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Hurricane preparation

I prepared for the big hurricane by watching Gone With the Wind.  I had never seen it before and was surprised that it was rather different from what I had assumed it to be. 

Books Read in September 2012

Once I post this, I'll be all caught up.

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi – SF space adventure - I am not sure Little Fuzzy needed a reboot, especially one that bade Halloway much more unlikable. I think the original was better.

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks – Fantasy epic - I was caught by the Prism's secret and Kip's mix of self-doubt/loathing and the occasional heroism. I can't wait for book 2. Recommended.

Dr. Bloodmoney by Philip K Dick – SF post-holocaust - Even after the bomb drops, people, including mutants, are still people. They have businesses, cheat on their spouses, have petty jealouses etc. This is a brilliant sf classic.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1) by Rae Carson – Fantasy traditional YA? - I enjoyed this book. The main character is an overweight and pampered princess who becomes a heroine after being kidnapped and realizing the nappers are right. All of her reading has given her strategic insight and she invents hit and run tactics. I am glad every time the book seemed to move toward romance, the author threw in a plot twist.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz – Fiction - I know it won the Pultizer and does some innovative things with changing barrators but I didn't care for any of the characters. I did like like all the sf references but it needed a glossary for all the Spanish.

A Prince in Camelot by Courtway Jones – Fantasy (despite the no magic part since this is King Arthur). - An entertaining no magic version of the Arthur and Mordred story. Mordred is the hero. Even though this is the third book in a trilogy, it works as a stand alone.

The Kinsman Saga by Ben Bova – SF near future - It is amazing how much older SF resembles alterntive history. I don't think I'd trade lunar colonies by 2000 for the dismal future and cold war in the book. Great characterization of Kinsman and Colt, but not for the female characters.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami – Fiction stories - Interesting collection of translated Japanese stories. Most are not plot driven and a few seem to rail off unresolved.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor – Fantasy – Unusual in that the characters are African and part of the book is tribal prejudices

The Social Animal by David Brooks – Nonfiction with a fictional shell - Re-read. I liked it better on second reading. I still think his treatment of the research is superficial, just cherry picking research he likes without anything on what other researchers/philosophiers have refined/disagreed. But I think there is a thesis -- that the unconscious plays a large role in what we think are our decisions.

Honor's Paradox by P.C. Hodgell – fantasy - I was disappointed by this book. I really liked the earlier books in the series, but this one seemed a muddle of unfinished plotlines from previous books. It really didn't come into its own until the climax when Jame duels with sweveral students at once. I'm glad she finally graduated from the training academy. It was fun in To Ride a Rathorn and even in Bound in Blood, but this is one book too many. It's time for her to resume following her destiny.

Podcast stories for WSFA (count as magazine)

3 SF, 5 fantasy (1 YA), 2 fiction (1 short story collection), 1 nonfiction (a re-read), and a magazine equivalent for 11.5 total and 102 for the year to date

August 2012 Readings

I'm almost caught up with posting my readings.  Here is August.

The Skies of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. SF. I had stopped reading the series after Dolphins of Pern and this book shows I made the right decision. Basically in this volume of the long running series, the people of Pern grow concerned about asteroids (despite being on the planet for hundereds of years without them being a problem) just when dragons began to develop the ability to move things with their minds. Throw in a few attacks by a few anti-progress mobs and the mauling of two dragons (and riders) by the local version of lions and a once-proud series is clearly limping along here.  And yes, I still maintain this series is SF, not fantasy. The people got to Pern via space travel, genetically engineered dragons, and in this book are still dealing with the effects of the rediscovery of an artificial intelligence computer.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1) by Catherynne M. Valente. Fantasy.  Children’s (sort of).  I can't tell if the is a fantasy for superintelligent children or a children's fantasy written for adults. The narrative voice in this is fantastic. For a long while the events seem random and more than a little gonzo, but from what I remember a lot of the Oz books are like this as well. Still it pulls everything together at the end and has a nice twist.

Redshirts by John Scalzi. SF. This is a very meta book. It’s about ensigns on a starship much like the Enterprise who discover that the reason why everyone on the ship except the top officers is afraid of away missions is that the non-officers keep dying. And that’s because a poorly written Star Trek show in the early 21st century takes them over, except for commercial breaks when they can think for themselves. The solution is to go back in time and stop the show’s writers/producers. But the novel ends with 80 pages of codas with different present day characters influenced by the time travelers. It was a fun book, and deeper than one would suspect with some philosophy on the nature of reality. Still a quick read with not as much staying power as some of his other books.

Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James K. Morrow. SF. Very funny in parts, sad in others as a washed up monster movie actor tells of a Navy plot to make the Japanese surrender by showing Japanese officials the actor in Godzilla-like monster constume destroy a replica of Tokyo. Essentially this is the old guestion of whhy didn't we drop the atomic bomb on an island to show the Japanese rulers what it could do without killing anyone, but in monster movie format.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. Literary fiction. The author dares comparisons to Hemmingway by actually writing about Hemmingway's relationship to his first wife. It's a rather domestic story as Ernest betrays his wife for another woman, but everything is POV of the wife (except for brief italiczed bits) and her voice is curiously flat. Even when writing about the woman, the friend, who took Ernest from her, there's no anger or bitterness, only surprise.

Remake by Connie Willis. SF.  This short novel is a love story to the movie musical. In a future Hollywood where movies are an endless stream of remakes using digitized actors of the past, a man who has the job of digitally altering classics to remove the smoking and alcohol (science fiction then) falls in love with a woman who wants to dance in the movies. But no movies are being made.  Then he starts seeing her in the chorus line and even leading roles of classic movies.  Remake is a wonderful short book with lots of the Connie Willis humor that was mostly missing in her Blackout/All Clear.

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey. Literary fiction. This book is about a young French nobleman who comes to early America to study our prison system (and to get away from post-Restoration France) and his relationship with an English servant he’s forced to accept (as he has control of their money). 

Grand Avenue by Scott Berg. Nonfiction. Historical

Podcast stories.

So four SF, 2 literary, 1 fantasy (children’s), 1 nonfiction, and .5 magazine equivalent for 8.5 for the month and 89.5 for the year.

July 2012 Readings

Continuing my overdue postings of my readings. Here is July.

Hugo nominees - As a Hugo voter, I received a packet of stories, novellas, and novelettes.  (count as magazine)

WSFA Small Press Award nominees - As a member of WSFA, I get to vote on the club's Small Press Award after reading the nominees. count as magazine)

The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. - Nonfiction. Advocate for a common core curriculum as a way of Americanizing youth.

Leviathan Wakes by James Corey - TSF. his is excellent space opera.  It moves very quickly and jumps from location to location.  There is a very complex plot.  Although it is the first book in a series, it has a real stopping point at the end, not a cliffhanger.  I liked how neither of the main characters were perfect but made mistakes and frequently disagreed. I will read the sequels and probably re-read this.

Podcast stories (count as magazine)

In the Heart of the Sea : the Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathanial Philbrick. Nonfiction. A survival story of an incident that may have helped inspire Moby Dick. Includes moments of cannibalism.

Staying Dead by Laura Anne Gilman. YA Fantasy - Okay, but not great.  It has a fairly typical low-level magic user/thief in a modern day context and two conspiracies going on.  The magic has been deprived of its wonder and treated as current like electricity.  Except for the gost they might have just as well been Xmen syle mutants.  But she did a good job keeping the romance low key.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis -  SF Time travel. Re-read. This is a very funny book about time travel.  I loved all the literary references and the fantastic characterization.  The descriptions of being time-lagged were great.  I really liked it but others in book group did not.  Hopefully the author's Blackout/All Clear has allowed her to get the WWII blitz out of her system as it kept popping up here even though this is mostly about the 19th century.

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry  by Jon Ronson -  Nonfiction. This look at psychology and psychopaths was interesting but rather superficial.  It felt like a collection of anecdotes involving the author, rather than any clear investigation. The whole section about Being or Nothingness had nothing to do with psychopaths and the discussion of whether successful business leaders were psychopaths seemed based on just one person. 

Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson - Longer than it needed to be, this is a very good opening to a fantasy epic.  Sanderson is clearly being influenced by Robert Jordan.  I like how the author clearly knows more about the world than he's telling.  Still, not as good as Mistborn.

Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne Valente -- SF. I’ve read it twice now and don’t understand it.  I can only assume that all people nominating it for every award under the sun are either smarter and better readers than I am or else are assuming it is brilliant because they don’t understand it.  Yes, this is really a novella and probably shouldn’t count as a whole book, but the WSFA Press edition did have it within separate covers and considering the enormous Way of Kings only counts as one book consider this a balance (the two together still average well over 500 pages).

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke - SF Classic.  Re-read. his is more choppy than I remembered it being but it is carried by a very strong idea.  For most of the book the background is more interesting than the narrative about the ambassador to the aliens being kidnapped and finding a way to catch a glimpse of what the aliens' look like.

So this is 4 SF (2 re-reads), 3 Nonfiction, 2 fantasy (one a YA), 1.5 magazine (three magazine equivalents) for 10.5 books for July and 81 total

June 2012 Readings

I'm catching up on my listings of reading using information I've been putting into Goodreads.  My use of Goodreads is probably why I've fallen down on the job here, but it does help in catching up.

Coming Apart by Charles Murray- Nonfiction/political.  I need to re-read this before making any judgment.  I found it thought provoking enough to recommend it to my futurist book group. Basically it says that there is a division between the lives of the poor and the lives of the middle class, steming in part from the poor getting less education but also being less willing to work and more willing to have children out of wedlock. 

The Future of Power by Joseph S. Nye Jr. Nonfiction/international/political

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie - Fantasy. Technically, this is published as mainstream or even literature. However, the main character has telepathy and super-smelling powers and other minor characters have other superpowers as well, including a witch. The origin of these powers is that they were born in the same hour as India with those closest to midnight receiving the most power. So it is fantasy. I liked the first half most, but it then drifted.

Fevre Dream by George RR Martin - Horror. This novel predates the vampire craze.  It is slightly amusing that much of it takes place near New Orleans, which is Anne Rice's vampire territory.  I found it good and well deserving of its revival, even though it had more to do with the author's success with Game of Thrones than the merits of this book.

Podcast stories (count as magazine)

Boomsday by Christopher Buckley – Mainstream Fiction.  Very very funny except for the part that the government isn't able to do anything to cope with the retirement of the boomers and the huge expense this will cause.  This book may turn out to be more prophetic, than funny. 

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Keeper’s Price edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley. SF Anthology.  Early anthology of stories set on Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover.  Only a couple had the Free Amazons who later dominated the anthologies so it was a mix of stories of different eras of the planet's history.  This is interesting for big fans only, not where new writers should start.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt.  Nonfiction. This is an interesting account of the rediscovery, of an ancient classical text On the Nature of Things. The author claims that the book led to the Renaissance by claiming the world functioned without gods. I’m not sure if I buy that one book created the modern world, but he makes a good case that it was important, even if not that important.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalup.  SF. This is probably the premier example of biopunk (cyberpunk sensibility but based in biology).  Very depressing future. There sometimes were too many characters/plotlines running around.  Still a very well-thoughtout bit of worldbuilding.

June had 9 ½ books including three nonfiction, three fantasy (two with vampires), two SF (one a re-read of an anthology), one other fiction, and one magazine equivalent for 70.5

May 2012 readings

I'm still way behind in posting my readings.  Here is May

The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World by Jeremy Rifkin.  The book is focused on five pillars - "five pillars:" (1) renewable energy (2) Micro-generation of energy (3) Hydrogen storage (4) smart energy grid (5) Move from fossil fuel to electric and hydrogen cars. Other people in the club liked it more than I did. I liked the first third (but even in that part I thought he could have explained the Third Industrial Revolution more. The middle seemed too much boasting about himself and who he met and who he convinced to adopt the TIR. The last section seemed to be random ideas with little to no connection to the TIR. Yes, Green Schools is a good idea but not sure it's really *industrial.*

Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Greg Mortenson. I liked it but not as much as the first book about building the organization. Much of this was coping with the fame the success of the first book brought.

F & SF March/April issue.

Smoke & Mirrors by Neil Gaiman – Collection of short stories, a few dark.

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs (Alpha & Omega 1)

Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs (Alpha & Omega 2)

Fair Game by Patricia Briggs (Alpha & Omega 3)  -- Werewolfs without her were-Coyote character.

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov – I had forgotten how much this novel seemed like a collection of three semi-related novellas.  The middle part, with some real alien aliens, was by far the best.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – I really liked this one.  It is a real nostalgic look at the 1980s and a lot of fun.  In a rather depressing future… the inventor of a virtual immersion game leaves his company and fortune to anyone who can decipher the clues hidden away in his virtual worlds with the answers all based on 1980s trivia. You don’t have to have grown up in the 1980s to enjoy the book, but those who did will get a lot more fun out of it.

Me and You by Niccolo Ammaniti – Not worth the time, not that it took much.

Antagonist by Gordon R Dickson and David W. Wixon – At some point in the series, the focus of the shifted from the Dorsai to their antagonists which causes a problem in trying to make the lead characters, who previously were the bad guys, sympathetic.  It’s especially bad that the series ended here. 

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh                 

Discount Armageddon (InCryptid #1) by Seanan McGuire

F & SF May/June issue.  Like this issue, no real duds.

This month 3 nonfiction, 3 SF (1 re-read), 5 fantasy (including a ss collection), 2 double issues of F&SF, and 1 other fiction.  So 14 books this month and 61 year to date.

Jewish New Year

Happy 5773 everyone. I am with my father for the holiday. He gave me an extra Jewish calendar, thanks to the Lubavitch. Chanukah starts Dec 9, Purim Feb 24, and Passover March 26.

Chicago Thurs

Today I took an historical boat ride on the lake and river. I looked at some outdoor sculpture including the Bean. I went to the convention and got a couple of books signed. For first night Chicago opened up the planetarium to worldcon fans. I saw the craters of the moon.

Chicago Tuesday

Did much of the Field museum but one day is not enough to do it all. The aquarium was having a jazz night so I did that too. My feet hurt.

Chicago day two

Museum of science and industry was mostly for kids but still interesting. The recreated moon landing was touching and the storm chasers movie fun. I went to the second city comedy club and laughed a lot.

Tomorrow I transfer to the worldcon hotel.