cybele’s Secret, I thought: BRILLIANT! And then I read the first couple of pages, aaaand… what the heck? This isn’t what I was expecting! No; Marillier decided to pick up the story of one of the other sisters, rather than my beloved Jena. After I got over my grump, I decided this was ok, because she was a cool sister: she’s much like Mary from Pride and Prejudice, much the most studious of the girls but still not lacking in gumption. This one, too, includes adventure and romance and some awesome references to/discussions of the cult of Cybele, one of the archetypal mother-goddess figures.

So what I would like to see is at least a third book, following the baby of the sisters, Stela. That way I could catch up on Jena and Paula, and have another exciting maybe-18th-century adventure/romance. Win!

(Also, I would like more Hawk and Fisher books, please Mr Simon Green. Just retcon them; I don’t care.)

You can look forward to…
Day 02 – A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about
Day 03 – The best book you’ve read in the last 12 months
Day 04 – Your favorite book or series ever
Day 05 – A book or series you hate
Day 06 – Favorite book of your favorite series OR your favorite book of all time
Day 07 – Least favorite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise
Day 08 – A book everyone should read at least once
Day 09 – Best scene ever
Day 10 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 11 – A book that disappointed you
Day 12 – A book or series of books you’ve watched more than five times
Day 13 – Favorite childhood book OR current favorite YA book (or both!)
Day 14 – Favorite character in a book (of any sex or gender)
Day 15 – Your “comfort” book
Day 16 – Favorite poem or collection of poetry
Day 17 – Favorite story or collection of stories (short stories, novellas, novelettes, etc.)
Day 18 – Favorite beginning scene in a book
Day 19 – Favorite book cover (bonus points for posting an image!)
Day 20 – Favorite kiss
Day 21 – Favorite romantic/sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Day 22 – Favorite non-sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Day 23 – Most annoying character ever
Day 24 – Best quote from a novel
Day 25 – Any five books from your “to be read” stack
Day 26 – OMG WTF? OR most irritating/awful/annoying book ending
Day 27 – If a book contains ______, you will always read it (and a book or books that contain it)!
Day 28 – First favorite book or series obsession
Day 29 – Saddest character death OR best/most satisfying character death (or both!)
Day 30 – What book are you reading right now?

Galactic Suburbia #11

*yes, I’ve resumed posting! I could go back and post the other ten sets of show-notes, but that seems ridiculous… Suffice to say, you can subscribe to Galactic Suburbia through iTunes, or download it from our lovely website.

In which the paradigm keeps shifting, Jasper Fforde writes dystopia, Alisa still hates pirate stories, George Lucus ruined it for the rest of us, and we wonder whether there are still readers who think you shouldn’t have SF with kissing in it.

News
Locus Award Winners

Liz Williams selling her own short fiction

Open calls for subs for Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror by Paula Guran

Amazing, thoughtful article about one woman’s history as a gamer and the way cyberspace still drops the ball in catering to its female audience

What have we been reading/listening to?
Alisa: Bleed, The Company Articles of Edward Teach, Breaking Dawn
Listening to Clarkesworld Podcast
Alex: Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde; Secret Feminist Cabal, Helen Merrick
Tansy: The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan; Moonshine by Alaya Dawn Johnson; listening to Boxcutters

Pet Subject: The Romantic Side of Science Fiction

Are there still readers who think SF and romance shouldn’t mix? [http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2010/05/why-sf-fandom-is-full-of-romance-haterz.html]
Is the lack of romance the reason that fantasy & urban fantasy are leaving science fiction in the dust commercially? What are the best and worst examples of SF colliding with a love story?
Does having a love interest make it count as a romance? Where’s the line?
Does having a plot, even just a subplot, related to characters and feelings make it not science fiction?

Alex provides this vintage quote from a letter written in 1938, from The Secret Feminist Cabal:
“…females have been dragged into the narratives and as a result the stories have become those of love which have no place in science-fiction… I believe, and I think many others are with me, that sentimentality and sex should be disregarded in scientific stories.”

Feedback, etc: galacticsuburbia@gmail.com

[the management would like to note that Alisa gave up sugar this week and thus anything she says should be considered with that in mind]

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